With an Iron Pen

Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry

Edited by Tal Nitzan & Rachel Tzvia Back

Subjects: Poetry, Israel Studies, Jewish Studies, Peace, Middle East Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438426488, 188 pages, March 2009
Hardcover : 9781438426471, 188 pages, March 2009

Table of contents

Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition: Translating and Translocating With an Iron Pen
Rachel Tzvia Back
Introduction: "Every Fear, Every Doubt, Every Protest"
Tal Nitzan
I. And the Land, Will You Possess It All?

In Enemy Territory / Maxim Gilan
Cry the Beloved Country / Ramy Ditzanny
Palestina—Eretz Yisrael / Arik A.
[Palestinian souls] / Dotan Arad
We'll Build Our Homeland, for This Land Is Ours / Ramy Ditzanny
Mice of the World, Unite! / Aharon Shabtai
The Only Democracy (in the Middle East) / Rami Saari
The Horizon's Clenched Mouth / Liat Kaplan
Free Associating / Dahlia Ravikovitch

II. The Arrogance of Our Self-Destruction

A Small Song for the Fallen / Natan Zach
Asteroid / Moshe Dor
Sonnet: Against Making Blood Speak Out / Meir Wieseltier
from Israeli Thoughts / Asher Reich
Language / Natan Zach
[Lice have conquered you] / Tuvia Ruebner
Khan Younis / Tal Nitzan
Woodcut of a Landscape / Dvora Amir
At the Edges of the East / Oreet Meital
Thursday at Angel's Bakery / Dahlia Falah
The Night after the Surgeries / Dahlia Falah
The Tel-Aviv Subway / Meir Wieseltier
A Prayer to Allah Hashem God / David Avidan

III. The Fruit Dies Before the Tree

[This is not what we wanted] / Tuvia Ruebner
Mite / Aryeh Sivan
Torn / Tal Nitzan
Ballad for an Old Palestinian / Dvora Amir
To Dr. Majed Nassar / Aharon Shabtai
The Story of the Arab Who Died in the Fire / Dahlia Ravikovitch
The Observing Heart / Asher Reich
Kaddish / Yitzhak Laor
from And Who Will Remember the Rememberers? / Yehuda Amichai

IV. The Hands—They Were the Hands of Soldiers

Soldiers / Rami Saari
Toy Soldiers / Aharon Shabtai
The Letters' Rebellion / Zvi Atzmon
Poem for Muhammad / Admiel Kosman
Calf / Yitzhak Laor
[The platoon left] / Tsvika Szternfeld
Transparent / Ronny Someck
There Is a God / Amir Or
Execution / Gilad Meiri
One Minute / Shai Dotan

V. And If the Dead Is a Child, Will Someone Gather Him Up?

To a Pilot / Aharon Shabtai
I Protest / Aryeh Sivan
Coke and Jeans / Yosef Ozer
[Stripes of light on the wall] / Maya Bejerano
Nur / Mei-Tal Nadler
October 2000 / Oreet Meital
The Love of Truth / Yitzhak Laor
The Man Who Apparently Caused the Death of Hilmi Shusha / Dan Daor
The Day of Blood / Sharron Hass
A Mother Is Walking Around / Dahlia Ravikovitch
Landscape with Fear in the Eye / Yitzhak Laor
The Target / Tal Nitzan

VI. He Who Demolishes a Person's Home

Retinal Tear / Dvora Amir
Written and Signed / Aryeh Sivan
Fifteen Minutes to Khurban Ha'Bayit / Yoram Levi Porat
The Fence / Aharon Shabtai
Curfew, Variation #5 / Diti Ronen
from The Olive / Avner Treinin
There Is No One Here / Rachel Dana
From the Songs of Tu B'Shevat—The Festival of Tree Planting / Avner Treinin
Olive Tree / Agi Mishol
[You've changed your name] / Gil Engelstein

VII. Sing for Us from the Songs of Zion

Our Captors Required of Us a Song / Dahlia Ravikovitch
To the Muses / Agi Mishol
Searching the Land / Rami Saari
Pro & Con / Meir Wieseltier
The Rising Pillar of Smoke / Ramy Ditzanny
Lullaby / Dahlia Ravikovitch
That / Ronny Someck
The Reason to Live Here / Aharon Shabtai

VIII. Things That Have No End

[Oh, let the darkness cover our eyes!] / Tuvia Ruebner
[The heart is parched] / Tuvia Ruebner
With the Steel Point of a Thorn / Zvi Atzmon
Now Is the Time / Liat Kaplan
Victim Again / Tuvia Ruebner
One from Here / Salman Masalha
Song of Praise / Tamir Greenberg
Call in the Snakes / Tali Latowicki
Order of the Day / Yitzhak Laor
Good Intentions / Natan Zach
Everything Must Go Back / Rami Saari
You and We / Meir Wieseltier
(In Reply to the Question What Are You Still Doing Here) / Liat Kaplan
Then We Didn't Yet Know / Dahlia Falah
IX. What May Yet Heal
from Houses (Plural); Love (Singular) / Yehuda Amichai
from In a Collapsing House / Maxim Gilan
Under the Olive Tree / Asher Reich

Biographical Notes
Index of First Lines
Index of Poems by Poet

A groundbreaking collection of forty-two Israeli poetic voices protesting the occupation of the West Bank.


The eighty-eight poems in With an Iron Pen, all originally written in Hebrew, offer a collective protest to the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Palestinian territories—"the sin of Judah," which is written "with an iron pen, engraved with the point of a diamond on the tablet of their hearts" (Jeremiah 17:1). Including such preeminent voices as Yehuda Amichai, Aharon Shabtai, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Meir Wieseltier, and Natan Zach, the forty-two poets in this groundbreaking anthology represent the full range of contemporary Hebrew poetry. Together, they turn an unforgiving gaze on the occupation, speaking with rage, shame, sorrow, and despair at the continuing violence that has defined the lives of Palestinians and Israelis over the years and the hopelessness that has permeated both societies. The result is a collection of poems that are as important for their compelling poetic beauty as for their significant political accomplishment. The original Hebrew edition, published in 2005, received accolades in the Israeli press for its comprehensive collection of dissenting voices and for its daring and beautiful poetry. With an Iron Pen is a must read for all who seek a better understanding of the occupation and the wider conflict in the Middle East.

Tal Nitzan has published three poetry collections, including Domestica and An Ordinary Evening. A preeminent translator of Spanish into Hebrew, she has translated over forty books and won numerous awards for her work. Rachel Tzvia Back, poet, scholar, and professor of literature, has translated many works from Hebrew, including the poetry of preeminent Hebrew poet Lea Goldberg published in Lea Goldberg: Selected Poetry and Drama. Her most recent poetry collection is On Ruins & Return. She lives in the Galilee, in the north of Israel.


"Bearing the shame, grief, anger, and hopelessness over the seemingly endless brutality and disproportionate violence of the occupation, the poems assemble a collective protest in a stylistically diverse and beautiful manner … With an Iron Pen is a culmination of the evocative works of a growing minority demanding a serious examination of the moral core of Jewish tradition. It is in these works that poetry becomes a rebellious act that asserts the right of readers and writers to question, protest and rise up. " — Outlook

"With an Iron Pen … contains 88 poems by 42 poets, and only one or two offerings failed to enchant … [it] comes with a thoughtful introduction, in which the editors argue that it took 20 years after the 'awful victory' of the Six Day War for such protest poetry to become an identifiable genre. " — Jerusalem Report

"…illuminates the diversity of Israel's literary left. " — Tablet

"…a significant collection of protest poetry … This collection presents poetry as prophecy, in the sense of giving voice to counter-cultural ideas and crying out against injustice … the tone of the poems vary, but they work together as a whole, calling attention to questions, pain, and injustice. " — Jewish Book World

"…confronts profound literary questions for political poetry … With an Iron Pen is replete with powerful works by Israel's finest poets. " — Tikkun

"These dissident Israeli voices, recognized and new, prophetic, raging, heartbroken, challenging, public and intimate, from the moral core of Jewish tradition, have gone almost unheard in America until now. The lyrical range is impressive, the edition scholarly; this is a historic collection. " — Adrienne Rich