This article is the first of many we bring to you in a series called “Israel’s History in a Nutshell.”
The city of Rishon le Zion (First to Zion) was established in 1882, with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The name of the new settlement had been inspired by a phrase from Isaiah 42:27: “The first shall say to Zion…” In honour of the establishment, Rumanian born Naphtali Herz Imber wrote a poem called “Hatikvah” – the Hope. Samuel Cohen, one of the farmers, set it to music.
Ship carrying illegal immigrants to Haifa
On September 1st, 1939, the beginning of the Second World-War, a ship carrying illegal immigrants ran ashore off Tel Aviv. In the glare of the British search lights, the 1,400 refugees on board the cargo ship began to sing “Hatikvah”: “As long as deep in the heart, the soul of a Jew yearns, and towards the East an eye looks to Zion. Our hope is not yet lost, the age-old hope, to return to the land of our fathers, to the city where David dwelt.”
These so-called “illegals”, escaping from the Nazis, were interned by the British in the Sarafand Prison camp, northwest of present day Ramla.
During World War II, the British continued their best to keep the desperate Jewish refugees from entering Mandate Palestine. Especially during this time the “Hatikvah” became symbolic for the longing of the Jewish people for their eternal Promised Land – Zion.
“Hatikvah” officially became the national anthem during the inauguration ceremony of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Added to it was a second verse: “Our hope is not yet lost, the hope of 2,000 years, to be a free people in our land the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Today, Hatikvah is still sung with fervour, and its melody and words continue to stir the emotions of both Jews and Christian Zionists.
By Petra van der Zande
© Hela Crown-Tamir. Used with permission.