Israel: The Home of Hope

Reflecting on the story of the Land of Israel

As we approach Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we share a short video, the audio of which is taken from a double album of words and music entitled Israel: Hope of Hope that my team produced in 2008.

The full album can be downloaded from iTunes for a small cost which goes to tzedakah (charity) here. More details about the project can be found here.

Twenty-six centuries ago, in exile in Babylon, the prophet Yechezkel (Ezekiel) had a prophetic vision….

It was the most haunting of all visions. The prophet Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones, a heap of skeletons.

God asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Yechezkel 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.’”

Yechezkel 37:1–14

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’?

Yet, a mere three years after standing face-to-face 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 Yechezkel: ‘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 has taken an ancient language, the Hebrew of the Bible, and made it speak again. It has taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. It has taken a tattered, shattered nation and made it live again. That remains the Jewish dream.

Israel is the country whose national anthem, Hatikvah, means hope. Israel is the land of hope.