Wednesday, February 22, 2006

HaTikvah: Rav Kook and Al Jolson

I came across the audio of Al Jolson singing HaTikva and thought is was interesting--especially since the words are different. Also, I didn't know how old HaTikva (originally named 'Tikvateynu') was, nor Rav Kook's opinion of it.

Here is a basic history of Hatikva:
The title of the national anthem of Israel, Hatikva, means "The Hope." It was written by Naftali Herz Imber (1856-1909), who moved to Palestine in 1882 from Galicia. It was written apparently in honor of the founding of Petah Tiqva, the first new Jewish settlement. The melody was arranged by Samuel Cohen, an immigrant from Moldavia, from a musical theme in Smetana's "Moldau" that is partly based on a Scandinavian folk song.

In 1898, the Zionist organization advertised a competition for an official anthem in the newspaper, Die Welt, and again in 1900 a song was called for, but none was found. In 1901, the song that was then called Tikvateynu was sung at a Zionist congress, and in 1905 Hatikvah was sung by all the delegates at the seventh Zionist congress.

In terms of change in the words and the tune, there is not a lot:
In the course of its evolution, the words of the song were changed slightly. Originally "The land of Zion and Jerusalem" was "where David once lived" (the way Al Jolson sang it) and the original words "to live in the land of our fathers" were changed to "to be a free nation in our own land." The accenting of the words was changed from the Ashkenazi (European) pronunciation to the Sephardic (Spanish or eastern) pronunciation which was adopted for modern Hebrew. That change necessitated a change in the melody as well.
You can listen as Al Jolson Sings Hatikva while comparing the original and current lyrics below. According to an online biography of Jolson:
his version of the Israeli national anthem "Hatikva" raised over $100,000 for the United Jewish Appeal.
(Thanks to Heichal HaNegina for corrections to the transliteration)
Original WordsModern VersionTranslation
Kol od ba-levov p'nimo
Nefesh yehudi homiyoh
Ulfasay mizrach kodimo
Ayin la tziyon tsofiyoh
Kol od balevav p'nimah
Nefesh Yehudi homiyah
Ulfa'atey mizrach kadimah
Ayin l'tzion tzofiyah
As long as deep in the heart,
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And forward to the East To Zion,
an eye looks
Od lo ovdo tsikvoseinu
Hatikvo hanoshono
Loshuv l'eretz avoseinu
L'yichod Dovid, Dovid chano
Od lo avdoh tsikvoseinu
Hatikvah (bat) shnot alpayim
L'hiyot am chofshi b'artzeinu
Eretz Tzion v'Yerushalayim
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Loshuv l'eretz avoseinu
L'Ir bah Dovid, Dovid chano
L'hiyot am chofshi b'artzeinu
Eretz Tzion v'Yerushalayim
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

The Lookstein Center has some material on HaTikvah.

It has an article by Zev Rosenfield, Rav Kook's Response to Hatikvah which notes that:
the concept of national symbols is not alien to Am Yisrael . However, it is imperative that they have religious nature and significance.

...Regarding the national anthem, the issue is not simple. Hatikvah, which is known as the anthem of Medinat Yisrael, was composed by Naftali Peretz Imber, probably in 1878. He first introduced it to the settlers of Rishon Le-Zion, and it gained much popularity among the Olim from Aliya I and III. It eventually was sung at numerous Zionist Congresses and was named the official song of the Zionist movement. However, surprisingly enough, it has never been officially established as the anthem of the State of Israel by Knesset, (as opposed to the flag, which has been accepted). The poem has been revised a few times, and the song we sing today is a shorter and altered version of the original text.

Rav Kook zt"l heard Hatikvah, did not care for it, and disagreed with the attitude that it conveyed. As is well known, however, Rav Kook had great respect for the secular Zionists and contended that there was a level of k'dusha in their work, even without them realizing it. It is for this reason that Rav Kook was not opposed to singing Hatikvah .

Nevertheless, Rav Kook wrote an alternate poem in direct response to Hatikvah, entitled Ha'Emunah . He hoped that it would ultimately replace Hatikvah as the national anthem.

After a detailed analysis of HaTikva and Ha'Emunah, Rosenfield concludes:
It is clear that Imber and Rav Kook zt”l subscribe to two very different outlooks on Zionism. Typical secular Zionists of the late eighteenth century did not attribute any religious aspects to their dream of creating a Zionist movement to return to Eretz Yisrael . They were tired of persecution and anti-Semitism. The only hope was to rely on those courageous individuals who could stand up on their own two feet and breathe life into the dying nation. The only logical place to dream of such a rebirth is the land with common history for all the Jews, Eretz Yisrael . However, if this proved impossible, other options might suffice. This is clearly the message behind Imber's Hatikvah - the last hope for survival.

Religious Zionism stemming from Torah, however, views the return to Eretz Yisrael as something that we have known would happen for centuries. It is not just Herzl's brilliant solution to the problem of anti-Semitism. It is the fulfillment of the prophecies that appear throughout Tanach, spoken over 2000 years ago. It is a promise made by Hashem to Avrahan, Yitzchak, and Yaacov, and recorded by Moshe Rabbeinu in the Torah.
During difficult times like these, we need both the Emunah and the Tikvah to make it through.

You can read the original texts of HaTikvah and HaEmunah, here [PDF].
There is a comparison worksheet, here [PDF].


Here is a recording of Hatikvah in Bergen-Belson on the Friday after liberation. Hat tip: SerandEz

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Anonymous said...

That was highly interesting, thanks for the post!

westbankmama said...

What a great post - I'm going back to my blog to link right now...

yitz said...

I have in my possession a "birchon" , published by KTAV, copyrighted in 1946, 2 years before the establishment of the State of Israel.

The last few pages have a 9-stanza version of HaTikva, of which Jolson sang only the first stanza. Stanzas 9, 3 and 8 appear in the Lookstein PDF link you mentioned.

Some corrections of the typos in your transliteration of the Jolson version:
1. "Loshuv" - to return - to Eretz avoseinu - to the land of our fathers. [not "loshun"].
2. "L'ir bah Dovid chana" - to the City where [King] David encamped. [not "lyichud David, etc.]

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a lifelong 'Jolie' fan I had always heard people say that Jolsons words were different. I bought only last week a new CD which contains Hatikva, so your assistance with the 'new' words is very useful.
Bernard Levey Manchester UK