In 1968, an up-and-coming left-wing politician by the name of Uri Avnery suggested replacing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.” His proposal was surprising, given the fact that the would-be replacement was the unequivocal anthem of the Six-Day War, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.”
While Avnery’s motion never made it to the Knesset floor, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold) has indeed become an anthem of sorts. It is probably the most recognizable and beloved Israeli tune ever, and is repeatedly voted the most important song in the country’s history.
In today’s episode, host Mishy Harman tells the story of an iconic song that built the musical careers of two modern-day Israeli prophets—one a prophet of hope and optimism, the other a prophet of gloom and despair. Even today, more than half-a-century after June 1967, Naomi Shemer and Meir Ariel represent two different Israels: There’s the idealized one that hopes and yearns, and the realist one that says “no, things in these parts are tough and painful.” This isn’t exactly right or left, but rather a statement about who we want to be— pragmatists or dreamers.
The original music in this miniseries (including the cover versions of “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” and “Yerushalayim Shel Barzel”) was composed, arranged, and performed by the Mixtape Band, led by Ari Wenig and Dotan Moshanov, together with Ruth Danon, Eden Djamchid, and Ronnie Wagner-Schmidt. The final song is a recording of Shuly Natan’s original rendition of the song, at Festival Ha’Zemer Ve’Ha’Pizmon in Jerusalem in May 1967. The episode was recorded by Adrian Lau at the Off Record Studios in New York, and mixed by Sela Waisblum. It is based on Israel Story’s latest live show tour, “Mixtape.” Thanks to Laura and Mark Solomon, Pamela Lavitt, Dana Pruchno, Lori Ceyhun, Michael Garnett, and Daniel Vital from the Seattle JCC, and to Elaine Cohen, Eric Segal, and Esther Mazor at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, New Jersey.