Its lyrics are adapted from a poem by Naftali Herz Imber, a Jewish poet from Złoczów (today Zolochiv, Ukraine), then part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, Austria-Hungary. Imber wrote the first version of the poem in 1877, while the guest of a Jewish scholar in Iași, Romania. The romantic anthem's theme reflects some Jews' hope of moving to the Land of Israel and declaring it a sovereign nation.
The text of Hatikvah was written in 1878 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a Jewish poet from Zolochiv, a city nicknamed «The City of Poets», in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, Austria-Hungary, today Zolochiv, Ukraine. In 1882 Imber immigrated to Ottoman-ruled Palestine and read his poem to the pioneers of the early Jewish colonies — Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Gedera and Yesud Hama'ala.
Imber's nine-stanza poem, Tikvatenu («Our Hope»), put into words his thoughts and feelings following the establishment of Petah Tikva (literally «Opening of Hope»). Published in Imber's first book Barkai , Jerusalem, 1886 , the poem was subsequently adopted as an anthem by the «Hovevei Zion» and later by the Zionist Movement at the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
Hatikvah was chosen as the anthem of the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
The British Mandate government briefly banned its public performance and broadcast from 1919, in response to an increase in Arab anti-Zionist political activity.
A former member of the Sonderkommando reports that the song was spontaneously sung by Czech Jews in the entryway to the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chamber in 1944. While singing they were beaten by Waffen-SS guards.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, Hatikvah was unofficially proclaimed the national anthem. It did not officially become the national anthem until November 2004, when an abbreviated and edited version was sanctioned by the Knesset in an amendment to the Flag and Coat-of-Arms Law (now renamed the Flag, Coat-of-Arms, and National Anthem Law).
In its modern rendering, the official text of the anthem incorporates only the first stanza and refrain of the original poem. The predominant theme in the remaining stanzas is the establishment of a sovereign and free nation in the Land of Israel, a hope largely seen as fulfilled with the founding of the State of Israel.
The melody for Hatikvah derives from La Mantovana, a 16th-century Italian song, composed by Giuseppe Cenci (Giuseppino del Biado) ca. 1600 with the text «Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo». Its earliest known appearance in print was in the del Biado's collection of madrigals. It was later known in early 17th-century Italy as Ballo di Mantova . This melody gained wide currency in Renaissance Europe, under various titles, such as the Pod Krakowem (folk song) (in Polish) , Cucuruz cu frunza-n sus (in Romanian) and the Kateryna Kucheryava (in Ukrainian) . The melody was used by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana in his symphonic poem celebrating Bohemia, Má vlast, as Vltava (also known under the German title as Die Moldau).
The adaptation of the music for Hatikvah was done by Samuel Cohen in 1888. Cohen himself recalled many years later that he had hummed Hatikvah based on the melody from the song he had heard in Romania, Carul cu boi .
The harmony of Hatikvah follows a minor scale, which is often perceived as mournful in tone and is uncommon in national anthems. As the title «The Hope» and the words suggest, the import of the song is optimistic and the overall spirit uplifting.
The official text of the national anthem corresponds to the first stanza and amended refrain of the original nine-stanza poem by Naftali Herz Imber. Along with the original Hebrew, the corresponding transliteration and English translation are listed below.
|כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה||Kol ‘od balevav penimah||As long as in the heart, within,|
|נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה||Nefesh yehudi homiyah,||A Jewish soul still yearns,|
|וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה,||Ul (e) fa’atei mizrach kadimah,||And onward, towards the ends of the east,|
|עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה,||‘Ayin letziyon tzofiyah;||an eye still gazes toward Zion;|
|עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,||‘Od lo avdah tikvateinu,||Our hope is not yet lost,|
|הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם||Hatikvah bat sh (e) not ’alpayim,||The hope two thousand years old,|
|לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,||Lihyot ‘am chofshi b (e)’artzeinu,||To be a free nation in our land,|
|אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.||’Eretz-Tziyon viy (e) rushalayim.||The land of Zion and Jerusalem.|
Recorded in 2004
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BBC recording from 20 April 1945 of Jewish survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp singing Hatikvah, only five days after their liberation by Allied forces. The words sung are from the original poem by Imber.
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Some people compare the first line of the refrain, “Our hope is not yet lost” (“עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו”), to the opening of the Polish national anthem, Poland Is Not Yet Lost (Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła) or the Ukrainian national anthem, Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished (Ще не вмерла Україна; Šče ne vmerla Ukrajina). This line may also be a Biblical allusion to Ezekiel’s «Vision of the Dried Bones» (Ezekiel 37: «…Behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost»), describing the despair of the Jewish people in exile, and God’s promise to redeem them and lead them back to the Land of Israel.
The official text of Hatikvah is relatively short; indeed it is a single complex sentence, consisting of two clauses: the subordinate clause posits the condition («As long as… A soul still yearns… And… An eye still watches…»), while the independent clause specifies the outcome («Our hope is not yet lost… To be a free nation in our land»).
Below is the full text of the original nine-stanza poem Tikvateinu by Naftali Herz Imber. The current version of the Israeli national anthem corresponds to the first stanza of this poem and the amended refrain.
|כל עוד בלבב פנימה||Kol-‘od balevav penimah||As long as in the heart, within,|
|נפש יהודי הומיה,||Nefesh yehudi homiyah,||A Jewish soul still yearns,|
|ולפאתי מזרח קדימה,||Ul (e) fa’atei mizrach kadimah,||And onward, towards the ends of the east,|
|עין לציון צופיה;||‘Ayin letziyon tzofiyah;||An eye still looks toward Zion;|
|עוד לא אבדה תקותנו,||‘Od lo avdah tikvateinu,||Our hope is not yet lost,|
|התקוה הנושנה,||Hatikvah hannoshanah,||The ancient hope,|
|לשוב לארץ אבותינו,||Lashuv le’eretz avoteinu,||To return to the land of our fathers,|
|לעיר בה דוד חנה.||La‘ir bah david k'hanah.||The city where David encamped.|
|כל עוד דמעות מעינינו||Kol ‘od dema‘ot me‘eineinu||As long as tears from our eyes|
|יזלו כגשם נדבות,||Yizzelu kegeshem nedavot,||Flow like benevolent rain,|
|ורבבות מבני עמנו||Urevavot mibbenei ‘ammeinu||And throngs of our countrymen|
|עוד הולכים על קברי אבות;||‘Od hol (e) chim ‘al kivrei avot;||Still pay homage at the graves of (our) fathers;|
|כל עוד חומת מחמדינו||Kol-‘od chomat mach (a) maddeinu||As long as our precious Wall|
|לעינינו מופעת,||Le‘eineinu mofa‘at,||Appears before our eyes,|
|ועל חרבן מקדשנו||Ve‘al churban mikdasheinu||And over the destruction of our Temple|
|עין אחת עוד דומעת;||‘Ayin achat ‘od doma‘at;||An eye still wells up with tears;|
|כל עוד מי הירדן בגאון||Kol ‘od mei hayarden bega’on||As long as the waters of the Jordan|
|מלא גדותיו יזלו,||Melo’ gedotav yizzolu,||In fullness swell its banks,|
|ולים כנרת בשאון||Uleyam kinneret besha’on||And (down) to the Sea of Galilee|
|בקול המולה יפֹלו;||Bekol hamulah yippolu;||With tumultuous noise fall;|
|כל עוד שם עלי דרכים||Kol ‘od sham ‘alei drachayim||As long as on the barren highways|
|שער יכת שאיה,||Sha‘ar yukkat she’iyah,||The humbled city gates mark,|
|ובין חרבות ירושלים||Uvein charvot yerushalayim||And among the ruins of Jerusalem|
|עוד בת ציון בוכיה;||‘Od bat tziyon bochiyah;||A daughter of Zion still cries;|
|כל עוד דמעות טהורות||Kol ‘od dema‘ot tehorot||As long as pure tears|
|מעין בת עמי נוזלות,||Me‘ein bat ‘ammi nozlot,||Flow from the eye of a daughter of my nation,|
|ולבכות לציון בראש אשמורות||Velivkot letziyon berosh ’ashmorot||And to mourn for Zion at the watch of night|
|עוד תקום בחצי הלילות;||‘Od takum bachatzi halleilot;||She still rises in the middle of the nights;|
|כל עוד נטפי דם בעורקינו||Kol ‘od nitfei dam be‘orkeinu||As long as drops of blood in our veins|
|רצוא ושוב יזלו||Ratzo’ vashov yizzolu,||Flow back and forth,|
|ועלי קברות אבותינו||Va‘alei kivrot avoteinu||And upon the graves of our fathers|
|עוד אגלי טל יפלו;||‘Od eglei tal yippolu;||Dewdrops still fall;|
|כל עוד רגש אהבת הלאום||Kol ‘od regesh ahavat halle’om||As long as the feeling of love of nation|
|בלב היהודי פועם,||Beleiv hayhudi po‘eim,||Throbs in the heart of the Jew,|
|עוד נוכל קוות גם היום||‘Od nuchal kavvot gam hayyom||We can still hope even today|
|כי עוד ירחמנו אל זועם;||Ki ‘od yerachmeinu ’eil zo‘eim;||That a wrathful God may still have mercy on us;|
|שמעו אחי בארצות נודִי||Shim‘u achai be’artzot nudi||Hear, O my brothers in the lands of exile,|
|את קול אחד חוזינו,||Et kol achad chozeinu,||The voice of one of our visionaries,|
|כי רק עם אחרון היהודִי||Ki rak ‘im acharon hayhudi||(Who declares) That only with the very last Jew —|
|גם אחרית תקותנו!||Gam acharit tikvateinu!||Only there is the end of our hope!|
|לֵךְ עַמִּי, לְשָׁלוֹם שׁוּב לְאַרְצֶךָ,||Lech ʻammi, leshalom shuv le’artzecha||Go, my people, return in peace to your land|
|הַצֱּרִי בְגִלְעָד, בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם רוֹפְאֶךָ,||Hatzeri vegilʻad, biYrushalayim rofecha||The balm in Gilead, your healer in Jerusalem,|
|רוֹפְאֶךָ יְיָ, חָכְמַת לְבָבוֹ,||rofecha YY (adonai), chochmat levavo||Your healer is God, the wisdom of His heart,|
|לֵךְ עַמִּי לְשָׁלוֹם, וּרְפוּאָה קְרוֹבָה לָבוֹא...||lech ʻammi leshalom, ur (e) fuʼah k (e) rovah lavoʼ...`||Go my people in peace, healing is imminent...|
Some religious Jews have criticized Hatikvah for its lack of religious emphasis: There is no mention of God or the Torah. One proposal was to switch the word «חופשי» (free, which in modern Hebrew can allude to a secular Jew being free of mitzvot) with the word «קודש» (holy), thus reading the line: «To be a holy nation», referring to the verse in Exodus 19:6 «וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹש» (you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation).
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook wrote an alternative anthem titled “HaEmunah” («The Faith») which he proposed as a replacement for Hatikvah. But he did not object to the singing of Hatikvah, and in fact endorsed it.
Some Arab Israelis object to Hatikvah due to its explicit allusions to Judaism. In particular, the text’s reference to the yearnings of “a Jewish soul” is often cited as preventing non-Jews from personally identifying with the anthem. In 2001, Saleh Tarif, the first Arab appointed to the Israeli cabinet in Israel's history, refused to sing «Hatikvah». Ghaleb Majadale, who in January 2007 became the first Muslim to be appointed as a minister in the Israeli cabinet, sparked a controversy when he publicly refused to sing the anthem, stating that the song was written for Jews only. In 2012, Salim Joubran, an Israeli Arab justice on Israel's Supreme Court, did not join in singing Hatikvah during a ceremony honoring the retirement of the court's chief justice, Dorit Beinisch.
From time to time proposals have been made to change the national anthem or to modify the text in order to make it more acceptable to non-Jewish Israelis. To date no such proposals have succeeded in gaining broad support.
Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה, pronounced , lit. English: "The Hope"