Whether in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa – these days the same melody can be heard everywhere: “Ein li Eretz acheret”, in German “I have no other country.” Even in the Knesset members of the opposition sing the song. It was also heard on Wednesday, the “Day of Disruption” that the protest movement had called for. There were heavy confrontations between police and demonstrators, tear gas and water cannons were used, there were injuries and arrests.
Although the content of the text is extremely politically charged, the slogans cannot be clearly assigned to any direction. Both left-wing and right-wing Israelis claim sovereignty over the interpretation of the verses. The slogans come from a mourning poem that the poet Ehud Manor dedicated to his brother Jehuda, who died at the age of 19 in the military conflict between Egypt and Egypt Israel fell in 1968.
Twenty years later, when Israel occupied southern Lebanon, musicians Gali Atari and Corinne Allal turned the poem into a song. The verses immediately found their way into the Israeli protest canon, because both the pacifists and the war supporters saw their demands as confirmed in them.
The lyrics are actually ambivalent. Nationalists interpret phrases like “Only one word in Hebrew flows through my veins to my soul” as a sign of their superiority over non-Jewish citizens. In the verse “I will not remain silent just because my country has changed its face”, three verses later, left-wing Israelis recognize an appeal to protect the state from a shift to the right.
Yet almost the entire democratic spectrum agrees on the same premise: They depend on the democratic state of Israel because they have “no other country,” as the refrain puts it.
It is certainly no coincidence that the refrain resonates in Israel, where almost every family has its own history of migration. Even the composer Corinne Allal used to find this formulation “strange”, as she said in a telephone conversation. “But I have another country, I was born in Tunis,” says the 67-year-old rocker on the phone. The realization came to her later: the past is one thing, the dream of a “collective” Israel is something else. And it is precisely this longing for unity that unites Israeli society beyond the political divide.
Corinne Allal is sitting in her studio in Tel Aviv during the call. She has composed many albums, she says, but one song always comes back to her “like a bird”. When US opposition leader Nancy Pelosi quoted it in her speech after the storming of the Capitol two years ago, she was flabbergasted.
Today, her tune is the anthem of the anti-Netanyahu movement, which she finds “really exciting.” She joins the protest, takes to the streets and sings at rallies. However, that doesn’t mean she’s an opponent of the Prime Minister – quite the opposite. She describes Bibi as “chacham”, a “wise man” who just needs to wake up to throw the religious party out of government. The current protest movement unites many political currents, some of which are contradictory – just like the song that has become the country’s central anthem in these turbulent times.