Born in London, Shuli Natan was an infant when her parents Yehoshua Bronfreund and Chava Natan (daughter of the famous tenor Avraham Natan) made Aliyah to Israel. She grew up in Ramat Gan; at the age of 16, she began playing guitar and singing, shortening her given name ‘Miriam Shulamit’ to Shuli and taking on her mother’s family name ‘Natan’.
Shuli, why did Naomi Shemer choose you to sing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’?
“The daughter of Naomi Shemer, Haleli, heard me sing in a talent show called ‘First Applauses’. She called her mother and said to her: ‘Mom, listen to this signer.’ And then Naomi said to her daughter (or so they tell me), ‘Write her name on a piece of paper and put it in our secret drawer. One day we will need it.’ I didn’t know any of this until Naomi called me.
It was the winter of 1967, and the Jerusalem municipality was preparing for a song festival in Jerusalem’s Convention Center. The mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kolek, wanted there to be a song tribute to Jerusalem, and was told that there aren’t many songs about Jerusalem. His response? “So let them write more songs about Jerusalem.” Naomi Shemer was then asked to write a song, and it was then that ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ was born.
How did you feel when you sang this song? What did you feel about what you were singing, before the Six Day War?
“I was terrified. My entire life, I had never stood in front of two thousand people and performed. I was at once terrified and excited. That’s what I remember.”
There are those who find the song prophetic, foretelling the events of the Six Day War.
“See, poets and songwriters have a sixth sense that’s more developed, and one can say that Naomi Shemer certainly has had that sixth sense on many occasions.”
Can you think of a concert you’ve given, in which you have’t sung this song?
“Nowhere. Every place I come to, people always want to hear this song, from the original singer. They don’t give up.”
You surely know that this song has inspired thousands of Jews to return to their homeland?
“Yes, I know…I’ve spoken with Russian olim who tell me that in difficult times, it inspired them, strengthened their spirit. Many have told me that the song itself convinced them to make Aliyah to Israel. Of course, this song was only the tipping point. I perform a lot throughout the year, across all the world’s stages. Now, I returned from Sri Lanka and the United States.”
You know, Shuli, I see many Jews throughout the world, in Eastern Europe, in the West, who sing this song without ever having been in Jerusalem. I’ve heard it sung in Moldova, Russia, Ukraine…
“It’s amazing that there are Jews still there…perhaps this song will inspire them to come home.”