4: Sheet music covers and interior page, "Hatikvah," ca. 1910s, Hebrew, German, Yiddish, and English.

4: Sheet music covers and interior page, "Hatikvah," ca. 1910s, Hebrew, German, Yiddish, and English.

This is a collage of various sheet music covers, and one interior page from such a publication, featuring "Hatikvah." Two of them also feature another Zionist anthem, "Dort, wo die Zeder" ("There Where the Cedar," or, in its Hebrew version, "Shom bimkom arozim"), with the original German words by Imber's fellow Galician poet Itzhak Feld. Primarily because of Imber’s disreputable character, Zionist leader Theodor Herzl much preferred the latter song, which competed with "Hatikvah" for popularity among early Zionists (it may be heard and read in Hebrew here.)

Imber's portrait appears in the top left lyrics page, which includes the words of "Hatikvah" (including the rarely sung second and third verses). An ancient-looking lyre, a symbol of Jewish song dating back to the harpist King David, appears atop a pile of heavy tomes, surrounded by roses and thorns. Barbed wire, a reference to the oppressed and captive condition of the Jew in the Diaspora, surrounds the elderly Jewish man in the center cover, who wears a robe with the traditional stripes of the tales (prayer shawl)—also perhaps those of a prisoner's uniform—as he walks with arms outstretched toward "Zion." That word appears beside a draped flag of the Zionist movement (later adapted to become the flag of Israel) and a sun rising in the desert.

Rays of sun likewise feature in the top right cover, which includes portraits of Zionist leaders Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau, cofounders of the World Zionist Congress, all surmounted by the famous verse Psalms 137:5: "אִם-אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם — תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי" ("If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning"). Herzl appears in the sheet music cover at the bottom right, as well, where "Hatikvah" is billed as "The Jewish National Anthem" (similarly, it is called "The Jewish National Air," an old-fashioned word for "song," in the center cover.)

The themes of "Hatikvah" are covered by a now-familiar mélange of symbols in the cover at bottom left: ancient-looking scrolls, blooming flowers, and a cityscape of Jerusalem featuring the Tower of David.

Suggested Activity: Show the collage to students and ask them to name significant images or words they can spot in their designs. Write each down on the board, and note which words and images are featured in more than one cover. Discuss: which elements are featured most? How are they connected to the themes of "Hatikvah," and to its national and political importance? What historical narrative is the song being used to define or promote? Why might it be that men like Herzl are featured more commonly on the old "Hatikvah" covers than the actual author of the song?

For a creative assignment, ask each student to create their own cover for the sheet music of "Hatikvah," either one that may have appealed to consumers in the 1910s or one that is more contemporary and relevant to buyers of the sheet music today.

Sources: Covers and interior pages of sheet music for "Hatikvah," words by Naphtali Herz Imber (New York:  J. & J. Kammen, Hebrew Publishing Company, etc.; London: R. Mazin & Co., ca. 1910s). Collage by Mikhl Yashinsky (New York: 2019).