I’m Late, I’m Late, I’m Late for an Important Date
by: Schvach Yid
My apology is extended to Mr. Lewis Carroll for thieving his line, but I missed blogging in time for Yom Yerushalayim. It’s not that I forgot – no way – but I couldn’t get to a computer. So what can I possibly say, ‘Go ask Alice’?
So with my great regret, here is my belated Yom Yerushalayim post. It’s about Naomi Shemer, the composer of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav – Jerusalem of Gold, the almost national anthem of the Jewish State of Israel. She wrote this ditty of a Jewish folk masterpiece on the eve of the Six Day War. As I’ve written before, Shemer was Israel’s Churchill of the Six Day War. She provided the spiritual catalyst that sped Jewish youth into battle to win Jewish repatriation with the Jewish City of Jerusalem; to win Jerusalem back from those who detest us. Our city of gold, the city of King David, perched atop Mt. Zion, our geographic aron kodesh above which hovers the Holy Shechinah.
In tribute to Naomi Shemer, who died in June 2004, I offer these renditions of her masterpiece. The first is performed by a young Shuly Natan who is the singer who gave the first public performance of Jerusalem of Gold just prior to the onset of the June ’67 war; however, shortly before that, the composer was interviewed by David Ben Gurion, during which Shemer auditioned the piece. The interview was audio taped and played on Israeli radio years later, sometime in the mid 1980’s, while I was visiting Israel. This, in fact, might be the first ‘public’ performance of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.
The second video is of a Russian men’s chorus performing the piece a cappella. For those who may be critical of Russian Jewish immigration to Israel, this rendition may provide food for second thought. They absolutely slay the men’s pilgrims’ chorus from Tannhauser (not Jewish in the extreme), although they do sing ‘Halleluyah’ (very Jewish).
The third is a clip from Shindler’s List (did you know that the original title of Thomas Keneally’s book was Shindler’s Ark?). When I first saw the movie, the Shemer song didn’t just bring tears to my eyes; my tears literally shot out – projectile lacrimation! This was only the second time in my life I’ve wept at a movie; I won’t mention the first flick – it’s too embarrassing (okay, okay, it was the conclusion of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; what can I say?).
I’m an absolute chauvinist about Judaism and my Jewish identity, and an absolute sucker for Jewish bravura.
Talk about absolute, the absolute best biography I’ve ever read was about Naomi Shemer, written by my number one journalistic writer, Jonathan Mark of The New York Jewish Week. His biography of Shemer was written for that paper’s May 31 1996 edition; regrettably, I can’t find it online and so I can’t post a link, although I saved the article as a clipping.
I first heard Yerushalayim Shel Zahav on the El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, on the plane’s overhead, as the plane descended on its final approach. It was perfect propaganda – I loved it, and still do.
Why are we in Jerusalem? Because it’s ours, and has been from the very start, and we don’t owe anyone an explanation concerning the matter.
Here they are: