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Eli Ẓiyyon Ve-Areha

ELI ẒIYYON VE-AREHA (Heb. אֱלִי צִיּוֹן וְעָרֶיהָ; "Wail, Zion and its cities"), the initial words of an acrostic elegy for the fast day of the Ninth of *Av. This dirge, written in the Middle Ages but of anonymous authorship, consists of 12 stanzas, each closing with the refrain: "Wail, Zion and its cities,/ as a woman in labor pains,/ and like a maiden that dons sackcloth to mourn for the husband of her youth." The dirge enumerates, in detail, the cruelties suffered by Judea and its inhabitants during the destruction of the Second Temple. Eli Ẓiyyon is sung by the congregation standing. The refrain is sung slowly (and in some traditions twice) at the beginning, and then repeated faster after each stanza. The melody is of an elegiac character, and has become, for all Ashkenazi communities, a symbol of the yearly commemoration of the Destruction. It therefore came to be used also for some other kinot, such as the last stanza of Az be-hata'einu ("Then, for our sins"), and for Teraḥem Ẓiyyon ka-asher amarta ("Have mercy upon Zion as Thou didst promise"); and also for *Lekhah Dodi during the "Three Weeks" (17th of Tammuz to 9th of Av). It is sometimes considered one of the *Mi-Sinai Niggunim. The origin of the melody has been discussed by Emmanuel Kirschner and Abraham Zvi Idelsohn. Kirschner related it to a 15th-century German court ballad Die Frau zur Weissen Burg, and to 14th- and 17th-century Catholic songs. Idelsohn related it to a 17th-century Spanish folksong, and a Czech song of the same period, both of which belong to a melodic type which he also found among the Balkan Sephardim. Since all these comparisons are based upon resemblances of isolated motives or melodic phrases, and a direct prototype has not been identified as yet, it seems more probable that it represents a particular instance of a widespread European "migrant" tune or melodic pattern. The earliest notated evidence of the melody found so far is in the manuscript manual of Judah Elias of Hanover (1743), for Lekhah Dodi (in a slightly varied form), and in several of the manuals of 18th-century ḥazzanim published in Idelsohn, Melodien, vol. 6 (1932) (Isaac Glogau, Moshe Pan, I.L. Wolf). Its earliest appearance in print is in Isaac Nathan's very free paraphrase of the melody, for his setting of "O weep for those that wept by Babel's stream" in Byron's Hebrew Melodies (1815). An interesting version is given by Moses Margoliouth who states that he heard it sung by Polish immigrants at the Western Wall on the Ninth of Av, 1848 (A Pilgrimage to the Land of my Fathers, 2 (1850), 356–9).

The melody can be found in the following publications: S. Sulzer, Schir Zion (1838), 188, no. 148; M. Kohn, Vollstaendiger Jahrgang von Terzett- und Chorgesaengen, 3 (1839), 130, no. 89; S. Naumbourg, Zemirot Yisrael, 3 (1864), 23, no. 25; A. Baer, Baal T'fillah (18833), 90; A.S. Ersler, T'fillah w'Zimrah, 1 (1907), 48, no. 49; L. Kornitzer, in: Israelitisches Familienblatt (July 28, 1927), supplement; Idelsohn, Melodien, 6 (1932), 213, no. 35; 7 (1933), 105, no. 302 a and b; 148, no. 101. It was published in Israel in Y. Sharett (ed.), Anot, 5 (1938), in M. Ayali, Ḥaggim u-Zemannim, 1 (1953), 527, and in Sefer ha-Mo'adim, 7 (1957), 16–18 (music section).

In the 20th century, several composers made arrangements of the melody, including L. Zeitlin and Joseph *Achron. Its poetical and melodic structure was the inspiration for A. Luboshitzky's elegy on the death of Theodor Herzl Eli Ẓiyyon ve-Nodedeha ("Wail, Zion, and her dispersed ones"; Mivḥar Shirei Amenu (1921), 59–60). A modern kinah, J.L. Bialer's Eli, Eli Nafshi, Bekhi (Wail, wail my soul, cry"), in commemoration of the Holocaust, was approved by the Union of Synagogues in Israel for use on the Ninth of Av, and is sung to the Eli Ẓiyyon melody.


Davidson, Oẓar, 1 (1924), 229; E. Kirschner, Ueber mittelalterliche hebraeische Poesien und ihre Singweisen (1914); A. Nadel, in: Gemeindeblatt (Berlin 1924), no. 9; Idelsohn, Music, 168, 171.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.