‘Jerusalem of Gold’ composer Naomi Shemer dies at age 74

19:25 26/06/2004 By Sagi Bin-Nun, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service and BPI. Songwriter Naomi Shemer, who wrote and composed the song „Jerusalem of Gold” („Yerushalayim Shel Zahav”), died Saturday morning aged 74, after a serious illness. She leaves behind a husband, a brother and a sister, two children and four grandchildren. Among the most prolific songwriters in Israel, Shemer was awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew song in 1987. The panel of judges said she received the award because „her songs are a wonderful fusion of lyrics and melody that express the people’s hidden feelings so completely.” Shemer was born in Kvutzat Kinneret in 1930 to parents Rivka and Amir, who were among the founders of the kibbutz. She will be laid to rest at the kibbutz at 6 P.M. Sunday.

Shemer’s connection to music began during her childhood, when she accompanied and hosted evenings of song on the kibbutz. She spent her army service in the military band. In 1955, Shemer left the kibbutz to study at the Jerusalem Academy of Music. She returned several years later to teach rhythm and compose children’s songs, among them „The Mail Has Arrived.” She wrote the song „The Eucalyptus Grove” in 1963 for a musical. In 1964, she set to music the poem „Kinneret,” written by the famous Israeli poetess Rachel. At that time, Shemer separated from her husband and traveled with her daughter to Paris. There, she wrote songs influenced by French, including „The City of Gray” and „Birds.” She wrote „Jerusalem of Gold,” her most famous song, in 1967 at the request of then-Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek. The song, which describes the capital city on the eve of the Six-Day War, was performed that year at the Israeli Song Festival by Shuli Natan. The song became the war’s anthem following the conquest of East Jerusalem and the Old City. „Lu Yehi,” another of her better-known songs, was written following the 1973 Yom Kippur War as an expression of public feeling and hope. Following the assassination of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Shemer set a Hebrew translation of Walt Whitman’s poem „O Captain! My Captain!” to music. Shemer, who also wrote numerous children’s songs, received an honorary doctorate degree from Tel Aviv University in 2001. Education and Culture Minister Limor Livnat said Saturday that with Shemer’s death, „The kingdom of Hebrew singers has lost its queen,” Livnat said. „Our generation is greatly honored by the life and works of Naomi Shemer,” the minister said. „She managed to weave the Zionist way of life into her songs and describe skillfully the establishment of the nation of Israel in its homeland.” BPI.