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Crossroads & Connections: The City of Gold

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023

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Naomi Shemer, Jerusalem of Gold Draft Lyrics, Israel, 1967

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Text: When the Six-Day War broke out in June 1967, Naomi Shemer went to the Sinai to perform for Israeli troops. On the way, she heard on the radio that the Israeli army had taken the Old City of Jerusalem, soldiers were standing by the Wailing Wall, and a shofar was being blown. To celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem, Shemer took out her diary and penned this fourth verse to her just-released hit song, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold): “We have returned to the cisterns, to the market and the marketplace; a shofar calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City.”

Earlier that year, by request of Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, the organizers of Israel’s annual Independence Day song contest had commissioned five songwriters to compose songs about Jerusalem, amongst them Naomi Shemer (1930–2004). Searching for a theme, Shemer recalled a Talmudic legend about Rabbi Akiva who promised his wife, Rachel, “a city of gold,” a piece of jewelry in the shape of Jerusalem. Redirecting this idea, Shemer wrote three verses and a refrain, describing the Jewish people’s 2,000-year longing to return to Jerusalem. Performed by the singer and guitarist Shuli Natan, then a twenty-year-old soldier, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav achieved immediate and enthusiastic hit status in Israel. Together with the final stanza shown here, the song evolved into a global anthem to Jerusalem.

 

Early version of music of Jerusalem of Gold (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav), manuscript. Mus. 0250 A 016 (1). Draft of fourth verse of the song lyrics found in the personal diary of the author, 1967. Donated by the Shemer-Horowitz family. Mus. 0250 E 083.

Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama.

 

Click here to return to the full Crossroads & Connections: Collections of the National Library of Israel digital exhibition on Kolture.

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Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) holds the collective memory of Israelis of all backgrounds and faiths and the Jewish people worldwide. While continuing to serve as Israel's preeminent research library, over the past decade NLI has embarked upon an ambitious journey of renewal to encourage...

Reflections

Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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