Monday, April 15, 2013

HaTikva (The Hope)

Afternoon Hebrew School, at least in Wichita, Kansas in the Sixties, was not a particularly enriching learning experience for me and my classmates. We came from public school several days a week eager to have fun, not to learn.  Our teachers, usually overseas Israeli students or their wives, were there to supplement their stipends. Most had come to Wichita State University to learn science or math and few had any teaching training.
Therefore, the overwhelming memories of my Hebrew school experience do consist of having fun. We had spitball fights during class and spent our breaks skating across the spacious social hall in our stockinged feet. Somehow, we did manage to learn some rudimentary Hebrew.
One of my first Hebrew teachers

There is one lesson that I do remember, though. That is when our teacher decided to teach us the words to the Israeli national anthem, HaTikva.

As long as deep in the heart,
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And forward to the East
To Zion, an eye looks
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Although I didn’t understand it at the time, our teacher’s background was totally different than ours. She had known terror, loss, and fear. We, born in the Midwest eight years after the end of World War Two, knew nothing of anti-Semitism except from the stories we heard.
Our teacher approached the lesson with complete sincerity. We, as usual, were silly. As she recited the line, Ayin l'tzion tzofiyah (To Zion the eye looks) one of my classmates interrupted.
“I always thought this was a song about a lady named Sophia,” she giggled.
The rest of us giggled along with her but our teacher did not appreciate the humor. She was irritated and the lesson ended on a sour note. At the time I did not mind. Now I am sorry.
Many years have passed since I sat in that Hebrew School classroom in Wichita. Now I live halfway around the world and I have heard HaTikva sung at countless ceremonies. I now identify with the yearning and the hope to be a free nation in our land, a nation that no longer suffers from terror, loss, or fear.
Time after time, as I hear the song being sung, I am moved to tears, tears that my Israeli-born friends cannot understand. When I hear the song I remember those assimilated children of Wichita, Kansas. Then I look at the Israeli children surrounding me.  Like my teacher, these children have known terror, loss, and fear. Yet, I do not envy those children of Wichita, many of whom have married non-Jews. I am proud of our Israeli children. They are our future. When I look at them I remember what we say every year at the Passover Seder.
For not only one has risen against us to annihilate us, but in every generation they rise against us to annihilate us. But the Holy One, Blessed be He, rescues us from their hand.
Despite the terror, loss, and fear these children are happy. They plan to remain in Israel, marry Jews, and continue to build the Jewish nation. Our enemies may hurt us. They may make us cry. But they will never break us. HaShem will always rescue us in the end. Am Yisroel Chai. The Jewish People Live.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ester, Shalom

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Shimona, Jerusalem