There’s No Place Like Home

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Enjoy this little taste of what's to come as Women In Theater presents The Wizard of OZ(directed by Aviella Trapido, choreography Maayan Allen, musical direction Miri Jeffay)! Our Modiin show is sold out, so order your tickets to our Jerusalem shows TODAY!!…

Posted by WIT (Women In Theater) Modiin on Sunday, February 16, 2020

Much has been theorized about the true meaning of the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but is it necessary to speculate over a song-writers’ original intentions when it can mean so many different things for so many different people? A piece of art which transcends time and place are the things that makes it such a fundamentally important work.

The iconic song from The Wizard of Oz was released in October of 1938, one month before Kristallnacht — a night signifying the start of the darkest period of modern history. It tells the story of a young girl wishing for a place she can escape to where skies are blue, and dreams come true. The fact that these ideas and events coincided is more than likely coincidence. This, however, doesn’t negate the fact that the song serves as an antidote to the horrors we’ve witnessed by expressing hope in the goodness of humanity or dare I suggest a Higher Power — and fuels us with faith that wrongs will be righted. And perhaps this is why “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has resonated and will continue to resonate with generations of people the world over. The song offers optimism in a dark hour and what is the remedy for sadness and desperation if not hope?

The fact that Women In Theater is now producing The Wizard of Oz in Israel, a country whose national anthem is titled “Hatikvah,” “The Hope,” is not lost on me. In the course of our rehearsals, I overheard a colleague and our very own Dorothy discussing the octave jump in “Somewhere” as compared to that in “Hatikva” and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. As a student of Musicology and English Literature, I was trained to examine repetitive themes both in music and literature and these two seemingly unrelated, emblematic works are a perfect example of poetic symmetry. That very jump from the 1st to the second syllable in the melody on the word “somewhere” that infuses us with the optimism the song exudes is the selfsame octave jump on the words “Od Lo” in Hatikvah. “Od Lo Avda Tikvateinu” literally, “we have not yet lost hope.” Both songs express longing for a better time, yet there is a distinct difference in the pieces which cannot be overlooked. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is written in a major key and “Hatikvah,” a minor key.

There has been a great deal speculated and written about  the original source for Hatikvah’s melody- and I will not get into that discussion here, but no matter the source and inspiration for the melody, the fact that the longing in “Hatikvah” is expressed in a minor key is more than a little bit significant. In my opinion, it speaks to the reality that the Jewish people have faced for the last 2000 years, that of being expelled and discriminated against time and again. Yet the octave jump is present, nonetheless. We have not yet lost our hope, nor will we, ever.

Dorothy’s Kansas reality certainly does feel harsh to the orphan teen, until she manages to enter her make-believe fairy land, only to come to the realization that there’s no place like home. One can’t begin to compare the plight of the Jews longing for their homeland to Dorothy’s mishaps with Toto and her wish to find a place where she won’t get into any trouble, but we can compare the expressions of wistful longing within the music.

I too hail from a place not far from Kansas, but I can’t ignore the fact that before Missouri and Iowa,  my family was in Russia and Hungary for hundreds of years; and before that, I don’t even know where they were — but I do know with absolute certainty that my definitive origins are in the Land of Israel. Were I to express through music my imagined hardships as a teen in St. Louis, my song too would have been written in a major key — with a few minor chords — much like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The song is in fact written in the most encouraging of ways, even ending on a climactic high note which both allows us a sense of expectation and encouragement. And maybe if Samuel Cohen, the pioneer who put Naftali Hertz Imber’s poem “Tikvateinu” to music, had been able to foresee the forming of a Jewish State in Israel, Hatikvah would have been modified or perhaps even written in a major key. But this is our current reality — a national hymn that reflects our longing and our hope — exemplified by the mounting jump of an octave yet rooted in the reality that we still have what to wish for: lasting peace and prosperity in our ancestral home. We are the people that remember to mourn our losses at even the most joyous of times, but we forever maintain our hope that the melodic crescendo we feel in a leap of 8 music notes is the promising future that awaits us.

About the Author
Tamar Krantman Weiss is the co- founder and Executive Producer at Modiin's Women In Theater. She has worked as a freelance writer in the past. She lives with her husband and 4 children in Modiin, Israel.
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