Naomi Shemer, 74; Wrote Unofficial Israeli National Anthem

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Naomi Shemer, 74, one of Israel’s most prolific songwriters and best known for “Jerusalem of Gold,” died Saturday in Jerusalem following a long illness.

Born on Kibbutz Kinneret, a communal farm on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Shemer wrote many songs about the country’s beauty.

Her emotional ballad “Jerusalem of Gold” describes the nation’s attachment and yearning for the Old City in Jerusalem, which contains Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall.

The song was written just before Israel captured the area and unified the ancient city in the 1967 Six-Day War.


Shemer’s song quickly became an anthem of the military victory. Her song still serves as an unofficial Israeli national anthem.

Shemer often turned to foreign poetry as inspiration for Hebrew songs.

After Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995, she translated and set to music “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and dedicated it to Rabin.