Benjamin Rubin

A Love Song for Zion Video from 12th Century Spain

Yefe Nof - Love Song for Zion Video from 12th Century Spain. Photo by Benjamin Rubin

The love connection between the Jews of the Diaspora and the Land of Israel is not something new that arose in the 20th century, or the 19th century, but goes back in History to at least the Babylonian Exile, after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. (In the Torah, this connection goes back to Abraham, in the third chapter, Lekh L’kha).

But here is a love poem, written in Hebrew during the 1130s in Andalusia, during the Golden Age of Muslim Spain, in the far West of the then-known world. It was written by Yehuda HaLevi, a physician by profession, one of the era’s greatest Hebrew poets, and a Jewish philosopher.  In addition to many poems, HaLevi was the author of “The Kuzari: In Defence of a Despised Faith”, written in Arabic, and completed in 1140, just before HaLevi’s pilgrimage across the Mediterranean to the land of Israel, where he met his death in 1141 at the gates of Jerusalem.

HaLevi lived at the sunset of the Arabic Jewish Golden Age of Andalusia, just before the Islamic fundamentalist Almohads swept into Muslim Andalusia from North Africa in the 1140s, ending two centuries of Arabic Jewish flourishing in what was then the world’s highest civilization.

And nine centuries later, a Diaspora Jew living at the sunset of the English-speaking Jewish Golden Age of North America, has set HaLevi’s love song, sung by an Israeli woman singer of Tunisian background, to photographs of the contemporary State of Israel.

Diaspora Jews’ love for Zion, Yehuda HaLevi’s Hebrew poetry, Etti Ankri’s voice and music, portraits of modern Israel.   It may not be all that we are fighting for, but it is part of what we’re fighting for.

The love song for Zion video (in Hebrew, with English subtitles) can be viewed on YouTube here:

Turn up the volume.


About the Author
Benjamin Rubin was Chair of Limmud Toronto 2018, elected to Zionist Congress, and VP of Canada-Israel Chamber of Commerce. Under his pen name eBenBrandeis, he composes YouTube poems, translated from Hebrew a pre-war Pinsk biography, edited and published a book of contemporary Jewish humour, and created, a Zionist conceptual art project. Since retiring from the practice of law, he and his wife split their time between Toronto and Tel Mond. He has an abiding interest in Israeli contemporary music, the Golden Age of Hebrew poets from Andalusia, and the Muslim-Christian-Jewish convivencia of Spain. Writer, producer and director of the Zoom teleplay series, “Golden Age Travel”, about 12th century Hebrew poet and Arabic Jewish philosopher, Yehuda HaLevi, travelling through time. Episodes of the series have been performed online at Limmud Festivals in Toronto, Boston, Seattle and Winnipeg. GAT episode VI, "Berlin 28, Paris 38, Jerusalem 61" was premiered at Limmud Toronto November 2021.
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