70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

The rooster is calling

By Juli Kristóf - 2018-04-11

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

The iron shoes are lined up on the Danube bank and the rooster is calling.


Dawn is approaching – the people at the Danube bank are singing: the Rebbe of Nagykálló and the pupils of a Jewish school in Budapest, children. The Danube keeps flowing, remorseless, as if it did not swallow up all those who had been gunned down into it seventy years ago.


The rooster is calling, dawn is approaching – so thought the ones standing at the Danube bank more than a half a century ago, hoping for the dawn that has never arrived for most of them. And to whom it did – even those have never quite left the Danube bank - they have just become scattered all over the world: America, Israel, who knows where.


Hey, Danube, you Danube. You had swallowed the people - but also their music with them. There is nobody left who could have played, who could have been able to spread the Jewish folk music again, it had to be searched for to find out about it, to study it, to find Gypsy musicians who remembered the melodies, songs, and even the dances from their own childhood.


Hey, but when will it be, K’Sheyibone heMikdosh, Ir Tziyon Temale, [When the Temple is built, the city of Zion is inhabited] That's when it will be. The song goes on again – this half Jewish half Hungarian song – true Hungarian Jewish hodge-podge.  Makeshift love song that weeps for the galut [life in exil]; a sobbing sigh to God. A lament.


Rabbi Izsák Taub, the first Rebbe of Nagykálló, the master of many nigunim [melodies], had said his melodies came straight from the First Temple - and became scattered across the world. Just as the people - and he, he had just found them. He was searching for them, went after them until he found them and then he asked for them to have them back so he could give them back to his people – these poor, poor Jews.


He said the proof for this was that the shepherd who had taught him the tune of The rooster is calling - he forgot it as soon as the Rebbe learned it from him.


Forgetting, remembering. There is hardly any Hungarian Jewry left - and there are no real, rural, Hasidic, singing-dancing people at all. It would need the peaks the Carpathian Mountains, the Wandering Jew crossing through the deep pine forests, Rodion Markovits’ rag collectors of Avas. The markets, the taverns.


Why is it not anymore, Why is it not anymore? 

Umipné chatoénu golinu méarcénu [Because of our sins we were banished from our homeland]

That's why we don’t have it.

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