(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Yaakov Saar/Government Press Office)
Naomi Shemer: “I Grew Up in her Light”
BY SIVAN RAHAV-MEIR
The 7th of Tammuz is the anniversary of the passing of one of Israel’s most well-known songwriters, Naomi Shemer. 19 years have passed since the woman who wrote Yerushalayim shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold), Lu Yehi (If Only), Lo Tinatzchu Oti (You Will Not Defeat Me), and many other memorable songs passed away. I spoke to her son, Ariel Horowitz, and asked him if there was a story that had not yet been published about his mother. He immediately told me the following story:
“My mother felt compelled to answer every letter sent to her, and she received quite a lot of them. These were the days before email when you had to sit with paper and pen and actually write. Furthermore, she was not just some celebrity cut off from the public; the opposite was true.
I remember there was a mother who was sitting shiva over the passing of her son who fell while serving in the IDF. He was not the first son of hers to have given his life for his country. Mother took a sheet of paper and wrote at the top of the page, “I have no words” and, at the bottom, signed her name, “Naomi Shemer.”
In the hospital, two days before her death, my mother suddenly said to me: ‘Ariel, there is a problem.’ I asked what the problem was and she said: ‘I received a letter from fourth graders and I cannot respond. I ask that you locate their teacher, contact her, and request that she tell the children that I apologize, that I am very ill and therefore cannot answer them. I also ask that they not send wishes for my recovery, because I will not be able to answer those messages either. Tell them that if they bless me in their hearts, I will feel those blessings in mine.’”
I asked Horowitz, a singer and composer himself, what it was like to grow up in the shadow of such a prominent songwriter. Correcting me, he said: “I did not grow up in her shadow. I grew up in her light.”
• Translated by Yehoshua Siskin
Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Yedidya, and their five children, and serves as World Mizrachi’s Scholar-in-Residence. She is a primetime anchor on Channel 2 News, has a column in Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Acharonot, and has a weekly radio show on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio).