Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Plains of Negev

This is my English translation of "בערבות הנגב". I translated it from the only version I knew, which was in Hebrew. But... the history is more complicated.  This song came out in Hebrew in 1948, but apparently it is just a version of a Russian song that was written in 1943:  На опушке леса "On the Edge of the Woods". Who knew?

If you see me smiling at one point when I am singing, it is because I realize my translation of that line is really awkward.

Israeli war songs  are so different from any song I have heard in America. I have looked for songs about grieving mothers, but have not yet found one about how she raised up her son to keep her people free or about how another soldier can replace him. Most of the songs I have heard have two salient differences from this one:

  1. The loss of the son or other loved one is seen as only personal and not national.
  2. There is usually some mention of reunion in an afterlife.
For people who see death as final, it takes a completely different outlook to accept this kind of loss. 

Related Posts

My English lyrics can be read here

This is my analysis of some of the issues with this song:

This is the guy who wrote the Hebrew version:

Here is all the info on the Hebrew song:

The lyrics in Russian can be found here:

There is also a closer translation to Hebrew of the original Russian words:


  1. I am fascinating to learn more about the history of this song, which I am not really familar with.

    1. I learned a lot while researching the history of the song. I also found many videos of old ladies singing the Russian song on Youtube. Some of them were quite good.