March 12, 2004
Natan Yonatan, one of Israel’s greatest poets, dies at age 80.
Yonatan was born in Kyiv in 1923 and soon immigrated to Palestine with his parents. A few years later the family helped found K’far Ma’as, an agricultural settlement just south of Petah Tikvah.
Yonatan was active in Hashomer Hatzair, a secular Zionist youth movement. At age 22, he joined Kibbutz Sarid in the Jezreel Valley, and he remained a kibbutz member for 46 years. He earned degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Oxford University.
He began writing poetry in 1940 and almost immediately gained recognition for his writing. His works were translated into many languages, and much of his poetry was set to music because of his strong lyrical qualities and use of folk imagery. Although he addressed diverse topics, Yonatan was perhaps best known for his poetry on the human cost of war. The topic was personal because a son, Lior, was killed in the October 1973 war.
In addition to writing poems, children’s stories, essays and nonfiction books, Yonatan taught students in secondary schools and universities. Late in his career, he was the editor in chief of the Sifriat Poalim publishing house and served as the president of the Hebrew Writers’ Union.