The Beatles, the Yom Kippur War, and a Song Still Beloved by Israeli Soldiers

In the summer of 1973, the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” which had been released three years prior, was a mainstay of Israeli radio, leading the songwriter Naomi Shemer—best known for her “Jerusalem of Gold”—to compose a Hebrew version, to be sung to the same tune. Then the Yom Kippur war broke out, and the song she had written no longer seemed appropriate, as Lahav Harkov writes:

Shemer changed the lyrics to a prayer expressing hope for the battles to end and for IDF soldiers to return home peacefully. . . . Shemer wrote the song for the singer Chava Alberstein, who had wanted to perform it at an event for pilots’ wives. . . .

At first, [Shemer] kept the Beatles’ tune, but her husband, Mordechai Horowitz, on a reprieve from fighting in the war, said: “I won’t let you waste this song on a foreign tune. This is a Jewish war, and you should give it a Jewish tune.” . . .

That day, Shemer was asked to perform on television, and she came up with an original tune for the song in the car on the way to the studio, a tune that she described as [capturing] “the sigh and distress of the war.” The song was broadcast the next day, and a day after that, Alberstein performed it on Army Radio. Shemer’s “Let It Be” became the unofficial song of the Yom Kippur War, played and sung by soldiers on duty.

[According to Shemer], the then-IDF chief of staff David Elazar first heard the song after the war ended, and it made him cry.

A video of Shemer performing the song—whose title, Lu y’hi, means “may it be”—can be found at the link below. Lyrics in Hebrew and in English translation can be found here.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Arts & Culture, Israeli music, Naomi Shemer, The Beatles, Yom Kippur War


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship