Remembering Chaim Guri


Yesterday, we learned the sad news of the passing of the wonderful poet Chaim Guri. I have a couple of memories of Guri that I would like to share.

The first concerns an interview I conducted with him at his home on Rehov Pinsker in Jerusalem in the late ’90s. The subject of the interview was his role as an early supporter of the Whole Land of Israel movement after the 1967 war, and as a mediator between the government and the first settlers in Sebastia in 1974.

Rapidly, however, our conversation turned to other things – Guri’s memories of the 1948 War, his reminiscences of the pre-1948 country, and of the special atmosphere of the Kibbutz Hameuchad movement, to which so many officers of the Palmach were affliliated.

Listening to Chaim Guri describe his meetings as a young officer with David Ben-Gurion and other incidents, and his views regarding the direction of events in the country past and present, I realized a feeling I have had only two or three times in my life – namely, that of being in the presence of a true poet, a man of the spirit, whose imagination was sufficiently powerful that simply by listening to him,one had the feeling of ghosts being raised, spirits come back to life, scenes and images of the past played out before us. Some mediumistic element. With the traffic of a Jerusalem Friday morning audible in the distance. I felt immensely privileged to have been given the possibility of that meeting, and it remains a cherished memory.

The second memory concerns Guri’s most famous poem/song ‘Shir Ha Re’ut’ (Song of Friendship). In the summer of 2006 I was involved in a fight against Hizballah in southern Lebanon in which a good friend and comrade of mine was killed quite close to me. At his funeral that summer,which took place hurrledly in the days before the ceasefire, we sang ‘Shir Ha Re’ut’ around his graveside. It had been a song of which he had been particularly fond, his father said. I have no analysis or particular reflection on this episode. I merely remember the sight of my friend’s father and uncle singing it with the rest of us, with passion and sorrow, as my friend was buried in the rich red soil of the Sharon Plain.

Chaim Guri was a wonderful man and a prodigiously talented poet and writer. We were lucky to have him among us. I attach here a clip someone has made of some pictures of him throughout his life, accompanied by Shir HaRe’ut,performed by the band of the Nahal Brigade:

May his memory be a blessing.

About jonathanspyer

Jonathan Spyer is a Middle East analyst, author and journalist specializing in the areas of Israel, Syria and broader issues of regional strategy. He is the director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and analysis (MECRA), a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for strategy and Security (JISS) and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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