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 hope of two thousand years
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
--Hatikvah (The Hope)
Anthem of the Zionist movement, and national anthem of the State of Israel.
Sung at the First Zionist Congress in Basle 100 years ago, and on the occasion of the declaration of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv half a century later, these eight simple lines written by Naphtali Herz Imber in 1878 say it all.
For if Israel's 50th anniversary celebrates anything, it is the triumph of hope. Like an eternal flame, ignited by God and kept alive by the prophets through centuries of hate, this hope burning in the breast of the Jew kept him going, kept him clinging to the special identity assigned his people.
In 1897, Theodore Herzl spread that hope like wildfire across Asia and Europe when he exhorted scattered Israel that, if they willed it, the return of their homeland need not be a dream.
Fifty years of ferocious opposition worked to keep that desire a dream. But in 1948 the Jews, and the world, awoke to a new reality--Israel had been reborn.
The physical resurrection of Israel did not make Hatikvah passé. For where the declaration of statehood sounded the victory of hope over 2000 years of despair, so has the celebration of the first 50 years marked the triumph of that continued hope over the enormous efforts--both military and diplomatic--that have been made to turn back the clock.
Our hope, inspired by the same God and His ancient prophets, is to see the restoration of Israel completed in our lifetime, so that finally, when every Jew can spend his days in safety beneath his vine and his fig tree, peace will have come to the Middle East, and the heart-cry of Hatikvah will have been fulfilled.