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."