“Hatikvah” (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה, lit. ‘The Hope’), the national anthem of Israel, embodies a profound message of hope and longing. Written in 1886, its poignant lyrics were penned by Naphtali Herz Imber, a Jewish poet hailing from Złoczów, then part of Austrian Galicia. The anthem’s melody, composed by Samuel Cohen, draws inspiration from a musical theme in Bedřich Smetana’s “Moldau.”

“Hatikvah” stands as a significant piece of 19th-century Jewish poetry. It resonates deeply with the Jewish community, encapsulating their 2,000-year-old aspiration to return to and re-establish the Land of Israel as a free and sovereign state. Imber initially composed the poem in 1877 while staying with a Jewish scholar in Iași, Romania. This work profoundly reflects the Jewish people’s enduring hope and determination to return to their ancestral homeland.

Hebrew Lyrics to Hatikvah

כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה, וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה, עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה,

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ, הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם, לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ, אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.

English Transliteration of Hatikva

Kol od balevav penimah,
Nefesh yehudi homiyah,
Ulefa-atei mizrach, kadimah,
Ayin letziyon tsofiyah.

Od lo avdah tikvateinu
Hatikva bat shnot alpayim,
Lihyot am chofshi be-artzeinu,
Eretz tzion, virushalayim.

English Translation of Hatikvah

As long as in the heart within,
The Jewish soul yearns,
And toward the eastern edges, onward,
An eye gazes toward Zion.

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope that is two-thousand years old,
To be a free nation in our land,
The Land of Zion, Jerusalem.

Watch Hatikvah Performed at the Masa Israel Journey Yom HaZikaron Ceremony:

History of “Hatikvah”

The Origins and Early Recordings

The text of “Hatikvah” was composed in 1878 by Naftali Herz Imber, a Jewish poet from Zolochiv (Polish: Złoczów), then located in Austrian Poland, now part of Ukraine. Zolochiv was known as “The City of Poets.” Imber’s poignant words, including “Lashuv le’eretz avotenu” (to return to the land of our forefathers), encapsulated the deep aspirations of the Jewish people.

In 1882, after emigrating to Ottoman-ruled Palestine, Imber recited his poem to the Jewish pioneers in the early villages of Rishon LeZion, Rehovot, Gedera, and Yesud Hama’ala. In 1887, Shmuel Cohen, a 17 or 18-year-old resident of Rishon LeZion with a musical background, set the poem to a melody he knew from Romania. This musical adaptation resonated powerfully with the Jewish farmers and helped spread the poem throughout the Zionist communities in Palestine.

Publication and Adoption

Imber’s original nine-stanza poem, “Tikvatenu” (תִּקְוָתֵנוּ, “Our Hope”), reflected his emotions following the establishment of Petah Tikva (“Opening of Hope”). It was published in his first book, “Barkai” (The Shining Morning Star), in Jerusalem in 1886. The poem gained popularity and was adopted as an anthem by the Hovevei Zion and later by the Zionist Movement.

Zionist Congresses and Recognition

During the early 20th century, the Zionist Organization held two competitions for an anthem, in 1898 and 1900, but none of the entries were deemed satisfactory. However, “Tikvatenu” remained popular and was sung at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1901. Its significance was further highlighted during the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903, when it was sung by those opposing the proposal for a Jewish state in Uganda, emphasizing their commitment to establishing a homeland in Palestine.

It wasn’t until the Eighteenth Zionist Congress in Prague, in 1933, that “Hatikvah” was formally adopted as the anthem of the Zionist movement.

Challenges and Symbolism

The British Mandate government briefly banned the public performance and broadcast of “Hatikvah” from 1919, responding to increased Arab anti-Zionist activities.

A poignant moment in the anthem’s history occurred in 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Czech Jews, members of the Sonderkommando, reportedly sang “Hatikvah” spontaneously at the entrance to the gas chamber, facing brutal beatings from the Waffen-SS guards.

Adoption of Hatikvah as the Israeli National Anthem

When the State of Israel was established in 1948, “Hatikvah” was embraced as the national anthem, though it wasn’t officially recognized in this capacity until much later. It wasn’t until November 2004 that “Hatikvah” formally received its status as the national anthem. This official recognition came through an amendment to the Flag and Coat-of-Arms Law, which was subsequently renamed the Flag, Coat-of-Arms, and National Anthem Law.

The modern version of the anthem features only the first stanza and refrain of Imber’s original poem. This decision reflects the central theme of the anthem – the longstanding Jewish aspiration for the establishment of a sovereign and free nation in the Land of Israel. This hope, deeply woven into the remaining stanzas of the original poem, is largely considered fulfilled with the founding of the State of Israel.

Melody and Origins of Hatikvah

The melody of “Hatikvah” traces its roots back to the 16th century, originating from “La Mantovana,” an Italian song composed by Giuseppe Cenci (Giuseppino del Biado) around 1600. The song, with the lyrics “Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo,” first appeared in del Biado’s collection of madrigals. Known as “Ballo di Mantova” in early 17th-century Italy, this melody became widely popular across Renaissance Europe, adopting various titles and forms in different cultures. In Poland, it was known as “Pod Krakowem”; in Romania, it took the form of “Cucuruz cu frunza-n sus” [Maize with up-standing leaves]; and in Ukraine, it was called “Kateryna Kucheryava.”

This melody also served as the foundation for numerous folk songs across Central Europe. For example, it influenced the Slovenian children’s song “Čuk se je oženil” [The little owl got married]. However, its most notable use prior to “Hatikvah” was by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. He incorporated the melody into his set of six symphonic poems titled “Má vlast” (My Homeland), particularly in the second poem, “Vltava” (also known as “The Moldau”). Additionally, the melody was adapted by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns in his “Rhapsodie bretonne.”

Zionist Adaptation of the Melody

The melody of “Hatikvah,” as we know it today, was set by Samuel Cohen in 1888. Reflecting on the process years later, Cohen revealed that the tune was influenced by a song he remembered from Romania, titled “Carul cu boi” (the ox-driven cart). This revelation highlights the cross-cultural influences that shaped the anthem’s melody.

Notably, “Hatikvah” is composed in a minor scale, which is somewhat atypical for national anthems. Minor scales are often perceived as having a mournful tone, adding a poignant depth to the anthem. However, despite its minor key, the essence of “Hatikvah” is far from somber. As its title, “The Hope,” suggests, the song carries an inherently optimistic message. The lyrics and melody together evoke a spirit of upliftment and resilience, reflecting the enduring hope and aspirations of the Jewish people.

FAQs About Hatikvah – Israel’s National Anthem

What does “Hatikvah” mean?

“Hatikvah” translates to “The Hope” in English.

Who wrote the lyrics of “Hatikvah”?

The lyrics were written by Naphtali Herz Imber, a Jewish poet from Złoczów, then part of Austrian Galicia.

When were the lyrics of “Hatikvah” written?

The lyrics were written in 1878.

Who composed the melody of “Hatikvah”?

The melody was adapted by Samuel Cohen in 1888, based on a melody he heard from a Romanian song.

What is the origin of the melody used in “Hatikvah”?

The melody is believed to be influenced by “La Mantovana,” a 16th-century Italian song, and was popularized in different forms across Europe.

When did “Hatikvah” become the national anthem of Israel?

“Hatikvah” was unofficially adopted as Israel’s national anthem at the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and was officially recognized in November 2004.

What is the theme of “Hatikvah”?

The anthem expresses the 2,000-year-old hope of the Jewish people to return to and establish a sovereign state in the Land of Israel.

How many stanzas from the original poem are in the national anthem?

The official version of the anthem includes only the first stanza and refrain of Imber’s original poem.

What is unique about the musical scale of “Hatikvah”?

“Hatikvah” is composed in a minor scale, which is unusual for national anthems and contributes to its poignant and emotive quality.

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