Naomi Shemer

This Israeli songwriter is famous for lyrics of such songs as "Jerusalem of Gold" and "Lu Yehi"

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After separating from her husband in 1967, Shemer visited Paris with her daughter, sending the songs "For You" and "The City in Gray" to the Yarkon Bridge Trio. Shemer also translated French songs into Hebrew, including "Snow White" (performed by the Twins Trio in 1966), "The Birds" (performed by the Nahal Troupe, original French title: "Si Tous Les Oiseaux") and many songs by Georges Brassens (1921–1981), which she translated for Yossi Banai's revue, "There Are No Happy Love Affairs."

Writing "Jerusalem of Gold"

In 1967 Shemer wrote "Jerusalem of Gold" for the annual song festival. She recalled:

The idea I started with was the Talmudic legend I remembered from my school days about Rabbi Akiva, who lived in poverty, in a hayloft with his beloved wife Rahel, who had been disowned by her father. As he plucked the hay out of her hair, he promised her that one day he would become wealthy and buy her a Jerusalem of Gold [an item of jewelry]. Our teachers, Shoshana and Amminadav, taught us many similar legends. The phrase "Jerusalem of Gold" suddenly shone in my memory as if to say, "Here I am," and I realized it would be the cornerstone of my song.

Jerusalem at NightIt was night by the time I sat down and wrote the song. I began with my fresh, innocent memories of my visits there during summer vacation, and then I continued to "She sits alone" and "captive in her dream," and to the ancient phraseology which had just presented itself to me as if to say, Take me and do with me as you will.

As for the melody, here I touched upon the hasidic melodies and Yiddish songs of my late father with faint traces of Biblical cantillation. When I got to the refrain, I changed the direction upward, and it was as though I had drawn the curves of the old road near Moza as it approaches Jerusalem, known as the "Seven Sisters": one ascent, and then another and another, and behold--the city before our eyes.

Over the next few days I played the song for whoever came to visit, as I always do. Once I played it for Rivka Michaeli. She asked: What about the Old City? All right, I said, if you really want it, and I added the middle verse.

The business about the Old City needs an explanation. When I went to write about it, I put all thought of physical, tangible matters out of my mind. I thought about the two thousand years of the Destruction in the abstract, not necessarily about the last nineteen years. Through a kind of telescopic lens I saw before me a city in heaven and the essence which alone I sought to capture.

But Who Will Sing It?

Naomi Shemer deliberated as to who would sing the song. Her daughter Halleli had heard about an unknown woman soldier with an extraordinary voice and Shemer was very impressed after hearing her on the radio. She asked to be introduced to the singer and thus met Shuly Nathan.

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Nathan Shahar first achieved fame as a composer, choir conductor and musical director of various radio and television broadcasts. The main area of his musicological research is the musical and social-musical aspects of Hebrew song: a topic on which he has published a series of articles in Israel and abroad. Shahar has taught for many years both at Bet Berl College and also at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.