Topic Question

What was the history of Naomi Shemer and what was the history of her music? How did these two histories affect each other?


I chose to do my project on Naomi Shemer because she made many important contributions to Israeli and Hebrew literature. I think that learning about her and the work that she did should be a central part of any literature curriculum taught to every Israeli student. In the course of my education I have learned about her, but I still chose to do this project about her because I felt that there was so much more that I could learn and appreciate about her.

History of Naomi Shemer

Naomi Shemer was one of Israel’s most important and prolific song writers and composers. Shemer wrote both words and lyrics to her own songs, composed music to words by others, and wrote Hebrew words to internationally known songs (for example: “Hey Jude” by the Beatles). Shemer was named the “First Lady of Israeli Song” and even though her published writing was always set to music, she was also considered a poet.

Shemer was born on July 13, 1930 and was raised in Kvutsat Kinneret, a kibbutz founded by her parents on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, overlooking the shores of the Jordan. She took piano lessons at an early age and in the 1950’s she served in the Israeli Defense Force’s Nahal entertainment troupe. After her service, she studied music at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem and then returned home to teach and write songs for preschool students.

In the year 1956, Shemer moved to Tel- Aviv and shortly after married her first husband, the actor Gideon Shemer, father of her daughter, Lali. A few years later, in the mid 1960’s, Shemer and her husband separated and she moved with her daughter to Paris. When she returned to Israel, she married the attorney Mordechai Horowitz, the father of her son, Daniel.

Shemer was laid to rest at Kibbutz Kinneret on June 26, 2004. She is survived by her husband, two children, four grandchildren, a brother and a sister.

To view picture of Naomi Shemers grave

History of Naomi Shemers music

Naomi Shemer has written numerous songs, many of which have become popular hits. She has composed many well- known children’s songs and she has also set poems to music, including works by Rachel and Nathan Alterman.

In 1957, Shemer wrote the words to the first show of the Batzal Yarok troupe. Among the songs she wrote for the troupe was Zamar Noded (Wandering Troubadour). The song, Hoopa Hey, which she wrote for the IDF Central Command troupe, won an international song contest in Italy in 1960. In 1963, she wrote Hurshat Haecalyptus (The Eucalyptus Grove) for a musical marking the jubilee of Kibbutz Kinneret, where she was born.

In 1967, Shemer was asked to compose a song for the Israel Song Festival. Though not itself part of the competition, the three stanzas of “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) became instantly popular. This was due to the fact that the Festival was held just before the 1967 Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, and so the song acquired a national significance that spoke to the country’s longing for Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. The song functioned as a second national anthem as it was broadcast frequently on the radio and sung by many. Following the war, Shemer composed a fourth stanza to the song, celebrating the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem and the road to Jericho. In 1968, an Israeli Member of Parliament presented a bill to the Knesset Speaker, nominating this song for the anthem of Israel. Even though the nomination was rejected, the incident shows the power of Shemer’s songs.
One of the songs that Shemer wrote about the Yom Kippur War, “Lu Yehi” (“Let it Be”), which began as a translation of the Beatles’ song, evolved into an independent hit.

Many of Shemer’s songs, which have been published in books of her music, were the most popular songs from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. For her immense contribution to Israeli music, Shemer was awarded the Israel Prize in 1983. The Israel Prize is the most prestigious award handed out by the State of Israel and is presented annually. The recipients are Israeli citizens (or sometimes organizations) who have displayed particular excellence in their field, or who have contributed strongly to Israeli culture, much like Naomi Shemer.

Notable songs-

  • “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold)- written and composed just before the Six Day War and later rewritten to describe the liberation of the Old City and the revival of united Jerusalem.
  • “On all these” also known as “The Sting and the Honey”-famous for the line “uproot not that which has been planted”, which is sometimes quoted in political contexts, originally by settlers in the Sinai.
  • “Lu Yehi”- a song meant to be the Hebrew version of the Beatles’ “Let it Be”.
  • “Ho Rav Chovel” (“O Captain My Captain”) - translated from the Walt Whitman poem, and set to a song after the death of Yitzchak Rabin.
  • “Od Lo Ahavti Dai” (“I Have Not Yet Loved Enough”).

Connection between Naomi Shemer’s history and her music

Many of Naomi Shemer’s songs recreate the landscape that was part of her youth and they reflect her love of the scenery of Israel. Shemer had an ability to listen to new tones and unexpected voices and her connection to her childhood gave many of her songs a sense of charm and innocence. Naomi Shemer had the ability, through her music, to express opposite concepts like war vs. peace, urban vs. rural settings, past vs. present, and ordinary vs. festive.

Sights in Israel (based on the song 'Jerusalem of Gold')

Mountain air clear as wine, and the scent of pines,
is carried on the breeze of twilight with the sound of bells.
And in the slumber of tree and stone captured in her dream
is the city that sits solitary, and in its midst is a wall.
Jerusalem of gold

And of copper and of light
Behold for all your songs
I am a violin.
How the water cisterns have dried; the market-place is empty
and no one frequents the Temple Mount in the Ancient City

And in the caves in the rocks the
winds howl
And no one descends to the Dead Sea

by way of Jericho.

Yet As I come
today to sing to you, and to adorn you with crowns
I am not as worthy as your youngest child, or as the last one of the poets
for your name scorches the lips like the kiss of a seraph
if I forget thee, Jerusalem, which is all gold...

//To hear the song 'Jerusalem of Gold'//


I have learned, as a result of my research to answer my main topic question, that a person’s past and his \ her roots have a large impact on different aspects of that person’s life and on the decisions that that person makes in her life.

I think that I answered my question and that I was able to learn not only about Naomi Shemer’s life, but also about the impact her music has had even after her death. Songs that Shemer wrote more that 20 years ago are still considered to be an important part of the history of Israeli literature.

I think that Naomi Shemer is an important figure in the history of literature and music in Israeli culture. I feel enriched by the knowledge I have gained and my appreciation of her and her contributions has grown.


"Israel Prize." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 6 April 2007. 25 Apr 2007

"Naomi Shemer." The Jewish Virtual Library. 2007. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 11 Apr 2007 <>.

"Naomi Shemer." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 12 March 2007. 25 Apr 2007

"Passing of our national songwriter." Israel Insider. 2005. 25 Apr 2007 <>.

*Pictures taken from using the following keywords: Naomi Shemer, Jerusalem of gold, Temple Mount, Dead Sea, and Jericho.*