A different singing of Hatikvah

  • Howard Feldman 2018
On Wednesday morning, we woke up to the devastating news that the Beit Midrash Morasha synagogue had burned down and along with it, seven Torah scrolls were destroyed in the blaze.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Dec 06, 2018

The symbolic and religious significance of a burning shul cannot be overstated. Nor can the destruction of Torah scrolls.

In an effort to get a sense of the events and the mood, I spoke to a number of community members and rabbis in the area. I did so on air and off.

One witness, Jeremy, described the moment when people were informed that the Torahs could not be saved. He sobbed as he recounted it, and spoke in detail about the kaddish that was recited and songs and prayers that were sung.

One such song was Hatikvah.

The circularity of the singing of Hatikvah cannot be ignored. Three weeks ago, two Grade 9 boys at Herzlia Middle School achieved notoriety by “taking a knee” during the singing of Israel’s national anthem at a prize giving. The reaction was severe, and has served to be one of the more divisive moments in Cape Town’s history.

The school initially tried to discipline the boys and then – given the tremendous pressure it faced in mainstream media and from some Jewish circles – seemed to retreat. The final result is pretty much unknown.

But all around the Jewish media world, the Herzlia boys who “took a knee” were discussed and debated.

And then, on Tuesday evening, after a fire decimated a shul in Cape Town, Hatikvah was sung. I am pretty sure that no one went down on their haunches. I am even more certain that if the Herzlia boys were present that night, they would have sung as loudly and as strongly as they could have.

I don’t remember the name of a man who addressed us at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem last week. He was not a famous Israeli politician. He was not a well-known journalist. I am not even certain why he spoke to us.

It was a week of sound bites. A week of tweetable quotes, and instagrammable moments. But his comment was profound and stood out as one of the more powerful of the trip. That is something, considering that he was up against the Israeli prime minister, president, members of Knesset, journalists, and authors.

“You can’t feed a healthy Jewish body on a diet of tragedy,” he said.

He is so right.

We need to look at the Morasha fire. We need to consider the loss of seven Torahs during the festival that brings and spreads light. We need to look at young children who “take a knee”. And, we need to look at the singing of Hatikvah. They exist in a continuum. They are interlinked and they can’t be separated.

Each of us needs to identify for ourselves what thread it is that links them.


  1. 2 Sheva Lan 07 Dec
    Thank you for this and the way you have expressed not just my sentiments, but that of many in our Cape Town community.
    Hatikvah is such an appropriate anthem for our people who have been persecuted throughout history,and sadly today too.What and who are we without Hope? It’s Hope that we all hold onto all the time.
    those kids should have been expelled in my opinion and as a Herzlia Alumni, I am deeply disappointed that the governing school body downplayed it.
    What surprises me most, is that the one kids father was born in Israel and his grandfather and family live there.
    Good Shabbos and Chag Chanukah Sameach.. well done again on a very well written article 

  2. 1 Rav Shalom 10 Dec
    I’m struggling to identify the link you suggest. Cannot find it.

    The major thread in your article is a reprehensible incitement. Starting a new fire.

    You seem to suggest a causal connection between the courageous knee benders and the tragic fire.
    Somehow, in your Howard Feldman mind, a continuum is conjured. Hatikvah is desecrated and a few weeks later a shul ignites. You perceive a causal relationship where none exists.

    Howard let me help you. There is no real connection. The Herzlia kids were desperately highlighting unaddressed deficiencies in their educational curriculum. The fire was an electrical fault. The former preceded the latter by several weeks. These are not cause and effect. To state this is incitement. To believe this is delusion.

    Let us re-thread – fire, light, Hanukkah, revolution, revelation. Wrap it all up in Hatikvah- The Hope.
    Hope that Herzlia will improve its educational offering. Hope that the shul will rebuild and rise stronger and wiser.


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