Israel doesn’t do things the way other nations do and our national anthem is no exception to that rule.
What other nation on earth has had a national anthem at a time when they did not have a State they could call home?
The original poem was called Tikvatenu (Our Hope), was revised over the years, including by Imber himself and eventually became the two stanza anthem, Hatikva (The Hope), sung today.The words of Israel’s national anthem were written as a nine-stanza poem by poet Naftali Hertz Imber and were first published in 1876 or 1877 (the exact date is unknown). It served as the anthem of the Zionist Movement at the 18th Zionist Congress in 1933.
Although Hatikva was firmly established in the public’s consciousness as Israel’s national anthem, it was not formally legislated as such until 57 years after the establishment of the state.
For other nations, the anthem is a tool to build and reinforce national consciousness. Their songs speak of pride, superiority, the glory of battle and/or upholding the reign of the ruler. The lyrics reinforce the cohesion of a people based on their similar traits, taking part in the same battles and living in the same land.
Here too Israel is different.
Hatikva mentions no battles, no fight against oppressors and no similar traits belonging to our nation.
The consciousness of Israel as a nation has existed for thousands of years. There is no need to “pump” ideas of brotherhood or belonging together, the “our” in the lyrics comes quietly, naturally, without fanfare.
A people scattered across the globe, we are not bound by similar traits but by our Jewish soul.
Hatikva speaks not of external struggles, although oppression and survival against all odds have been (and still are) a common experience for our people. After the re-establishment of Israel as the Jewish State there were many battles and victories that could have inspired anthems like those of other nations. Instead, Hatikva, The Hope, remained. It was never an external circumstance that held the Nation of Israel together, it was a state of mind or rather a state of spirit.
That was true during the exile and it is still true today.
The hope, the yearning of a people to be free in their own land is the story of the Jewish people but it is also a universal sentiment. The yearning of the soul to be free and shape its own destiny is a human truth, something that all people can identify with.
Our national anthem is unusual because we are unusual. One could say that, as Israel serves as an example of possibility and potential for all people, so does our anthem. Hatikva is the story of hope even in the darkest times, when there is no logical reason to retain hope. It tells us that the soul is stronger than any external circumstances.
Yearning to be free in a place one can call home, is a sentiment that resonates with all souls. To belong, to be safe, to be free are basic human needs.
Zion and Jerusalem are the home of the Jewish soul but they are also the example, the proof that all people can find the home their soul yearns for. Possibly this is the secret of Israel, why she fascinates and why she gives so many, including non-Jews, the feeling that coming to Israel is coming home.