Monday, June 18, 2007


Adam LeBor wants Israel to chuck "Hatikva," its national anthem, because it's too Jewish. LaBor makes a point to compare Israel's possible anthem-change to that of... you guessed it, South Africa. Argh.

As anyone who's grown up Jewish anywhere other than Israel knows, for all the times you hear of "separation of church and state" or "laicite," you are living in a country dominated by some faith not your own. I know nothing first-hand about how it goes for Jews in Muslim countries (interestingly, LeBor seems not at all interested in whether Arab lands include their numerous Jewish citizens and politicians in their own anthems), but in Christian ones, even those that call themselves secular, Christian holidays are national holidays and tourist sites are cathedrals. It would be lovely if religion were a relic and a non-issue for those who didn't believe, but it's not. A major reason for Zionism was for there to be a place where Jews would not be tolerated, but would be the ones setting the tone and doing the tolerating. Now let us all pray to the deity of our choice (say, Rufus Wainwright) that we as a species move from "tolerance" to "equality." Till that day comes, tolerance is the best humans have accomplished.

The anthem "problem," the conflation of Jewish and Israeli, is a bit tough because there isn't another Jewish state. Spain isn't the Catholic state any more than Morocco is the Muslim one. Until West 96th Street declares its independence, that's the difference.


Anonymous said...

The Star Spangled Banner invokes "God" without apology, and is not regarded as a period piece. The less official "America" has God shedding His Grace on the whole country. So much for the separation of church and state. (Not to mention the inclusion of women.) Israel was founded by Jews for Jews; all its citizens are citizens of a democratic Jewish state. Fortunately, there is nothing anachronistic about the lyrics of Hatikvah. The same could not be said for our own national anthem.

Adam LeBor said...

Thanks for your blog comment on my NYT op-ed. However, I did not write that Israel should "chuck the Hatikvah". I wrote that it should change one word. That's quite a difference.

Phoebe said...

Fair point--that should have been "chuck Hatikvah in its current incarnation." It's one word, but a key one, or else there'd be no point in debating it.

Rachel said...

The Star Spangled banner makes no mention of God at all (at least the part commonly sung at baseball games). As a matter of fact it is among the most secular Patriotic songs. I can't imagine where in the daily life of someone who lives in a large city and does not attend rodeos or sporting events you would hear it.
No one forces you to sing our secular national anthem opr say the pledge of allegiance (which I think is equally ridiculous, not because of the God part, our country was founded by religious nuts and remains religious and that is probably a good thing) but because it seems strange to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth.
I think it is hard to argue that all religions aren't equal in America, I don't understand if you are reffering to religious minorities not having national holidays or some sort of bias against atheists, which seems to me somewhat un-substantiated.
Nor do I grasp the problem of Christmas, it isn't a very important religious holiday, it is much more secular and if it were not a national holiday 80% of people would probably take the day off anyway, so it would largely be symbolic to take Christmas away. I think it is rather mean-spirited to begrudge the vast majority of Americans their vaguely-religious but mostly secular holiday.

SoCalJustice said...

Lengthy discussion of Adam's op-ed here:

SoCalJustice said...

Whoops, that didn't work.

But the post is titled: "A new Hatikvah" at Harry's Place:

I have about 10 (sorry Adam) comments there arguing why Adam is in the wrong.

Reformed MaltzLover said...

One more steop to Gaddhaffi's IsraTine.

No seriously, Israel should change its anthem -- as a gesture to Arab-Israelis that, yes, Israel is an Arab state as well as a Jewish state.