Israel Mourns the Loss of its ‘War Poet’

Haim Gouri gave voice to the pride and pain of those who fought in Israel’s wars, and helped revive Jewish nationalism

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Iconic Israeli poet, novelist, journalist and filmmaker Haim Gouri passed away on Wednesday at the age of 94.

While few in Israel's younger generations might be familiar with Gouri, he was for decades regarded as the Jewish state's "war poet," giving voice to both the pride and the pain experienced by those who fought in the young nation's earlier wars.

Gouri was born in Tel Aviv in 1923 under the British Mandate for Palestine.

In 1941, he signed up to the pre-state Palmach paramilitary force, and participated in several operations against British forces.

During the War of Independence, Gouri commanded Palmach forces in the souther part of the country. His first book of poems, "Fire Flowers," was published not long after, and contained anguished verses recalling his own personal experiences in battle.

While he went on to do many other things, and do them well, Gouri never stopped writing poetry, publishing his last collection in 2009 at the age of 86.

While he is not well known abroad, Gouri is widely credited at home with playing a prominent role in reviving Israeli culture and nationalism in the Land.

Upon hearing of his death, Culture Minister Miri Regev stated: "Gouri was and will always remain one of the ‘Fire Flowers’ of our national revival in the State of Israel."

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein added: "Gouri’s life story is interwoven with the history of the state of Israel and his poems have been and will always remain a part of the Israeli ethos."

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