Article - Jerusalem of Gold Naomi Shemer 27/5/2018
Jerusalem of Gold Naomi Shemer
Many anthems, poems and songs have been dedicated to Jerusalem over thousands of years. The sanctity and beauty of the city resonate within the souls of believers and travelers alike, and have moved them to pour their hearts out and express their longing in words. The song Jerusalem of Gold has become this generation's link in a long line of works, many of which have become deeply rooted in Israeli culture.
In the winter of 1967, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek approached the Voice of Israel (Israel's national radio station) and asked them to write a song dedicated to the city, which would be played for the first time as part of a festival scheduled on the upcoming Independence Day. The request was passed to songwriter and composer Naomi Shemer, who sought an idea for the song and eventually found inspiration in ancient Jewish writings. The title and first line of the chorus came from a legend about Rabbi Akiva, who gave his loyal wife a precious piece of jewelry called "Jerusalem of Gold". The phrase "Behold I am a violin for all your songs", which was coined in the Middle Ages by Rabbi Judah Halevi in his well known poem "Zion, will you not ask", provided the inspiration for the rest of the chorus. Shemer used this foundation to create the train of thought of a faithful admirer who is intoxicated by the fragrance and landscapes of Jerusalem, whose heart aches at the city's wretchedness when held captive by the enemy, and who swears to remain faithful forever.
Naomi Shemer chose a young unknown singer, Shuli Natan, to perform the song. The audience was captivated when she took the stage during the festival intermission, singing only with her guitar. At the end of the evening, Natan was invited to sing the song again and the entire audience joined in.
The Six Day War broke out just three weeks later, uniting Jerusalem and opening the city to all. The song Jerusalem of Gold, which expressed an unattainable longing, immediately became a symbol of joy and a sense of the incredible miracle witnessed by the residents of the State of Israel during the war. Shemer was in the Sinai when Jerusalem was liberated, and upon hearing the shofar blown at the Western Wall over the radio, on the spot she excitedly added a new verse of joy and hope to the song that she had written.
Although 50 years have passed since then, the song Jerusalem of Gold continues to shine. It lies firmly in the hearts of the Israeli people and has attained the status of an unofficial national anthem, continuing to pull at listeners' heartstrings time and time again.