Saturday, April 25, 2015

Whose Hope?

Last night we talked about Hatikvah, The Hope, the anthem of the Jewish State, sung repeatedly this week at Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut.

Most of us know the lyrics by heart. But an interesting debate is taking place in Israel. For us, it will always be a Jewish State, as it should be, but we also want it to be a democratic state. And a democratic state protects its minorities. Indeed, it embraces them and welcomes them into civic life.

Increasingly, Israelis are aware of this. An Israeli Arab participated in the official Yom Ha'atzmaut observance. Arab victims of terror were recognized. Druze and Arab soldiers who died protecting the state were remembered. Israelis take pride in the fact that Arabs serve in Knesset, in the Supreme Court, in civic life at every level. And yet, these citizens of Israel can't Sig their national anthem, which doesn't include their dream, their longing.

Hatikvah originated as a poem, Our Hope, written by Naftali Imber, a 19th century Zionist. Originally nine stanzas long, the settlers of the Yishuv adapted the first stanza and refrain and set it to music. But as has been pointed out, the original poem would actually be more inclusive.

So last night, we explored what it would mean to create an Israeli anthem, not only a Jewish one. We talked about how going back to Imber's language actually strengthens the Jewishness of Israel, by allowing the state to live an important value, that of being truly welcoming. And we sang Hatikvah with the changes suggested.

As Jews, we've rejoiced at the opportunities provided to us living in a democracy. It has allowed our Judaism to flourish. Surely we and Jewish Israel owes it to their minorities to create space for them to flourish. It doesn't threaten Israel's Jewish identity; it strengthens it.

So, what do you think? What would it mean to go back to Imber's original language? Should Israel change Hatikvah? Can Israel make it truly all of our hope?

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