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01 November 2009 @ 08:09 pm
translation | made in israel  
Translation | 500 words | poetry | unbeta’d.

Updating after an extended period of hiatus! (No, I haven’t forgotten my earlier prompts—mea culpa, mea culpa.) This is a translation of a Hebrew song which had been playing incessantly in my head for the last two days; enough that I felt I wanted to share it with y’all. I have uploaded my humble attempts at an English rendition here, for your viewing pleasure. Historical notes, general explanations, and links are below.


ABOUT THE SONG: The original lyrics were written by Natan Alterman, who was and remains one of Israel’s greatest poets. The music was composed by Shem-Tov Levi (a musician and piano player), and performed by Arik Einstein (a musician and singer). The additional sound effects are done by Moni Moshonov (an actor and comedian). Anyone with the barest inkling of Israeli culture knows these are four of the greatest greats to grace our national hall of fame. So this song is definitely a classic where Israeli music is concerned.

The song itself was recorded in 1986, but written before 1948—my guess would be between 1936-1939. Why? Because those were the years of the Great Arab Revolt in Palestine, an uprising of the Arab community against the British mandate and the Jewish settlements.

(NOT-VERY-)BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: From 1920 to 1948, the British ruled Palestine by power of international mandate awarded to them after WWI. The actual inhabitants of Palestine at the time were the Jews and the Arabs, both constantly stepping on each others’ toes. Together with the British, the whole thing was a weird kind of power struggle/love-hate relationship: the Jews trying to lay down the foundations for a country, the Arabs trying to repel the Jews, and the British trying to maintain peace while keeping both parties weak enough to govern.

JEWS: This is our land!
ARABS: Uh, no it isn’t.
JEWS: Okay, but it will be.
ARABS: Oh, will it.
JEWS: Hell yeah.
BRITS: Uh, hey, let’s all calm down, shall we! Tea, anyone?

The 30s in particular saw the escalation of this struggle, mostly due to the Fifth Aliyah—a massive immigration of 250,000 Jews, mostly from Eastern and Central Europe, fleeing Hitler and the increasing antisemitism. Suddenly there were Jews everywhere. Not to mention, most of the European Jews were sophisticated bohemians, doctors and artists and playwrights (and Einstein, who wasn’t any of those but awesome enough to merit a category of his own). So the Jewish community (“Yeshuv”, lit. “Settlement”) started producing a lot more art and culture, which is always a sign of prosperity and impressed everyone else.

Except the Arabs, of course. The Arabs didn’t get any waves of immigration and mostly went on doing their own thing during those years. The majority of them worked in plebeian jobs: as farmers tilling (Jewish) lands, as construction workers building (Jewish) cities, as labourers unloading crates in (Jewish) docks. Quite understandably, they were not hip to this new Ailyah jive, and decided to take action.

ARABS: What the hell, what is up with all these freaking Jews everywhere, it is like a plague.
JEWS: We know, isn’t it great? Oh, look, another ten thousand are due—we’re going to need more housing.
ARABS: Which you want us to build.
JEWS: Well, duh! And more vegetable product—and we better increase trade with the British to allow for the economic growth. So more fields and another dock or two.
ARABS: Uh huh.
JEWS: And that’s only the Jews from Germany. We still need to fetch the ones from the USSR!
ARABS: Right.
JEWS: Thank heavens for this cool new British commissioner who’s totally pro-Zionist and stuff. So hey, how about that housing?
ARABS: (quietly) Fuck our life.

So the Arabs basically decided, screw this, and in 1936 declared a boycott on all Jewish employment: no more tilling fields, unloading crates, building houses or anything else. This is called the Great Arab Revolt in Palestine, or The 1936-1939 Uprising.

ARABS: Let’s see you feed all those mouths now, eh! With your scholars and your artists and your lilly-white Europeans.
JEWS: But without our custom, how will you feed yourselves?
ARABS: Our religion includes an entire month of fasting every year. We’ll manage.
BRITS: So, who’s up for some tea?
JEWS: Yes, but the whole point of a fast is that eventually... it ends.
BRITS: Guys! Tea?
ARABS: We’ll manage.
JEWS: Suit yourself! Yeesh.
ARABS: Fine.
JEWS: Fine.
BRITS: Why are we even here? God.

The Jews were rather unimpressed by this declaration, and Ben-Gurion, who was the leader of the Yeshuv at the time, decided that if the Arabs wanted to deprive themselves of work, let them. Meanwhile, he encouraged the Jewish Yeshuv to pick up the slack, and this is what started a movement of “Avoda Ivrit” (lit. “Hebrew Labour”), meaning the employment of Jews by Jews for all the work Arabs did previously. Agricultural tasks immediately became of the highest importance, and Jewish farmers were seen as heroes: salt-of-the-earth, claiming the land, building the future nation. Furthermore, the Yeshuv strove to use the boycott as an opportunity to prove it didn’t need anyone—that it could exist completely independant of either Arabs or Brits, like a proper country. It aimed not only to support all the new immigrants but also to develop a whole new concept, called “Totzeret Ha’Aretz” (lit. Product of the Land, Local Product): products made in the Jewish Palestine by the Jewish Yeshuv.

The Arabs didn’t come out so hot from that encounter. The Yeshuv not only managed itself well, it even flourished, expanding its agricultural fields and building another two docks in Tel-Aviv and Jaffa. By 1939, after three years of boycott, the Arab community caved and the boycott crashed down. The British, who had been supporting the Arabs all this time, were mostly relieved; the Jews were haughtily superior and feeling very empowered.

JEWS: Damn right, white and blue power! Who da boss? We da boss!
ARABS: God, shut up. Just shut up.
JEWS: We don’t even need you guys anymore.
ARABS: Then who will you buy kahawe from?
JEWS: ...well. Maybe we need you a little.
BRITS: (despairing) Does nobody drink tea in this country?

It is in this spirit1 that Alterman’s song is written. The song itself is titled “Totzeret Ha’Haretz”, which nowadays translates into “Made In Israel”. It is a paen to the Jewish economy and its local products. Arik Einstein added additional voiceovers in his version and shots of Shuk Ha’Carmel, the Carmel Marketplace in Tel-Aviv. It is one of the most (unintentionally) accurate representations of the joyous, boisterous city life during those feverishly patriotic years before the founding of Israel in 1948.

1 The spirit of Hebrew Labour, not tea.

And now, the song!



Made In Israel

Lyrics: Natan Alterman
Music: Shem-Tov Levi
Performed by: Arik Einstein
Voices: Moni Moshonov



It starts with Arik Einstein, the singer, chastising Shem-Tov Levi, the pianist: “Really now, Shem-Tov, I asked for Sol major and you give me Fa major; what is this?”

Shem-Tov starts again, and they hit off the song:

If your heart has grown leaden and heavy
If all hope has decayed in your breast
Hear this song of product and so levy
Consolation for all you depressed.

It has come: the day of the Messiah
Who’s too sleepy to tend to his flock.
He needs a king or another Jeremiah
Or at least a brand new alarm clock...

To incite love and ardour and highest esteem
And respect
For the local product!
For the milk and the gravel, the peaches and cream
All direct
From the local product!

If you need something sweeter than sugar tonight
Go and choose
From the local product!
If you’d rather have bitter for better respite
We’ve got booze
From the local product!

Till all dates, from all places, all kinds and all sorts
Get your finds
From the local product!
Still Jews hear the big news and dismiss the reports
Of great minds
From the local product!

(“A-ora, ora! White and blue, ladies and gentlemen! Today only! Yes, indeed! White and blue! Don’t put it in your basket by accident, ladies and gentlemen. Yes indeed!”)

There’s no order in this newborn nation
No one’s doing at all what they ought
There’s a country-wide disintegration
But just look and you’ll see quite a lot (of)
Shoulders pads, used car ads, gorgeous new fashion fads
Handsome lads
From the local product!
And a big zoo or two where they view kangaroo
All direct from the local product!

If you’re curious, don’t nose about laws and patents
It is always
From local product!
We have Zion-born maidens with German accents
Garner praise
For their local product!

And for two and a half years the fire has burned
Fields ablaze
Of the local product!
The mandate is British, but even they have turned
To the ways
Of the local product!

(“A-ora ora ora! White and blue—the shopkeeper has gone mad, ladies and gentlemen!” “And now for—the hora!” “Hey, whose bag is this? Whose bag is this?” “Jonathan!” “A-ora! Don’t put it in your basket by accident, ladies and gentlemen!” “Sweet, sweet!” “White and blue, a-ora!”)

It has come: the day of the Messiah
Who’s too sleepy to tend to his flock.
He needs a king or another Jeremiah
Or at least a brand new alarm clock...

To incite love and ardour and highest esteem
And respect
For the local product!
For the milk and the gravel, the peaches and cream
All direct
From the local product!

If you need something sweeter than sugar tonight
Go and choose
From the local product!
If you’d rather have bitter for better respite
We’ve got booze
From the local product!

(“A-ora ora ora! White and blue, ladies and gentlemen! Don’t put it in your basket by accident! White and blue, ladies and gentlemen!”)



Song downloadable @ Mediafire
Video clip @ Youtube.
Hebrew lyrics @ Shironet.



All of the intermittent cries (“A-ora ora ora!”) are taken from Shuk Ha’Carmel, the Carmel Marketplace of Tel-Aviv. These were cries of shopkeepers and stall owners hawking their wares. Some explanations:

1. “Don’t put it in your basket by accident,” – Don’t steal it.

2. “The shopkeeper has gone mad,” – The shopkeeper is selling at a loss (= extra cheap prices). The shopkeeper himself would cry this out when standing at his stall in order to attract more customers. Usually you’d hear these cries only near the end of the day, when the shopkeepers really would lower their prices, so as not to be stuck with any leftover wares.

3. “Jonathan,” – A type of red apple, as opposed to the green apples (Star King) and the yellow (Grand Alexander). Considered very choice
.

4. “Sweet, sweet!” – Refers to watermelon slices, i.e. a hawker selling watermelons.

5. “Whose bag is this?” – A standard question asked by security men patrolling the marketplace perimeter. If nobody answered the claim, the bag would be immediately thrown into a nearby pit and exploded. Bombs and guerrilla terrorism were a very common danger in Jewish cities of that time.

6. “White and blue,” – The colours of the Israeli flag. Also, another name for Hebrew Labour; “Operation White and Blue” was the term coined by Ben Gurion for the movement of Jewish labourers taking the place of the boycotting Arabs.

7. “The mandate is British,” – From 1920-1948, the British governed by mandate over Israel (née Palestine) until the country’s founding on the 14th of May.

8. “The fire has burned / Fields ablaze,” – Could be two things: 1) natural brushfires during the summer, 2) gunfire from the Golan, shot by Syrian snipers, which would ignite the fields of Tel Katzir and in the Valley of Jordan. Could also be indicative of when exactly the song was written (“Two and a half years” out of three, circa 1939).

Now wasn't that informative? :D



Original lyrics © their respective owners; I claim no right nor profit.
 
 
noise: Arik Einstein - Made In Israel
 
 
 
Roga: israel wallsroga on November 1st, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, honey, this is gorgeous and you are brilliant and I was singing along in English the entire time and now I totally want to commission you for more Alterman translations. YES, SERIOUSLY. (I've been dying to see Od Hozer Hanigun in English, and even more than that, Shir Eres from the musical Shlomo Hamelech & Shalmai HaSandlar, performed by Matti Caspi here.) No pressure or anything! Just, you are truly amazing at this.
Miarrmiarr on November 1st, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
not really a proper response
Omg, I love Shir Eres! (And Shlomo & Shalmai in general, baw. Did you see the most recent production of ha'Bima's, two years back, with Avi Kushnir? Genius.)

It's such a pretty song, too:

Rest ye seas and rest ye shore
Rest ye trumpets, drums of war
Maybe some chicken, sliced to four—?
No, no more.


Okay I have to go sleep now because seriously, school tomorrow, but omg I'm probably going to dream of this all night. ♥ More detailed comment tomorrow, but anyway thank you!
Rogaroga on November 1st, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: not really a proper response
OMG beautiful. (And yes! I saw and loved the production, and have the soundtrack, if you want to copy it. The new rendition of Shir Eres is also gorgeous.)
Miarrmiarr on November 3rd, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
Re: not really a proper response
Thank you bb! Incidentally, when's your birthday again? *innocent*

Ooh, going to check out the Mati Caspi performance right now. You know I have a massive musician-crush on the guy. And hell yes, I'd love the S&S soundtrack! I can't remember who did the musical renditions—I don't think it was Yoni Rechter; was it?—but whoever they were, they gone did good. ♥
Marinasabrina_il on November 1st, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
OH GOD YES YOU POSTED IT! I was WAITING FOR YOU TO DO THAT! I can not wait to read this entry and cuddle it and squish until it is my squishy. &hearts
Miarrmiarr on November 3rd, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
Hee, thank you bb! I wasn't even sure you got the email! :D I'll take this as a sign to mean you like it?
(Anonymous) on November 2nd, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
Very informative! I'm going to download and listen to it as soon as I'm home :)
salty_catfish on November 2nd, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
That was me!
Miarrmiarr on November 3rd, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
No prob! (Hope your computer troubles are over, lol.)
Miarrmiarr on November 3rd, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
Welcome! I always love talking about Israel, especially the stuff nobody from outside really knows about. Hope you like the song (and the translation, of course). :D Thank you for the kind words!
nogah: Liar Game → my point is: Matsuda Shotanogah on February 8th, 2010 12:36 am (UTC)
WOAH!

I'm seriously impressed with you right now (more than I usually already am); I think if all other plans fail you, you have a future as a translator. This was interesting to read and I couldn't keep the smile off my face. Beautifully done, babe!
Miarrmiarr on February 12th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, bb. ♥ It means the world to me, especially coming from a Hebrew-speaking Israeli who's familiar with the song. I'm so glad you like it—although rest assured, there is no way you can be more delighted with me than I am with you. ♥
nogah: 嵐 → Juntoshinogah on February 13th, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
You always know the thing to say to make me melt into a puddle of goo and love for you. You sure know how to make a friend feel special, bb.
xevefood on April 9th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
I’ve been into blogging for quite some time and this is definitely a great post.Cheers!

Kabbalah Bnei Baruch Centre on August 6th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Great! Toda raba
Thank you! Me, too, I'm listening this song all the time in the past 2 days but couldn't find its lyrics! I've just started to learn some Hebrew and I've got interested also in Israeli music, as a way of learning language in the beginning, but now I want to know everything about it:-).
I like very much to know also the story behind the songs (as for "Yerushalayim shel zahav"), so you've given me everythig: link to ivrit lyrics, translation, story.
You also made me laugh, with the "historical dialogues". Comments on idiomatic market slang were utmost useful, too.
I will print Hebrew text aside with English translation in order to learn some new words.:-)
Kabbalah Bnei Baruch Centre on August 6th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
Great! Toda raba
Thank you! Me, too, I'm listening this song all the time in the past 2 days but couldn't find its lyrics! I've just started to learn some Hebrew and I've got interested also in Israeli music, as a way of learning language in the beginning, but now I want to know everything about it:-).
I like very much to know also the story behind the songs (as for "Yerushalayim shel zahav"), so you've given me everythig: link to ivrit lyrics, translation, story.
You also made me laugh, with the "historical dialogues". Comments on idiomatic market slang were utmost useful, too.
I will print Hebrew text aside with English translation in order to learn some new words.:-)