In November 2004, the Israeli Knesset formally adopted Hatikva as the national anthem of the State of Israel. The preceding 56 years since the founding Israel, Hatikva had only been the unofficial national anthem.

In the 1878, a young Galician Jew named Naphtali Herz Imber, wrote a poem about the land of Israel. He was inspired by the founding, that year, of the first modern Jewish agricultural settlement, Petach Tikvah. Imber’s poem, entitled Tikvateinu (Our Hope), was nine stanzas long. The poem was quite popular, and, in the early 1880s, it was set to music (a variation of “The Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana) by Samuel Cohen, an immigrant from Moldavia.

The song was renamed Hatikva (The Hope) and was sung at the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903, the last congress attended by Theodor Herzl. The anthem was sung at all subsequent Zionist Congresses, and, in 1933 it was declared the official Zionist anthem.

Nine stanzas being a lot for a national anthem, only the first verse and the refrain are generally sung:

As long as in the heart, within/A Jewish soul still yearns/And onward, towards the ends of the east/An eye still gazes toward Zion; Our hope is not yet lost/The hope of two thousand years/To be a free people in our land/ The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Kol ‘od ba’lay’vav peh’neemah/Nefesh yehudi hoh’meeyah/Ul’fa’atei mizrach kadimah/‘Ah’yin l’tziyon tzofiyah;

‘Od lo avdah tikvateinu/Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim/Lee’yot ‘am chofshi b’artzeinu/Eretz-tziyon vee’rushalayim.

DID YOU KNOW: The last line was actually changed after the establishment of the State of Israel. Originally it read: “To return to the land of our ancestors/to the city where David encamped (Jerusalem).” (Lashuv l’eretz ahvo’teinu/La’eer bah David chanah.)

In honor of Israel’s 61st birthday, communities around the world will join together to sing Hatikva in the second annual Live Hatikva. Last year, Live Hatikva made the Guinness Book of Records for the number of people singing a national anthem in unison. Live Hatikva 2009 will take place at 10:50 pm Israel time (3:50 pm DST-NY)

Source: National Jewish Outreach Program