HE WROTE THE WORDS
The story of "Hatikvah," and the sad life of the man who wrote it.
Editor's Note: In honor of Yom
HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day,
which occurs this year on May 7, the
"Jewish News" is printing the words to
Israel's national anthem. For a color
keepsake, please see page 87.
As long as the Jewish spirit is yearn-
ing deep in the heart,
With our eyes turned toward the
east, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope — the 2,000 year-
old hope — will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land, the
land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Kol od balevav, penimah
Nefesh Yehudi homiyah
Ulfaatey mizrach kadimah
Ayin l'tzion tzofiyah.
Od lo avdah tikvatenu
Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim
Lehiyot am chofihi, b'artzenu
Eretz tzion v'Yerushalayim.
George Erdstein is Imber's great-nephew.
o most of us, the words
and music to Israel's
national anthem are so
familiar that it seems
inconceivable that they were written
by an ordinary human being.
Despite having penned the stirring
words that would become
"Hatikvah," poet Naftali Herz Imber
(1856-1909) never became rich or
Not much is known about Imber,
who was born in Galicia, where he
received a traditional Jewish educa-
tion. He traveled a great deal — in
England, India, Greece, and
He also apparently was friendly
with a number of gentiles (he made
his first trip to Palestine with
Laurence Oliphant, a Christian and
supporter of Zionism), and some
wondered whether Imber himself
had not converted to Christianity.
This was a fear even of Imber's
close friend, British-Jewish author
Israel Zangwill. In his Children of the
Ghetto, Zangwill created a character
named Melchizedek, based on his
widely traveled, secularly oriented
friend. However, there is no proof
that Imber ever left Judaism.
The poet was said to have a "col-
orful personality," though he was
infamous for drinking to excess.
Nonetheless, he did win the heart of
a young woman named Amanda
Katie, who was a bright and lively
physician, was Protestant, but con-
verted to Judaism when she married
Imber. They were wed only a few
years before they divorced.
Process Of Creation
It was while visiting the city of
Petach Tikvah ("Gateway of Hope"
in Hebrew) that Imber was inspired
to write a poem called "Tikvatenu,'
or "Our Hope." He included the
work (initially called "Jerusalem
1884") in his book of poems, Barkai
Soon afterward, he read the piece
to farmers in Rishon dzion, where
it was received with much enthusi-
It was in this town that
"Tikvatenu" was put to music by a
local resident named Samuel Cohen.
The tune was not invented by
Cohen, a native of Moldavia who
HE WROTE THE WORDS on page 86