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Ha'tikvah ("The Hope"): Text & Music

The origins of Ha'tikvah are rich and diverse, and the the story of its lyrics are separate from the story of its tune. Where are you transported to upon hearing the Ha'tikvah?

Listen below to the melody of Ha'tikvah and read the text separately.

  • How might the meaning of Ha'tikvah change depending on the context in which it is recited? What is the meaning for Yom Ha'zikaron and for Yom Ha'atzmaut?
  • What sort of imagery does the melody conjure up for you? How do the melody and the words complement each other? 
  • The text of Ha'tikvah expresses the hope "to be a free people in our land." Has this hope been achieved, or is it still being realized? See Makom's Ha'tikvah Curriculum for an interesting exploration of the premise of Ha'tikvah.

An Anthem for a People and a Nation

Astrith Baltsan, a renowned Israeli concert pianist and the leading expert on the origins of Ha'tikvah suggests that Ha'tikvah – and indeed all Israeli music – is an expression of the multicultural fabric of Israeli society:

“Even in our most original songs, 2000 years of Diaspora cannot vanish. Once you know that, you accept much more the complex character of this country and its people. And you learn to be proud of it.”

In the following video, she speaks extensively about the origins of Ha'tikvah:

The roots of Ha'tikvah go back long before Israel was established. The song, like the State of Israel itself, is a sort of collaboration by many people from many cultures. The story of Ha'tikvah takes us to Italy, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Israel, with influences dating back as far as 15th century Spain.

The Text: A Poem Born in Romania

Ha'tikvah began as a nine-stanza Hebrew poem entitled “Tikvatenu” (“Our Hope”). Its author, Hebrew poet Naftali Hertz Imber, hailed from Austro-Hungarian Galicia. Inspired by early Zionism, Imber originally wrote the poem in 1878 while living in Romania.

Below are two texts for comparison – Imber's original Ha'tikvah and the lyrics of today's anthem.

 

  • How do these texts compare?
  • How are the two meanings different and how are they the same?

The Melody: Czech Republic and Spain

Vltava (or more popularly "The Moldau"), a piece written by Bedrich Smetana as part of the larger symphony entitled Ma Vlast ("My Homeland"), was written to glorify the Czech nationalism and culture, and inspire the founding of a Czech state. The melody was adapted into Ha'tikvah by Samuel Cohen in 1888. Zionist forefather Theodor Herzl was dismayed to think that the Jewish State's national anthem could be a tune originally written in tribute to Czech nationalism. To rectify, he hosted a competition for a new tune, but no challengers ever triumphed, and the original tune stuck. (See also Depictions of Herzl Through Art).

Yet the story of this tune does not begin with Smetana, as Smetana's composition itself was adapted from the Romanian folk song Carul Cu Boi. In fact, Ha'tikvah may even have origins in a Sephardic Jewish melody that traveled with Spanish Jews through the expulsion and became embedded in folk music traditions across Europe


 

Continuing the Adaptation

Since its original adaptation, many new versions and reinterpretations of Ha'tikvah have been created. For instance, in 2012, a Jewish teacher brought a new Ha'tikvah rhythm to his classroom. 

 

Enter Herzl's anthem-writing competition!

It's so easy to create a new tune and share it with the world. In fact, if you look on YouTube, you'll find many renditions of Ha'tikvah from around the world. Now it's your turn to add your own!

  • If you were going to write a new anthem, what themes, values and/or stories would be important for you to include? Share the story and inspiration behind your new anthem.
  • What moods or emotions are you trying to convey? How do you communicate them through a combination of words and melody?