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Manuscripts of Poems by Rachel


 Rachel to her beloved: "Are you well?"

The poet Rachel Bluwstein, known simply as "Rachel", did not live long past her fortieth birthday. Born in Russia in 1890, Rachel began writing poetry in Russian at an early age. In 1909 she and her sister Shoshana visited Palestine, and decided to settle there. The sisters took up residence in Rehovot, where they learned Hebrew. In 1911 Rachel moved to the farm Kinneret to study agriculture. There she met Berl Katznelson and A.D. Gordon, as well as Zalman Rubashov, who was to become her beloved. Rubashov later became President of Israel, under the name Zalman Shazar.
In 1913 Rachel traveled to Toulouse, France to pursue further studies in agronomy. She subsequently returned to Russia where she worked in the education of Jewish children. In 1919, after WWI, Rachel returned to Palestine aboard the ship "Ruslan" and settled in Kvutsat Deganya on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It soon emerged that Rachel had contracted tuberculosis. She was expelled from Degania and lived in both Safed and Jerusalem before settling in Tel Aviv, at no.5 Bograshov Street.
Rachel's poems, many of which were published in the Friday edition of the newspaper Davar, brought her many accolades and admirers.  The poems were published in three collections: Aftergrowth (1927), Across From (1930) and Nevo (1932). The last was issued posthumously.

The poems speak, in plain language, of yearning for a beloved, a sense of missed opportunity and anticipation of an imminent death as the incurable disease cast a dark shadow over the poet's life.

Rachel's poetry has become a mainstay of Hebrew culture. It has been part of the educational curriculum for decades and many of the poems have been put to music and performed by many Israeli artists.

The poet Rachel died on April 16, 1931. The National Library's Abraham Schwadron Autograph Collection contains several poems in the poet's own hand and 17 items of correspondence she received over the years from various parts of the world, in various languages. Most were addressed to the Tel Aviv office of Davar or her apartment on Bograshov Street.

Especially poignant to behold is the manuscript of the poem "In my Garden", makes reference to a very real love story. Indeed, at the bottom of the page on which it was written, Rachel added a personal note: "Are you well?" Beneath this resounding inquiry, the collector Schwadron added "Donated by Mr. Z. Rubashov, 1932/3". The poem was clearly composed and sent to Zalman Rubashov (Shazar) who was the beloved rooted deeply in the modest garden of the poet's heart, even towards the end of her life.

Among the manuscripts is Rachel's last poem "My Dead", which was found on her desk after she died.
כתבי יד של רחל המשוררת
  • "בגני נטעתיך" של רחל, ובתחתית הדף היא כותבת לזלמן רובשוב (שז"ר)
  • כתב יד של רחל המשוררת, "בלילות מקדם"
  • תרגום של רחל לשיר של ג'סי סמטר, "עיר בשמיים"
  • כתב ידה של רחל, שירה האחרון, "מתי", נמצא לאחר מותה