Light & Jerusalem Memorial, Yosef Sarig


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                    South of the Bashanit mountain range in northern Israel, near the place where he fought and fell, is a memorial to Yosef Sarig.

                    Yosef Sarig (1944–1973) was a poet, a composer, and a musician. He was born in Kibbutz Beit Hashita to Nahum, the first commander of the Negev Brigade, and Tikva, a children’s author.

                    After high school, Sarig was inducted into the IDF and served as an officer in the armored corps. Following his discharge in 1966, he studied music at Oranim Academic Teaching College. For the next few years, in addition to his agricultural duties on the kibbutz, he taught music in Beit Shaan Valley schools.

                    When the Yom Kippur War broke out (October 1973), he was mobilized as the company commander of the 39th Brigade in Armored Battalion 188. He was killed in battle in the Golan Heights and posthumously awarded a Medal of Distinguished Service and promoted to the rank of major. He left a wife and two sons.

                    Sarig’s son Assaf, a founding member of the band Ayfo Hayeled, composed the music to one of his father’s poems, “Wings, don’t you hear?” Assaf, who was five years old when his father was killed, also performed another of his father’s poems, “My death came upon me suddenly,” that Yosef Sarig wrote about six months before he died. The poem, written about a good friend of his, seems in retrospect like a prophecy of his own death.

                    Yosef Sarig wrote poems, songs, articles and essays, and composed the music for songs by other poets, among them Natan Alterman’s poem, “The Waif.” Sarig’s songs were published in a collection entitled Twenty Songs. He also played the organ and performed with the Givatron band in a series of musical events produced by the Israel Broadcasting Authority to promote artists from the kibbutz and moshav movements. The season usually opened with the Ein Gev Festival held during the Passover holiday and continued during the summer with performances all over the country.


                    In 1972, then-mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kolleck brought the show to the Jerusalem Theatre. In honor of the city and Jerusalem Day celebrations, Sarig wrote his most famous song, “Light and Jerusalem.” It was performed by the Givatron. The refrain went: “I saw a city wrapped in light, rising in all the colors of the rainbow, and it plays in me like a harp…”

                    Naomi Shemer, who composed the music, told a story she heard from Tikva, Yosef’s mother, about the inspiration for the song: In the winter of 1965, the Sarig family traveled to Jerusalem from the Jezreel Valley to bury Yosef’s grandmother, Nahum Sarig’s mother. It was a grey, rainy day. As they approached Shaar Hagay, the sun suddenly came out and a rainbow appeared. In 1972, when Yosef was asked to compose a song for the Givatron band in honor of the fifth anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the song that was to become an Israeli classic was born. [Click here for Yoram Gaon’s rendition of the song.]

                    Memorials with quotes from Yosef Sarig’s poems:

                    • Yosef Sarig is commemorated on the 2014 stamp in the Memorial Day series. The ‘tab’ of the stamp is illustrated with words from Sarig’s poem Homecoming:


                    We did not thirst for war
                    as we set out for battle.
                    We always loved home,
                    The sun, a field opening within the soul.

                    • The same lines are written on a stone at the Dubi and Eran Observation Point on the Mt. Gilboa ridge, which commemorates a father and son who both fell in the service of the country. The poem continues:

                    … And now we have returned to them,
                    Uncomplicated as ever
                    But there is no breath in us.

                    • The Ram Battalion Memorial has lines from the poem “My death came upon me suddenly” (Link to Golan tourism, which I recently translated)

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