Israel: Home of Hope
Reflecting on the story of the Land of Israel
In honour of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, here is a short video created in April 2020, the audio of which is taken from Israel: Hope of Hope produced to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008. More details about the project can be found here.
It was the most haunting of all prophetic visions. The prophet Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones, a heap of skeletons.
God asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel replied, “God, You alone know.” Then the bones came together, and grew flesh and skin, and began to breathe, and live again. Then God said: “Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, avdah tikvateinu, our hope is lost.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the God says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the Land of Israel.’”
It was this passage that Naftali Herz Imber was alluding to in 1877 when he wrote, in the song that became Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, the phrase od lo avdah tikvatenu, ‘our hope is not yet lost.’ Little could he have known that seventy years later one third of the Jewish people would have become, in Auschwitz and Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen, a valley of dry bones. Who could have been blamed for saying ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost’?
And yet, a mere three years after standing eyeball-to-eyeball with the Angel of Death, the Jewish people, by proclaiming the State of Israel, made a momentous affirmation of life, as if it had heard across the centuries the echo of God’s words to Ezekiel: veheveti etchem el admat Yisrael, ‘I will bring you back to the Land of Israel.’
And a day will one day come when the story of Israel in modern times will speak not just to Jews, but to all who believe in the power of the human spirit as it reaches out to God as an everlasting symbol of the victory of life over death, hope over despair.
Israel has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. It’s taken an ancient language, the Hebrew of the Bible, and made it speak again. It’s taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. It’s taken a tattered, shattered nation and made it live again.
Israel is the country whose national anthem, Hatikvah, means ‘hope’. Israel is the home of hope.