Iris Eliya Cohen


Iris Eliya Cohen is an Israeli novelist and poet. Her poems especially blend yearnings and hope for a better present; a strong belief in the power of human spirit and kindness; and a tremendous sensitivity and sense of responsibility for justice. 

These themes are interwoven throughout the following poems, written in different times and circumstances. We invite you to read the poems and try some of the suggested exercises. We hope that your experiences with these poems will help shape your personal vision and prayers for Israel: the people, the state, the land, and the nation.


1. Try “automatic writing” using one of these poems as the inspiration. Put on a timer for 5 minutes (or any time period) and let your mind take over and just write whatever you are thinking about. What came out? Did it change how you felt about the poem?

2. Take a line (or a few) that resonates with you and use them as the basis for your own poem, piece of writing, picture, etc.

3. Choose a few words from one of the poems that stand out to you and use them to create a new sentence on the topic of hope or what inspires you when you look toward the future.

4. There are two strong images in these poems: one of gan eden (paradise) and one of the single fig, forgotten at the end of summer.

a. When you think of the word “paradise,” which memories, experiences, and images of Israel come to mind?

b. When you think of this fig, consumed by the heat of Israeli summer, which memories, experiences, and thoughts come to mind?

LONGING | געגוע


A single fig

That was forgotten on the tree

At summer’s end

Reminds me

That here there could have been


Translation: Jonathan Paradise

איריס אליה כהן

תְּאֵנָה אַחַת

שֶׁנִּשְׁכְּחָה עַל הָעֵץ

בְּסוֹף הַקַּיִץ

מַזְכִּירָה לִי

שֶׁיָּכֹל הָיָה לִהְיוֹת פֹּה

גַּן עֵדֶן

PRAYER | תפילה


Let someone say

or tell us

something weak

let someone whisper, quieten hush

let someone open up a window a hatch

a light

let someone loosen, untie

let someone fasten the edges gently

or not

let someone wrap or hug

let someone put a thing within

the nothing

If someone will return bring back

whatever isn’t his

let someone listen to the dew the sound of the sky

let someone open up their eyes

and see, let someone wait and then

look back until

someone please calm down this time

goes by

איריס אליה כהן

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יַגִּיד דְּבַר מָה

קָלוּש שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יִּלְּאַט, יִּלְּחַש

אוֹ יְּהַסֶׁה

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יִּפְּתַח חַלּוֹן

אֶׁשְּנָב אוֹ צֹהַר

צַר, שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יַרְּפֶׁה, יַתִּיר 

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יִּקְּשֹר

אֶׁת הַקְּצָווֹת, בְּרֹך

אוֹ לֹא

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יִּכְּרֹך, יִּצְּנֹף 

אוֹ יְּחַבֵּק אֵּלָיו

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יַנִּיחַ יֵּש בְּתוֹך

הָאֵּין שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יַחֲזִּיר

יָשִּיב כָל מַה שֶׁלֹּא שֶׁלּוֹ

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יַקְּשִּיב לַטַל

לַמַיִּם צְּלִּיל שָמַיִּם

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יִּפְּקַח עֵּינַיִּם

וְּיִּרְּאֶׁה, שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ

יַבִּיט אָחוֹרָה עַד 

שֶׁמִּישֶׁהוּ יַרְּגִּיעַ

אֶׁת הַזְּמַן הַזֶׁה

A Prayer in Times of Destruction | תפילה בשעת חורבן


I want to pray quietly


With power

With all my wits about me

To pray

That the dreadful clamor will fall silent

That the cruel one will show compassion

May absolute evil turn its heart to good

That if there is justice in this world

Let it come—

Shine forth! Now!

Translation: Jonathan Paradise

איריס אליה כהן

אֲנִי רוֹצָה לְהִתְפַּלֵּל בַּלָּאט


בְּיֵשׁ אוֹנִים

כְּשֶׁכָּל עֶשְׁתּוֹנוֹתַי עִמִּי


שֶׁהָרוֹעֵשׁ הַמַּחֲרִיד יִדֹּם

שֶׁהָאַכְזָר יַחֲמֹל

הָרֹעַ הַמֻּחְלָט יָסֵב לִבּוֹ לְטוֹב

שֶׁאִם יֵשׁ צֶדֶק בָּעוֹלָם


!יוֹפַע מִיָּד

FOR WEEKS I’VE BEEN BLEEDING POEMS | מזה שבועות אני מדממת שירים


I name the file “sorrow”

I delete

Name it “October”

Change it to “7”

Replace it with “chasm”

Change: “chasms”

Name it “hell-like”

I name it “hope”

Command the computer to remember

It responds “saving hope”

Translation: Jonathan Paradise

איריס אליה כהן

“אֲנִי קוֹרֵאת לַקֹּבֶץ ”יָגוֹן


“קוֹרֵאת לוֹ ”אוֹקְטוֹבֶּר

“מְשַׁנָּה לְ”שִׁבְעָה

“מַחֲלִיפָה לְ”תְּהוֹם

“מְשַׁנָּה: ”תְּהוֹמוֹת

“קוֹרֵאת לוֹ ”כִּשְׁאוֹל

“קוֹרֵאת לוֹ ”תִּקְוָה

מוֹרָה לַמַּחְשֵׁב שֶׁיִּזְכֹּר

“הוּא עוֹנֶה לִי ”שׁוֹמֵר אֶת תִּקְוָה

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