History of HaTikvah, Israel’s National Anthem

This video dives into the history of Israel’s iconic national anthem, HaTikvah. While some students may be familiar with these words, do they know their meaning, or the anthem’s complex backstory? Originally a nine-stanza poem, HaTikvah’s melody may have been lifted from an earlier Italian or Czech song. Today, HaTikvah both inspires and irritates. It is an aspirational anthem, which connects Jews around the world, and it also alienates others who do not connect to the themes. This episode begs the important question: What’s more important in a national anthem- that it include all of its citizens or that it embody the spirit upon which the country was founded and that it strives to maintain?

  1. What are the main themes of “HaTikvah”?
  2. What role did “Hatikvah” play for many Jews in the Holocaust?
  3. Who wrote the original poem “Tikvatenu” in 1877?
    • Theodor Herzl
    • Samuel Cohen
    • Ze’ev Jabotinsky
    • Naftali Hertz Imber
  4. Which religious Zionist leader wrote the more religious counter-anthem, “Shir Ha’emunah” or “Song of Faith”?
    • President Chaim Weizmann
    • Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook
    • Rabbi Isaac HaLevi Herzog
    • Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
  5. “Hatikvah” is unique among national anthems in that it does not mention:
    • Its country’s name
    • Militarism
    • Hope
    • The country’s flag
  1. Why do Arabs and other minorities in Israel not identify with “HaTikvah”? Why do some Jews not identify with it?
  2. What’s more important in a national anthem: that it includes all of its citizens, or that it embodies the spirit upon which the country was founded and that it strives to maintain?
  3. Colin Kaepernick drew a lot of attention from his decision to kneel for the national anthem. Years earlier, NBA star Mahmoud Abdul Rauf chose not to participate in the singing of “Star Spangled Banner” as well. Do you think their opposition to participating in the anthem is similar to or different than when Arabs living in Israel protest “HaTikvah”?
  4. Imagine that you are the president of a new country and are seeking the perfect national anthem to fit it. What elements, ideas and sentiments do you include?
  1. Split your class into pairs to discuss the following question in Think-Pair-Share: What’s more important to a national anthem: that it includes its citizens in the broadest sense, or that it embodies the spirit that the body was founded on?
  2. To develop empathy, and similar to Beitar and Rav Kook having different anthems, put your students into groups of 2-3 and have them rewrite “Hatikvah” to reflect how they think a new anthem could include everyone’s worldview and culture (Mizrahi Jews, Arabs, religious Jews). Have them share their new lyrics with the class and explain why their lyrics are more inclusive. Then ask, “Is inclusion of all demographics possible, or should Israel stick with its anthem?
  3. Read through the lyrics of both “Hatikvah” and the national anthem of the country that you live in. Compare and contrast the key words and themes from both anthems. What does this teach you about “Hatikvah”? Watch this video and debrief how it made your students feel.
  4. Engage your students in an experiential learning activity around the theme of Home, a theme found in the accompanying video.
  5. Give your students our Kahoot on the history of Hatikvah!
  1. In reflecting more on the words of “HaTikvah” and thinking more deeply about the way the anthem has penetrated the hearts and souls of Jewish people for over a century, in what ways do you identify with and internalize the lyrics and meaning of the anthem?
  2. As a Jew living outside of Israel, does “HaTikvah” have particular significance to you even though you do not live in Israel? If so, how?
  3. When seeing that some people have a problem with “HaTikvah,” do you feel empathy for them or feel frustrated by them, and why?
  1. Unpacking Israeli History Podcast, “Hatikvah: The story behind the anthem”
  2. Dr. James Loeffler, “How ‘Hatikvah’ (The Hope) Became Israel’s National Anthem”
  3. Edwin Seroussi, “Hatikvah: Conceptions, Receptions and Reflections”
  4. Ilan Ben Zion, “How an unwieldy romantic poem and a Romanian folk song combined to produce ‘Hatikva’”
  5. Benjamin Kerstein, “‘Hatikvah’ Keeps its Edge, Despite Everything”
  6. Dr. Rafael Medoff, “‘Hatikvah’ in the Holocaust”
  7. Rewriting ‘Hatikvah’ as Anthem for All

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Experiential Learning is a proactive way to educate with a focus on reflection and can take place in any academic setting: day school, supplementary school, camp, youth group, synagogue, college campus or university. 

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