Farewell to an Israel Prize Laureate Poet

The Fellowship  |  August 2, 2019

Tuvia Ruebner
Tuvia Ruebner

This week, Israel said goodbye to one of her longtime artists, poet Tuvia Ruebner. Israel Hayom’s Omer Lachmanovitch tells us about Ruebner, who passed away at age 95, but who left behind a long legacy of love and literature for his homeland:

Renowned Israeli poet Tuvia Ruebner died on Monday morning at the age of 95 at his home in Kibbutz Merchavia, in northern Israel.

Ruebner, who wrote poetry in Hebrew and German, taught literature and also engaged in translation, editing, and photography. Over the years, Ruebner was awarded every major literary prize in Israel, including the Jerusalem Prize and the Israel Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature, which he won twice. In 2008, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Poetry…

Born as Kurt Erich in 1924 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, Ruebner grew up in a German-speaking Jewish family, and in 1941, at the age of 17, immigrated to then-British Mandate Palestine with the Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair. He left behind his parents and only sister, who later died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Ruebner settled in Kibbutz Merchavia and had a daughter, Miriam, with his first wife, Ada Klein, who was killed in a car accident in 1950. Three years later, he remarried pianist Galila Israeli, and they had two boys. Their youngest, Moran, disappeared in the 1980s during a trip to Ecuador.

Ruebner was named fellow at a number of German educational institutes. Among the many books he translated were the works of Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon, one of the central figures of modern Hebrew fiction. It was Ruebner’s translation that won Agnon the Nobel Prize in 1966, according to Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem.

His 17th book, “Od Lo Od,” (“Not Tet, No More”) was published this year. It was his third book in the past two years…

Here, enjoy one of Ruebner’s poems, “When I Arrived the Place Was”:

When I arrived the place was
Filled with dust. No signature
Of grass. Not
A single blade. A few grey trees
Stood here, there, shrouded
In sackcloth and dust. In my dream I saw
The rivers of my youth, the nights of my forests. Nowadays
Everything is green. In my dream I see
Filled with dust.