Hava Nagila

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

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Hava Nagila” (הבה נגילה Havah Nagilah, "Let us rejoice") is an Israeli folk song traditionally sung at Jewish celebrations. 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 mitzvah celebrations. It was composed in the 1920s in the British Mandate of Palestine, at a time when Hebrew was first being revived as a spoken language for the first time in almost 2,000 years (since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD). For the first time, 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,[1] who (with the rest of his class) was presented by the professor with a 19th-century, slow, melodious, chant (niggun or nigun) and assigned to add rhythm and words to fashion a modern Hebrew song.[citation needed] There are competing claims regarding Hava Nagila's composer, with both Idelsohn and Nathanson being suggested.[2][3]

The niggun he presented has been attributed to the Sadigurer Chasidim, who lived in what is now Ukraine,[2] which uses the Phrygian dominant scale common in music of Transylvania.[citation needed] The commonly used text was probably refined by Idelsohn.[4][better source needed] [5][original research?]

In 1918, the song was 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


Transliteration Hebrew text English 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, my brothers!
Uru aḥim be-lev sameaḥ
עורו אחים בלב שמח
  Awake my brothers with a happy heart
  (repeat line four times)    
Uru aḥim, uru aḥim!
!עורו אחים, עורו אחים
  Awake, my brothers, awake, my 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]

  • Idelsohn produced the first commercial recording in 1922, on the Polyphon record label, as part of a series which recorded 39 Hebrew folk songs.[6][full citation needed]

Although "Hava Nagila" was known among Jews—particularly the more secular-oriented Zionist organizations[citation needed]—and became a staple at weddings and bar mitzvahs,[citation needed] its explosive popularity was triggered by the victory of Israel in its 1948 War of Independence.[citation needed] The Weavers started the trend of mainstreaming the songs of the newly emergent State of Israel with their recording of "Tzena, Tzena," which rose to the top of the charts.[clarification needed][citation needed] "Hava Nagila" soon followed into 1950s radio.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Use 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.[20][21][22]

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.[23][24]

Olympic sports[edit]

Date Athlete Sport Event
1994 Ukraine Lilia Podkopayeva Gymnastics 1994 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships
1995–1997 Ghana Tony Yeboah Football all season long
1998–1999 Russia Evgeni Plushenko Figure skating all season long
1999–2000 Italy Maurizio Margaglio Figure skating all season long
1999–2000 Italy Barbara Fusar-Poli Figure skating all season long
2000 Russia Yekaterina Lobaznyuk Gymnastics 2000 Sydney Olympics
2000–2001 Russia Irina Lobacheva Figure skating all season long
2000–2001 Russia Ilia Averbukh Figure skating all season long
2002–2003 Russia Alina Kabaeva Rhythmic Gymnastics all season long
2004–2005 Japan Daisuke Murakami Figure skating all season long
2007–2008 China Wang Chen Figure skating all season long
2007–2008 China Yu Xiaoyang Figure skating all season long
2009–2010 Israel Roman Zaretsky Figure skating all season long
2009–2010 Israel Alexandra Zaretsky Figure skating all season long
2010 Romania Sandra Izbasa Gymnastics all season long
2011–2012 United States Aly Raisman Gymnastics 2011 CoverGirl Classic through Floor gold medal performance at 2012 London Olympics[25]
2011–2012 Israel Israeli Team Rhythmic Gymnastics all season long
2012 Israel Neta Rivkin Rhythmic Gymnastics all season long

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nathanson, who later worked in New York, most famously composed the nearly-universal melody that is sung with the Birkat Hamazon ("Grace After Meals").[citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c Roberta Grossman, Director/Producer; Sophie Sartain, Writer/Producer (2012). Hava Nagila (The Movie) (NTSC B&W and color, widescreen, closed-captioned). Los Angeles, CA, USA: Katahdin Productions, More Horses Productions. OCLC 859211976. Retrieved 3 September 2015. The song you thought you knew. The story you won't believe. 
  3. ^ NPR staff, 2013, "Film Hoists 'Hava Nagila' Up Onto A Chair, In Celebration Of Song And Dance." NPR (online), February 28, 2013, see [1], accessed 3 September 2015.
  4. ^ Yudelson, Larry. "Who wrote Havah Nagilah?". RadioHazak. Larry Yudelson. Archived from the original on 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  5. ^ 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".
  6. ^ Joffe: Abraham Zvi Idelsohn[full citation needed]
  7. ^ [2][full citation needed]
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Hava Nagila, What Is It? (Part I)" at YouTube[unreliable source?]
  9. ^ Leland, John. (2004) Hip: The History, New York, NY, USA: HarperCollins, p. 206.
  10. ^ Belafonte's version is also used in a comedy scene in the Tamil movie Mozhi.[citation needed]
  11. ^ Conjunto Quisqueya - Hava Nagila (1978) at YouTube
  12. ^ Four Jacks and a Jill, Jimmy Come Lately Retrieved May 13, 2015
  13. ^ "Set Lists 1968 to 1976". The Highway Star. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  14. ^ Raphael sings "Hava Nagila" at YouTube
  15. ^ Dalida: Hava nagila 2, at YouTube
  16. ^ Neil Diamond Live In America 1994, at YouTube
  17. ^ "Hava Nagila Twist", on The Hokey Pokey:Organized Dancing (1991)
  18. ^ "Hava Nagila" by Sonata Arctica in a Tokyo concert at YouTube
  19. ^ Dream Theater: vídeo de música Judaica no show em Israel, luew, 19/06/09
  20. ^ Amsterdam Journal; A Dutch Soccer Riddle: Jewish Regalia Without Jews, The New York Times, 28 March 2005.
  21. ^ Hava Nagila! – Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad, 15 October 2013
  22. ^ 'Waar komt de geuzennaam 'Joden' toch vandaan?', Het Parool, 1 February 2014.
  23. ^ Promised Land: A Northern Love Story – Anthony Clavane, 12 February 2014
  24. ^ The Yid Army’s chants turn anti-semitism into kitsch banter, Financial Times, 20 September 2013.
  25. ^ Kvelling for Aly Raisman on Salon. Retrieved 8 August 20112

External links[edit]