The Story of “Am Yisrael Chai”

On Tuesday, the Orange County Register published an article under the headline “Why chants like ‘Free Palestine,’ ‘Am Yisrael Chai,’ and ‘From the river to the sea’ are divisive.” The second of these is a very well-known Jewish song, meaning “the people of Israel lives,” and it should come as no surprise that there are sharp divisions between those who want the Jews to live and those who wish them dead. But the song itself is a relatively new creation. Gary Rosenblatt tells its story:

It was composed by Shlomo Carlebach (1925–1994), a popular hasidic “singing rabbi,” at the request of Jacob Birnbaum, the founder of the grassroots Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, who was seeking an anthem for the fledgling Soviet Jewry movement in the spring of 1965. Birnbaum and Carlebach knew each other, as did their grandfathers.

Besides the three words, “Am Yisrael Chai,” [suggested by Birnbaum], Carlebach had added three more words to the song, based on the biblical story (Genesis 45:3) of Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers. He immediately asks about the welfare of their father, Jacob, whom Joseph has not seen in many years: “ha-od avi ḥai?” (“Is my father alive?”)

Carlebach transformed the question into an exclamatory statement of affirmation: “od avinu ḥai” (“our father is alive!”).

Read more at Forward

More about: Free Soviet Jewry, Jewish music, Shlomo Carlebach


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion