As the 1967 Song Festival drew to a close, the host Yitzhak Shimoni made the following unusual announcement: "At the request of the audience and the mayor, we will hear Naomi Shemer's song about Jerusalem once again before closing. Jerusalem of Gold, sung by Shuli Nathan." Much has been written about this song, which became, overnight, one of the best known Hebrew songs in the world. In honor of Jerusalem Day, we bring you a selection of unique items from Naomi Shemer's archive, which is among the treasures of the National Library's music department. Each of these items tells the story of "Jerusalem of Gold" from a slightly different angle.
Naomi Shemer describes the writing of the song thus: "In the winter of '67 I was approached by Gil Aldema of The Voice of Israel. Teddy Kollek (the mayor at the time) had asked him to commission a song about Jerusalem. For many years, the Voice of Israel held a song competition on Independence Day, until then broadcast on the radio only (because we only got television in 1968). That same year, 1967, they elected, on a one-time basis to also commission songs from five professional composers, I among them. I found it very difficult to write the song, until I recalled 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 was a hit from the very first performance and, at midnight, when Shuli was asked to return to the stage, the audience was already singing along on the chorus. At that point we were moving towards war and 3 weeks later, when the paratroopers liberated the Western Wall, they had an anthem at the ready. On that day 7.6.1967, I added a fourth verse to the song in honor of the victory."