The song, “Am Yisrael Hai,” translated as “The Nation of Israel Lives,” is a song that every Zionist-minded child is taught from the age of pre-school. We sang it at every JCC Day care, every Jewish Day Camp, every sleepaway camp, and every Jewish celebration of the Israeli Independence Day. Three simple words that EVERY Jew…Reform, Conservative, or Religious knows with conviction.
The simple tune that we all know and love has a beautiful story. In 1948, Golda Meir visited Moscow as the Israeli Ambassador. She was greeted by over 50,000 Jewish Russians chanting the words “Am Yisrael Hai”. In 1965, Rav Shlomo Carlebach was asked to compose a song for the Soviet Jewry Movement. He composed the current musical standard “Am Yisrael Hai” that every Jew has known since infancy.
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg writes about the Am Yisrael Hai song. He states:
As a slogan, Am Yisrael Chai affirms that despite the systematic attempts to exterminate and annihilate the Jewish people, thanks to God’s guiding hand and the tenacity and resilience of the Jewish People, we stubbornly persevere. God has made an eternal covenant with the Jewish People; He has their back.
Am Yisrael Chai is also a tefilla, a longing for a united Jewish people living together in safety, security, and with unity and harmony. (source: RabbiEfremGoldberg.org “Am Yisrael Hai”).
How true Rabbi Goldberg’s words ring in my ears. Every time I sing this song, it becomes a chant, a prayer of sorts. It is a song that my children sing at their local Bnei Akiva snif (clubhouse) while dancing, jumping, and sometimes screaming the words. It is a song that can ring true for every Jew. It is an affirmation: WE ARE ALIVE. WE ARE HERE. WE ARE THE NATION OF ISRAEL.
Rabbi Goldberg continues to quote a concept of Rav Soloveitchik (former Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, from 1941-1986). Rav Soloveitchik explains in his commentary of Shemot 6:7 that the word “עם” (“Nation”) is spelled identically like the word “עם” which is translated to “Im”, meaning “with”. Soloveitchik continues that “our fate of unity manifests itself through a historical indispensable union….No Jew can renounce his part of the unity…Religious Jews or irreligious Jews, all are included in one nation, which stands lonesome and in misery in a large and often antagonistic world.”
My kids have a cousin who often says to them “Hey, you got the secret sauce!” It is a cute refrain that we use often in our home. It can be roughly explained as “You are awesome, and you got this! You can do anything you want to do!”
THIS is exactly what Rabbi Goldberg and Rav Soloveitchik are saying….we do have the secret ingredient. We are a NATION, one who will never back down. We are a nation that truly believes that morals and ethics will prevail. We believe that we must work together and in harmony, like a beautiful melody. All parts of this harmony include each and every one of our voices, and our souls. And, just like a beautiful melody that lingers after it is heard, so too, we also are a Nation that is united as One. We are together in one big family enveloped in a love of God, a love of our faith, and a love of our beloved country.
Our local community and several nearby villages have recently lost soldiers to the current war. Our yishuv is on the path towards the local cemetery. Every time we hear of a family procession going by, we, and all nearby villages, go outside and wave Israeli flags to show our solidarity with the families mourning their husbands, children, nephews or grandchildren. We feel as if these kids are our own. How could we not share their pain? We are one Nation.
Two days ago, I bumped into a local friend who was guarding a bus on our Yishuv. I asked him if everything was OK, and he said “Yesterday, we all stood at a funeral, but today, this bus is going to a wedding at an army base! The commander of the local kid’s unit would only allow the wedding up North, so we pulled this wedding together in 6 hours. And, here I am guarding this blessed family. Am Yisrael Hai!”
I began to cry when I heard this. I said Mazal Tov to the people walking up towards the bus. And, I realized that THIS is our nation. This is who we are, and what we do. We are there for each other in all times of sadness but in times of great joy. And, there is no other nation in the world that could so quickly sway from both ends of this spectrum.
Am Yisrael Hai. The Nation of Israel Lives!
NB. The song attachment is a new song by Ayal Golan, produced by Ofir Cohen, 2023; It is titled “Am Yisrael Hai” The Hebrew words are here, and the English translation is below.
מילים: בקרוב תזרח השמש נדע ימים יפים מאלה הלב נלחם בדאגות כולם יחזרו הביתה נחכה להם למטה הלוואי נדע בשורות טובות כי עם הנצח לעולם לא מפחד אפילו כשקשה לראות כולם ביחד אף אחד פה לא בודד שישרפו המלחמות עם ישראל חי אם לא נשכח תמיד להיות מאוחדים עם ישראל חי בעליות בירידות גם בשעות הכי קשות ה קדוש ברוך הוא שומר עלינו אז מי יכול עלינו כי אין לנו עוד מדינה תעשה שלום בנינו שמור על ילדינו כי לא אבדה האמונה הו ארצי נחלתנו לא תיפול כעת רוחנו מסביב ברזל של חרבות ויונה תפרוש כנפיים התקווה בת שנות 2000 עוד נצא לשיר ברחובות כי עם הנצח לעולם לא מפחד אפילו שקשה לראות כולם ביחד אף אחד פה לא בודד נצא לשיר ברחובות
Soon the sun will rise! We will know beautiful days from these, the heart is fighting with worries, everyone will return home! We will wait for them down here, I wish we knew good news, because the people of eternity are never afraid, even when it is difficult to see everyone together, no one here is alone, may the wars with Israel live, if we do not always forget to be united with Israel live ups and downs even in the most difficult hours. The Holy One, Blessed be He, watches over us so who can over us because we no longer have a country make peace our sons watch over our children because the faith has not been lost oh my country our heritage will not fall now. Our spirit will be surrounded by the iron of swords and a dove will spread its wings, The 2000-year-old hope will continue! We will go out singing in the streets because the people of eternity are never afraid, even if it is hard to see everyone together no one here is alone we will go out singing in the streets!