Chava Alberstein: Had Gadya

Written by Chava Alberstein during the First Intifada, Had Gadya is based on an Aramaic song from the Passover Haggadah. While Alberstein’s lyrics mostly come from the traditional text, the original song ends with God empowering the Angel of Death, yet God is not mentioned in this version, symbolizing the endless cycle of violence. After her version of the Aramaic song, Alberstein adds a final paragraph asking “the fifth question” of how long the cycle of horror will last, noting the effects the violence have had on the Israeli psyche. An English translation of the lyrics can be seen on screen and below. 

Intended as a protest song criticizing Israeli society, Alberstein points out the irony that the “oppressed nation” of the Passover Haggadah have now themselves become oppressors because of their powerful military response to the violence of the Intifada. The song caused an outrage in Israeli society. Originally banned by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, Israel’s attorney general blocked the ban for impinging on freedom of speech, yet the song was rarely played on the radio. Alberstein was ostracized in many circles, some music stores refused to sell her records, and she essentially went into exile until she began performing again in Israel in 2007. 

Had Gadya

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid
Our father bought a kid for two zuzim
So the legend says

The cat came and preyed on the kid
A little kid, a white kid
The dog came and bit the cat
that preyed on the kid
that our father brought
Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

Then a big stick appeared from somewhere
and beat the dog, who barked loudly
the dog that bit the cat that preyed
on the kid that our father brought

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

And the fire came
and burned the stick
that beat the dog that walked around
that bit the cat
that ate the kid
that father brought

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

And the water came that quenched the fire
that burned the stick
that beat the dog that bit the cat
that ate the kid that father bought

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

And the ox came and drank the water
that had quenched the fire
that burned the stick
that beat the dog that bit the cat
that ate the kid that father brought

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

And the slaughterer came and slaughtered the ox
that had drunk the water
that had quenched the fire
that burned the stick
that beat the dog that bit the cat
that ate the kid that father brought

Then came the Angel of Death and killed the slaughterer
that had slaughtered the ox
that had drunk the water
that had quenched the fire
that burned the stick
that beat the dog that bit the cat
that ate the kid that father had brought

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

Why are you singing “Had Gadya” ?
Spring has not come yet, Passover isn’t here
what has changed for you? what has changed?
I myself have changed this year
And on all nights, on all nights
I have asked only four questions
Tonight I have another question:
How long will the cycle of horror last?
Hunter and hunted, beater and beaten
When will this madness stop?
And what has changed for you. What has changed?
I myself have changed this year
I used to be a sheep and a calm kid
Today I am a leopard and a predator wolf
I’ve been a dove and I’ve been a deer
Today I don’t know who I am

Our father bought for two zuzim
one kid, one kid

Our father bought a kid for two zuzim
And we’re starting again from the beginning.

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