Tombstones break, words swap, words are forgotten,
(translation my own from text)
The lips that spoke them have returned to dust.
Languages die like people,
Other languages are resurrected
Gods change in the heavens, gods swap,
But prayers stay forever.
Yehuda Amichai was the Poet Laureate Israel never had. His ability to take words and phrases from the Tanach and Jewish litergy and make them relevent to modernity opened a completely new way of looking at the Hebrew language.
He developed a friendship with Ted Hughes (Britain's previous actual Poet Laureate) and they translated some of his work together. As I understand it, Amichai did a quick, literal translation and Hughes would craft it into a poem. There couldn't have been much for Hughes to do, as most of Amichai's poems can cope with a literal translation and still 'work'. The only thing that's lost is the art of the double or triple-entendre, where a word has a whole bunch of references that only work in Hebrew.
At his funeral, the speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, referred to Yehudah Amichai as "God's favourite Chiloni (secular jew)".
His funeral brought together the politicians, army-men, writers, and academics in Jerusalem's town square for a moment of quiet contemplation. Jewish funerals are quick affairs; the day's newspaper reported that Yehuda Amichai had died and the funeral would be that afternoon. I was in Jerusalem and I went.
People remarked that it was the end of an era, and that Amichai's dream of peace was finally coming to fruition. They were half right. Within a week, the second Intifada had started