Rachel, better known as Rachel the Poetess in Israel, lived an almost clichéd life of a poet. Coming from a large family, number 11 of twelve, she was introduced to literature and the arts as a child. She began writing poetry at a young age, at first in Russian, only later in Hebrew. She was free with her love, her social circle was comprised of many of the main Zionist thinkers of the time, and when she found herself trapped back in Europe during WWI, she went to work in a children’s orphanage where she contracted tuberculosis. The disease would plague her the rest of her life, eventually forcing her to leave Kibbutz Degania, near the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and live out the rest of her life in Tel Aviv. It was here, in the last years of her life, that she wrote most of her poetry. She died at the age of 40 and was buried overlooking her beloved Kinneret. This is the story told in “Miss Bluwstein Rachel”, (one of a series titled “The Hebrews”).
It is perhaps in the waves Kinneret lapping the shores that Rachel found her voice. Having arrived in Palestine without speaking Hebrew, she and her sister learned from listening to young children, who themselves were too acclimating to the new language. Eventually she made her way to Kvutzat Kinneret on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where she studied and worked in a women’s agricultural school and became involved with many of the luminaries of the Zionist movement, including A.D. Gordon, with whom she had a dialog. However, while in this circle, she stayed on the fringes, looking in from the outside, never comfortable becoming a full member of this group. Later, after coming back from Europe, she found herself drawn again to the shores of the Kinneret.
Her poetry reflects both the simplistic nature of the method by which she learned her Hebrew and the fluidity of the Sea of Galilee. Additionally, she was exposed to trends in art from around the world that many of her peers were unaware of, or flat out rejected. She absorbed all these influences and integrated them into her art. At times derided for her language, it is that very same language that solidified her place in the pantheon of Israeli poets. Not surprisingly, many of her poems have been put to music as her language, already musical, adapts easily to the medium. The film takes advantage of this with a guitarist composing music to her poetry on the spot. I imagine that even to a non-Hebrew speaker, the flow of her words can be picked up with no need to understand their meaning. The film also uses short animated segments to depict Rachel at work, with her thick hair flowing out, looking like the flow of ink to the paper. However it could just as easily be the waves of the Sea of Galilee as they ebb and tide through her mind, influencing her writing.
The impact of Rachel’s poetry has left an impression far outlasting the short life of its creator. Like many of the others who left an outsized imprint on the newly revived Hebrew language, her legacy is found in the ongoing popularity of her works. The film is a lasting testament to a poet for the ages. Watch the full movie
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