This piece is one of an ongo­ing series that we are shar­ing from Israeli authors and authors in Israel.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, JBI is record­ing writ­ers’ first-hand accounts, as shared with and pub­lished by JBC, to increase the acces­si­bil­i­ty of these accounts for indi­vid­u­als who are blind, have low vision or are print disabled. 

Trans­la­tor Note

Kislev is the Hebrew month cor­re­spond­ing approx­i­mate­ly to Decem­ber. Dur­ing Kislev the por­tions of the Torah relat­ing the sto­ries of the Hebrew Patri­archs who spent their days in the Mount Hebron region are read in syn­a­gogue. The poet, who lives in this region as well, sees the image of the Patri­archs in his Arab neighbors. 

The 19th of Kislev is cel­e­brat­ed in Has­sidic cir­cles as the Fes­ti­val of the Lib­er­a­tion of the Has­sidic Mas­ter Rab­bi Shneur Zal­man of Lia­di from prison. He was incar­cer­at­ed for fifty-three days after being false­ly accused of trea­son. It is also the anniver­sary of the death of the poet and Rab­bi Moshe Zvi Ner­i­ah, who would wake his stu­dents in the morn­ing (Eli­az Cohen among them) with the Yidelach” song.

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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Eli­az Cohen is a poet, edi­tor, and peace activist. Born in 1972 to a plu­ral­is­tic reli­gious fam­i­ly, he was named after his uncle, Eliez­er Feld­man, who was killed in the Sinai Cam­paign of 1956.

In 1979 the fam­i­ly moved to Elka­na in Samaria, where Eli­az grew up. The fact of his being part of a bereaved fam­i­ly and his nei­j­bor­ing to Pales­tin­ian vil­lages influ­enced his world and finds expres­sion in his work. 

Cohen stud­ied in the Bnei-Aki­va Yeshiv­ot, and served in the armored divi­sion of the army.

In 1994 he began to pub­lish his writ­ings in var­i­ous mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, start­ing with prose writ­ings which were fol­lowed by poetry.

He is an edi­tor of the Mashiv Haru’ach jour­nal of poet­ry, and author of six pub­lished col­lec­tions of poet­ry. In addi­tion, a bilin­gual edi­tion (Hebrew-Eng­lish) of his poet­ry was pub­lished in 2010 by Toby Press, and a col­lec­tion from his poet­ry trans­lat­ed to French by Lev­ant pub­lish­ing house.

Cohen was the recip­i­ent of the Prime Min­is­ter Award for lit­er­a­ture in 2006 and 2023.

In recent years he has stood out as a social activist deal­ing with such issues as reli­gion and state, nar­row­ing socioe­co­nom­ic gaps, and the sanc­ti­ty of life. Dur­ing 2009 he was one of founders of Yerushalom, a move­ment for dia­logue and peace between Palas­tini­ans and Israeli Set­tlers, thet led to the found­ing of Roots cen­ter in 2014. anoth­er ini­tia­tives that Cohen is lead­ing are Light Tag-against the Jew­ish van­dal­ism and hate attacks that under the name Price Tag, and the new peace ini­tia­tive A land for all — 2 States, 1 Homeland.”

Lar­ry Barak was born in Chica­go in 1942 to Russ­ian immi­grant par­ents with Hasidic roots. As a stu­dent of Eng­lish at Roo­sevelt Uni­ver­si­ty, he won first prize for poet­ry in the Charles F. McEl­roy Lit­er­ary Con­test. After receiv­ing his B.A., he con­tin­ued his poet­ry stud­ies in the M.A. pro­gram of the Grad­u­ate School of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Chica­go Circle.

In 1969, Barak moved to Israel with his wife, set­tling in Kib­butz Lavi where he has been liv­ing ever since. His prize-win­ning poem in the Ruben Rose Poet­ry Con­test led to his join­ing the Voic­es group of Israeli poets writ­ing in English.

As well as writ­ing poet­ry in both Hebrew and Eng­lish, he is also an accom­plished poet­ry trans­la­tor, his trans­la­tions appear­ing in var­i­ous lit­er­ary publications.