"Hatikvah" ("The Hope") officially became the national anthem of Israel over a century after it was written. Naftali Hertz Imber's composition expresses hope looking forward while reflecting on the past. There is a line about a “hope of 2000 years,” which reminds us that hope does not have a start or an end; hope and memory are the threads with which we knit our generations together. Every one of us embodies past hope and future memory.
Four Stories of Hope
Before Israel was a state, Hatikvah was already an anthem. There is an account from Filip Muller, a sonderkommando in Auschwitz who saw Jews about to be murdered, singing Hatikvah as they were led into the gas chamber. When he tried to follow them in to end his suffering, they pushed him out and told him that he had to live to be their witness. In this one terrible scene, we see people yearning for a future State of Israel, and at the same time asking to be remembered as a part of that future.
A short time later, BBC radio reporters made a recording of inmates at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Those who had enough strength wanted to make sure their voices were carried to the rest of the world, and the message they chose to send was Hatikvah. After enduring horror, they proudly proclaimed “our hope is not lost.” Unlike those who sang the anthem as they were led to their death, these men and women hoped for something they might one day see, but the song they sang was the same. Of note is that they are heard singing the words from Naftali Imber’s original poem, "Tikvatenu," whose lyrics were slightly altered when the poem was adopted as Israel’s national anthem.
It was the same song sung by survivors of Auschwitz who returned to the camp decades later to face their past and proclaim their survival to the world. In this clip, decades after liberation, we hear survivors of Auschwitz singing the modern lyrics of Hatikvah. See more in the article, Auschwitz 70th Anniversary: Holocaust Survivors Recall Life in Death Camps.
And it was the song played at a 2008 Yom Hashoah concert in Jerusalem with restored violins that had been used by Jewish musicians in concentration camp orchestras. To read more about this amazing project, see Violins of Hope: Instruments from the Holocaust.
Hatikvah is sung by children at school ceremonies, politicians at state affairs, athletes at sporting events and soldiers at military marches. But that song doesn’t mention G-d, the Bible, or any triumph of modern Israeli history. Our friends at Israel Story take us on a journey through the origins of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, and examines who it represents, and – importantly – who it leaves out.
This episode is part of a 4-part Mixtape series. Click here for our Mixtape Companion series.
The official text of the national anthem corresponds to the first stanza and amended refrain of the original nine-stanza poem by Naftali Herz Imber. Along with the original Hebrew, the corresponding transliteration and English translation are listed below. [Source: Wikipedia]
|As long as in the heart, within,
The soul of a Jew still yearns,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
an eye still gazes toward Zion;
Our hope is not yet lost,
|Kol od baleivav penimah
Nefesh Yehudi homiyah,
Ulfa’ate mizrach kadimah,
Ayin letziyon tzofiyah
Od lo avdah tikvatenu,
|כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח קָדִימָה
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה
עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ