The city that sits alone, with a wall in its heart
May 21, 2009 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Mountain air, clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Brought by the twilight breeze
With the sound of bells
Shortly before the Six Day War of 1967 an amateur singer performed [YT] an elegy for the then-divided city of Jerusalem "locked in a dream ... with a wall in its heart".

Yerushalayim Shel Zahav [YT], Jerusalem of Gold, became Israel's best-loved song. It was sung by the first Jews to re-enter Jerusalem after the Jordanian occupation and its author added a new stanza commemorating the fact that Jews had "returned to the wells, the market and the squares."

The melody is based on a Basque lullaby [YT] sung here by Pello Joxepe.
posted by Joe in Australia (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's a beautiful song; I had no idea about the Basque origins, though it makes sense from the chord progressions and melody. Thanks for the post.
posted by palliser at 4:33 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's a shame that beauty didn't set the tone for the future.
posted by gman at 5:01 AM on May 21, 2009

Argh. The song is Pello Jozepe, and it is sung by Paco IbaƱez. I had it right originally, I have no idea how I messed it up in editing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:12 AM on May 21, 2009

Legend has it that the first time this hauntingly beuatiful song was sung to Israeli audiences, everyone wanted to hear it again. When Nathan played it for the second time, the audience already knew the entire song by heart, singing along with her completely.
posted by milestogo at 5:44 AM on May 21, 2009

YSZ is a lovely song.

At the end of "Schindler's List," this song plays during the next-to-final scene, (sorry, German subtitles) as the newly liberated concentration camp inmates walked their first steps in freedom across a field, and then as the camera shows the execution of the camp commander. The song is so beautiful and evocative, even if you don't know Hebrew, but it seemed an incongruous choice, to say the least. Incongruous enough that it didn't seem to have been chosen on aesthetic grounds alone. I couldn't decide whether it was merely historical ignorance, and that the people behind the movie thought this was somehow a traditional Jewish folk song, or if it was part of a deliberate Zionist message associating the Holocaust with the founding of the State of Israel and the victory of the '67 war.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:18 AM on May 21, 2009

According to Wikipedia they played a different song(*) at the end of the Israeli version of Schindler's List because the Israeli audience could understand the lyrics and they thought the choice of music was incongruous. So I suspect YSZ was chosen (for the global release) because it's relatively upbeat; it's in Hebrew; and the music director would have heard of it. The song they played in Israel (Eli, Eli; by Hannah Szenes) would have been a much more appropriate choice IMO.

(*) Lyrics to Eli, Eli:
My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
Lightning of the Heavens,
The prayer of Man.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:30 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

The song they played in Israel (Eli, Eli; by Hannah Szenes) would have been a much more appropriate choice IMO.

Very interesting -- also a lovely song. Szenes was a member of the resistance and was murdered by the Nazis, so given her biography it's a far more fitting choice.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:35 AM on May 21, 2009

Yes, it works for a whole lot of reasons. Anyway, if it had been an attempt at manipulation you would think that Israelis would have been the prime target. Instead, anyone who knew what the song was found it incongruous and a bit off-putting. I think it was just cluelessness, like playing The Star Spangled Banner to signify patriotism! at the end of a movie set during the USA Revolution.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 PM on May 21, 2009

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