The First Lady of Israeli Song and Poetry

Naomi Shemer

Lived: July 13, 1930 – June 26, 2004

Why you should know him: An Israeli singer and songwriter, Shemer wrote “Yerushlayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold),” which became Israel’s unofficial second national anthem after the Six-Day War of 1967.

Naomi was born in Kvutzat Kinneret, a kibbutz her parents helped found on the Sea of Galilee. She performed her IDF service as part of the army’s entertainment troupe before studying music with many of Israel’s most prominent musicians in Tel Aviv and at Jerusalem’s Rubin Academy.

She began to compose and write songs by setting famous poems to music, including works by Israeli poet Rachel and the American legend Walt Whitman. She also translated popular songs from English to Hebrew, including the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

In 1967, she wrote the patriotic song “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold),” which became famous after being performed by Shuly Nathan (as seen in the above video). After Israel won the Six-Day War that year, reuniting Jerusalem’s Old City in the process, Shemer wrote another verse that celebrated the miraculous victory. The song has since become known as Israel’s unofficial second national anthem.

But that was not the only inspirational song by Shemer that the Jewish state embraced after war. The Beatles’ “Let It Be” inspired her to write a song of hope that Israel adopted after the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Naomi had two children, Lali and Ariel. She passed away from cancer in 2004 after a long and beloved career that included winning the Israel Prize for Hebrew song in 1983.

Tags: Israelis You Should Know Video

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