Shin Shalom’s Republic of Dream

Shin Shalom (Shalom Joseph Shapira), grandson of Chaim Meir Jehiel Shapira, Hassidic Rabbi of Drohobycz, is considered to be one of the greatest Israeli poets of the twentieth century. Chaim Nachman Bialik and Nelly Sachs called Shin Shalom “king of peace” and “pioneer of cross-culture dialogue”. Literary historians of Hebrew literature regard him as the main exponent of modernism. The descendant of the Drohobyczian dynasty came to be known as the master of paradox in the spirit of ancient prophets of Israel. The poetic work of Shin Shalom reveals tension between human existence and historicity. Poems “Hidden Light”, “Small Window” and “Pure Beauty” are the masterpieces of symbolism and Hasidic spirituality.

Shin Shalom’s grandfather, even in time of period of persecutions toward Jews, was a true lover of Jerusalem, charismatic city of justice. Chaim Schapira was awarded the title Admor, generally reserved for the heads of Hasidic communities. The Drohobyczian Rabbi believed that Jerusalem Temple would become a place of dialogue and prayer for different cultures. Shapira was the advocate of unity over religious divisions. The Admor awaited reconciliation between Jews and Catholics in the Holy Land.

Shin Shalom was born in 1904 in Parczew, near Lublin, city of tzaddikis. He received traditional Hasidic and secular education. In Vienna, where his family moved in the wake of World War I, he started to write poetry, at first in German, and then in Hebrew. In 1922 he immigrated to Palestine. In 1926 he joined members of his family to found Kefar Hasidim. From 1930 to 1931 he studied philosophy at the University in Erlangen. This Hebrew poet taught literature in Jerusalem, Hadera and Rosh Pina. In 1990 Shalom was given honorary citizenship of Haifa.

Shin Shalom received several international literary awards and presided over the Hebrew Writers Association. Ada Aharoni, Israeli poet and translator of Shin Shalom from Hebrew into English is the initiator of the International Shin Shalom Poetry Competition which attracts poets and philosophers from all over the world. In 1992 Professor Aharoni, candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, organized XIII World Congress of Poets in Haifa dedicated to the memory of Shin Shalom. After the Congress Nathan Aluf expressed his gratitude toward the Drohobyczian demiurge who was the architect of bridges between cultures.

In his Hebrew poetry Shin Shalom, comes back to Drohobycz, the Promised Land and the city of his grandfathers. For this peace visionary, Drohobycz is the center of the Hasidic movement in Eastern Europe and the harp of David with recording arias of divided nations. Shin Shalom’s poetry is full of apocalyptic prophecy and visions of Messiah who will expand covenant and bring the Kingdom of Love.

About the Author
Anna Banasiak is a poet and literary critic from Lodz, Poland. She studied Polish philology and culture studies at the University of Warsaw. She is the winner of poetry competitions in Berlin, London and Bratislava. Her poems have appeared online via New York, London, Surrey, Australia, Canada, India and South Africa.
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