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Re-writing the Israeli National Anthem

As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem

It was good enough for over five and a half decades but now there are calls to rewrite Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem. The most recent proponent of this is an op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post by one Meisels. The anthem he claims is simply not representative of most Israelis, which would come as a shock to most Israelis who sing it anyway.

The anthem he claims only represents socialist european Jews and does not represent Sefardim, Arabs, Orthodox Jews and possibly Martians. Sefardim, according to him, are not represented because Sefardim did not yearn 'east.' Meisels is sadly too ignorant to realize that firstly Mizrach is an idea dating back to ancient times back thousands of years when Eretz Yisrael was Mizrach and outside of Eretz Yisrael was be'maarava or in the west.

Secondly this line in the anthem is based on the famous poem of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, a famous Sefardi Rabbi from Spain, relative to which indeed Israel is east. Sefard indeed means Spain and much of the Sefardi Jews did not live in the Middle East but Western Europe and America and South America.

Thirdly by his logic it would also disenfranchise Russian Jews and many Eastern European Jews who lived to the east of Israel and therefore actually yearned west. What was to be done about South American and Jews in South Africa who lived to Southwest and Southeast of Israel; suggests anyone singing the anthem had better bring a compass and an atlas to determine exactly which direction his ancestors yearned in.

Orthodox Jews are of course unhappy with Hatikvah because it fails to mention G-D. And while Hatikvah certainly does not mention G-D, neither does it reject him as some anti-zionists would like to pretend. Hatikvah is based essentially on religious writings, its sentiments come from Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, from Tehilim and expressing the collective Jewish striving to return to the Holy Land. The line which anti-zionists consistently whine about is 'Am Hofsi', to live as a free people in our land, which in their view is supposed to refer to spirtual anarchy. Indeed it refers to no such thing, it is simply a hope for the end of living as strangers under foreign rule.

Arabs of course are unhappy with Hatikvah but then arabs are unhappy that Israel exists period. No the anthem does not reflect their point of view, it is not their anthem; it is ours just as it is not their land. Israel is a Jewish state, its anthem is a Jewish one. That it has various minorities in it, does not require a rewriting of the anthem. For that matter will the American National Anthem be rewritten for anyone who does not identify with the War of 1812 or the French National Anthem for monarchists and fascists? Absurdity must have its limits.

Meisels proposes rewriting or adding a second verse to Hatikvah in his own words; "stressing Israel as an open, modern, vibrant, liberal democracy promoting equality among all its citizens without prejudice based on religion, race, creed, age or sex." One wonders if rather than rewriting Israel's national anthem it wouldn't just be easier for him to move to Sweden. Also his proposed change would really fail to meet the needs of all the groups he has mentioned.

The Sefardim who have consistently voted right wing and religious parties hardly want a liberal democracy that eliminates state based religion. Orthodox Jews don't want any truck with any of the above. Arabs wouldn't much like it either, particularly the part about 'prejudice based on sex' which might interfere with their polygamy and wife-beating. So whose needs does Meisels rewrite really meet? Like most liberals the changes he is proposing in favor of the 'oppressed minorities' utterly fail to meet their approval or are changes they have any desire for.

Finally such a change would utterly eliminate the whole meaning of Hatikvah which expresses the strivings of the Jewish people in a universal and transcendant way to return to their homeland and replace it with a particular political viewpoint of what Israel should be. Hatikvah is not about diversity and tolerance. It is about Jews returning to their land. To add a second verse stating that it is a land which favors no race or creed or religion is to abolish the first part of the anthem and the uniqeness of that striving.

The ultimate dillema that divides the left from the right is whether Israel is to be a Jewish state or just a state. Hatikvah plants itself squarely on the side of the Jewish state. It must not be rewritten to suit the aims and ambitions of those who would dejudaize the state of israel as they seek to dejudaize its anthem.


  1. Anonymous10/5/05

    How did people forget that Sephardi means from Spain????? Sepharad is Spain.. not iraq or greece of etc.
    So why does this ditz talk for Sefardim?
    He is out to cause a problem and has an agenda.
    And Hatikva isnt for Arabs. Plain and simple.
    Israel is for Israelites.. end of story.
    Not for Arabs, chinese, etc.
    It is for Bnai Israel.


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