Israel and the Fallen Soldier

This session addresses the complicated sentiments that the Israeli people felt about Israeli soldiers who fought and died during the 1948 War of Independence and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

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The heaviest price of Israel's wars and conflicts has been the loss of life.
The image of the Israeli soldier changes along with the events and wars occurring in Israel. After the War of Independence In 1948, the soldier is illustrated as a victor bringing independence to the state. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the soldier is no longer depicted as the hero because he has been defeated.



  1. We will now look at two poems from two different time periods that deal with the topic of fallen soldiers.
  2. Give out copies of A Silver Platter by Natan Alterman. Ask one camper to read the poem out loud. Ask the group for comments or lines that stand out to them. Ask:
  • What is the vision of the soldier in this poem?
  • When do you think it takes place?
  • Why do you think they call themselves the "silver platter?"
  • What do you make of the line: "Thus they will say and fall back in shadows And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel?"
  1. When appropriate, you can fill in some of the background of the poem (after giving them a chance to respond to the questions):
  • Natan Alterman was a poet who was born in Warsaw and moved to Tel Aviv with his family in 1925, when he was 15 years old.
  • He wrote the poem during Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
  • For him, the "silver platter" refers to a comment popularized by Israeli President Chaim Weizmann and attributed to him on December 15, 1947, soon after the UN decision to partition Palestine: "The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter."
  1. Ask the campers what they think of Alterman's version of Weizmann's statement. Are the Israeli soldiers the "silver platter" that are responsible for the state being created?
  2. Explain that we will now be looking at a more contemporary vision of the Israeli soldier. This song was written by 18 year old Reuven Politi who was killed during the Yom Kippur War a few weeks after he wrote the poem. He was a fighter in the Egoz reconnaissance platoon, which went out on an ambush mission in the Golan heights that day. Reuven replaced a soldier friend of his who was delayed reaching his platoon.
  3. Have one camper read the poem. Ask the group the following questions:
  • How is the image of the soldier different in this poem?
  • Why do you think the soldier here keeps talking directly to his parents?
  • What are the lines that especially speak to you?
  • What does the difference between the two poems say about the difference between how Israeli soldiers are seen in 1948 vs. in 1973?
  1. If necessary, fill in the campers' understanding of what Israel was like during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
  2. Bring the group back together and do a quick debrief. Ask the group if there were things that surprised them about other people's thinking or their own.

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MZ Teen iConnect


text of the poems?

This sounds like a great idea, but I can't find the text of the poems!  The first one is at least mentioned by name in the program, but I don't even know what the second poem referred to is called.  Can that information be included?


Ben Rotenberg's picture

Poem Texts

Hey Erica,

We used the poems for a camp-wide "Memorial Day" ceremony. Here is the poem The Silver Platter:

The Silver Platter/Nathan Alterman
"A State is not handed to a people on a silver platter" -
Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel

The Earth grows still.
The lurid sky slowly pales
Over smoking borders.
Heartsick, but still living, a people stand by
To greet the uniqueness
of the miracle.

Readied, they wait beneath the moon,
Wrapped in awesome joy, before the light.
-- Then, soon,
A girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation;

In work garb and heavy-shod
They climb
In stillness.
Wearing yet the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fire-filled night

Unwashed, weary unto death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
-- Silently the two approach
And stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?

Through wondering tears, the people stare.
"Who are you, the silent two?"
And they reply: "We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you."

And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation's feet.
Let the rest in Israel's chronicles be told.

Ben Rotenberg's picture

Another option, by Hanna Senesh

Here is another option for a poem which I realyl like. It speaks about the decision for self sacrifice. I found it on the hannah senesh organization's website.


חנה סנש
למות... צעירה...למות... לא, לא רציתי...
אהבתי את השמש החמה,
האור, השיר, ניצוץ של זוג עיניים,
ולא רציתי הרס, מלחמה.
לא, לא רציתי.
אך אם נגזר עלי לחיות היום
בשפך דם, בהרס האיום,
אגיד: ברוך השם בעד הזכות
לחיות, ובוא תבוא שעה למות
על אדמתך ארצי, מולדתי

To die?  (by Hannah Senes)
Die ... young die ... No, I did not want ...
I Loved the hot sun,
The Light, song, spark of a pair of eyes,
I did not want destruction, war.
No, I did not want.
But if I must live today
with a Mouth of blood, in threat of destruction,
Say: “Thank God for the right
To live and die an hour will come
On your land, my country, my homeland”