Rachel Gottlieb

Israel at War: My Current Anthem

The spirit of Israel, on display at the airport (Photocredits: Author)

I’ve had a song stuck in my head for quite a few days. In fact, I’ve been listening to it on repeat. One of my soldiers sent it to me right before he went into Gaza, as though it were his anthem in that moment as he steeled himself to step into the fire. (Although I did point out that he’s basically going to the beach so it’s pretty much just a vacation.) It was particularly poignant, too, because the song was upbeat and hopeful and stood in stark contrast with the hardships and horrors of what he was about to face. But it also made sense, in that moment, because of the hope that song conveys, and now I’ve had it stuck in my head and have been listening to it on repeat for days and I’ve adopted it as my current anthem, not just because my soldier can’t listen to it so someone has to, but because of what the song conveys.

The song, for those of you sitting on the edge of your seats, is שלום בבית (Shalom Babayit) by Akiva. If you haven’t heard it yet, take a listen. If you have heard it, go listen to it again.

Now, I know that song. I love that song. But it took on a whole new meaning when this soldier sent it to me. Especially because I didn’t know (until basically just now, in fact) that the song is dedicated to Israel’s reservists. (I am curious if the guy who sent it to me knew that. I’ll have to remember to ask, whenever it is that he makes it out.) And within that song, specifically, I find a measure of hope that I can’t seem to access otherwise.

The truth is, I’ve been struggling with hope. Between the pain and the fear and the grief and the worry, hope has just been struggling to blossom. And I’m desperately trying to live in a space that accommodates that hope, but it’s really hard to find when your messages haven’t gone through in days, when your heart is in your throat every time the name of another fallen soldier is released, when you know there’s nothing to do but sit and wait because that’s all you can do and you promised—you promised—that you would continue to live. So I’ve been clinging to that hope wherever I can find it, trying to give it some oxygen and water and sunlight so that it can continue to grow. And you may be feeling the same thing as I am. You may be struggling similarly. The exact shape of your worries and fears may look different than mine, but I’m sure you’re also struggling with not allowing fear and worry to overwhelm you.

This song that I mentioned has been helping me to nurture that hope. I share it with you now because it helped me—is helping me—and so it may help you, too. In particular, there are a few lines in the middle of the song that, to me, say everything. It’s obviously not as potent without the music attached to it, and if you don’t know the Hebrew, then it’s even less potent in the English (translations my own), but the message it carries still resonates, regardless of the stripped-down version in which we access it:

ולא יהיה צריך סיבה
And there will be no need to find a reason
לאהוב פשוט עד השמיים
To love each other
נדע שיחד זה חזק יותר
Because we’ll know that together, we are stronger
כמו בימים של הצבא
Like the days in the army
נרים ת׳ראש מעל המים
We’ll raise our heads above the water
ובעזרת השם עוד נתגבר
And with God’s help, we will again emerge victorious

עוד יבואו ימים טובים עלינו
Good days will once again come to us
ונפתח את הלב נחבר בנינו
And we will open our hearts and join together as one
כל מה שנשבר עוד נתקן
All that which was broken we will fix
נביא שלום בבית
And we will bring peace to our home

Somehow, two years ago, one honey-voiced Israeli singer managed to capture in a handful of lines of poetry what we’ve been trying to capture in hundreds of lines of prose in the last five weeks. (As an aside, that’s part of what I love so much about poetry, and Hebrew poetry, especially. It says so much while saying so little, allowing the negative space to speak volumes while what’s actually said is in such a beautifully distilled form that it packs such a powerful punch. It’s good stuff.) In the span of five lines, Akiva captured that indestructible link between the peace we create between us and the peace that we create as a nation. He envisions a world where we don’t have to find excuses to love one another, because it comes as naturally as a mother’s love for her child. Where we don’t say that we love one another in spite of our differences, we say—really, truly say—that we love one another because of our differences. Where we don’t pit Jew against Jew, each waving the blue and white but each claiming it for their own, but we drape the blue and white across the aisle and stand shoulder to shoulder under its banner because we know that it’s not just that we are stronger together, it’s that we are only strong when we are together.

If we can continue to do that, if we can continue to keep that alive, if we can continue to keep that flame burning, well then, Akiva is right: With God’s help, we will emerge victorious. With God’s help, we will fix that which was broken. With God’s help, our kidnapped brothers and sisters will come home. With God’s help, our soldiers will come home.

All it takes is you and me, joining together in this song that I’ve adopted as my new anthem, clinging to hope, believing in it as truth, and then, with God’s help, we will—together, as one—bring peace to our beautiful, beloved home.

Please continue to pray for us, and for the following soldiers, especially:

עזרא צבי יוסף בן אריאלה פנינה
יעקב זכריה בן אריאלה פנינה
אליהו סִינַי בן ביילא רבקה
נַתַּן בן דבורה אסתר
דוד אלכסנדר בן דבורה אסתר
אלכסנדר בן שרה אלישבע
ראובן אליעזר בן אביגיל אסתר
בועז כָּלֵב בן יפָה מרים
יצחק אייזיק בן פריידא
אהרן בן רחל ברכה
חובב בן דבורה אסתר
שמחה בן הינדא ברכה

‪כי ה׳ אלקיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם. ה׳ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם

About the Author
As a combination logophile and Israel-o-phile, Rachel's fingers itch whenever something needs to be shared about Israel, particularly as it relates to the Diaspora. Her credentials include a Master's in English and many years experience as a high-school English teacher, which covers the writing part, and being a card-carrying member of the Jewish nation, which covers the Israel part. Although she currently resides in Suffern, NY, her heart has long since been stolen by Israel herself, and her mind is constantly preoccupied with the capital of the Jewish people.
Related Topics
Related Posts