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The Diameter of the Bomb
Transcript of The Diameter of the Bomb
By: Yehuda Amichai
Yehuda Amichai was born in Wurzberg Germany in 1924 to an Orthodox Jewish family.
At the age of 12, he and his family moved to British-controlled Palestine.
He was fluent in both Hebrew and German.
"The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded."
The first part of the poem gives clear, mechanical facts about the bomb and the casualties. It puts the murder in perspective. The bomb is depicted to have a limited capacity for murder.
"And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard."
The first circle is drawn and explains the diameter of the bomb is larger than originally thought. The circles are an extended metaphor to show how far the violence spreads.
Experience With War
Amichai served in the British Army in World War II.
He later fought with the Israeli defense forces in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.
In 1956 he served in the Sinai War and in 1973, the Yom Kippur War.
"But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,"
The human cost of terrorism is revealed and the supposedly small explosion from the bomb is carried to entirely different countries.
"and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle."
The physical diameter of the bomb is easily known but the metaphorical diameter is mysterious and unknown. It cannot be calculated but is enormous and connects everyone to one another and the universe.
"And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans"
Amichai begins to use a detached tone and is horrified as he describes the pain endured by the children that lost their parents due to war.
"that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God."
The sorrow felt by the living stretches beyond the world as we know it into an infinite emptiness. Amichai doubts the existence of God, and if He's real, if we can trust Him. There's only an endless circle of suffering that encompasses everything.
Amichai has had ample experience with war and has suffered his own losses through out his lifetime. His whole life has been dominated by war and death. He makes the reader question whether or not war is worth the pain and suffering that follows.
However, because this poem was originally written in Hebrew, Amichai included a play in words that doesn't transfer over into the English translation. The Hebrew translation of "no end" is "Eyn Sof" and "no God" is "Eyn Elohim".
The poem discusses the ripple effect of demolition that is caused through war.
Eyn Sof (No end) is the mathematical concept for infinity. It's often also used as a Jewish name for God and is roughly understood as That-Which-Is-Without-End.
Amichai literally says "a circle with God and no God."
The bombs that explode during wartime destroy more than just pressure cookers and limbs, they tear holes in the fabric of humanity.
But Amichai uses his play on words to show the circle is not empty, and it’s not lacking godliness.
The line shows how humans are all interconnected and every seemingly insignificant action can affect someone else. A bomb explosion in one nation affects others across the world.
Yehuda later became a citizen of newly-formed Israel
He has been called "The most widely translated Hebrew poet since King David"
Amichai uses a sorrowful tone to convey his message.
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