Somewhere on the Borders of the Desert
The poem "Somewhere on the Borders of the Desert" was written during the war by the poet S. Shalom. The poem is dedicated to the Jewish soldiers from what was then Palestine who were stationed in the North African desert during the war and expresses the shared desire and hope to end the night, for the cessation of the exile and the end of the war. The poem was found during research work at the Central Zionist Archive.
In 1940 Rebecca Gvilei read S. Shalom’s poem “Somewhere on the Borders of the Desert", a song of redemption wrapped in the suspense before battle and fear of what is to come, in the "Davar" newspaper and after just one week composed a melody for it to perform at a farewell party for soldiers who were volunteering for the British Engineering Corps. Thus, in the heat of the moment, the Hebrew songs of the period were born, hastily written in a whirlwind process at breakneck speed. Evidence of this is found in the hand-written musical notes and typewritten text annotated with hand written vowels that were distributed in stencil print by the Committee for the Jewish Soldier.
The instruction written at the top of the song is "in marching rhythm" and indeed this is a classical march in the best European military musical tradition. But it is a march in a minor key, reflecting the fears in the heart of those departing into the unknown, and meanwhile camped in the dark desert night. Something of the mystery of the night penetrates this simple melody, that rises to a brief peak of hope with the words "Do you see the beacons on the mountain?" and soon quickly returns to a low diapason that is more restrained towards the end. It is not a musical masterpiece for us but rather a brief lyrical moment that equips the soldiers going into battle with a musical statement of the anticipation and fear that will accompany them in a foreign land and plants the hope to return to their homeland after the nightmare of war is over.
By Edwin Seroussi