Translation of “Jerusalem of Gold” into Esperanto, 1967
These are the lyrics of Naomi Shemer’s famous song, “Jerusalem of Gold,” translated into Esperanto by Josef Murjan in Tel Aviv in September 1967. Murjan also attached a list of the various grammar and spelling rules that were needed in order to translate the song.
At the beginning of 1967, Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem, commissioned a song about Jerusalem from the famous songwriter Naomi Shemer. This song, "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold), was written for the Israel Song Festival and became one of the most famous Israeli songs ever. Written during the Jordanian occupation of the Old City, at a time when Jews could not enter the Old City and worship at their holy places, it describes the longings of the Jewish people for Jerusalem.
The song also includes hints to both the Talmudic story of Rabbi Akiva who created a jewel named "Jerusalem of Gold" for his wife and to a poem about Jerusalem written in the Middle Ages by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi.
Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" was performed by the young singer Shuli Nathan at the Israel Song Festival in May 1967 and became an overnight success. Less than a month later, the Six Day War broke out and on the 7 June, 1967 the Israel Defense Forces captured the Old City, enabling the Jewish people to return to their holy places. Naomi Shemer’s new song about Jerusalem became the unofficial anthem of the Jewish people the world over. However, the song, written as a lament for the abandoned city, was no longer relevant, so Naomi Shemer added a final verse which countered the mournful second verse:
Naomi Shemer's personal archive is housed in the Music Department of the National Library of Israel. In addition to the original words and musical score of the song, many other related documents can be found including letters and translations of the song into many languages, including this one.
Esperanto, meaning “one who hopes,” is an artificial language created by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887. Zamenhof, who first published his work under the pseudonym Dr. Esperanto, created the language as a universal language, free of national, religious, or political biases, that could unite people all over the world. Esperanto was also supposed to be an easy language to learn. While it never became the official universal language that Zamenhof envisioned, it is still the most successful constructed language, spoken by approximately two million people.
Zamenhof was a Jewish physician from Bialystock, then Russia, now Poland. He grew up surrounded by a number of languages, including Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, and German. After experiencing anti-Semitism and discrimination, he decided that a neutral language could solve many of the world’s problems and encourage world peace and set about creating one while he was still in school. Zamenhof also attempted, in vain, to establish a new religion, Hillelism, based on the teachings of Hillel the Elder. Zamenhof died in 1917 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, where his grave still stands today.
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Reading Between the Lines
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What is Esperanto? Read more here
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This document shows that the words of Naomi Shemer’s song “Jerusalem of Gold” were translated into Esperanto.
The Naomi Shemer archive at the NLI includes many translations of the song.
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L.L. Zamenhof created Esperanto in 1887.
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