“Am Yisrael Chai”: The Jewish Nation Lives


Dear Rabbi,
During the recent war I’ve seen video clips of Israeli soldiers and civilians singing and saying “Am Yisrael Chai.” It seems to be an expression of elation and triumph. What does it mean and where does it come from?



  1. The phrase, “Am Yisrael Chai” literally means “the Nation of Israel lives,” which speaks to the eternal nature of the Jewish People. Although probably best known as a song for Russian Jewry by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach from 1965, its origin as a statement of national eternity is said to stem from the liberation of the Bergen Belzen concentration camp in 1945 (where my mother, of blessed memory, was then also liberated by the British army). At the time of liberation, British Army Chaplain Rabbi Leslie Hardman cried out, “Am Yisrael Chai – the People of Israel live!” And when Golda Meir visited the Great Synagogue in Moscow as the Israeli Ambassador in 1948, the large crowd joyfully greeted her with shouts of “Am Yisrael Chai!” What a powerful message!

    I don’t know if a Biblical source is really needed for this inspiring slogan. However, I will cite a verse to show that this phrase is actually a promise and prophecy from Above.

    In Genesis, God promises Abraham that the Jewish People will be eternal. God says:

    “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you, throughout the generations, an eternal covenant to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you.” Eternal means eternal!

    Am Yisrael Chai expresses the eternal nature of the Jewish People and our faith in God’s promise that the Jewish People will live together in unity and harmony.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team