Friday night Israeli blues: “My Hiroshima”

One doesn’t associate the blues with Israel, or with the guttural Hebrew language. Yet guitarist Ronnie Peterson recorded  a number of Israeli songs in blues style. One of them is “Hiroshima sheli” (my Hiroshima), originally by Alona Kimchi and Yizhar Ashdot.

When reading the whole lyric in context, it appears to be a sarcastic ode to the somewhat shopworn-looking city of Tel-Aviv, which “looks like Hiroshima except that no tragedy happened”.  The chorus however, when heard in isolation, could be  about knowing some terrible news, or suffering some personal tragedy one cannot share, and watching everybody carry on like nothing happened. Having been there a time or two, that song always comes to my mind in such situations.

It is quite in the spirit of the news emanating from the US in recent weeks. Below the fold is the original Hebrew: above is transliteration and my translation. Audio should be here.

Hiroshima sheli/My Hiroshima
lyrics: Alona Kimchi
music: Yizhar Ashdot

kol ha-laila tzarchu ha`orevim az`aqot tzrudot

All night the crows were yelling hoarse [cries of] alarm
v’ha-ruach sharqa atzbanit ve-qara
And the wind shrieked, enervating and cold
le-khof Hilton yardu avrekhim le-tiqun chatzot
Yeshiva students went down to Hilton Beach(1) for “midnight prayers”(2)
birkhovot Hiroshima sheli ha-ason lo qara
In the streets of my Hiroshima, the tragedy did not happen

v’zonot `aqumot mul ha-Gan meshv`aot la-sof

And bent hookers across [City] Garden(3) are craving the end
b’mabat marchiqot nayadot mishtara
Repulse police patrol cars with their eyes
reach mar shel atzot nirqavot ba-chof
A bitter smell of rotting seaweed on the beach
bir’chovot Hiroshima sheli ha-ason lo qara
In the streets of my Hiroshima, the tragedy did not happen


al titav’li ki `anog hu ha-laila
Don’t be mournful[, woman,](4) for tender is the night
ein siman ba’avir le-vo’o shel ason ironi/leumi

There’s no sign in the air of the coming of a municipal/national(5) disaster
v’adayin shaqet, efshar lo lachshov al ma hal’a

And it’s still quiet, it’s possible not to think of what lies ahead
ki adayin shaqet bir’chovot Hiroshima sheli

For it’s still quiet in the streets of my Hiroshima

v’ha-yom ya`ale mecho`ar, b’chorek blamim
And an ugly daybreak will come, with the screeching of brakes
v’yachshof `ir sel sid mitqalef, netulat hagdara
And will reveal a city of peeling whitewash, devoid of definition/undefinable
ba-shamayim shela kvar miz’man metu malakhim
In its skies the angels died long ago already(6)
bir’chovot Hiroshima sheli ha-ason lo qara
In the streets of my Hiroshima, the tragedy did not happen



(1) the beach in front of the Tel-Aviv Hilton is well known as a “ghey” pickup zone
(2) literally “midnight repair” (of the soul); metaphorically, all-night religious study sessions. Meant ironically in this context.
(3) Gan Ha’ir, or City Garden, in Tel-Aviv is both a venue for outdoor shows and concerts, and a hangout place for hookers
(4) A woman or girl is implied, since the verb “titav’li” is in the 2nd person female (male: “titavel”)
(5) Hard to tell whether it was “ason le’umi” (national disaster) or “ason `ironi” (municipal disaster)
(6) probably an hyperbole for Tel-Aviv’s chronic severe pollution: “the angels suffocated long ago”

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