Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Shark, by Naomi Shemer

Venerable Jerusalem Post columnist Sarah Honig writes this week about songwriter Naomi Shemer’s politics, illustrated with some personal anecdotes.

In this context, it’s worth mentioning what is perhaps one of Shemer’s least-known songs. “The Shark” was written during the original Camp David talks between Israel and Egypt, which ultimately resulted in the return to Egypt of the Sinai Peninsula, and the razing (by Israel) of the Jewish communities which Israel had built there.

It was apparently never put to music or recorded, and has remained something of a samizdat among nationalist circles. The original Hebrew lyrics can be found at a few websites, including at the end of this essay by commentator Elyakim Ha’etzni.

I’ve translated it rather literally. The original is in rhymed couplets of iambic quadrameter (each line goes da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM), but I haven’t tried to preserve rhyme or rhythm.

I should note that the key word in the poem is “Shalom”, meaning variously “hello” or “peace”. I’ve left it as “Shalom” in the translation.

The Shark

By Naomi Shemer

Off the coast of Eilat or El-Arish

A small sardine met a shark

You meet a shark in the heat of day

What do you say?

You say Shalom!

A small sardine says Shalom

And the shark stares at him in silence

Say Shalom!

Calls the sardine

And the shark does not understand

Then the sardine raises his voice:

I am prepared in exchange for Shalom

To give you an entire fin!

And the shark was deaf and mute.

But this same young sardine

Was also a brilliant diplomat

And thus he did not give up

And from day to day he offered more!

He gave his tail for Shalom,

His two eyes for Shalom,

For a nice, broad Shalom –

His whole belly and his back

You meet a shark in the heat of day

What do you say?

You say Shalom!

Shalom, Shalom – and the shark

Only smiles and stays mum.

Then the sardine with bitter heart

Trumpets in his enemy’s ears!

For a great – great – Shalom

I am prepared to give it all!

This the shark finally heard

And he finally said Shalom

He said Shalom – bared his teeth –

And the sardine he tore apart.

Flowers, peace and love

Not a wave in the water nor a ripple

And off the coast of Eilat or El-Arish

Undisturbed swims a shark.

La la la la la..

You meet a shark in the heat of day

What do you say?

You say Shalom!

For more thoughts on Naomi, see here.

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