Shir Shel Shavua : Issue 5

May 12, 2023

Jerusalem of Gold

This week’s submission for Shir Shel Shavua, allows us to extend the miracle and celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, which was celebrated this week.

Jerusalem of Gold (in Hebrew : ירושלים של זהב – Yerushalayim shel zahav) is the name of a popular Israeli song written by Naomi Shemer in 1967 and sung by Shuli Natan. It was then sung, by many artists, in particular Rika Zaraï and Ofra Haza who sang it during the ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel in 1998. Twenty five years later, the song still brings chills to our spines.

Jerusalem of gold, copper and light is a reference to the golden color into which the buildings of the city, built in Jerusalem stone, change during dawn and sunset, and quote a verse of the Jewish Spanish poet from the Middle Ages, Juda Halevi. The song glorifies the fresh air of the mountains, the scent of pine, the tinkling of bells in the evening dusk, all claiming with passion: your name burns on our lips, like the heat of a kiss.

Like often in Naomi Shemer’s songs, we find here several biblical references: in the first verse, the phrase “the town lies deserted” is taken from the Lamentations 1,1 and the third verse is from the Psalm 137:5, “If I forget you Jerusalem”.

The song was written on the eve of the Six-Day War and the conquest of East Jerusalem by Tzahal, which was occupied by Jordan since the war of 1948. It was thus the song that motivated the Israeli soldiers during the conflict. After the war, Naomi Shemer added another verse to his poem, to celebrate the unification of Jerusalem.

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