Monday, August 15, 2011

Naphtali Herz Imber, Israeli Anthem Lyricist

Naphtali Herz Imber was a Jewish poet and Zionist who wrote the lyrics of Hatikvah, the national anthem of the State of Israel.

Naphtali was born in Złoczów (now Zolochiv, Ukraine), a town in Galicia, Austrian Empire. He began writing poetry at the age of 10 and several years later received an award from Emperor Franz Joseph for a poem on the centenary of Bukovina's joining to the Austrian Empire. In his youth he traveled in Hungary, Serbia, and Romania.

In 1882 Imber moved to Palestine as a secretary of Sir Laurence Oliphant. In 1886 in Jerusalem he published his first book of poems entitled Morning Star. One of the book's poems was Tikvateinu ("Our Hope"); its very first version was written yet in 1877 in Iaşi, Romania. This poem soon became the lyrics of the Zionist anthem and later the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah.

In 1887 he returned to Europe and lived in London; then traveled again, visited India and finally moved to the Unites States in 1892. Imber made a mockery of the serious and had a sardonic vulgar wit. He also translated the Omar Khayyam into Hebrew. He died in New York in 1909 from the effects of chronic alcoholism; in 1953 was re-interred in Jerusalem.