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Feb 11, 2013

Haredi defense of Israel's national anthem Hatikvah

Throughout the [so far] short history of modern Israel there have always been objections to the lyrics of the anthem, and attempts to change them.

Hatikvah expresses the 2000 year old hope of the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
Some object to it on religious grounds: it makes no mention of God or the Torah.
Others object to it on national grounds: it explicitly expresses the hope of the Jews, and leaves no room for non-Jewish citizens to identify with the anthem.

Occasionally there are proposals to make changes to the Hatikvah anthem to make it more acceptable to non-Jews. I would note that I don't remember ever hearing of an attempt to change the lyrics to make it more acceptable to religious Jews (besides for the original debate as to which anthem should be made the official anthem). I guess this too is a symbol of Israel being an apartheid state - the citizens attempt to change the national anthem so non-Jews can feel more comfortable with it, while not worrying about the Jews who have had a problem with it.

MK Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid was disturbed by the scene of the Arab MKs leaving the Knesset plenum so they would not have to listen, or sing along with, the national anthem of Hatikvah. The situation was nothing new, but it bothered Calderon. She posted to her Facebook page that it bothered her to see the Arab MKs leaving the room, and she then asked her friends if anyone knows of an attempt to make some change to the lyrics to make it more inclusive.

From Calderon's perspective that is where it ended. Her friends and followers debated the issue in the comments of the status update, but Calderon did not make any specific proposals.

Minister of Interior Eli Yishai jumped all over that. He attacked the attempt to remove the word "Jew", thus making it more inclusive, from Hatikvah as an attempt to change the national identity of the nation. Yishai wrote on his Facebook page "I was shocked to hear that there is an idea coming from Yesh Atid to remove the word "Jew" from the anthem, Hatikvah, so that the Arab MKs won't have to leave when it is sung. There are differences between us and Yesh Atid, but I thought that some issues were not under dispute - that the State of Israel is a Jewish state. 
I want to update those who need it - we are a Jewish state! not with a lowered head, but with a raised head!..."

Calderon responded by saying that she never had mentioned or even hinted at removing the word "jew" from the national anthem, and Yishai's commentary on what she said is just a political exercise and a chilul hashem (a concept which I believe is abused and misused, as much as the concept of kiddush hashem is).

Calderon did not say she is planning to propose the official removal of the word "Jew" from the anthem. Yishai's response, turning it into this issue and debate, claiming she wants to remove the "Jew", was probably another way of highlighting and exacerbating differences between Shas and Yesh Atid as a maneuver for the benefit of coalition negotiations.

I must say though, whatever Calderon's position actually is, an Yesh Atid's by extension, I was proud to see at least one MK stand up to defend it from a Jewish perspective. The fact that the only MK to do so was a haredi MK from a haredi political party just made it all the more ironic and all the more interesting, and pride-generating. He may have made an issue out of nothing (or maybe not), but I am proud of him that he did.

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11 comments:

  1. Eli Yishai uses Facebook?

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  2. yes, though I have no idea if he does it himself or if he has a paid social media guy who doe sit for him. Shas did a very good job (not as good as Lapid or Bennet though) using social media as part of their campaign. Yishai has been using it for a while - well before the campaign began

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  3. I'm surprised you never heard the "frum" versions of Hatikvah. The 2 I've heard are removing the word חפשי and using either תורה or קדוש instead. In fact, Rav Ahron Soloveichik in Chicago used one of those (I think קודוש) when Hatikvah was sung at the Yeshivas Brisk banquets.

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  4. Frankly, I have not noticed Shas using social media and due to most of my friends being Mafdal, Likud and Otzma fans, that is mostly what I saw, with a sprinkling of Labour and Tzipi from the rare lefty.

    In Canada, there are a few versions of the national anthem in English, as well as one in French. Occasionally, there is talk about removing god from the song and there are The English version mentions "God keep our land, glorious and free!" I think it used to mention the queen.

    The French version though, is never altered from what I remember, and has different more explicit wording:
    Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, Because your arm knows how to wield the sword,
    Il sait porter la croix! It knows how to bear the cross.


    So the Jew like myself will just shut up and accept the Roman Catholic Quebec. A waste of time to fight it, the Jews are a diminishing minority there anyway.
    Josh

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    Replies
    1. I should add that I left. Nice place, but why bother wasting energy trying to improve it (someone else's country) when I can fight to improve ours.
      Josh

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    2. I have. I signed up to follow the social media updates of every party of which I was able to locate an account. Shas was very active on both Facebook and, though to a lesser extent, twitter.

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  5. Classic Shas prostitution. They'll say anything to anyone that benefits them. No scruples there. And I wouldn't be too heartened by Yishai saying it. Further, what he said is pretty much a lie as this was not a policy statement by Yesh Atid but a post by Calderon on her own FB wall.

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    Replies
    1. Totally agree with you, Menachem. And personally, I don't think Calderon was out of line to raise the issue. I don't think the song should be changed, but I can see the issue, and it shouldn't be forbidden to at least raise it. Why should we expect Israeli Arabs to sing an anthem about the Jews yearning to return to their homeland? A lot of haredim love to respond "draft the Arabs too" in reponse to the demand that the haredim give up their totally unfair and unethical exemption from the draft. This argument over "HaTikva" provides a good illustration of what the difference is. For the haredim, there's a nuance at stake - a word - an important nuance, yes, but they are still part of the Jewish people who have davened three times a day for all these years to return to the Jewish homeland. For the Arabs, on the other hand, there is no positive meaning whatsoever to the expression of hope in Hatikva. That's why it's reasonable to expect the haredim to take a share of the responsibility in defending this country, whereas with the Arabs, it's a much more complex issue.

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    2. And I totally agree with you Baruch. :) I commented something similar on FB to someone who criticized her for even mentioning it. Even if we wouldn't think of changing it, it's important to understand and be able to verbalize such sensitivity. And I appreciate having politicians who understand that.

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    3. Yup. Well put.

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  6. Ok. How about non-muslims in arabic-speaking countries?
    Maybe those hypocrite arabic-speaking MKs should talk totheir friends in other muslim countries asking them to remove the word allah from their national anthem and set a good example for israel.

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