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Created by Jewish Christians in the Adventist faith

Created by Jewish Christians in the Adventist faith


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They Used to Live Together

Jerusalem of Gold

Written by: Erin Parfet

Yet on a more spiritually profound level, the song encapsulates the longing of the Jewish people to worship with the One True God along the streets of gold in Heaven and the Eternal Jerusalem. When John saw New Jerusalem, "the city was pure gold, like clear glass" (Revelation 21:18), and furthermore, "the streets of the city were pure gold, like transparent glass" (Revelation 21:21). The golden aura of Jerusalem on earth may be a partial foreshadowing of the golden aura that will shimmer throughout all of Heaven when the time comes that believers are reunited with their Messiah for eternity.

Jerusalem of Gold was written by Israeli musician and songwriter Naomi Shemer, and officially premiered at Israel’s Music Festival of 1967, which took place the day after the 19th Independence Day celebrations and in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War. The music festival was not a competition per se but simply an event commissioned by Teddy Kollek, then Mayor of Jerusalem, seeking musical compositions commemorating Jerusalem at a time when there really were no such songs in existence, and the city was desperately seeking hope and inspiration amidst the Jordanian sniper fire and ravages of war.

Shemer, despite her experience in the Israeli Defense Force entertainment troupe, originally was reluctant to submit any compositions to the event. She felt inspired to contribute something, did not want to rush her creativity or inspiration; she essentially did not want to feel pressured to submit a musical composition prematurely, so she took her time with the process.

However, she did end up submitting a piece despite her early reluctance. Jerusalem of Gold was, of all things, inspired by Pello Joxepe, a Basque lullaby. The Basque region is located in northern Spain, spanning from the Bay of Biscay to the Pyrenees Mountains. Shemer was in attendance at an event where she heard a rendition of the lullaby performed by Paco Ibáñez, a Spanish singer-songwriter who toured Israel in 1962. The melody and harmony of Ibáñez’s rendition stuck in her head and unconsciously influenced her writing of Jerusalem of Gold. She felt convicted over time that she may have plagiarized Ibáñez’s work and reached out to him for his opinion on the matter. Ibáñez reassured Shemer that he was not angry, did not consider Jerusalem of Gold to be plagiarism, and that he was "glad it helped in some way."

Video by: Israel Police - משטרת ישראל

Despite Israel’s independence as a sovereign state in 1948, the recent Six Day War had left Israel devastated and the Old City subject to occupation by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jewish people were unable to enter the Old City and East Jerusalem. Shemer personally sang Jerusalem of Gold for the Israeli Defense Forces prior to the war and the official debut at the music festival to help boost the troops’ morale, and this was considered the first time the song had ever been sung in the world despite the more private setting. Meanwhile, when the actual music festival rolled around, a relatively unknown 19-year-old named Shuli Nathan performed Shemer’s song at the festival, the first public debut of the piece, where it became an instant hit and undeniably the most popular of Shemer’s musical works.

Once Israeli Defense Force paratroopers liberated the Old City from their plight under Jordanian rule, for the first time since 1948, the Jewish people were able to approach and pray at the Western Wall, undeniably the holiest place of worship for the Jewish people. At the Western Wall, the Jewish people cried, prayed, and sang Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.

When Shemer became aware of the fact that her song had a place in the hearts of the Jewish people at this historical moment, coupled with the inspiration of the shofar blasts from the Temple Mount marking Jerusalem’s independence, she wrote an additional verse to be added to her original composition to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem.

Today, the song has exponentially increased in popularity and can be heard on the radio, in the public square, around campfires, and in some religious settings. The piece resonated so deeply with the Jewish people that Knesset Member Uri Avneri proposed legislation that would make Jerusalem of Gold the official national anthem of Israel. However, the legislation did not pass, and so the piece remains the unofficial anthem of Israel. Shemer died on June 26, 2004, at the age of 74.

The song has since been translated into numerous languages besides Hebrew and performed by numerous artists around the world. Jerusalem of Gold has also been incorporated into the movie Schindler’s List because of its prominent place in Jewish culture. Some Jewish people believe the use of this song is seriously problematic and misguided, as the song reflects the triumphant liberation from Jordanian rule during the Six Day War and has nothing to do with the horrors of the Holocaust, thus preferring a different soundtrack be used in the movie.

Jerusalem of Gold also references both scripture and the Talmud. "The city that sits solidary" in the second stanza references Lamentations 1:1. "If I forget thee, Jerusalem” refers to the 137th Psalm. "Like the kiss of a Seraph" is a reference to Isaiah 6. As for the Talmud, "and to adorn crowns to you" refers to the adorning of crowns in the Talmud, which is an illustration of multiple concepts, including Sandalphon’s service to God.

Interestingly, gold is referenced numerous times in the Bible, despite not being naturally found in Israel, which is more than any other metal (or even reference to money or currency) referenced in scripture. Depending on the circumstances, though, gold could either be a blessing or a curse. 

References to gold in the Bible in a positive light range from gold (and silver) jewelry offered to Rebekah in Genesis 24 to a golden chain offered to Joseph by Pharaoh in Genesis 41:39–44. 

Yet, gold is not always a blessing, as is contrasted with the golden calf incident. 

Abraham was blessed with wealth in livestock, gold, and silver, as depicted in Genesis 13, and each year Solomon received about 25 tons of gold, as depicted in 1 Kings 10. 

Once again, in contrast, all that shimmers is not gold. Deuteronomy 17:17 warns kings against not only acquiring too many wives but also not amassing personal fortunes in gold and silver, for the Lord is privy to the destruction that earthly riches can create. 

Meanwhile, the New Jerusalem is spoken of in Revelation in terms of streets of gold; yet James 5:3 speaks of gold corroding; 1 Peter 1:7 declares faith as the victory, not gold or wealth or bank accounts as the victory of our walks with Yeshua or time on earth; and 1 Peter 1:18 compares gold to corruptible things.

So often, God uses money, whether it be gold or other currencies, to test the faithfulness of His children. Will they tithe or not? Will they use God’s blessings of financial resources for life or for death, for good or for evil, to uplift the poor and needy, or to hoard for themselves and their own carnal desires? God refines the hearts of His children like gold (Proverbs 17:3, Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3; Job 23:10).

And yet, the Bible also outlines for us things that God finds to be more valuable than a shiny yellow rock of eternal insignificance: a good name (Proverbs 22:1), wisdom (Job 28), and God’s law, or the Torah (Psalms 119:72).

Furthermore, we know that in the end times, gold, silver, our doomsday preparations, and other earthly treasures will rot and be of no use, and that only our treasures in Heaven will remain. The dollar will collapse under endless money printing, global geopolitics, and greed; the other fiat currencies of our world will collapse; and gold and silver will not save us as an alternative means of storing our financial treasures through the storms of the Last Days, for scripture is clear on this point. Our eyes are to remain on Yeshua and the streets of gold in the New Jerusalem, which does not rust, perish, corrupt, rot, testify against you, or get eaten by moths - not earthly treasure or even Jerusalem on earth.

For as the Psalmist once wrote, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Psalms 137:5–6). We are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and we can marvel in the historical beauty of God’s handiwork in Jerusalem as the sunlight hits those ancient stone walls. But we should not exalt Jerusalem in her golden splendor, worldly gold, or other resources above the reverence that should be squarely devoted to God’s laws, mercy, and grace, Yeshua our Messiah, and the Eternal Jerusalem - our chief joy.