Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk




The national anthem of Israel is part of a poem first composed by the Galician poet Naphtali Herz Imber (1856-1909) in Jassy in 1878.

In Imber’s day, Jassy was located in Austria because all of Galicia had been seized by the Austrian Empire in 1772 at the partition of Poland. That partition led to the total extinction of Poland, as the Prussians and the Russians divided among themselves all those parts of Poland which Austria did not take.

The census of 1900 showed at that time that there were 811,371 Jews in Galicia out of a total population of 7,315,939, or 11%. This proportion was true all over Poland until the Christian population of that country together with the German invaders murdered almost all Jews living there in 1939.

Imber was a student of the Kabbalah, a study which has now become popular among some American celebrities such as Madonna and Michael Jackson. Imber came to the United States in 1892 and died in 1909. In 1953 he was re-interred in Jerusalem. In the U.S, he wrote in English, having previously composed only in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Imber was fascinated by the Kabbalah and was the first to establish clubs for the teaching of Kabbalah in Boston and New York. In 1895 he published the only publication in the world concerning Jewish media dedicated to the science of Kabbalah. The name of his magazine was Uriel, which published only two issues and then failed. Imber wrote all the articles himself but found few readers. In Israel, however, Imber's idea caught on when in 1992 Rabbi Yehuda Ashlay established a Kabbalah center in Jerusalem. That center in turn gave rise to 39 centers all over the world with 3 1/2 million students. Only one half of the students are Jews. The largest of these centers is in Los Angeles, the directors of which are Rabbi Berg and his wife, Karen. The Kabbalah deals with the secret unwritten Torah which Hashem revealed to Adam and Moses. The hidden meaning is studied by using computers to locate lingual relationships otherwise unnoticed.

Although Imber was a Kabbalist, he also wrote Hebrew poetry. Hatikvah has nine verses, of which two are commonly sung as the anthem of Israel.

Imber wrote the words to Hatikvah but the Israeli musician Shmuel Cohen wrote the melody. Those who are acquainted with the orchestral composition Die Moldau by Smetana will at once recognize the similarity between the two compositions. It may well be that Cohen used Smetana’s melody. It may also be that it is derived from a number of Eastern European songs. In any case here are the words.

“As long as deep within the heart, a Jewish soul yearns towards the edges of the East, an eye to Zion looks; our hope is not yet lost, the hope of 2000 years, to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem."

“kol od balayvav penimah, nefesh yeahudih homiyah; oolefatey mizrach kadimah ayeen l’zion tzofiah. Aud low avdah tikvataynoo; hatikvah bat shenot alpayim; leeyoth am chovshee beartzaynoo, eretz tzion virushalayim. 

Shalom u'vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Football & American Identity (2005) & Youth Culture and the Generation Gap (2005) with Dr. Ursula A. Falk.

Home ] Up ]