Hatikvah – Imber, his poem and a national anthem*

It is one of the ironies of Jewish history that the poem which when set to music became the Marseillaise of the Zionist movement,((Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JQ 29 October 1909,7.)) and then the national anthem of a sovereign state, came from the pen of a youth who ended up a seedy, dissolute, drunken and pitiable bohemian – he was called the King of Jewish Bohemia in America((A. Parry, Garrets and Pretenders (New York 1960)81.)) – who died in straitened circumstances. The enfant terrible of the Jewish Lower East Side of New York, he was larger than life and was seen as a comic character to be humoured and tolerated. All the evidence points to his being, at least in his later years, a somewhat distasteful person; but, with further irony, numerous New York organizations vied for the honour of burying him and great men sang their praises over his grave.

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