Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ofra Haza: Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (1998)

The Spiritual Heart

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.”
Psalm 137: 5-6

אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי:
תִּדְבַּק לְשׁוֹנִי | לְחִכִּי אִם לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי אִם לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי:
Tehillim 137: 5-6




Ofra Haza performs Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (“Jerusalem of Gold,” ירושלים של זהב‎) on Mount Scopus; Naomi Shemer [1930-2004] composed this beautiful song in 1967. The song is considered by many as Israel’s unofficial national anthem, since the city is the spiritual heart of the nation, both historically and currently.

Ofra Haza [1957-2000], the Israeli-born singer of international fame, has been described as a mezzo-soprano of near-perfect tonality, which is clear in this heartfelt performance of the song at Pa’amonei Hayovel (“Bells of the Jubilee”), Israel’s 50th anniversary Independence Day celebration in 1998.

Haza’s story as a singer and what she represents to Israelis is poetically summed up here in The Jerusalem Post tribute to her in 2000: “Raised as the youngest of nine children to a traditional Yemenite family in the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv, Haza's fairy-tale climb to fame and fortune has become the stuff of local legend.”

Ofra Haza died of Aids-related pneumonia on February 23, 2000. She was 42. Her beautifully inspiring voice, ringing clearly like a bell, will be missed.