The Five Houses of Leah Goldberg: A Documentary
Goldberg was a magnetic, enigmatic figure whose works resonate in Israeli culture, and are popular now more than ever. Using creative methods, like animation, archival material, photos, original music, and interviews, the documentary film tells her biography, highlights her greatest works, and shares some of her impacts on Israeli poetry today.
The Five Houses of Leah Goldberg is part of Ha’ivrim (“The Hebrews”), an ambitious 16-part documentary project highlighting the lives and works of some of Israel’s more renowned poets and authors.
1. What about Leah Goldberg’s story resonates for you? What can you relate to and what seems less familiar?
2. What is the relationship between having roots and feeling a sense of belonging?
3. How would you describe your roots and where might Israel play a part of this?
The Life of Leah Goldberg
Leah Goldberg (1911-1970) was a prolific Hebrew language poet, author, playwright, professor, and researcher. Her writings for both adults and children are considered classics of Israeli literature.
Born in Lithuania, the horrors of war and exile that shaped her early years left a sharp impression that would follow her throughout her life and writings. Goldberg immigrated to pre-State Israel in 1935 and published her first collection of poetry that year. Many of her works explored the tensions between her roots in Eastern Europe and the new roots she was committed to establishing in her adopted home.
Learn more about Leah Goldberg
More about Haivrim
Ha’ivrim (“The Hebrews”) is a documentary project focused on the lives of poets and authors, and the foundational texts they wrote. Written and directed by filmmaker Yair Qedar, 16 feature-length documentary films have been completed in the project so far. The series is unique in its blending of biographical and historical footage, original music, creative animation, and interviews. Together they bring to life poets and authors, and familiarize viewers with the canon of Hebrew poetry and literature.
Explore the films of Ha’ivrim (“The Hebrews”) and learn about the project. Here are a few to look at:
These films, with English subtitles, are available for rent.
Poetry in your Pocket
Leah Goldberg’s face adorns the Israeli 100 Shekel bill, along with images and lines from some of her well-known poems.
Learn more about the stories and lives of the artists featured on Israel’s colorful and unique currency through the Money Talks educational resource created in partnership with Jewish LearningWorks.
Poem: Oren (Pine)
Leah Goldberg’s famous poem “Pine” uses the metaphor of the tree to express her pain of belonging to two different “homelands”. The poem deals with the difficulties of immigrants and refugees to shed their old homeland and fully embrace their new one. Goldberg expresses the feeling of detachment from the beloved landscape of her childhood and adjusting to a new landscape that is her second homeland. The common denominator for the two homelands in Goldberg’s poetry is the pine tree—a metaphor for stability and connection to the land. However, Goldberg imagines herself as the tree that is uprooted from one landscape and re-rooted in another—a common sentiment of many immigrants then and now. She uses another metaphor from nature—migratory birds—to express the pain of not being grounded in one place.
Leah Goldberg wrote many poems that deal with these contradicting feelings about her identity by using forgotten and revived memories.
At the time this poem was written, it was not an accepted sentiment, as newly arrived immigrants were expected to shed their old identity and language associated with the diaspora, and become the “New Jew.”
Explore more classic Israeli poetry
Here I will not hear the voice of the cuckoo.
Here the tree will not wear a cape of snow,
But it is here in the shade of these pines
my whole childhood reawakens.
The chime of the needles: Once upon a time—
I called the snow-space homeland,
and the green ice at the river’s edge,
was the poem’s grammar in a foreign place.
Perhaps only migrating birds know-
suspended between earth and sky-
the heartache of two homelands.
With you I was transplanted twice,
with you, pine trees, I grew
roots in two disparate landscapes.
כָּאן לֹא אֶשְׁמַע אֶת קוֹל הַקּוּקִיָּה
כָּאן לֹא יַחְבֹּשׁ הָעֵץ מִצְנֶפֶת שֶׁלֶג
אֲבָל בְּצֵל הָאֳרָנִים הָאֵלֶּה
כָּל יַלדוּתִי שֶׁקָּמָה לִתְחִיָּה
צִלְצוּל הַמְּחָטִים: הָיֹה הָיָה
אֶקְרָא מוֹלֶדֶת לְמֶרְחַב-הַשֶּׁלֶג
לְקֶרַח יְרַקְרַק כּוֹבֵל הַפֶּלֶג
לִלְשׁוֹן הַשִּׁיר בְּאֶרֶץ נָכְרִיָּה. אוּלַי רַק צִפֳּרֵי-מַסָּע יוֹדְעוֹת
כְּשֶׁהֵן תְּלוּיוֹת בֵּין אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמַיִם
אֶת זֶה הַכְּאֵב שֶׁל שְׁתֵּי הַמּוֹלָדוֹת
אִתְּכֶם אֲנִי נִשְׁתַּלְתִּי פַּעֲמַיִם
אִתְּכֶם אֲנִי צָמַחְתִּי, אֳרָנִים
וְשָׁרָשַׁי בִּשְׁנֵי נוֹפִים שׁוֹנִים