Neomi Shemer was Israel’s greatest poet and composer, and this Tuesday was eight years since she passed away from cancer, at 74. But even though she can no longer walk among us and spread her grace wherever she goes, her spirit still lives through her songs. Many poets have come and gone, some left a couple of memorable creations behind. This is right where Neomi Shemer stands out, and what I believe makes her so special- Her songs accompany Israelis for many years, and will continue to do so. To me, Shemer’s songs are my childhood, my adolescence, and my future. There’s not a day that goes by without me listening to one of her brilliant songs. What I feel about her creation, I believe every single Israeli feels as well, because Shemer’s songs are all of us. They are Israel.
Shemer sang Israel. There’s no other way to put it. She simply sang Israel, but not in the way most people see it. When you live somewhere, there’s no way to avoid thinking about all the bad things. We all tend to get cynical and critical when talking about the place we live in, but not Shemer. She took everything that’s beautiful in our Israel and got it to rhyme in a beautiful melody. She painted everything in bright colors- the scenery, the people, and even the world. When she wrote a song about Israelis, she named it: “Anashim Tovim” (“Good People”- free translation from Hebrew). The song about thr relationship between the nations of the world got the name: “Etzlenoo Bechatzer” (“in our yard”), and told the story of children of the world dancing and singing together. In “Al Kol Ele” (“All of this”), Shemer thanks the lord for all that was granted to her: The honey and the sting, the bitter and the sweet. Her most beautiful song, to my opinion, is “Hakol Patuach” (“Everything is Still Open”/ “Anything Can Happen”), and I believe it should be Israel’s new anthem. This songs is one big trip in Israel, from the northern Mount. Hermon, to the southern Eilat. This song describes all of Israel’s finest features in just four minutes, and also reveals Shemer’s attitude towards life in its glory.
Shemer’s contribution to Israel and to Israelis cannot be described with words. To understand, you just have to listen- both to the music and to the lyrics. Shemer captured Israel’s essence and released it for every Israeli- young and old- to enjoy. Her always optimistic songs make me smile, and sometimes even dance, but mainly to be happy. Her songs accompany us for many years, and will continue to do so, because they remind us why we chose to live here. Moreover, they show us that the world can be a bright place, where people are good- if we just open our eyes and look around .
Ofra Haza, the singer with the voice of an angel, performs one of Shemer’s most powerful songs: “Yerushalaim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”): “Jerusalem of Gold, and of copper and of light. To all your songs I am a violin…”
My personal favorite, “Hakol Patuach” (“Everything is still open”): “…And I thought to myself- everything is still possible, as long as we are here, singing”