• Red carpet of Anemone coronaria flowers in Shokeda forest, Israel | Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Zachi Evenor

I Have No Other Land

Kay Wilson - 8 September 2021

With over 1,500 songs to his credit, the most prolific American songwriter of all time is Israel Beilin, known more widely as “Irving Berlin.”  Over a century ago, Berlin’s parents emigrated from an antisemitic Belarus and settled in America. His father had been the cantor at the little shtetl’s synagogue. Berlin, entirely self-taught, became a National Treasure, just like his modern-day counterpart, the late Ehud Manor.

“Manor is Israel’s Irving Berlin. He too is a National Treasure”

Irving Berlin | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Manor is Israel’s Irving Berlin. He too is a National Treasure. His parents also emigrated from Belarus, not to escape the Tzars but the Nazis. Like Berlin, Manor has written  well over a 1,000 lyrics, and his songs are played on Israeli radio more than that of any other artist.

Ehud Manor and his wife Ofra Fuchs | Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Nachoom Assis

After serving in combat unit, Manor decided he wanted to study English literature and ultimately completed his Masters at the prestigious British Cambridge University. Upon returning home to Israel, Manor not only set to work, he set a precedent: he was the first Israeli to translate several Broadway musicals. The likes of Hair, Chicago and Westside Story, soon flooded the Israeli stage, and were all received with much enthusiasm. He didn’t stop there. He went on to translate children’s TV programs, such as Barney and Friends (Hachaverim Shel Barney), and wrote several Israeli entries for The Eurovision Song Contest, a competition that Israelis follow pathologically from the first rounds right through to the final – blissfully unaware that many Europeans scorn the event and would not even admit to watching it.

Although not on any tourist itinerary, Binyamina is a place where Israelis will travel across the country to walk the quaint little streets. This is not because of Manor’s parents’ successful company located in Binyamina that still supplies building stones for much of the land, but rather because of his lyrics: Manor wrote several songs about his little town which were set to tune by many famous musicians, and in doing so, he put Binyamina on the map.

A heavy smoker, he died at the young age of 67, but he is not forgotten. His songs are still being set to new tunes. Even Google paid tribute to Manor. For his 74th posthumous birthday, the Hebrew version of the search engine put up a picture of him to remind us all – (if we really needed it) that with his words and attention to poetic detail of the Hebrew language, Manor continues to command the utmost respect and admiration from us all.

In 1968, tragedy struck when Manor’s younger brother was killed in the War of Attrition. It was to be a grief that accompanied him for the rest of his life. Yet out of that sadness, he penned, the lyrics to En Li Eretz Aheret, one of Israel’s most iconic songs,

“I have no other land, Even if it is torn asunder. Just a word in my native tongue delves in my veins, and in my soul…half torn apart, with hungry heart, here is my home.” 

“No other song except HaTikvah, the Israeli anthem, ever invokes such deep patriotism as En Li Eretz Aheret”

No other song except HaTikvah, the Israeli anthem, ever invokes such deep patriotism as En Li Eretz Aheret. It is hummed and sung both in times of national pride and in times of national crisis. Like the world over, in these days of Corona Israel is also living in uncertainty, with angst, frustration and societal division brimming to the surface. Yet despite it all, En Li Eretz Aheret is more widely played than ever before, causing many Israelis to temporarily put aside grievances and worries, and breathe in the meaning if the song. Although not with us for now for 15 years, through his lyrics, Manor reminds us all that his own grief, his troubles, his angst and his undying love of this land, go hand in hand with ours. Such is the power of the pen of Ehud Manor.

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