Ella Bat-Tsion-From Love of Woman to Love of God
Mendelson-Maoz, Adia, Women in Judaism
 The paper presents the poet Ella Bat-Tsion as a distinctive voice in contemporary Hebrew poetry. In the 1970s and the 1980s, under her previous name, Gabriella Elisha she published five books of poetry surprising her readers with lesbian themes. During the 90's however, she changed her name to Ella Ban-Tsion, and published The Book of God's Dreams, which portrays new poetry revealing her new religiosity. The paper analyzes the poetic transformation she underwent, while examining whether her early poems hint at the process to come, and whether her later poetry holds motives and structures known from her early poetics.
In the book of God's dreams I found the calm stream of poetry On the bank of that stream I fell asleep
(The Book of God's Dreams, 1994. Translated from Hebrew by the author)
 Ella Bat-Tsion is a poet of the margins. In three decades of creative work, she has published more than ten books, many in the most distinguished publishing houses in Israel, as well as numerous publications in the daily press and in various journals from "Moznaim", "Iton 77" and "Siman Kri'aa" to "Meshiv Haruach", a journal of Jewish poetry, and the online journal "Hadag Ha-anonimy". Yet despite all this, Ella Bat-Tsion is a poet of the margins. She does not belong to any literary generation or group, and in her way even challenges traditional generational classifications; she deals with womanly love, and, unconventionally, with the love of God; she is not a political figure--she stays hidden from the public eye. Ella Bat-Tsion is a poet of the margins because all her books receive only a few lines of criticism and every mapping of Hebrew poetry will overlook her. Yet it is just for these reasons that I find it important to pay attention to her, to recognize her distinct voice and through the discussion of her poetry, to redeem the margins of Hebrew poetry from forgetfulness.
 Gabriella Elisha (b.1954) appeared on the Israeli poetry scene in the early 1970's with her book My Lips Breathed Darkness into the Body (1973). During the 1980's she published five books of poetry, surprising her readers with the lesbian themes of her poetry. During this period she also translated the 18th century Zen poet Rayokan and the poet Elsa Gidlow, one of the founders of the lesbian feminist community. Her poems of the 1970's and 1980's deal, in intimate and translucent language, with womanly love, music, loneliness and the writing process. Often they remind us of Japanese haiku poetry, seeming to follow a fleeting vision, to paint a short and focused picture describe an entire world in few words. Her longer poems usually address another person--usually her lover--present a dialogue, describe a memory, or draw a picture of an intimate moment. Although many of her poems invoke sadness, they do not express protest but acceptance. This is also true in her lesbian poems: the sexual relationships, described with tenderness and sensitivity, create a picture of intimate and personal love.
 In the early 1990's Gabriella Elisha changes her name to Ella Bat-Tsion, and in 1994 publishes The Book of God's Dreams. From this point on, Ella Bat-Tsion portrays different poetry: her loneliness mutates in to a will to merge with the Transcendent, and womanly love changes to intimate (non-sexual) relations with God. Her addressee is God, who gives her a new purpose but demands she turn her back on who she was before. Her poetic language is infused with a new vocabulary, religious and kabalistic in nature; the gentleness gives way to an intensive, sometimes violent, process of effacing a previous identity and assuming a new one which will lead, eventually, to peace and tranquility.
 Ella Bat-Tsion publishes four volumes of poetry after 1994, Half-Love Half-Hate (1996), Sub-Language or Water, Mother, Psyche (1996) The Book of Ella Bat-Tsion (1997), (a collection of her previously published poetry), and in 2000 she publishes her latest book, After. Her later books invoke the image of God, but lack their predecessors' powerful fervor; they present a retrospective overview of the process undergone by the poet, and recognition of the fact that the transcendent search is not yet over.
 In this paper I wish to present the poet Ella Bat-Tsion as a distinctive voice in Hebrew poetry from the 1970's onwards. Through a discussion of her poems I will analyze the poetic transformation she underwent, from Gabriella Elisha to Ella Bat-Tsion, while examining whether her early poems hint at the process to come, and whether her later poetry holds motives and structures known from her early poetics.
 My rebellion started Between 8:30 and 10:00 By padding the floor with absorbed cotton wool By cleansing the face which carries me My step has begun before that The mirror cracked and my figure bisected In the school library I found The "God's Book of Memories"
(Excerpt of "My Rebellion Started", in Half-Love Half-Hate, 1996 Translated by the author)
 In the first two stanzas of the poem "My Rebellion Started", the poet describes, in retrospect, a change she had undergone. The first word, "rebellion", is joined by the precise statement of the time, "Between 8:30 and 10:30", giving a sense of the occurrence of a sudden event. The padding of the floor invokes a preparation for a great fall, which is preceded by a process of cleansing. The word-choice "cotton wool", "cleansing", and "face", paint a scene which can take place in the bathroom before going to bed. The speaker cleans her face with cotton wool, removing the filth which had covered it during the day. This stanza forms an ambiguous relationship between the face of the character and her inner being. While the image of the face-cleansing might seem analogous to the process which the speaker is about to begin, the use of the formulation "the face which carries me" (instead of "my face"), creates disconnection between the face and the "me", between the shape of the vehicle and what goes on underneath it.
 In the second stanza the movement towards change--the turning to "God's Book of Memories"--leads back to the image of the bathroom. Here too, the character's gaze into the mirror, and the face reflected there, express the inner process she experiences. The reversal is transferred from the speaker to the cracked mirror.
 The description of the "rebellion" in these two stanzas denotes a sudden change, which may hint at the biography of the poet: before 8:30 Gabriella Elisha stood in front of the mirror, and after the rebellion it is Ella Bat-Tsion who faces it, choosing God's Book. Indeed, the poet's change of name from Gabriella Elisha to Ella Bat-Tsion, and the publication of her book The Book of God's Dreams, which is devoted solely to the experience of faith and devoutness, create an illusion of "rebellion", as if we are faced with two poets who differ from one another in their poetic and thematic concerns (one writes in the 1970's and 1980's about womanly love, while the other writes in the 1990's about God.) But I would like to offer a re-examination of Ella Bat-Tsion's poetry, and suggest a different key to understanding her poetry, one which replaces the model of a split (a sudden change) with a model of evolution. In this paper I would like to divide her poetry into four sections, which trace a process:
 The first section, Love and Music, deals with the writing of Gabriella Elisha in the first four volumes, up to the volume Another Music from 1983. The second section portrays The Search in the volumes Texts and Mini-Texts from 1985 and Inspiration from 1987. The third section--Devoutness, presents The Book of God's Dreams from 1994, and finally the fourth section--Recognition--characterizes her later books of poetry.
1. Love and Music  Dolls go crazy On a chair In the nude Hair within hair Of animal Stage Setting for a dream Stage Setting Of animals In the hair In the nude On a chair Dolls go crazy
(Verbal Respiration, 1980 Translated by Ofer Shorr)
 This poem describes an erotic moment of sexual play, where two women frolic naked on a chair. The poet chooses to substitute the women with dolls and even with animals, and uses the words "go crazy" to emphasize the physical experience, the play of flesh, and also to distance the (mental and emotional) …
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Publication information: Article title: Ella Bat-Tsion-From Love of Woman to Love of God. Contributors: Mendelson-Maoz, Adia - Author. Journal title: Women in Judaism. Volume: 4. Issue: 1 Publication date: Annual 2006. Page number: Not available. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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