Hatikva - A 2nd Generation's Journey



From Bergen Belsen to Officer's Course

Last week, my son Alon, finished his officer's course at the base in the Negev desert.  The proud families were invited to the cadets' graduation, where they marched and received their officer's pins.  It was the usual Army ceremony including flag raising, marching bands, speeches…   I enjoy seeing these ceremonies, but am usually not taken in by all the fanfare.

Until – the end of the ceremony, when everyone rose to sing the national anthem, The Hatikva.   I was overwhelmed with emotion and broke down crying.  My thoughts were with my mother, who 64 years earlier, in perhaps the most horrific nightmare ever known to mankind, sang this same song.

In 1945, the BBC recorded the surviving prisoners of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, singing the Hatikva "The Hope" on their first Sabbath celebration after liberation, surrounded by the dead and dying.
(1945 BBC recording (with transcript) or if have difficulty try http://www.flix.co.il/tapuz/showVideo.asp?m=2935546 )

Photo day of liberation In the recording you can hear my mother, belting out the song with her operatic voice (and the only one who really knew all the words in Hebrew), full of determination, wanting the whole world to know that despite all that she and others had suffered though, they had not lost their hope and still dreamed of returning one day to Zion.

Where did my mother's amazing strength come from?  How did she find this strength and hope, despite the atrocities she witnessed and suffered, despite the death march from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen, despite only days earlier having contemplated running and killing herself on the electric fence of the camp?

 These were my thoughts as 64 years later, in the State of Israel, where The Hatikva, "The Hope", has really come true, I saw all these young men and women become officers in a Jewish

Army, an Army and State that did not exist 64 years ago to save these concentration camp prisoners.  My mother's hope and determination were not for naught.  She would have been very proud. 

As the ceremony finished one white dove sailed over the cadets' heads.  Perhaps she was here with us. 


         April 1945, Day of Liberation, 
      Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp

Cesia's Grandson, Alon
Oct. 2009 right after receiving  his officer's pin
Negev Base, Israel

Alon finishing officer's course


Words of the Hatikva

Why is this haunting song, today the national anthem of Israel, so moving?  The melody is so different from other national anthems that resonate with strength and pride. The sad melody of the Hatikva seems to resonates with 2000 years of Jewish suffering.  Perhaps it is part of our collective consciousness that moves us so. 





English translation

כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה

Kol ‘od balleivav penimah

As long as in the heart, within,

נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה,

Nefesh yehudi homiyah,

A Jewish soul still yearns,

וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה,

Ul(e)fa’atei mizrach kadimah,

And onward, towards the ends of the east,

עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה;

‘Ayin letziyon tzofiyah;

An eye still gazes toward Zion;


עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,

‘Od lo avdah tikvateinu,

Our hope is not yet lost,

הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם,

Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim,

The hope of two thousand years,

לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,

Lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu,

To be a free people in our land,

אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.

Eretz-tziyon (v)'Y(e)rushalayim.

The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Written by Oran Aviv, Oct. 30, 2009
2 days before my mother’s birthday


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