On the “new” wording of Ha-Tikvah

I have always wondered how the current wording of Hatikvah came about. The wording of Ha-Tikvah as it is sung today (and as officially adopted as the National Anthem of the State of Israel) concludes with “Ha-Tikvah bat shnot alpayim…,” whereas the “original” wording was “Ha-Tikvah ha-noshana….”

התקוה הנושנה לשוב לארץ אבותינו, לעיר בה דוד חנה
The ancient hope, To return to the land of our fathers,
The city where David encamped

The “old wording” was sung for many decades, especially outside of Palestine. It’s common enough to assume that the wording was changed when Israel became a State and adopted Hatikvah as the National Anthem.

But in fact the “new” wording is much older, and the Knesset did not officially adopt Hatikvah as the National Anthem until 2004.

Naftali Hertz Imber (1856-1909) wrote the original poem in the 1870s, which he called “Tikvatenu.” Imber later traveled throughout Palestine 1882-1887, and made some changes to the poem during this time. Imber’s visit to Rishon Le-Tzion was particularly important. The poem made a great impression there, and Shmuel Cohen (1870-1940) set the poem to music, more or less in the form we know it today. The text apparently also received some edits in Rishon Le-Tzion. According to the Wikipedia article in Hebrew about Hatikvah, David Judelovitch (1863-1943) recalled in his memoires that he edited the poem, together with Yisrael Belkin and Mordechai Lubman Haviv, when Imber was in Rishon LeTziyon, and that Imber approved the edits. http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%95%D7%94 (viewed Feb 26 2014).

The Hebrew Wikipedia text makes it appear that Judelovitch and his friends were in fact responsible for the “new” words. This reference to the “new” words is most likely an editing mistake. There is no reference to editing Ha-Tikvah in the Hebrew Wikipedia article on Yudelovitch. It does not appear to have any further details about the adoption of the “new” wording, and nowhere else did I find a reference to Yudelovitch and associates creating the words we use today. It seems most likely that the Wikipedia editing removed or corrupted a reference to the educator who produced the wording used today, and that the edits made by Yudelovich et al. were very minor, and may have concerned better fitting the original wording to the melody Shmuel Cohen used. The English Wikipedia says “The text was later revised by the settlers of Rishon LeZion, subsequently undergoing a number of other changes” and seems to imply this was after 1897. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatikvah. (Yudelovitch’s memoire about the Hebrew school in Rishon Le-Tziyon was published in Yaari’s Zikhronot Eretz Yisrael 1:42, but I have not been able to check this to see if the story is found there.)

The more usual credit for the new words is to Yehudah Leib Mettman-Cohen (1869-1939), who later Hebraicized his family name to Matmon-Cohen. Mettman-Cohen was one of the founders of Ahuzat Bayit, which soon changed its name to Tel-Aviv, and was one of the pioneers of Hebrew-language education in Israel. He became Principal of an elementary school in Rishon le-Tziyon in 1904, but left and opened a school in Jaffa in 1905; this school formed the basis of the Gymnasium Hertzliyah that stood in the center of Tel Aviv. According to Eliyahu Cohen, in 1905 he changed the last three lines of the poem to the words we know today, with the exception of “bat” (in “ha-tikvah bat shnot alpayim”) which was added to the choral arrangement done by Hanina Krachevsky (1877-1925) in early British Mandate times. (Article is in Hebrew). http://library.osu.edu/projects/hebrew-lexicon/hbe/hbe00341.php .

I have not been able to determine whether Mettman-Cohen made the changes while still in Rishon or as part of his activities in the new school in Jaffa. None of the articles I looked at discussed the degree to which the “new” words were disseminated in the Zionist movement or in the Land of Israel, but assuming these words were brought to the Gymnasum Hertzliyah in Tel Aviv, the version sung there would easily have engendered broad dissemination throughout Palestine; even moreso when adopted by Krachevsky, probably the most influential force in choral music in late Ottoman and early Mandate times.

The Wikipedia article on Matmon-Cohen states simply that “most of the words of the second stanza of Ha-Tikvah are ascribed” to him. http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%94%D7%95%D7%93%D7%94_%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%99%D7%91_%D7%9E%D7%98%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%9F-%D7%9B%D7%94%D7%9F Of course the hymn had already been sung with the “old” words in the Zionist Congress in 1897, and the “old” words continued to be sung widely for decades. But it seems that Mettman-Cohen should be credited with nine of the twenty eight words of what is now the official text, about 1/3 of the total.

The images of Krachevsky’s arrangement below are taken from Tzlilei Hanina, available from the Hebrew University’s digitalized collection,
http://web.nli.org.il/sites/nli/Hebrew/library/Pages/BookReader.aspx?pid=801939

From Tzlilei Hanina.

From Tzlilei Hanina.

From Tzlilei Hanina

From Tzlilei Hanina

Seth Ward

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2 Responses to On the “new” wording of Ha-Tikvah

  1. Pingback: Edits to Hatikvah post | Coffeecups

  2. drsethward says:

    I was able to check the selection from Yudelovich’s memoir in Ya’ari’s Zikhronot Eretz Yisrael. He does not mention anything about Imber or Ha-Tikvah in this passage.(1:42, pp. 484-487) However, Ya’ari included in this collection Shmuel Cohen’s reminiscence about how he was the first to sing the poem to the popular melody he remembered from Romania. Cohen and his friends in Rishon Le-Tziyon actually preferred other songs; Ha-Tikvah was popular in Rabbi Tzvi Livontin’s hall in Rishon, and was the song of Rehovot. Cohen never credits himself with the melody–only with being the first to sing the song. (Ya’ari 2:50, pp. 671-674).

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