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In Celebration of Jerusalem Day

Yom Yerushalayim — Jerusalem Day — commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War. It is celebrated on the 28th day of Iyar, which begins this year on Thursday evening, May 21. An Israeli national holiday, it is celebrated in the Jewish state with ceremonies and memorial services.

Naomi Shemer wrote “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” — “Jerusalem of Gold”  — for the Israeli Song Festival, held on May 15, 1967, following Israel’s 19th Yom Ha’atzmaut —Independence Day. The lyrics weave together biblical references as well as traditional Jewish poetry and themes, dealing with exile and longing for Jerusalem.

At the time the song was written, the Old City of Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. Jews were banned from the Old City and the rest of Jerusalem to the east, losing their homes and possessions. Under the Jordanian occupation, many Jewish holy sites — including the Kotel — were desecrated and damaged during.

On June 5th, only three weeks after the song was published, the Six-Day War began. On the third day of the war  — June 7, 1967 — when IDF Paratroopers gained captured the Temple Mount, the song “Jerusalem of Gold” burst from their lips. 

This performance of “Jerusalem of Gold” by the women of the Zamir Chorale of Boston includes and analysis and backstory of this beautiful and meaningful song. Arrangement by Yehezkel Braun, with a solo performance by Maayan Harel. Concert video recording by Larry Sandberg.

Main Photo: A group of IDF soldiers surrounds then-IDF chief rabbi Shlomo Goren as he blows a shofar at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 7, 1967.

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