Culture, Israel

Land of Promise

Earlier today, I saw a tweet from dlevy and, to be honest, when I saw it was about Hatikvah, I didn’t pay much attention. But then I listened to the track, in all its horrifying glory.
louiepearl2The recording we listened to was from a “collectibles” album; Pearl Bailey and Louis Bellson duets. They didn’t record this album together back in the days of vinyl;  this CD was released in 2007, though it clearly wasn’t remixed or remastered. The original recording quality made it difficult to hear all the words, and I’m sure some of these words aren’t accurate. (You’ll also note the use of my favourite noun-substitute, “shmeh shmeh,” [h/t SBB] when we couldn’t make out two syllables). But since we couldn’t find the lyrics (the internets have let us down), we tried to transcribe them. And since we couldn’t find the track online for your listening pleasure,  you can use the words below, and sing ’em to the tune of Hatikvah.

For this land of promise
There is where you’ll find
Life’s joy and gladness
shmeh shmeh peace of mind
Once a wasting desert
Far away from home
Now it’s a haven
For the souls that roam
Now that sand is green and fertile land
Toil and soil are happy hand in hand
Then we’ll sing the gentle songs from Galilee
Songs and sand will always understand
For the land of promise lives eternally
Bless it, caress it
It’s for you and me.
[Musical interlude] Then we’ll sing the gentle songs from Galilee
Songs he’ll send, he’ll always understand
For the land of promise lives eternally
Bless it, caress it
It’s for you and me
For you and me
It’s for you and for me!

Compare these lyrics to the official words. There’s no mention of Jews or Zion. I think the lyrics are the result of a very specific time and voice: it’s secular, post-Holocaust (probably recorded in the early 1950s, from what little research I could find), agriculture and nature focused. And speaks to the possibilities that the new country held in the year years. Oh, what a ways we’ve come… This song conjures up images of kibbutzniks in timbels holding hands and singing. Either Pearly and Louis were incredibly naïve, or the PR machine really did its job well in the early years of Israel’s nationhood.
Pearl and Louis deserve a posthumous award for the line “bless it, caress it.” You can bet I will start using it in my daily conversations (melukhlakh [dirty]).

4 thoughts on “Land of Promise

  1. The Weavers sang alot of Israeli songs in those years, too. Progressives all over the world were supportive of Israel (as per official Soviet and ComIntern policy) until 1967.

  2. A couple of corrections. The disc, as far as I can tell, isn’t a collection of “duets” – about half the tracks are Bailey’s (possibly accompanied by her husband’s band), and the other half are Bellson without Bailey. Land of Promise falls into the latter category. The collection dates the tracks to 1955, during the time (as Amit points out) that Israel was much more popular as “the little country that could” before the complications of the ’67 territories. It’s not clear to me if these tracks were originally released as singles or if they appeared collected together prior to the current collection.

  3. I like it. Translate it into Arabic and Hebrew and you have an anthem that’s less exclusive of minority populations than the present incarnation of Hatikvah.

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