Text size

The history of plagiarism is as old as history itself; just as an individual, by virtue of his nature, will envy the gold ring in his friend's nose, so will he be envious of the tune of his friend's golden flute.

It was not by chance that Adam and Eve were prohibited to eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree "inside the garden," lest they die. But what can one do? The "tree was good for food," and "it was a delight to the eyes," and "the tree was to be desired to make one wise," and the snake was seductive, and who would not sometimes feel naked, reach out to pick and eat from forbidden fruit in the hope that God wouldn't notice. But none of it will succeed, because the Gods of inspiration are everywhere - eyes open and ears attentive.

Since the days of Genesis, the situation has only worsened. We are pained by birth, eat by the sweat of our brow, come from dust and go to dust, and often we have an uncontrolled urge to stretch beyond our reach. The trouble is that only a very few have wings of their own, so no wonder that here and there, secretly, we are tempted to pluck a feather that is not our own and claim it for ourselves.

Among those feather pluckers one can find artists (even important ones), journalists, scientists and even politicians, not to mention lazy students who leech off the work of others. George Harrison of The Beatles was convicted of stealing the magical tune to "My Sweet Lord," his famous - and royalty-rich - song. Alex Haley paid $650,000 in compensation after admitting he copied extensively from the book "The African" by Harold Courlander when the former was writing "Roots." New York Times reporter Jason Blair was forced to resign, and with him some of the most senior editors of the leading newspaper of our times, after some of his articles and notes were disgracefully proven to be stolen, like water so sweet it was bitter. U.S. Senator Joseph Biden was forced to withdraw shamefully from the 1988 presidential race when it was discovered that his speeches were much too similar to the speeches of the leader of the British Labor Party at the time, Neil Kinnock.

And those are but a few examples, the tip of the pen, so to speak, running amok and unaware that it has invaded foreign fields and is raiding them as if they were its own. Only the closest examiner is capable of determining if the number of imitations in this world does not outnumber the number of original creations, and in their numbers lock the eye of the sun, for in darkness it is impossible to distinguish between precious stones and costume jewelry.

In light popular music, the plague of plagiarism is even more human. Even those without perfect pitch and refined musical understanding in the world of songwriting wouldn't find it difficult to find tremendous similarities between songs - but who will bother to make the effort to prove plagiarism when another dozen tunes can be written instead.

But Naomi Shemer was not just another songwriter. She was the "national poet," as she was described for many years, and not only during the eulogies for her. Naomi Shemer - and even her ideological rivals will admit as much - was a talented songwriter-poet, both as a lyricist and an inventor of melodies. When the poor of spirit try to fly high, one can explain the false and deceptive flight, and maybe even understand, though barely. But that's not so with Naomi Shemer, who was easily capable of taking off on her own, with her own wings and her own feathers. She always gave the impression that she was never expelled from the Eden of good muses who give birth to original creations.

So, her of all people? Was this Naomi?

Sometimes we learn that someone extraordinarily wealthy is caught involved in a petty theft. So, we say: No, it can't be; it's illogical. Naomi Shemer was so rich, rich in spirit, that it is still not clear how it happened to her of all people, that perhaps distracted, she pulled out a Basque tune to decorate what is considered a second national anthem in these parts. Apparently there is no need for a snake crawling on its belly to tempt us - the fruit in the garden is still capable of drugging us so that we cannot see good and evil and the snake within us too.