"Hatikvah" is the Israeli National Anthem, although it predates the founding of the Zionist state by some 70 years. The title translates as "The Hope," meaning the hope of an establishment of a national homeland for the Jews. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, it started life as a poem by Naphtali Herz Imber, and was first published as Tikvatenu (meaning Our Hope) in the 1886 anthology Barkai.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England
"Hatikvah" began as a nine-stanza poem by a Jewish poet named Naftali Herz Imber, a native of Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (modern day Ukraine). In 1882, he immigrated to Palestine and traveled throughout different communities reciting his poems to day laborers. One in particular, "Tikvateinu" - "The Hope" - caught on and it was included in his first book of poetry, Barkai, in 1886.
Two years later, Samuel Cohen, a Romanian winemaker, adapted part of the poem into a song using the melody from the Moldavian-Romanian folk song "Ca-rul Cu Boi." or "Cart with Oxen." The resulting anthem became popular among Zionists who yearned for the day Jews would return to the historic Land of Israel and reclaim it as a sovereign state. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the song was chosen to represent the new nation in an unofficial capacity; it didn't become the official anthem until 2004.
The song gained global prominence in 1903 when representatives at the sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, protested the Uganda Proposal – a vote to establish a temporary Jewish state in East Africa – by singing the anthem, as settling anywhere other than the Land of Israel was betraying their cause (Zionists in favor of the proposal argued it would ensure their safety until they met their ultimate goal). "This move wasn't joyful or triumphant. It was a reprimand," Zev Levi explains on the Israel Story podcast. "They sang Ha'tikvah to remind their peers of one of its lines, 'ayin letziyon tzofia' – 'the eye looks towards Zion.' And by doing so, a Hebrew poem, penned by a misfit and stuck to a random Romanian tune, became the unlikely political anthem of a country that didn't yet exist.
Pretty quickly, 'Ha'tikvah' transformed from a Zionist anthem into a global Jewish one. Synagogues printed it in collections of piyutim and read it during services. Publishing houses included it in Passover hagadot, right along with the local national anthem."
Other critics of the anthem point out that "Hatikvah" doesn't accurately represent Israel. It doesn't mention God or Israeli history and it only focuses on the Jews' plight while ignoring the Arabs who make up the rest of the population. When Uri Avnery joined the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government, in the mid-'60s, he unsuccessfully rallied for a new anthem. In the following decade, Arab athletes caused a stir when they refused to sing the tune at sporting events. Rifaat Turk, the first Arab on Israel's national soccer team, remained silent as the anthem played at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. "If the anthem's lyrics were about love and consideration," he said, "I'd happily sing it."
In 1945, survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp sang this at their first Friday evening Shabbat after being liberated.
Although the Zionists latched onto the anthem, the modern movement's founder, Theodor Herzl, hated the tune – mostly because he hated all-play-and-no-work attitude of the man behind it. "He thought the lyricist was an embarrassment to Zionism," Zev Levi explains. Musicologist Edwin Seroussi, a guest on the podcast, adds: "[Imber] was a very colorful personality, the archetype of the poet. Never had a job. Never could maintain a job, drunk all the time. Living at the expense of others."
Barbra Streisand performed this on the 1978 TV special The Stars Salute Israel at 30. The live performance is included on the accompanying album, along with Streisand's phone conversation with Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel. Streisand included this version on her 1991 box set, Just For the Record...
Polly from Pittsburgh, PaWell, not a racial philosophy, as Jews are not a race. A national philosophy. The Moldavian folktune was used by Bedrich Smetana in "Ma Vlast," his musical ode to his fatherland. It's part of "The Moldau" segment. And very lovely it is!