A 'national anthem' is commonly defined as a solemn and patriotic song officially adopted by a country as an expression of national identity. Israel's national anthem is called, Hatikva which, loosely translated, means, 'hope'.
This national anthem of hope was not written for the creation of the State of Israel. It wasn't written immediately before or just after the founding of the State in 1948. It's not even a modern song.
It's an old song. It predates the founding of modern Israel by more than 125 years.
How can a national anthem be written 125+ years before nationhood? How can such a song capture a national identity?
To answer these questions, you must first realize that this anthem is unusual. It doesn't celebrate statehood. It has nothing to do with victory in battles for independence.
But it has everything to do with who we are and why we live in this land. It does that by capturing one aspect of the spirit of the Jewish people. That spirit is linked directly to the Land of Israel. That spirit declares to the world who we are and what we yearn for.
Tell me what you dream of and I will tell you who you are. Our national Jewish dream is no different.
We are a people of hope. We are a people who have been exiled from our land. We are a people who dream to return to our ancestral homeland, a land upon which we have stamped indelibly our mark of ownership (proven repeatedly by ongoing archaeological finds).
We are a people with an eye on our future, a future that focuses on Zion and on Jerusalem. Our Hatikva tells the world that we have never given up our hopes for our future.
The lyrics of Hatikva come from a poem first written in 1876--77. The exact date is unknown ("Hatikva", knesset.gov.il, 2009). It was first put to music some 10 years later, in 1888.
It may have been chosen to be the anthem of the Jewish people as early as the First Zionist Congress in 1897 (Vivian Eden, "Evil Spirits Lurking in Israel's National Anthem", Haaretz, August 24, 2015). It was officially adopted as Israel's national anthem in 2004 (knesset.gov, ibid).
This song is not about prosperity. it's not about rockets' red glare. It's not about a flag. It's not about victory.
It's about the future. It's about Jerusalem.
It's about hope. It's about the yearning for our future. It's a reflection of Jewish prayer, which speaks of Jerusalem and which require us all to turn towards Jerusalem when we pray.
It's a yearning for Jerusalem. It's a yearning to return to Zion. It's a yearning to be free as a nation in that Zion, in that Jerusalem.
The lyrics tell us that within the Jewish heart there is a spirit that still sings (even after some 2000 years of exile). Our eyes look towards Zion. Our hope is not lost. The hope of 2,000 years is to be free as a nation in our land, the land of Jerusalem and Zion.
These words may be more than 125 years old, but they are as real to us today as they were 125+ years ago when first written.
Here's why: although modern Israel in now 68 years old, it's existence is still questioned. Although Israel is a legally created sovereign state (made so by the United Nations), it's Jewish land is called 'illegal' and 'illegitimate'. Although important Western military leaders openly state that Israel has the world's most moral army, the world calls Israel's army immoral.
Although the Temple Mount has been the holiest spot on earth to the Jewish people, the United Nations has declared that it is not even Jewish. The UN declares that the Temple Mount is now Muslim.
Although Jerusalem has been the undivided Jewish capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years (except when others have conquered it), the world refuses to acknowledge that Jerusalem is our Jewish capital. Instead, the world wants to divide it.
To many in today's world, Israel's very existence is a sin. They believe there is only one way to deal with that sin.
To make peace in this world, many claim, that sin must be removed. Therefore, Israel must be removed. Israel must be destroyed.
If Israel is to survive these attacks, it must have a clear vision of why it exists. It must have a clear vision of what it wants for its own future. It must be able to stand up and say to the world, your vision for us is not our vision.
Hatikva makes that statement. On this, our Yom Ha'Atzmaut, our national Independence Day, Jews across Israel stand up to sing this Hatikva.
This national anthem declares that our national goal is not to surrender land. it is not to surrender Jerusalem. This song declares that our goal is to be a free nation in our land, in our Zion, in our Jerusalem. You can't get any clearer than that.
Here, now, are two renditions of our national anthem, our song of hope--our song of our future. The first version gives you the lyrics. The section version is, well,different: