5: Poem, Naphtali Herz Imber's "Tikvoseynu," 1886, Hebrew with English translation.
This is the full version of Imber's poem "Tikvoseynu" ("Our Hope"), which later came to be known as "Hatikvah" ("The Hope"). Only the first verse and the chorus, with changes (discussed in resource 3), are sung as Israel's national anthem. Eight other verses joined them in Imber's poem. His creation is presented here in both the original Hebrew, and a free poetic translation by Nina Salman. (Note that this resource comes from a book of Imber's writing published in 1950, the editors of which used the more contemporary title, "Hatikvah." However, the poem published here was originally titled "Tikvoseynu," and I refer to it as such in order to distinguish it from the anthem into which it evolved.)
Suggested Activity: If you have at least one Hebrew-reader in the classroom, have them read aloud Imber's poem, with someone else reciting the English. If there is no one to read the Hebrew in class, just have students read the English aloud, perhaps switching readers every couple of verses.
Then, asking for suggestions from the class, compile a list on the board of recurring motifs in these verses. (Such motifs include architectural and geographical features of Israel, as well as numerous images of flowing liquid: tears, blood, water.) What unites these motifs? What purpose do they serve? How do they illustrate the poem's chief themes: everlastingness, inevitability, exile, and return? How do they connect to the central and repeating idea of "hope"?
Also ask students what they think of the poem as a whole. How does the whole poem differ from the one verse and chorus that are sung? Is it an artistically effective poem? What about ideologically or sentimentally effective? Note that God is explicitly mentioned in the eighth verse, but does not appear in the sung version, which led some religious Zionists to object to the anthem on account of its lack of traditional piety. (Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, a key figure in the movement of Religious Zionism and Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine even wrote an alternate anthem for this reason, which can be sung to the same tune, but which has God, the Torah, and holiness at its center. The words of this parallel anthem, "Ha-emunah"—"The Faith"—may be found here.)
Sources: Naphtali Herz Imber, "Hatikvah," in Kol shirei naftali hertz imber (Complete Poetry of Naphtali Herz Imber) (Tel Aviv: M. Newman, 1950), 25–26.
Naphtali Herz Imber, "Hatikvah," trans. Nina Salman in Apples and Honey (London: 1921; New York: 1922), reprinted in Master of Hope: Selected Writings of Naphtali Herz Imber, ed. Jacob Kabakoff (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1985), 332–334.