Anthems of the Yom Kippur War

As I promised in my previous post, here are recordings of the songs that became emblematic anthems of the Yom Kippur War.

I quoted from Amotz Asa-el’s Middle Israel column, “The Last War” in the JPost:

One, penned by songwriter Haim Hefer, a veteran of the War of Independence who wrote some of its most popular hits, now had an unnamed soldier promise his little girl – “in the name of the pilots who thrust into angry battle,” and the gunners “who were the pillars of fire along the front,” and “all the fathers who went to battle and never returned” – that 1973’s would be the last war.

Here is a recording of the song, called “Hamilchama Ha’acharona” – the Last War:

The lyrics can be found at the Hebrew Songs website. Here is the English translation:

Verse:
For all the tank corps soldiers with their dusty faces
Who survived all the enemy fire and gruelling fighting,
For all the sailors who attacked the ports,
Their eyes caked heavy with salt from the seas.

Chorus:
I promise you – my little girl,
That this will be the last war.

Verse:
For the pilots who broke through the deadly battle
And were hit by rocket fire and ac-ac guns,
For the paratroopers who, amid lead and smoke,
Saw you overhead, like an angel.

Chorus:

Verse:
For the artillerymen who, in the hailstorm of mortars
Stood like a pillar of fire along the frontline,
For the medics [and] doctors who, with all their soul and strength
Restored breath and life itself, returning blood.

Chorus:

Verse:
For the signalmen whose voice cut through the nights,
For all the forces and women soldiers,
For all the fathers who went into battle
And want to return home to you…

Chorus:

Amotz Asa-El continued:

A second song, by “Jerusalem of Gold” writer Naomi Shemer, placed “a white sail in the horizon, opposite a heavy black cloud,” and “holiday’s candles shimmering in dusk’s windows,” while asking “What is the sound of war I am hearing, the sound of shofar and drums,” and then praying, “If the announcer stands at the door, place a good word in his mouth, if only all we ask – would be.”

Here is a recording of the song “Lu Yehi” – “Let it be” (and yes, Naomi Shemer credited the Beatles for inspiration) as sung by Hava Alberstein, a very popular Israeli singer with a beautiful voice and an amazingly versatile career:

And again from the Hebrew Songs site, the translated lyrics:

ALL WE PRAY FOR

There is still a white sail on the horizon
Opposite a heavy black cloud
All that we ask for – may it be

And if in the evening windows
The light of the holiday candles flickers
All that we seek – may it be

May it be, may it be – Please – may it be
All that we seek – may it be.

What is the sound that I hear
The cry of the shofar and the sound of drums
All that we ask for – may it be

If only there can be heard within all this
One prayer from my lips also
All that we seek – may it be

May it be…

Within a small, shaded neighborhood
Is a small house with a red roof
All that we ask for, may it be

This is the end of summer, the end of the path
Allow them to return safely here
All that we seek, may it be

May it be…

And if suddenly, rising from the darkness
Over our heads, the light of a star shines
All that we ask for, may it be

Then grant tranquility and also grant strength
To all those we love
All that we seek, may it be

May it be…

Yaacov Lozowick, currently Israel’s Chief Archivist, wrote about Naomi Shemer and her song Lu Yehi back in 2010, calling the song “prophetic”:

The long trough of the 70s began at 1:50 PM on October 6th, 1973, on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. Until ten minutes earlier Israel had been living seven years of post-Six-Day-War euphoria; the trauma of the Yom Kippur War lasted, the way I see it, until the early 1990s. The euphoria had been misguided, and looking back it was a bit peculiar even at the time. The trauma, as sometimes happens, was worse than it needed to be, and while its first months were justified, its longevity probably wasn’t. That’s all hindsight, however. In October 1973, or March 1974, things looked grim indeed, and the depth of the fall made it all worse.

All the more astonishing that Naomi Shemer saw it coming.

The third song mentioned by Asa-El was the prayer U’Netane Tokef, and he writes of the cognitive dissonance of such a holy prayer being set to music by an avowed secular socialist kibbutznik. Such was the trauma of the Yom Kippur war:

The whisper of prayer that both songs shared was the zeitgeist, so much so that it even arrived in Kibbutz Beit Hashita – whose veterans included diehard Marxists and atheists.

Tucked in the Jezreel Valley north of Mount Gilboa, where the biblical Saul and Jonathan died in battle, this community lost 11 of its sons in the war.

Having lived in their midst at the time of their grief, composer Yair Rosenblum wrote a tune for U’Netane Tokef, the prayer which states that on Rosh Hashana God drafts, and on Yon Kippur he seals, the verdict of every man: “Who will live and who will die, who is in his end and who is not, who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by hunger and who by thirst.”

The tune brought together Zionism’s epitomes of the New Jew, the atheist warriors of the kibbutzim, with Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, the prayer’s writer and the ultimate Old Jew, a sage whom legend says was killed without a fight after refusing a demand to convert.

I posted the video of this song on my Yom Kippur post, and the words and translation of the prayer on last year’s post, but I will repost it all here to keep the songs together in once place.

We will express the mighty holiness of this day, for it is tremendous and awful; on which Your kingdom is exalted, and Your throne established in grace; where You are seated in truth. It is true that You are the Judge and Arbitrator, knowing all and a witness, who writes and seals and counts and enumerates, and remembers all that is forgotten, and you will open the Book of Remembrance. And it will be read by itself, and the signature of each man is in it.

The great Shofar will be sounded, and a small still sound will be heard. The angels will rush and trembling and fear will take hold of them. And they shall say “Here is the Day of Judgement! The Heavenly Hosts will be visited in judgement” for even they will not be found innocent before You. And all who come to this world will pass before You as a flock of sheep.

As a shepherd counts his flock, passing his sheep under his crook, so You shall pass and count and enumerate and record and visit every living being, and assign the limit [of life] on all Your creatures, and You will write and prescribe their fate.

On Rosh Hashana, the first day of the year, it is written, and on the fast of Yom Kippur it is sealed: how many shall pass, how many will be created. Who will live and who will die; who at the end of his days and who not. Who by water, and who by fire. Who by the sword and who by the wild animal. Who by hunger and who by thirst. Who in an earthquake and who in a plague. Who by strangulation and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will be moving. Who will be tranquil and who will be uneasy. Who will be calm and who will be disturbed. Who will be poor, who will be rich. Who will be cast down and who will be exalted.

But Penitence, Prayer and Charity can avert the evil decree!

May the prayers evoked in all these songs be answered by G-d, and may He bring peace to Israel.

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6 Responses to Anthems of the Yom Kippur War

  1. annediamond1 says:

    I was 18 when the war broke out, like all Jewish youth I wanted to give blood, however that was when I was told I need blood. Young Jewish youths were ready to go and fight for Israel and our love for Israel the Jewish nation was truly on all our minds, as it is today.
    My love for a nation is of Jewish culture religion and love for the hard work that the first settlers did was dedicated and is what will keep the Jewish nation and the Jews the world over G-d bles you all and my heart is always there for you and Jews of the world over, who know that we will be welcomed if ever needed.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Anne for telling us of your experience. It seems we all (us ladies of a certain age) had a similar experience.

      Thank you too for your prayers and good wishes.

  2. Reality says:

    thats right I remember going with my dad to this huge hall coz the Chieff rabbi said to donate blood & i think he set up the drive in his shul hall(Rav Jakobowitz. I may be wrong but I remmeber being fascinated how many people were there giving blood.Nowadays they wont accept blood from ex Brits! I’ve tried complaining but it doesnt help. They still think we have mad cows disease! (probably are right!!)

    • anneinpt says:

      Dad took Mark with him too, and the nurses teased Mark (age 7) that they would take his blood and replace it with tea! 😀

      I’m sure you’re right about the number of people giving blood. There was a huge response and there was nothing else we could do from outside Israel. I was terribly frustrated that I was too young to give blood then. You had to be over 18 I think.

  3. Elchanan Eric Sussman says:

    Anne all your posts are good but this one and the Oslo one beat the lot. These 2 got right into my “Kishcas”

    Elch.

    _____

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks Elchanan, Sometimes I write about a subject because I feel I “ought to”, for the sake of my readers. But sometimes the story is sitting in my kishkas (as you so eloquently put it) just waiting to be poured out onto the page.

      These last posts about the war and Oslo were exactly that type so I’m glad they “hit the spot”.

      Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it and makes me feel my effort is worthwhile.

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