Hava Nagila

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For the Party Animals song, see Hava Nagila (song).
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Instrumental performance of Hava Nagila

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Hava Nagila” (הבה נגילה Havah Nagilah, "Let us rejoice") is an Israeli folk song. It is perhaps the first modern Israeli folk song in the Hebrew language that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. It was composed in 1920s Palestine at a time when Hebrew was first being revived as a spoken language for the first time in 2,000 years (since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE). For the first time, Palestinian Jews were being encouraged to speak Hebrew as a common language, instead of Yiddish, Arabic, Ladino, or other regional Jewish languages.


Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, a professor at Hebrew University, began cataloging all known Jewish music and teaching classes in musical composition. One of his students was a promising cantorial student, Moshe Nathanson, who later worked in New York, most famously composing the nearly-universal melody that is sung with the Birkat Hamazon ("Grace After Meals"). Idelson presented the class with a 19th-century, slow, melodious, chant (niggun) assigning the class to add rhythm and words in order to fashion a modern Hebrew song.

The niggun is attributed to the Sidigorer Chassidim, who lived in what is now Ukraine. It uses the Phrygian dominant scale common in music of Transylvania. The commonly used text was probably refined by Idelsohn[1][2] in 1918 as one of the first songs designed to unite the early Yishuv [Jewish enterprise] that arose after the British victory in Palestine during World War I and the Balfour Declaration, declaring a national Jewish homeland in the lands newly liberated from Turkey by the Allies and entrusted to Britain under the Treaty of Versailles. Although Psalm 118 (verse 24) of the Hebrew Bible may have been a source for the text of "Hava Nagila",[citation needed] the expression of the song and its accompanying hora ("circle") dance was entirely secular in its outlook.


TransliterationHebrew textEnglish translation
Hava nagila
הבה נגילה
 Let's rejoice
Hava nagila
הבה נגילה
 Let's rejoice
Hava nagila ve-nismeḥa
הבה נגילה ונשמחה
 Let's rejoice and be happy
Hava neranenah
הבה נרננה
 Let's sing
Hava neranenah
הבה נרננה
 Let's sing
Hava neranenah ve-nismeḥa
הבה נרננה ונשמחה
 Let's sing and be happy
Uru, uru aḥim!
!עורו, עורו אחים
 Awake, awake, brothers!
Uru aḥim be-lev sameaḥ
עורו אחים בלב שמח
 Awake brothers with a happy heart
 (repeat line four times)  
Uru aḥim, uru aḥim!
!עורו אחים, עורו אחים
 Awake, brothers, awake, brothers!
Be-lev sameaḥ
בלב שמח
 With a happy heart

Note: The “” can be pronounced as a voiceless pharyngeal fricative [ħ] (as in Classical Hebrew) or a voiceless uvular fricative [χ], as “ch” as in Bach (Modern Hebrew pronunciation).

Notable performers[edit]

Although "Hava Nagila" was known among Jews (particularly the more secular-oriented Zionist organizations) and became a staple at weddings and bar mitzvahs, its explosive popularity was triggered by the unexpected victory of Israel in its 1948 War of Independence, a war in which the nascent state was expected to be annihilated by five invading armies. The Weavers started the trend of mainstreaming the songs of the newly emergent State of Israel with their recording of "Tzena, Tzena" which they rode to the top of the charts. "Hava Nagila" soon followed into 1950s radio.

Usage in sports[edit]

Association football[edit]

Ajax Amsterdam

Supporters of the Dutch association football club AFC Ajax, although not an official Jewish club, commonly use Jewish imagery. A central part of Ajax fans' culture, the song Hava Nagila can often be heard sung in the Stadium by the teams supporters, and at one point ringtones of "Hava Nagila", could even be downloaded from the club's official website.[15][16][17]

Tottenham Hotspur

Supporters of the English football club Tottenham Hotspur commonly refer to themselves as Yids and are strongly associated with Jewish symbolism and culture. The song "Hava Nagila" has been adopted as an anthem of sorts by the club, and is one of the most frequently sung songs at White Hart Lane.[18][19]

Olympic sports[edit]

1994Ukraine Lilia Podkopayeva Gymnastics1994 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships
1995–1997Ghana Tony YeboahFootballall season long
1998–1999Russia Evgeni Plushenko Figure skatingall season long
1999–2000Italy Maurizio Margaglio Figure skatingall season long
1999–2000Italy Barbara Fusar-Poli Figure skatingall season long
2000Russia Yekaterina Lobaznyuk Gymnastics2000 Sydney Olympics
2000–2001Russia Irina Lobacheva Figure skatingall season long
2000–2001Russia Ilia Averbukh Figure skatingall season long
2002–2003Russia Alina KabaevaRhythmic Gymnasticsall season long
2004–2005Japan Daisuke Murakami Figure skatingall season long
2007–2008China Wang Chen Figure skatingall season long
2007–2008China Yu Xiaoyang Figure skatingall season long
2009–2010Israel Roman Zaretsky Figure skatingall season long
2009–2010Israel Alexandra Zaretsky Figure skatingall season long
2010Romania Sandra Izbasa Gymnasticsall season long
2011–2012United States Aly Raisman Gymnastics2011 CoverGirl Classic through Floor gold medal performance at 2012 London Olympics[20]
2011–2012Israel Israeli TeamRhythmic Gymnasticsall season long
2012Israel Neta RivkinRhythmic Gymnasticsall season long

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yudelson, Larry. "Who wrote Havah Nagilah?". RadioHazak. Larry Yudelson. Archived from the original on 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  2. ^ In an appearance on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs on 28 October 2007, Idelsohn's grandson Joel Joffe referred to his grandfather as the author of "Hava Nagila", but in the programme notes it says "Composer: Bashir Am Israelim", meaning that either this is an alias for Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, to whom Joffe was clearly referring in the programme, or (more plausibly) the programme notes contain a mistranscription of "Shir Am Yisraeli", meaning "Israeli folksong".
  3. ^ Joffe: Abraham Zvi Idelsohn at seligman.org.il
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Hava Nagila, What Is It? (Part I)" at YouTube[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ Leland, John. Hip: The History, HarperCollins, 2004, p. 206.
  6. ^ Conjunto Quisqueya - Hava Nagila (1978) at YouTube
  7. ^ "Set Lists 1968 to 1976". The Highway Star. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  8. ^ Raphael sings "Hava Nagila" at YouTube
  9. ^ Neo Cheezy (2007) at YouTube
  10. ^ Dalida: Hava nagila 2, at YouTube
  11. ^ Neil Diamond Live In America 1994, at Youtube
  12. ^ "Hava Nagila Twist", on The Hokey Pokey:Organized Dancing (1991)
  13. ^ "Hava Nagila" by Sonata Arctica in a Tokyo concert at YouTube
  14. ^ Dream Theater: vídeo de música judaica no show em Israel, luew, 19/06/09
  15. ^ Amsterdam Journal; A Dutch Soccer Riddle: Jewish Regalia Without Jews, The New York Times, 28 March 2005.
  16. ^ Hava Nagila! – Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad, 15 October 2013
  17. ^ 'Waar komt de geuzennaam 'Joden' toch vandaan?', Het Parool, 1 February 2014.
  18. ^ Promised Land: A Northern Love Story – Anthony Clavane, 12 February 2014
  19. ^ The Yid Army’s chants turn anti-semitism into kitsch banter, Financial Times, 20 September 2013.
  20. ^ Kvelling for Aly Raisman on Salon. Retrieved 8 August 20112

External links[edit]