Yom Herut Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – Jerusalem of Gold

THE HISTORY OF THE POPULAR AND BEAUTIFUL SOUL-STIRRING SONG “JERUSALEM OF GOLD”

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

The song, “Jerusalem of Gold” is not just a song but a literal piece of G-dly inspiration whose origins arose from a legend about Rabbi Akiva and his wife, Rachel. Much has been written about this incredible song whose birth came at exactly the right time—three weeks before the start of the six day war—to inspire a nation; its soldiers and general public in a deep and spiritual way.

For many years Israel held an Israeli Song Festival and the best writers, composers and performers took part in the event. The event was held on Independence Day. This was an important cultural event in the history of Israeli music that began in 1960. In the winter of 1967, Gil Aldema of The Voice of Israel was asked by Teddy Kolech OBM, (the mayor of Jerusalem at the time) to commission a song about Jerusalem.

Naomi Shemer, the song’s creator describes its beginnings in the following story:  ” In the winter of 1967, I was approached by Gil Aldema, from the Voice of Israel, who asked me, along with 4 other professional composers to write a song about Jerusalem. I found it very difficult to write the song until I remembered the legend about Rabbi Akiva promising his wife Rachel a “City of Gold,” i.e. a piece of gold jewelry depicting Jerusalem. I chose Shuli Nathan to perform the song. She was a 20-year old soldier-teacher, with a guitar and a voice like bells. The song became a hit from the very first performance.  At midnight, as the festival drew to a close the host asked Shuli to perform the song once again before closing and when Shuli returned to the stage, the audience was already singing along with the chorus. The song was an overnight sensation and became one of the best known Israeli songs in the world.”

You may ask yourself the question, “what is the likelihood of a song about Jerusalem being composed three weeks before the start of a six day war in which we retook Jerusalem from the Jordanians? What is the likelihood of a song that would be a morale-booster to the battle cry of the IDF coming on the scene when it did? What is the likelihood of the Israeli Defense Force paratroopers singing this new, three week old song when they retook The Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount?” We know the unequivocal answer: G-d runs the world, with G-d and His inspiration all things are possible and G-ds timing is perfect.

According to Wikipedia, when Naomi Shemer heard the paratroopers singing her song at the Western Wall, she wrote a final verse countering the phrases of lamentations found in the second verse of the song. The line about shofars sounding from the Temple Mount is a reference to the event that actually took place that day. The lyrics are truly poetry and are woven with mournful Biblical references to the destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent exile of the Jewish people. The song has been translated loosely into many languages and was chosen “Song of The Year” in 1967 and “Song of The Jubilee” in 1998 for Israel’s 50th Independence Day. The song is also the corps song of the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps of the IDF and is sung before every competition.

The national library of Israel website lists dozens of letters Naomi received in response to her song. The following is an example: from an IDF postcard dated 6/6/1997 during which time the air force was fighting on the Golan Heights, “at this moment our planes are bombing the Golan and your song is playing on the radio. Well done and well done! Your song JERUSALEM OF GOLD has become part of our lives as we man our stations. The guys can’t stop singing and being amazed because this song is really something, especially as our nation struggles and prevails.”  Another letter from a 66-year old Jerusalemite wished to inform Naomi that her song, “JERUSALEM OF GOLD” has made its mark in the city. “I am an observant Jew and I had to write to tell you—You cannot imagine what your song means to Jerusalem which has seen three wars in this generation. This song brings them all together and its lyrics give us hope that Jerusalem will be ours forever!”

Naomi Shemer was born July 13th, 1930 on a Kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee that her parents helped found. She served in the IDF in the 1950’s as part of the entertainment troupe. She studied music in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and did most of her own songwriting and composing. She became a leading Israeli musician and songwriter often setting famous poems to music. She was hailed as the “First lady of Israeli song and poetry.” She died June 26th, 2004 and is buried on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).

The message of this extraordinary woman, whose love of Israel and Jerusalem flowed forth from her spirited soul, to her pen and out into the world is one of incredible inspiration and love of Jerusalem.  Inspired from a Biblical love story, her words flew onto the pages of her paper, in spite of having a temporary writer’s block. Her words must become our words and their depth our depth. They must come to reside in our consciousness and flow-freely through our veins as a powerful life force.

My dear friends, what will be your lasting contribution to inspire our people? What will be your soul song to Jerusalem and Eretz HaKodesh? Will it be audible to the Land? To the People? To G-d? It will require living here, in order to form a deep, loving attachment to the Land and the People. And from that reality, the inspiration will come forth.  May it be so! May we merit to hear good tidings about our Holy Land and Nation with G-ds protecting hand always keeping us from harm….Amen

With love, Ariella Bracha

 

 

 

There are several English translations to the song. Some are closer to the original while others are a freer rendition.

 The following is a literal translation from the Hebrew prepared by Yael Levine

 JERUSALEM OF GOLD

by Naomi Shemer

The mountain air is clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Is carried on the breeze of twilight
With the sound of bells.

And in the slumber of tree and stone
Captured in her dream
The city that sits solitary
And in its midst is a wall.

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

How the cisterns have dried
The market-place is empty
And no one frequents the Temple Mount
In the Old City.

And in the caves in the mountain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho.

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

But as I come to sing to you today,
And to adorn crowns to you (i.e. to tell your praise)
I am the smallest of the youngest of your children (i.e. the least worthy of doing so)
And of the last poet (i.e. of all the poets born).

For your name scorches the lips
Like the kiss of a seraph
If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Which is all gold…

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

We have returned to the cisterns
To the market and to the market-place
A ram’s horn (shofar) calls out (i.e. is being heard) on the Temple Mount
In the Old City.

And in the caves in the mountain
Thousands of suns shine –
We will once again descend to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho!

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

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2 thoughts on “Yom Herut Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day – Jerusalem of Gold

  1. Hi FYI, I forwarded this to metro@jpost.com & Tzippy with Nefesh B’Nefesh. Hope you don’t mind… May you continue to educate people & inspire love of Israel ’til 120!

    Kol Tov Keren

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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