The song that binds me to Israel
Od Lo Tamu Kol P’layich (Your Wonders Have Yet to Cease)
Words: Yoram Taharlev
Music: Rami Kleinstein
* * *
When the plane from America enters Israeli air space, when the first ribbon of Israeli coastline comes into view, my ritual begins. It’s time to listen to “Od Lo Tamu Kol P’layich” (Your Wonders Have Yet to Cease), a love song to Israel that stirs my heart in the final moments of flight.
I did not visit Israel for the first time until I was 41 years old. There were many years of waiting and longing until, at last, I embarked with my family on our first trip. As the plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea, my eyes were glued to the horizon. When the Israeli coastline finally appeared below me, I was overcome with awe. That feeling has never dimmed in my many visits to Israel since. But that feeling needed an outlet, a means of expression. I found it years ago by creating my own ‘about to land in Israel’ ritual.
I listen to a song that captures my belief that Israel is a place of wonder….and my gratitude that we are about to see each other again.
Our tiny land, our beautiful land
A homeland whose dress is simple, whose feet are bare,
Draw me into your songs, beautiful bride,
Open your gates to me, I will enter them and give thanks to God.
These words remind me to never take for granted the miracle of Israel’s existence, along with the enormous blessing of being able to visit. To see firsthand what the poet wrote of and what the composer set to music:
Your wonders have yet to cease….
The wonder of Jewish national rebirth and the way it changed the existential condition of the Jewish people. The wonder of a flourishing Hebrew culture- music, literature, the comedians on tv, the street names, even the billboards.
Those wonders include the way a visit to Israel can be transformative for Jews who make the effort to encounter Israel in person. I recently returned from a 240-person Minneapolis community mission, celebrating Israel’s 75th anniversary. One-third of the participants were first-time visitors to Israel and many others had been to Israel just once, decades ago.
While all were dazzled by the historic sites they visited, the scenic beauty, the energy and vibrancy of the Israeli scene, what seemed to take many by surprise was how being in Israel made them feel. An 80-year-old visiting for the first time reflected, “I had no idea I’d feel this way….so connected…this trip is too short…I have to come back.”
As the days unfolded there was a shift in the way many participants spoke about Israel, its past, present, and future. People slipped into a different sensibility. Their dominant pronoun became “we”, their bond to the Jewish people forever changed. Israel worked its wonders on each of them.
To hold the conviction that Israel’s wonders have yet to cease doesn’t make one blind to reality, rather, it is what sustains our hope even when times are tough. Yoram Taharlev, the prolific Israeli songwriter and poet who wrote these words, was born on Kibbutz Yagur in 1938 and lived until 2022. The span of his life included the founding of the State, the War of Independence, and every subsequent war. He would have been a teen when Israel was so poor food had to be rationed. He lived through all the tumult, and he still saw wonders without end. That’s what he gives us in his poem.
Then, singer and composer Rami Kleinstein turned Taharlev’s poem into a song. Kleinstein was born decades after Taharlev, but he too has lived through many of Israel’s most difficult moments. His hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Od Lo Tamu Kol P’layich” resonates with love and deep conviction. Twice I’ve seen him perform this song live. As soon as Kleinstein played the opening notes on the piano, the audiences roared with recognition and began singing along.
I write these words at a moment that is particularly fraught for Israel – a time of social upheaval, political turmoil, and last week, over a thousand rockets rained down from Gaza. Some would say that it’s not the right time to think about a song that speaks of wonder. But maybe such a song helps us hold onto hope and perspective. David Suissa, inspired by a conversation with his friend, writer Yossi Klein Halevi, wrote poignantly that “to maintain an attachment to the Zionist project we need something that feeds our souls”– especially in difficult times. For Suissa, it’s the image of his Moroccan-born grandfather kissing asphalt upon landing in Israel in 1955. “It feeds me in a way that makes me want to emulate my ancestors and never give up on the Zionist miracle,” he wrote.
For me, not giving up on the Zionist miracle means believing that Israel is a place whose wonders have yet to cease. Even now. Especially now.
That’s why Od Lo Tamu Kol P’layich is such a special song for me, the song that binds me to Israel.
Finally, this beautiful rendition of Od Lo Tamu Kol P’layich was recorded by Shlomi Shabat, Yardena Arazi, Narkis, and Liran Danino in memory of Yoram Taharlev.
This essay is part of ‘That Song,’ a collection of writings about that one Israeli song that rocked someone’s world. Click here to find more ‘That Song’ essays.
Questions or comments? Contact [email protected]