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Literature and Poetry/
Tu BiShvat

Natan Alterman

With the First Knesset

The first session of the constituent assembly opened.

Masses arrive from all parts of the country...

"Knesset – is the name of the new Israeli Parliament".

From the newspaper, February, 1949


Once again, a springy day, a day of changes and wonders.

The air carries a mischievous scent of mint

And delegates, as they skip over puddles,

shall go,

my friend,

To the parliament.


They shall be seated as a matter of routine, and listen to the speech

(session number one thousand and one thousand and seven)

Some shall take a short doze

Some shall take a deep slumber...


And the speaker shall discuss the export of fava beans,

or taxation for owners of domestic cats...

(History also has worldly hours, for knitting and mending socks.)


Then from some open window a sparrow

Shall get in to the Knesset hall,

She shall dance a bit on the chairman's gavel,

and almost turn over the inkstand...


And as it flies the delegate gaze at its route

and acquiesce: it's an invited delegate

of the strong wind of that Shvat evening

Where you, the constituent assembly were born.


You shall not live forever in sparkling light...

No! You shall also witness in the future

ordinary days a snooze and a futile argument

Without an orchestra and without – two thousand years...


Your day shall come, assembly, routine shall gnaw at it,

And some teeth are getting ready for this in advance,

The cabinet and the paper

ambushed for their beds

of eras and flags and an idea.


Yet the regular days are good and the toil – as well,

if in them there will be no silence for a moment,

like a stubborn and dim heart, the sound of a drum

that had thundered

when the flag was raised!


You were given an ancient title, after the "Knesset" you were named.

But just as a trumpet rejoicing

cleaves to you (and let it not be considered - your sin) ...

also the foreign name, "The Constituent Assembly".


Since not only of the ancient Knesset are you a daughter...

Not only of her!... from the tree top to the trunk

You are stricken with the French Convent storm

While also strips of Marseillaise pass through you!


You are pretty as the prettiest daughters of the sparrow

who always rise like a monument.

From the "Forum Romanum" within the siege

Up until the assembly of the "Magna Carta"


If you'd always recall the days of lightning

As you first stood up before your observers!

Then the touch of routine shall not age you

and your youth shall withstand your grazing area!


And both among us and among the nations it shall be known

that despite the years and experience

At the entrance of your rustproof entrance

will stand the shining sword of law and justice.


And in days of trials – it shall touch you with a spark

And you shall stand up to proclaim your words

and you shall face honesty and justice of law

rather than to the applaud of the balcony!


Thus, you shall you arise more than once to serve the generation

with barren elbows like a washerwoman...

...and from some window that was opened a sparrow

shall then enter the hall of the Knesset


And when she flies the delegates will watch her route

And many won't know that to here

she had arrived directly from that eve in Shvat

that had once stormed – above us

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