The Forward’s Philologos, Neshama Carlebach team up for Arab-inclusive ‘Hatikvah’


 These days media outlets are spending plenty of brain power trying to figure out the best way to make use of multimedia and the interactive potential of the Internet, while also mainting the depth and intelligence of print.

So kudos to the Forward for pulling off a great package for Yom Ha’atzmaut.

But let’s start with Philologos, the Forward’s language columnist, making the case last month for a slightly reworked version of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem:

I’ve changed my mind about “Hatikvah.” The successful integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli life, on which the country’s future depends, has to have its symbolic expression, too. It’s unacceptable to have an anthem that can’t be sung by 20% of a population. Permitting it to stand mutely while others sing is no solution.

Should “Hatikvah” then be abandoned for another anthem, or sung to the same melody with new words? I don’t think so. There’s no point in accommodating the feelings of Arabs by trampling on the feelings of Jews. “Hatikvah” spontaneously became the Zionist anthem soon after an 1878 Hebrew poem by Naphtali Herz Imber was set to music in 1886, and it has the patina of historical memory and associations that only time can produce. A Jewish soul indeed stirs to it in a way that no substitute could evoke.

Fortunately, no substitute is needed. It would be enough to change two or three words…

And then the Forward willed Philologos’ dream into reality — with a video of Neshama Carlebach singing the revised version, along with English subtitles, with the changes shaded in blue.

And, of course, readers can weigh in with comments and/or send their own videos to

Now my two cents:


1) I’m all down with the motivation behind this, but substituting Israeli for Jewish — in the opening “Kol od balevav p’nima / nefesh yehudi homiya, / u’lefa’atei mizraḥ kadima, / ayin le-tsiyon tsofiya” — “As long as deep within him / a Jew’s soul stirs, / and to the margins of the east, / his eye looks for Zion” — rubs me wrong. That’s because I’m a Diaspora Jew and the change essentially imposes a greater Israeli perspective on a song that was originally an anthem embodying the longings of Jews in the Diaspora. In the name of unifying Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, Diaspora Jews pay the price. But then again maybe we should pay the price since Israel is now a reality, and we’ve chosen not to make it our country. 

2) I find a hard time believing that these changes will make much of a difference to many Israeli Arabs. So, while the package is provacative, what’s missing is their perspective. So for next year (or even sooner)… it would be great to see what Israeli Arab writers and musicians come up with.

And another thing… don’t forget the view of Daniel Treiman, now of JTA and formerly of the Forward. His proposal (well, it was someone else’s, but he ran with it) was for an Arabic version with different lyrics.

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