My Hasidic father-in-law, after being initiated as the president of his local branch of United Israel Appeal (an organization that, traditionally, is incredibly secular, with little patience for the Orthodox folks, and vice versa) made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how it would be the first time the head of a secular Israeli organization didn’t get all jubilant about singing “Hatikvah.”
The Israeli national anthem, while it has several things to recommend it (most notably, it’s easier to sing–though less jubilantly fist-pumping–than its American counterpart) is a divisive one. Say what you will about the Star-Spangled Banner, that it glorifies war, that it’s a syncophantic melody, or that it isn’t fast and catchy like, say, the Team America song–it takes a moment in history, builds it up, and infuses it with some sort of emotional candor. “Hatikvah” is much more straightforward, more a proposal than a testament: “Our hope is not yet lost/The hope of two thousand years/To be a free people in our land/The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
It’s sweet. It’s a good song. But, if I were in a poetry class with whoever chopped it up, I’d have to say, it’s not emotionally cogent. (Naftali Hertz Imber’s original nine-stanza poem, on the other hand, is much more impressive, kind of an 1812 Overture that lays out a veritable campaign platform.
Many religious Jews object to “Hatikvah”‘s lyrics, which project the ultimate salvation of Judaism as the State of Israel itself, as opposed to the people who built the State or to G-d–who, by the way, is not mentioned at all. Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of the state of Israel, wrote another national anthem for Israel in the late 19th century, HaEmunah. There’s also some rightly-heard cries of protest from some Israeli Arabs, who kind of feel left out by the line “As long as within our hearts the Jewish soul sings.”
My own personal feeling? I don’t sing it–either “Hatikvah” or “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But I don’t really sing anything, except for Mariah Carey songs in the shower. If you heard me sing, you’d understand why.
Oh, and the #1 thing I learned about “Hatikvah” today: Its name is an allusion to the city of Petah Tikva, which had just been founded at the time. (And it’s a sister city to Chicago–woot!)
Finally, because no Hatikvah post would be complete without it, here’s the music video: