Israeli singer and songwriter Naomi Shemer, who wrote “Yerushalayim shel zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold) in 1967 and won the Israel Prize in 1983 for her contributions to Israeli culture, was born in the Galilee on this date in 1930. Her song was released before the Six-Day War, and she expanded it after the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule. Peace activist Uri Avnery, while a member of the Knesset, proposed in 1968 that the song be adopted as Israel’s national anthem. Deservedly known as “the first lady of Israeli song and poetry,” Shemer wrote many other anthem-like, emotional songs with a rich sense of landscape and history, which were hugely popular in Israel and led her to be named the sixth most important Israeli of all time in 2005 a YNet poll, shortly after her death.
“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 [a tiara]. . . . 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.” —Naomi Shemer