Laugh at My Dreams

Quite a few countries changed their national anthem. Shouldn't we?

Merav Michaeli
Merav Michaeli
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Merav Michaeli
Merav Michaeli

A 23-year-old girlfriend of mine was recently in Budapest. "And I saw," she said, "that they built a luxurious neighborhood on the site of the Jewish ghetto, and it was terrible, I felt that they had erased my memory." I asked her whether she knows on which site Ramat Aviv is built. She didn't know, of course; she had no idea about about the Arab village of Sheikh Munis, vestiges of which are still visible, nor did she immediately understand the connection.

This is the first year for testing the implementation of the law that introduced the Nakba (the "catastrophe," the Arab term for the War of Independence ) into Israeli law. Last year at this time the Nakba Law was new and it was still not clear whether it would have to be overturned. This year it's here after the High Court of Justice rejected a petition against it and decided to wait and see how it is implemented.

This year it has also become clear that singing the national anthem is liable to become a legal obligation. After the (only ) Arab Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran avoided singing the anthem at the ceremony for the appointment of the Supreme Court president, rightwing MKs called to oust him and submitted a draft bill to the effect that anyone who hasn't served in the Israel Defense Forces or done national service will be unable to serve on the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, it was reported that the prime minister understood Joubran and appreciated the fact that he demonstrated respect for the anthem by standing; but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose not to say so publicly and thus officially show understanding and appreciation for the country's Arab citizens. Instead he sent his political adviser to say these things to the judge, as in every negotiation with the Arab enemy.

In light of the hysteria regarding the national anthem, it is astonishing to think it was anchored in law in Israel only in 2004. In effect, as musicologist Astrit Balzan found in the historical research that she has also turned into a show dedicated to the national anthem, "Hatikva" was never chosen to be the anthem of either the State of Israel or the Jewish people.

Naphtali Herz Imber wrote "Tikvateinu" ("Our Hope" ) already in 1878, and used to "perform" it in various Jewish communities, and it really caught on. In 1900, at the Fourth Zionist Congress, the singing of "Hatikva" erupted spontaneously after the British anthem. At the following congress they sang "Hatikva" defiantly, in response to Theodor Herzl's proposal to give up the Land of Israel and move to Uganda, and in 1933 it was recognized as the anthem of the Zionist Federation. "Hatikva" was sung at the ceremony when the state was declared without there ever having been a formal decision about it.

In most countries the national anthem is recognized in the constitution, but it turns out that in quite a few countries the song went through many changes to overcome a bad past and adapt to new conditions and values. The German anthem was changed several times after World War II, the Russian anthem after Stalin and in 2001, the South African anthem is today sung in five languages (three African and two European ), and the words of the Australian anthem were changed to achieve gender equality. Also, in Russia members of the Duma who oppose the anthem protest by refusing to stand in its honor, and in Japan there are movements fighting for their right to oppose the imperialist anthem. It turns out that an anthem is not sacred.

Only in Israel, it is. On its 64th birthday the national anthem remains unchanged and unadapted. It still refers only to "a Jewish soul" and still "our hope is not yet lost." My 23-year-old friend identifies mainly with that line because she still hopes to live in peace and quiet, sheltered "from everything, and mainly from the security situation," but it's safe to assume that just as she didn't know about Sheikh Munis, it wouldn't occur to her to compromise on her "yearning Jewish soul."

"Hatikva" was inscribed in law in 2004, thanks to Druze MK Ayoob Kara, who only asked that it be recorded in the minutes that Imber received land in the area of Daliat al-Carmel from his grandfather, Salman Kara, and there he wrote "Hatikva." That same year MK Mohammed Barakeh proposed Shaul Tchernichovsky's poem "I Believe" ("Laugh, laugh at all my dreams" ) as the anthem. What a vision: We would stand on Independence Day and together sing things such as:

Freedom still my soul demands,

Unbartered for a calf of gold.

For still I do believe in man,

And in his spirit, strong and bold.

And in the future I still believe

Though it be distant, come it will

When nations shall each other bless,

And peace at last the earth shall fill.

Laugh at my belief in man,

At my belief in you.



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