There is a story from a concentration camp survivor from Auschwitz who told (us) that no matter how bad things got, no-one could prevent him from gazing into the sky to reflect upon its beauty. It provided him with hope where there was no hope against the stark darkness of their surroundings.
Few people know about the origins of the song, “Somewhere over the rainbow.” When properly understood, it helps us better understand the mindset of countless Jewish victims of anti-Semitism deeply embedded in the Jewish experience.
The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg who was the youngest of four children born to Russian Jewish immigrants. His real name was Isidore Hochberg and grew up in a Yiddish speaking, Orthodox Jewish home in New York.
The music was written by Harold Arlen, a cantor’s son. His real name was Hyman Arluck and his parents were from Lithuania. It was these two people, Hochberg and Arluck, who wrote “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that was framed by the pogroms of the past and rooted in Jewish survival culminating in the Holocaust a decade later.
“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high, there’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow why then, oh why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why, oh why can’t I?”
Jewish Holocaust victims could not fly beyond the rainbow. Neither could they escape the “chimney tops…” But the remnant who survived continued gazing “somewhere over the rainbow” in a quest to reclaim an impossible dream. And just 3 years later, on May 14th, 1948, that dream spanning 2000 years became a reality. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust the nation of Israel was reborn. “Ha Tikva” (“The Hope”) was chosen as the national anthem.
“Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
Raphael ben Levi