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Raḥel

RAḤEL

RAḤEL (pseudonym of Rahel Bluwstein , 1890–1931), Hebrew poet in Ereẓ Israel. Raḥel was born in Saratov, on the Volga in northern Russia, and raised in Poltava. She began writing poetry in Russian at the age of 15 and also studied painting. In 1909 she emigrated to Ereẓ Israel, settling in Reḥovot. She abandoned her native Russian idiom and learned Hebrew. Under the influence of the pioneer Zionist Hannah Maisel (Shoḥat) she became a pioneer and was one of the first trainees at the young women's training farm at Kinneret. At Kinneret she met Aaron David *Gordon, the philosopher of Zionist agrarianism, and to him she dedicated her first Hebrew poem, "Halokh Nefesh" ("Mood"), in Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 37 (1920). Having decided on an agricultural life, she studied agronomy at the University of Toulouse (1913). Unable to return to Ereẓ Israel because of World War i, she went to Russia, where she taught Jewish refugee children. After the war she settled in Deganyah. However, having contracted tuberculosis during the war, she soon became too ill for farm life and had to spend the rest of her life in hospitals and sanatoria.

Raḥel is among the first modern Hebrew poets who wrote in a conversational style. Her knowledge of Hebrew was drawn from both the developing spoken idiom and the Bible. She was also influenced by the conversational school which then prevailed in Russian poetry (Blok, Akhmatova, and Yesenin). Her poems are characterized by a clear, uncomplicated lyrical line and a musicality, then rare in Hebrew poetry. Invariably short, her poems are elegiac and nostalgic in tone, many of them reflecting the pessimism of a young writer on the brink of death. These qualities made her writings very popular with younger Hebrew readers and with the general public. Many of the poems, including the widely sung "Kinneret," have been put to music. Raḥel also translated Russian, Yiddish, and French poetry and wrote occasional pieces of criticism. Two volumes of her verse appeared in her lifetime: Safi'aḥ ("After-growth," 1927), Mi-Neged ("From Opposite," 1930), and one posthumously, Nevo (1932). These were collected in Shirat Raḥel ("The Poetry of Raḥel," 1935), the eighth edition (1961) of which also contains her other works as well as a biography by Bracha *Ḥabas and a bibliography of her poems and their translations. Uri Milstein edited a collection of Raḥel's poems, letters, and articles with a biographical essay (1985) and Z. Yafit published all of her poems accompanied by a biographical note (2000). An unknown short play written in Deganyah 1919/1920, in which Rahel depicts with a grain of irony the life of the pioneers and the gap between ideals and daily life, was discovered by Dana Olmert and published in the literary supplement of Haaretz (November 19, 2004). Rahel's poems have been translated into many languages and information is available at the ithl website at www.ithl.org.il.

bibliography:

Kressel, Leksikon, 1 (1965), 243–4; R. Wallenrod, Literature of Modern Israel (1956), 54–59; Goell, Bibliography, for list of her poetry translated into English. add. bibliography: R. Kritẓ, Al Shirat Raḥel (1969; 1987); idem, Shirei Raḥel, Shirat Raḥel (with biographical notes and bibliography, 2003); A. Bar, Ha-Meshoreret mi-Kinneret: Sippurah shel Raḥel (1993); M. Zur, "Rahel," in: Y. Bartal and Z. Zahor (eds.), Ha-Aliyah ha-Sheniyah, 3 (1998) 336–46; E. Zadik, Aliyah la-Regel le-Kever Raḥel ha-Meshoreret: Semalim ve-Dat Ezraḥit ba-Ḥevrah ha-Yisraelit (2000); R. Lapidus, "Between 'Reeds' and 'New Growths': On the Influence of Anna Akhmatova on the Poetry of Rahel," in: Trumah, 13 (2003), 227–37; Y. Peles, "Kol Mah she-Raẓita la-Da'at al Lev Kore'a, Einayim Meshav'ot vi-Ydei Ga'agu'im," in: Haaretz (June 25, 2004).

[Ezra Spicehandler]

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