Imber's nine-stanzapoem, Tikvatenu ("Our Hope"), put into words his thoughts and feelings following the establishment of Petah Tikva (literally "Opening of Hope"). Published in Imber's first book Barkai [The Shining Morning Star], Jerusalem, 1886, the poem was subsequently adopted as an anthem by the Hovevei Zion and later by the Zionist Movement at the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, "Hatikvah" was unofficially proclaimed the national anthem. It did not officially become the national anthem until November 2004, when an abbreviated and edited version was sanctioned by the Knesset in an amendment to the Flag and Coat-of-Arms Law (now renamed the Flag, Coat-of-Arms, and National Anthem Law).
In its modern rendering, the official text of the anthem incorporates only the first stanza and refrain of the original poem. The predominant theme in the remaining stanzas is the establishment of a sovereign and free nation in the Land of Israel, a hope largely seen as fulfilled with the founding of the State of Israel.
The melody for "Hatikvah" derives from "La Mantovana", a 16th-century Italian song, composed by Giuseppe Cenci (Giuseppino del Biado) ca. 1600 with the text "Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo". Its earliest known appearance in print was in the del Biado's collection of madrigals. It was later known in early 17th-century Italy as Ballo di Mantova. This melody gained wide currency in Renaissance Europe, under various titles, such as the Pod Krakowem (in Polish), Cucuruz cu frunza-n sus [Maize with up-standing leaves] (in Romanian) and the Kateryna Kucheryava (in Ukrainian). It also served as a basis for a number of folk songs throughout Central Europe, for example the popular Slovenian children song Čuk se je oženil [The little owl got married] (in Slovenian). The melody was used by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana in his set of six symphonic poems celebrating Bohemia, "Má vlast" ("My homeland"), namely in the second poem named after the river which flows through Prague, Vltava; the piece is also known under its German title as Die Moldau (The Moldau).
The adaptation of the music for "Hatikvah" was set by Samuel Cohen in 1888. Cohen himself recalled many years later that he had hummed Hatikvah based on the melody from the song he had heard in Romania, Carul cu boi [The Ox-Driven Cart].
The harmony of "Hatikvah" follows a minor scale, which is often perceived as mournful in tone and is uncommon in national anthems. As the title "The Hope" and the words suggest, the import of the song is optimistic and the overall spirit uplifting.
Use in sporting events
The Israeli national anthem is used in several European sporting events since the Arab states barred Israel from participating in their own continent's sporting bodies. In October 2017, after judoka Tal Flicker won gold in the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in the United Arab Emirates, officials played the International Judo Federation anthem instead of Hatikvah which Flicker sang privately.