Naomi Shemer

Composer and songwriter best known for 'Jerusalem of Gold'

Naomi Shemer wrote the kind of songs Israelis wanted to hear: warm, patriotic, nostalgic, rooted in childhood memories and an idealised biblical landscape.



Naomi Sapir, composer and songwriter: born Kibbutz Kinneret, Palestine 1930; married first Gideon Shemer (one daughter; marriage dissolved), second Mordechai Horowitz (one son); died Tel Aviv 26 June 2004.



Naomi Shemer wrote the kind of songs Israelis wanted to hear: warm, patriotic, nostalgic, rooted in childhood memories and an idealised biblical landscape.

Soldiers were comrades, never oppressors. The land "belonged" to the Jews. In a verse she added to her "Jerusalem of Gold" after the 1967 war, she wrote: "The market square is empty." Critics pointed out that it was not empty at all, just full of Arabs. But her talent, as composer, lyricist and occasional performer, was never disputed.

Even the singer Hava Alberstein, who disagreed with her politics, eulogised her as "an artist at the level of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen". Another popular songwriter, Ehud Manor, said this week:

She is the single most important figure in the history of Israeli music. There were a few titans, but they were all either composers or poets. She was the first to marry words and music with such power, and she did it to perfection.

She was born Naomi Sapir in 1930 in Kibbutz Kinneret on the south-western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Her parents were among the community's founders. She did her military service in the army entertainment troupe, the cradle of Israeli show business. In 1955 she left for Jerusalem to study music at the Rubin Academy, settling afterwards in Tel Aviv.

At first she was a jobbing lyricist, writing the words for other people's musicals. One such show starred the young Haim Topol. On a return visit to Kinneret in 1963, she wrote one of her first hits, "The Eucalyptus Grove". At her request, it was one of four songs sung at her funeral in the kibbutz cemetery. Another was "My Kinneret", her setting to a poem by Rachel Bluwstein, Israel's most enduringly popular poet and a contemporary of her parents, who is buried close by.

But Shemer won a wider, international audience with "Jerusalem of Gold", which was commissioned by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, for a song contest just before the Six Day War. What began as a nostalgia trip for Israelis barred from the Old City became the anthem of a triumphant return.

Chastened Israelis embraced another of her songs, "Lu Yehi", inspired by the Beatles' "Let It Be", in the soul-searching wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Later in that decade, Shemer supported the Gush Emunim settlement movement, which she celebrated as a continuation of the pioneering spirit that had moved her parents' generation. The settlers adopted her composition "Do Not Uproot What Has Been Planted" as a battle hymn, though its tune and lyrics were so catchy that its appeal spread far beyond the expansionist right.

After the evacuation of Yamit and other settlements from Sinai under the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, she lost her appetite for the struggle. "We have relinquished our flagship - the commandment to settle the land," she said.

In 1996, on the first anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, she translated Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain" (written after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln) and set it to music. Rabin was murdered by an unreconstructed "Greater Israel" fanatic for ceding land to the Palestinians.

In 1983 Naomi Shemer was awarded the Israel Prize for her contribution to music.

Eric Silver

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
i100
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Voices
The number of children in relative income poverty is currently 2.3 million in the UK
voices

Environment
A Brazilian wandering spider
natureIt's worth knowing for next time one appears in your bananas
Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past