As the Memorial Day draws to its end and Israel enters the celebrations of Independence Day, the national anthem ‘Hatikvah’ (The Hope) marks as each year the moment of passage. I do not hide, it may be the song I love most of all songs on Earth. As last year, and maybe starting some kind of a tradition of mine, I was looking for special or funny versions of the song to post on my blog, when a discussion started on a virtual list by Andre – one of these friends that I owe the Internet having known them – drew my attention.

source http://www.ortav.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=397

Andre was referring to the weekly show ‘Mekablim Shabat’ (Welcoming Sabbath) which is presented by anchor Dov Elboim each Friday evening on Channel One of Israeli TV. This show which usually invites each week a different guest from various fields of religious, social, cultural life to discuss the weekly Torah portion, was dedicated this week to the national day, and had as guest Astrid Balzan, Ph.D. who wrote a book about the national anthem, a book whose title translates ‘HaTikvah – Past, Present and Future’.  I did not read the book (yet) but it seems like interesting reading. Dr. Balzan’s theory is that the melody, whose origin is usually traced back to the La Mantovana, a 17th-century Italian song, originally written by Giuseppino del Biado ca. 1600 with the text “Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi dal questo cielo” to enter the folklore of Eastern Europe and be later used by Smetana in his symphonic poem celebrating Bohemia, “Má vlast,” as “Vltava” (Die Moldau) and by Samuel Cohen for “HaTikvah” (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatikvah) actually originates in a melody used in prayers by Spanish Jews as early as the 14th century. The prayer is named ‘Birkhat hatal’ name that translates as ‘Blessing of the Dew’ which sounds quite poetic.

Some details about dr. Balzan’s book can be found at http://www.ortav.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=397 and Dov Elboim’s show can be seen in the next few days at http://www.iba.org.il/media/?recorded=1 (in Hebrew).

(video source AntinouslsGod1)

Whatever the past was HaTikvah is still generating new versions and discoveries of older recordings, each with its own story. Here are two for this year’s anniversary. The first was sang in 1950 by Al Jolson. Born Asa Yoelson in what is today Lithuania, Jolson became in the 20s and 30s one of the top entertainers in the United States. He was not only a great comedian and musician, but also what we call today an engaged artist, fighting prejudice and racial discrimination, promoting jazz and African-American music and the African-American artists to the white audiences. He will of course be always remembered by many people for having played (with black make-up) and sang in 1927 in the first sound movie picture in history “The Jazz Singer”. This recording of HaTikvah may be one of his last, made in 1950, the year of his sudden death.

(video source stavc16)

Here is another version of HaTikvah, a very recent one. It’s a short excerpt of the much publicized concert that teenage star Justin Bieber gave in Tel Aviv less than one month ago. The performer is Dan Kanter – the guitarist playing with Justin Bieber, considered to be the man behind his music.

The anthem is alive. Israel and its people are alive.

Happy Birthday, Israel!