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"HaTikvah," Israel's national anthem, was adopted from an earlier poem called "Tikvateinu," by Naftali Herz Imber. Here is the official text of the anthem (translation and transliteration can be found on the linked WP page):

כָּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה,‏
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח קָדִימָה
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה,‏

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,‏
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,‏
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.‏

And here is the first stanza and the refrain from Imber's original 1877 poem:

כל עוד בלבב פנימה
נפש יהודי הומיה,‏
ולפאתי מזרח קדימה,‏
עין לציון צופיה;‏

עוד לא אבדה תקותנו,‏
התקוה הנושנה,‏
לשוב לארץ אבותינו,‏
לעיר בה דוד חנה.‏

The official version of the anthem has changed substantially from the original poem; in the second stanza, all the lines except the first have been altered. "התקוה הנושנה" ("the ancient hope") became "הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם" ("the two-thousand year hope"); the more significant changes, though, are "לשוב לארץ אבותינו" ("to return to the land of our ancestors"), which became "לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ" ("to be a free nation in our land"); and the final line, "לעיר בה דוד חנה" ("the city where David encamped") was changed to "אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם" ("the land of Israel and Zion").

Some further research revealed that the change was made in 1905:

Tel Aviv schoolteacher Doctor I. L. Metman Hacohen altered Imber’s lyrics in 1905, making a reference to “the ancient hope” more specific: “the two-millennia-old hope.” “To return to the land of our fathers / to the city where David camped” became “To be a free nation in our land / the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

So the second line of the second stanza was changed to be more specific, and the final line was changed for the rhyme. However, I'm not sure why the penultimate line was altered; I had originally assumed that it was changed after the founding of the State of Israel (after all, it doesn't make sense to speak of a "return" to a land in which you currently reside). If The Times of Israel is accurate, though, and that change was also made in 1905, it was 43 years prior to Israel's independence.

Why was the penultimate line of "HaTikvah" altered?

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In this opinion piece, Philologos writes:

The original words of Stanza 2 of “Hatikvah” were: “Od lo avda tikvateynu, / hativka ha-noshana, / lashuv le-eretz avoteynu, / le’ir ba David, David ḥana” — “We still have not lost our hope, / our ancient hope, / to return to the land of our fathers, / to the city in which David, in which David encamped.” In 1948, the return to the Land of Israel being no longer merely a hope and Imber’s reference to David sounding archaic, this was changed to Od lo avda tikvateynu, / hatikva mi-shnot alpayim, / lihiyot am ḥofshi b’artseynu, / be-eretz tsiyon ve’yerushalayim” — “We still have not lost our hope, / our 2,000-year-old hope, / to be a free people in our land, / in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

I think he is saying that the original expression לשוב לארץ אבותינו expressed the hope of return in the future, while the revised version לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ viewed the return as having already occurred and the hope of the future became free nationhood. I do not see what sources Philologos uses to reach this interpretation so I cannot provide any more detail to acertain if this was really the intent of Dr. Metman Hacohen in 1905.

The possible correctness of Philologos's analysis is certainly debatable, especially since he seems to have gotten the date of the change wrong, but I wanted to provide his interpretation as one possible reason for the change to the penultimate line.

  • Hmm. The original version of my question also asked for when these changes were made, but I thought that the Times of Israel article settled it. (Although the TiO article does mention that the changes were adopted at different times by residents of Israel and the Diaspora.) +1, and thank you for the answer. (As an aside, I don't understand how Philologos' suggested alteration of the song makes the song better for the Arab population, as King David was a Jewish king. But that discussion perhaps belongs elsewhere.) – Shokhet Jun 30 '17 at 16:34
  • "le’ir ba David, David ḥana" -- David is not repeating here. You can hear for yourself youtu.be/2mYt7Iu7bkM (but also in the horrible Munkács video which I will not link, it's under Yad Vashem), the lyrics is "La‘ir bah david k'hanah." – chx Jul 4 '18 at 20:56
  • youtu.be/tm9G7ePdMkM this one repeats David. Interesting. – chx Jul 5 '18 at 18:49

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