"No other country - and no other #1 song"
Here's the list of Israel's 75 greatest songs, as chosen by readers and listeners of Yisrael HaYom newspaper and the radio station Kan Gimmel. You can hear most of them on this YouTube playlist. The number one song of all time is one that I spoke about in depth last High Holidays. "I Have No Other Country." (Ein Li Eretz Aheret), continues to stir the hearts of Israelis, more even than "Jerusalem of Gold "(#6). Number two on the list? The classic, "Ani V'Ata" ("You and me will change the world..." And only in Israel would the number four song of all time be a song that we associate with kichel, herring and black and white cookies - Adon Olam (the Uzi Hitman, Hasidic Song Festival version), which can be sung to just about any tune - but this one has stuck.
To hear the #1 song, click here and scroll down to my second day RH sermon.
In that sermon,.here's what I said about the song that was just voted Israel's #1 of all time.
When he died in 2005, the Israeli public voted this Ehud Manor's most popular song The guy wrote literally over a thousand songs, so many of them immortal standards and much more optimistic.
He wrote Chai, for God’s sake, which was a winner at Eurovision, and, Ba-Shanah ha-Ba'ah the most optimistic, hopeful song ever written! Od Tireh, Od Tireh, Kama Tov Yihye – you’ll see, you’ll see, how good it will be – next year, next year, next year. While “Ba’Shana Ha’Ba’a” has a hopeful and nostalgic note to it, “Ein Li Eretz Acheret” is all fire and flame.
And that is the one he is most loved for. And this song, with its bone rattling pain and even shame – combined with an unbreakable, almost mystical love for the culture, the language and the soul of his people and his country – that’s the one that Israelis call a patriotic standard. There is no issue about self-criticism. No problem with grappling with Lebanon War and it’s stained history – this song would be probably banned if it were sung in Florida.
But this song gained power over time, and like so many of our prayers and great poems, gained meaning and resonance through shared national experience. In November of 1995, after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin that same song was chanted on streetcorners where the Israeli youth lit candles. They called them the candle generation.
While our Millennial generation of the ‘90s was busy asking their parents for Beanie Babies and Tickle Me Elmo, Israeli youth were lighting candles on street corners and singing Ehud Manor’s song. They agonized over how things could go so wrong, how their beloved country could generate such hate – and zealots like Yigal Amir, dark souls who killed with such impunity.
And all we could do, as Israel buried its beloved leader and then endured a horrific string of bus bombings and other attacks, was say, from afar, “Shalom, chaver.”
And THAT is the song brought out twice by Nancy Pelosi, first after January 6 and then again after the Dobbs decision this past June. Her favorite Israeli song turned out to be about America too. And now, that song unites November 1995 and January 2021; it brings together the War of Attrition and the War on Abortion. These are the words that could capture the tears of Peres and Pelosi.
We have no other country. We will not stay silent when our country has gone astray. And we shall prevail. But we will always be proud, and it will always be our country.
Am I tempted to abandon America because it is increasingly slouching toward authoritarian rule? No way! Because there are people in this country who hate me simply because I’m a Jew? What else is new?
And am I going to give up on Israel, the first homeland the Jews have had in 2,000 years, because Israel too is flirting with anti-democratic leanings and policies? No way! Ein li Eretz Aheret. Were I Hungarian I would be angry as hell at what Victor Orban has done to that country – and I would fight to change it. Same thing if I were Russian, or Turkish, or Nicaraguan.
We Jews, and we Americans have it easy in comparison. We need to have that same courage – to be proud and to stand up for the ideals of our country.
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