Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ofra Haza: Eli Eli (1977)

Ofra Haza sings “Eli Eli.” (אֵלִי אֵלִי). This is the fifth track on the album, Atik Noshan, which was released in 1977, when Haza was with the Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre (Hope Neighborhood Theater), a local theater troupe founded by Bezalel Aloni in 1971 to protest the social situation in Israel.

Hatikvah, the working-class neighbourhood in southeastern Tel Aviv, was the area which Haza came from, and it was generally very poor. There will always be poor areas and poor people. It is what you do afterwards that counts. In this case, this theater group wanted to make a difference through music. That it did and more: for one, it produced the irreplaceable singing voice of Ofra Haza, who it seems never forgot her roots, her humble beginnings.

Speaking of which, there is this song, officially called “Halicha L’kesariya” (הליכה לקיסריה) or “Walk to Caesarea.” The poem of 14 words and six lines was written in Hebrew by Hannah Senesh, at Sdot Yam, Caesarea, on November 24, 1942, as a prayer to God—a prayer with overtones of Psalm 22. The poem was set to music by David Zehavi in 1945, after Hannah Senesh’s death by a German firing squad on November 7, 1944. She was 23.

הליכה לקיסריה

אלי, אלי
שלא יגמר לעולם
החול והים,
רשרוש של המים,
ברק השמיים,
תפילת האדם.

Walk to Caesarea
Words by Hannah Senesh
Music by David Zehavi

My God, may it never end
the sea and the sand,
the splash of the water,
the brilliance of the sky
the prayer of man.

In “My God, May This Wonder Never End" (February 24, 2015), Vivian Eden writes:
It was the Israeli composer David Zehavi (1910-1977) who set the poem to music. He doubled the first Hebrew word “Eli” – “my God” – recalling Christ’s words on the cross: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me.”
Such is the question of Eternity. The answer will have to wait.