A Long-Lost Notebook Sheds Light on the Origins of “Hava Nagilah”

In the West, perhaps no tune is so associated with Jews and Judaism as “Hava Nagilah” (“Let us rejoice!”), written by Abraham Zvi Idelsohn in the early 20th century. Born in 1882 in what is now Latvia, Idelsohn trained as a cantor before studying music formally at German conservatories. He then settled in Jerusalem. Edwin Seroussi and James Loeffler explain how he came to write “Hava Nagilah.”

Living next door to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, Idelsohn set as his own goal the creation of a modern Hebrew music to accompany the national rebirth of Jewish life in the ancient homeland. In the spirit of the Zionist philosopher Ahad Ha’am, Idelsohn began to collect all the riches of Jewish musical traditions that he found in Ottoman Palestine and throughout the Diaspora.

Using the emerging recording technology, he began to transcribe folk songs and make field recordings in order to forge an old-new musical sound that would be (in his view) authentically Jewish. That meant uncovering what he imagined to be the oldest layer of pre-exilic melody common to all Jewish traditions and liberating it from the foreign accretions resulting from the exile.

Like other architects of this new Hebrew culture, Idelsohn sought out Jewish religious culture in order to refashion it into new secular national traditions. It was in this context that Idelsohn premiered a new song, “Hava Nagila,” at a mixed-sex choir concert in Jerusalem sometime in 1918. . . . Much later, in 1932, Idelsohn wrote that he originally transcribed the melody from a Sadegurer Ḥasid in Jerusalem in 1915.

There are several possible explanations as to how and where Idelsohn encountered this Ḥasid. A recently catalogued collection of his papers, which had languished for decades in the library of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, seem to suggest the meeting took place even earlier.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Israeli music, Jewish music, Zionism

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security