Yitzhak Laor: The Newest Testament (From Hebrew)

This poem was originally published in Ha'aretz (here's a link) a month before the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Though La'or is capable of far more nuanced and artistically sophisticated work on the rare occasion that he stops screaming, this poem serves at the very least as an interesting example of the way Biblical allusion, one of the mainstays of Hebrew poetry, can be screwed with and ironized in modern protest poetry. Some of the wordplay was just too good not to try and translate.

The Newest Testament
By Yitzhak La'or
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Hah! America, America, Thou hast finally learned
Something from that worm Jacob1: Fuck the U.N. fuck
The Arabs. Fear not, America, for all our desire
Is 'fore Thee2. Just tell us: "Thou Israel, art my servant
My Chosen3" Yea, America, let us gather
By the rivers of Babylon when they blush incarnadine4 (We too
Had a space in the shuttle, and Thou didst build us that great pyramidic
Holocaust mausoleum in D.C.) Fear not, America
For Iraqi babies are just babies. We are on Thy side
And God on Thine. We were first to translate the Bible from Classical English
And teach our children: "For the oil is the life
And thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh"5. Yea,

Daughter of Babylon, Happy shall he be, that taketh
And dasheth Thy little ones against the stones.6
Yea, let Hiroshima be one bedtime story
Of a thousand and one Arabian nightmares.
Yea, let Hanoi be forgotten like the retail
Price of a nigger. Yea, -Yay!- let a million wailing
Iraqi women get three weeks in the veil
Of CNN screens in every shopping mall,
On sale.


1- c.f. Isaiah 41:14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
2- c.f. Psalms 38.9 Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.
3- c.f. Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
4-c.f. Psalm 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
5- c.f. Deut 12:23 Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.
6- c.f. Psalm 137:8-9 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

The Original:

הברית הכי חדשה
יצחק לאור

‎הה אמריקה אמריקה, סוף סוף למדת
‎משהו מתולעת יעקב: זין על האו"ם וזין
‎לערבים. אל תראי אמריקה, נגדך כל
‎תאותנו, רק תגידי לנו: "אתה ישראל עבדי
‎אשר בחרתיך". הה אמריקה, תני לנו להתאסף
‎אתך על נהרות בבל כשיאדימו (גם לנו היה
‎חלל במעברת, ואת הרי בנית את פירמידת
‎השואה בושינגטון די.סי). אל תיראי אמריקה
‎תינוקות עיראקים הם רק תינוקות, אנחנו לצדך
‎גם אלהים, ולכבודך תרגמנו ראשונים את התנ"ך

‎מן האנגלית, את ילדינו נלמד "הדם הוא הנפט". הה
‎בת בבל אשרי שיאחז ונפץ את עלליך אל הסלע.
‎שתהיה הירושימה ספור לילה אחד מאלף ואחד
‎לילות, שהאנוי תשכח כמו סחר עבדים שחור
‎שבכי מיליון עיראקיות ירצד שבועים
‎שלשה על מסכי ה-סי.אנ.אנ בכל הקניונים

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