In 1969, John Lennon wound up singing in Hebrew as part of a radio broadcast for Voice of Israel.
Israeli freelance journalist Akiva Nof happened to be in Amsterdam at the same time that Lennon and Yoko Ono were performing one of their “Bed-Ins for Peace” at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. Not only did Nof score an interview with the world’s most famous couple — he was even invited to join them in bed.
With his tape recorder running, Nof asked Lennon if he knew any Israeli songs. Lennon replied, “Only ‘Hava Nagilah,” and then sang a few lines from the song. Nof then asked Lennon to sing another song “for the Israeli audience,” and John launched into an as-yet-unreleased Beatles number, accompanying himself on guitar and singing, “I want you, I want you so bad, babe,” tailoring the phrase with the end tag, “Hello Israel.” The tune later surfaced on the group’s final studio album, “Abbey Road,” called “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” — minus the reference to Israel.
But Lennon and Nof weren’t yet done with their Hebrew jam session. Nof boldly if not brashly asked Lennon, “Would you be able to, if I give you some words in Hebrew…” to which John Lennon responded with a resounding, “Yes, yes!” Lennon then launched into Nof’s “Oath for Jerusalem,” singing the Hebrew lyrics (which Nof had transliterated for him) quite confidently, with Yoko Ono singing backup. The lyrics Lennon sang meant, “Jerusalem, we all swear, that we will never abandon you, from now until forever.” It’s not known if Lennon knew the meaning of the Hebrew words he was singing.
John Lennon once reportedly said, “Show business is an extension of the Jewish religion.” Apparently, he was just fine with playing his part.
Listen: John Lennon singing in Hebrew as part of a radio broadcast for Voice of Israel: H E R E .