Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Naomi Shemer was born in 1930 on Kevuzat Kinneret, where both her parents had settled after emigrating from Vilna–Meir Sappir in 1922 and Rivka Shostaliski in 1925. They married in 1925.
Naomi’s musical skill was evident during her childhood, when she began to lead community singing on the kibbutz. After completing school she was sent to study at the academy of music in Jerusalem and upon returning to the kibbutz taught music to the kibbutz children. During this period she wrote several children’s songs, including “The Short Tour,” “The Post Van,” and “Our Little Brother,” all of which appeared for the first time on an album by Yaffa Yarkoni, “Songs from Kinneret” (1958).
Shemer began her army service in the Nahal, eventually joining its cultural department. During her military service she wrote several songs for a revue by the Central Command troupe, “A Raid in the Village” (1956) under the pseudonym S. Carmel.
After her discharge she married the actor Gideon Shemer in 1954 and had a daughter, Halleli (b. 1956). The couple lived first on Kevuzat Kinneret and afterwards in Tel Aviv.
Getting in the Groove
Shemer became well-known when the musical “Five-Five,” actually no more than an arrangement of her army revue “A Raid in the Village,” was staged. The songs “So Much Light and Blue” and “Song of the Grain,” which were recorded by Rika Zarai, and the very successful “Rely on the Rooster,” which was performed in 1959 by Ran and Nama (Ran Eliran and Nehama Hendel), became hits.
Upon the formation of the Green Onion troupe, most of whose members were former members of the Nahal troupe, Chaim Topol, one of its founders, commissioned several songs from Shemer. These included “Noa” and “Troubadour,” performed by Nehama Hendel when she joined the group in 1957, though “Noa” was taken off the program after several performances.
Shemer wrote many songs for musical troupes. “Hoppa Hey,” which was written for the Central Command troupe, won first place in the international song festival in Pisaro, Italy in 1960.