The Story of "Yerushalayim shel zahav " - ירושלים של זהב

My kids told me this shabbat that the the iconic Yerushalaim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold), now all over the airwaves due to the upcoming Jerusalem Day, was first performed as a space-filler at the Israel Song Festival.

It didn't win the contest, because it was not even a contender.

In May 1967, Mayor Teddy Kollek asked Naomi Shemer and four other song writers to write new songs for performance between the last entry to the contest, and the announcement by the judges of the results.

Kollek stipulated that the songs must be about Jerusalem, and address the split nature of the city. (At the time the Jordanians occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City).

The four composers refused the mission outright. Naomi Shemer offered to write a song, but one that would not comply with Kollek's terms. She was given the green light in any case.

She changed her mind, and wrote the first and third stanzas - and performed it for Gil Aldema of the IBA. Aldema liked it and asked Shemer to continue writing the complete song.

Shemer heard the previously unknown amateur singer, a Hebrew Teacher, Shuli Natan on Army Radio, during that period, and decided Natan's was the right voice for the new song.

At the big day, Independence Day 15th May 1967, between the last performer of the competition and the announcement of the results, Shuli Natan performed Jerusalem of Gold, for the first time in public.

The crowd was rapturous and, after the winner was announced, loudly insisted that Shuli Natan be brought on stage again for the second performance of the song.

The song was upgraded from "Hit" to "Anthem", during the Six Day War, just a few days after the show.

As the Israeli soldiers liberated the Holy Sites of the Old City, and Chief Rabbi Goren blew his shofar at the Kotel, the soldiers burst into Yerushalaim Shel Zahav.

Shortly afterwards, Naomi Shemer added the optimistic and joyful final stanza, in celebration of the reunification of the city.

Later in 1967, MK Uri Avineri tried to get the song officially adopted as Israel's National Anthem, although the motion never made it to the Knesset.

Yerushalaim Shel Zahav was voted the 'best song' in Israel's 50 Anniversary celebrations.

Not bad, for a space filler.

[Thanks to Yael Levine for the background info:]



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