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A bi-national anthem for the state of Israel?

The soul singer Neshama Carlebach has performed a version of Hatiqvah, the Israeli national anthem, which removes the specific Jewish yearning for the land of Israel and allows that others might have feelings for the same strip of territory. She removed the noun ‘Zion’ and the 2,000 years of Jewish yearning. It’s a rational approach, beautifully sung.

Neshama is the daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who laboured heart and soul to return young Jews to their spiritual heritage, more than to any physical place on earth. I doubt that her Hatiqvah will please anyone in the region. The Israeli right will denounce her for defeatism and the Palestinians, left to right, will reject any song that does not specify the superiority of their claim. Depressing, as ever.

Here’s Neshama’s reasoning.

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  1. I agree that Hatikva should be changed, given that we have a large Arab minority here in Israel that cannot identify with the text as it is today. But “Nefesh Israeli homiya” (An Israeli soul still yearns) really rubs me the wrong way! “Nefesh ameinu” (soul of our nation, or of our people) seems more appropriate. I would prefer adopting a completely new melody with a different text altogether. People will get used to it and I am sure there are precedents. Of course it will never happen and I doubt anyone who matters will agree to any changes to the current version, unless we make peace with the Palestinians, so it’s probably a moot point… But I do like Neshama’s rendering a lot, definitely one of the best I’ve heard.

    • Martin Bookspan says:

      Misha, when is the last time (if ever!) you sang Hatikvah? The words are Nefesh YEHUDI, not Nefesh Israeli.

  2. Alan R Naftalis says:

    I find the idea of changing some lyrics of Haktiqvah distressing. I understand that there are others who are citizens of Israel who are not Jews & that some may not identify with some words of the anthem, but that ignores what makes Israel unique among nations, its place as the sole Jewish homeland and the historic homeland of the Jews. Israel accords, as it should, equal civil rights to ALL of its citizens Jews & non-Jews (something which is absent in many other nations) but the very basic Jewish nature of the state cannot be denied. An other poster has even gone so far as to suggest scrapping the anthem entirely & replacing it with with a new melody & text. I suspect that would also become a precursor to changing the flag next removing the Star of David. Either or both would change the very essence of the state, that which makes it special. Modern Israel represents the “hope” of a dispursed people to return in freedom to their ancient homeland & capital to live in freedom & away from the oppression faced in so many other lands. We must not forget nor diminish that ancient desire which goes back as far as the Babylonian captivity & is recited each year as we close our Sedars, “next year in Jerusalem”.

    • The melody has it’s roots not only in smetana’s music, but basque and other cultures. for another perspective google for Al Jolson’s pre independence day’s version of Hatikva. Smaltzy Ashkenazi. I wonder who sings God Saves the Queen with fingers crossed behind their back?

  3. While there’s is a terrible need in Israel for a simple letting go of all resistance – up, down, left, right, and every which way, any proposed alterations of Hatikva have a disturbing element of erasure in them. The very creation of Israel was one born of the yearning caused not only by the Shoah (known generally as The Holocaust) but by years of hatred and attempted oppression of the Jews wherever they decided to settle. The current tragedy of Israel, for me, is that, evinced by the events of the last 50 years, literally nowhere on Earth have Jews been able to find a safe and uncontested homeland. For so many, Hatikva evokes deep emotion in those who remember the struggle even to get an Israel. The Arabs who defy Israel simply do not understand why it has had to exist at all. But for them and for too many, the altering of history and the need to out and out forget the country’s true origins are at the root of its threatened demise.

  4. José Bergher says:

    Why should the State of Israel have to give its Arab population any explanations for “Hatikva” or change the lyrics? Israel is under no duty to undertake some kind of amends project to please (or appease) the Arab population. “Hatikva” is the State of Israel’s national anthem from the moment it was played by the Israel Philharmonic at the end of the session where Israel’s independence was declared, in May 1948. There is a recording of the entire ceremony. The anthem is very beautiful and it needs none of the “improvements” suggested in the horrible recording by the lady singer. So much for “political correctness.”

    • I could not agree more — particularly about the performance. The need to make life easier, less infused with any kind of conflict, less infused with challenge, makes everything bland, shallow, and most uninteresting, as this performance is.

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