Hatikvah Redux and Carlebach Responds

When Neshama Carlebach recently recorded for us a slightly different, more inclusive version of Hatikvah (one first suggested by our language columnist, Philologos), the reaction from some was predictably pretty negative. As one commenter succinctly put it, “Israel is not a binational state. It is the national homeland of the Jewish people. I’d rather Israel be a Jewish state than a democratic one, if a choice must be made. Leave Hatikvah alone. Leave the Israeli flag alone.”

We never intended the recording to be an endorsement of a change in the national anthem. It was meant as a challenge of sorts, an intellectual exercise that might provide an entry point for a conversation about how representative the Hatikvah actually is or should be. Setting this alteration of the anthem to music seemed fitting also because, as a song, Hatikvah has been fairly mutable, with lyrics shifting and changing at various points in history (and I’ll offer a few examples after the jump).

Carlebach herself found herself attacked for having made the recording and she has now issued a statement explaining her decision to participate in this exercise:

You can read her full statement here .

And now here are a few earlier versions of Hatikvah — the 1878 Hebrew poem by Naphtali Herz Imber that was set to music in 1886— to bolster the point that the song has never been a fixed thing.

A version sung by the Hungarian Jews of Munkatch in 1933 and captured in this documentary (skip to 2:45) uses the original words ( ”Od lo avda tikvateynu, / hativka ha-noshana, / lashuv le-eretz avoteynu, / le’ir ba David, David ḥana” — “We still have not lost our hope, / our ancient hope, / to return to the land of our fathers, / to the city in which David, in which David encamped.”

Then there is incredibly moving rendition sung at Bergen-Belsen in 1945, also using the original words:

There have also been other suggestions in recent years about changing Israel’s anthem, beyond altering a few words of Hatikvah.

In 2004, Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh suggested that the anthem be changed to Shaul Tchernichovsky’s poem “I believe.” Hear it here . In her recent op-ed about Hatikvah, Merav Michaeli quoted a few lines:

Two more recent suggestions are Shir L’a Moledet (A Song of the Homeland) and Shir Eretz (Song of the Land/Country) written by Slaman Matzlacha. Lyrics in Hebrew to this last one are here . And this is a rough translation:

Then again, we can always stick with Hatikvah, but switch to the “house” version. No words, no problem.

Written by

Gal Beckerman

Gal Beckerman

Gal Beckerman is the Forward’s Opinion Editor. He was previously an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review where he wrote essays and media criticism. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. His first book, “ When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, ” won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, as well as being named a best book of the year by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Contact Gal Beckerman at beckerman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter at @galbeckerman

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