There’s been a lot of fuss in Israel over the last few months about their anthem, Hatikva (The Hope).
It started in February, when one of the country’s Supreme Court judges refused to sing the anthem at a swearing-in ceremony. The man, Justice Salim Joubran (that’s him looking happy in the picture), kept silent when the anthem was played, presumably because he’s an Israeli-Arab and can hardly sing lines about how his “Jewish soul…yearns”.
His silence was met with unsurprising criticism. But it also led to several calls to change the anthem so it actually means something to the 25% of Israel’s population who aren’t Jewish.
A couple of weeks ago, the magazine Forward even talked an Israeli pop star into recording a new version of the anthem with several lines changed. If that were adopted, Salim would just have to sing about the yearnings of his “Israeli soul”.
Clearly, Hatikva’s going to stay as it is (sample YouTube reaction to Forward’s video: “F**k you you stupid leftwing scum!!!”), but the debate illustrates a wider movement to make anthems inclusive.
Take Iraq, where they’re considering a new anthem. The leading suggestion right now is apparently just to add words in Kurdish and Turkmen to the existing Arabic tune Mawtini.
Politically, great, but musically, it’s an appalling idea. Most anthems are too long as it is. Adding lines is just going to make them worse, and fewer people identify with them.
Why not just start again entirely? Israel, for one, has plenty of musicians it could ask to write a new anthem.
(No, this post wasn’t just an excuse to link to a video of transsexual pop star Dana International. Well, maybe a bit…)