Song of Ascent
When the 18th World Zionist Congress met in Prague in August 1933, delegates were asked to choose an official anthem for the Jewish national movement. The two main contenders were Naftali Herz Imber’s Hatikvah (“The Hope”) and Shir Hama’alot (“Song of Ascents”), an adaptation of Psalm 126: “When the Lord returned the exiles of Zion, we were like dreamers.” Hatikvah’s secular yearning for freedom was favored over the psalm’s more overtly religious dream of divine intervention, but the latter retained a cherished place in religious Zionism for its promise of return and redemption.
It is apt that Yossi Klein Halevi should draw on the psalm of return for the title of his astonishing new book. Like Dreamers tells the improbable but true story of seven Israelis from very different backgrounds who, as reservists in the 55th Paratroopers Brigade during the Six-Day War, liberated the Western Wall and reunited Jerusalem, returning the Jewish people to its holiest sites. All the more remarkable is what happened after the war: Half of the paratroopers became settlers in the West Bank while the other half led the movement for the demolition of the settlements and the creation of a Palestinian state.
About the Author
Stephen Daisley last wrote for us about the movie World War Z.