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by Joshua Jacobson
Touch the Dream — a musical tribute to Israel on its 65th anniversary of independence, and an invocation of the idealism of its founders.
“When the Lord returned the captives of Zion, we were like dreamers.” Those words from Psalm 126 described the first reestablishment of the Jewish state some 2600 years ago. Subsequently Diaspora Jews kept that dream alive: the dream of returning to the ancient homeland. Many centuries later, in 1902 the Zionist visionary Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is not just a dream.” He convinced his followers that it was in their power to make the dream come true. And Herzl’s dream was of a utopian state in which Jew and Arab lived in harmony, harnessing technology to rebuild the land and create a utopian society.
We will celebrate the 65 th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel with a musical program that recaptures that dream. We’ll invoke biblical prophecy, pay tribute to courageous pioneers, tour the land, sing of war and of peace, and perform visions of “another way.”
Our title comes from Shalom Chanoch’s beautiful song, “Touch the Dream.”
You and I will reconnect:
A loving heart can’t go wrong.
Like rivers flowing to the sea
our lives stream forward.
You and I will keep seeking
until we arrive,
until we touch the dream.
One of the highlights of this concert will be Sol Zim’s moving setting of the T’fillah LiShlom Medinat Yisrael , the prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel. Cantor Zim composed this piece 25 years ago on the occasion of the 40 th anniversary of Israel’s independence, and it has become a favorite in synagogues around the world. This year for Israel’s 65 th , I have created a new arrangement of the T’fillah for Zamir and Cantor Scott Sokol.
Zim’s is not the first musical setting of this prayer; for many years we have performed David Burger’s inspired composition. So in this issue I’d like to investigate with you the history of its lyrics.
Immediately after the United Nations vote on 29 November, 1947 to establish an independent Jewish state in the land of Israel, the chief rabbi of Petach Tikvah, Reuben Katz, composed a prayer for the nation-to-be. In the months to follow, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Judah Unterman and Professor Dov Sadan both tried their hands at creating a new liturgy, but none of these were accepted by the general public.
On September 21 1948, four moths after the establishment of the State, a new prayer for its welfare was published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz , and it is this version that was eventually embraced by Israelis and Jews around the world. It was composed by the two chief rabbis of Israel, Yitzhak Herzog and Benzion Uziel, with the assistance of the great Israeli writer, S. Y. Agnon.
But, as with anything political, there was bound to be controversy and disagreement. According to Prof. Yoel Rafel, many ultra-Orthodox Jews, including Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadya, rejected the prayer because “this was not the nation for which they had prayed for so many years.” In some synagogues the text was emended. The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Imanuel Jacobowitz, opined that the new nation was not yet “the first flowering of our redemption.” In his version the reader prayed, “may this state become the first flowering of our redemption.”
After the Oslo negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, some Israelis were outraged at the thought that an accord could be reached and that land would be ceded. Rabbi Moshe-Tzvi Nerya, among others, proposed to change the plea that God “protect [Israel] with Your merciful wings, and send Your light and truth to [Israel’s] leaders, ministers and advisors” to “protect [Israel] from [Israel’s] leaders, ministers and advisors.”
After the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Prof. Shimon Sheetreet proposed to add to our prayer the following words: “Instill love, friendship and fellowship in our hearts, and keep far away hatred, malice and zealotry.”
After the war of June 1967, the prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel became more widely accepted. Before the war it was recited only as part of the celebrations of Israel’s Independence Day. Now it would be recited in many synagogues on every Sabbath after the completion of the Torah Reading. And thus our prayer made its way from the back of the siddur to its central core.
(The column is based on an article that appeared in Haaretz , 1 May, 2008)
Here is the text of the prayer, as set by Cantor Sol Zim:
Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first flowering of our redemption. Protect her with Your merciful wings and spread over her the canopy of Your peace, and send Your light and truth to her leaders, ministers and advisors, and set them right with Your good counsel. Strengthen the defenders of our holy land, O God, grant them salvation, and crown them with victory. Make the land peaceful, and grant everlasting joy to its inhabitants.
Thursday, June 6, 2013, 7:30 pm
Temple Beth Elohim, 10 Bethel Road, Wellesley, MA
A community-wide, pops-style concert celebrating the 65th year
of Israel’s independence and honoring Rav-Hazzan Scott Sokol.
Co-sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies in partnership with the Consulate
General of Israel to New England.