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Iyar 27, 5769, 5/21/2009
Now a mother and housewife, I caught up with Mrs. Nathan by phone in between her picking up her children from summer camp. For more information visit her web site at shuly-nathan.co.il. Her name is alternatively spelled Shuli Natan or various other combinations. Also check out JerusalemOfGold.co.il.
Israel Beat: Why don't you just tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
Shuly Nathan: I am the singer who first sang the original version of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav on Independence Day, 1967 at a song festival. And the song has become like a prophesy and the hymn of the Six Day War and one of the most beloved songs in Israel until this day.
Israel Beat:Did you know that was going to happen that day?
Shuly Nathan: No, no. I felt that I had a treasure in my hand, as a song, but I could never imagine that it could take such root. That it would become almost like a hymn.
Israel Beat: And they just found you and put you up on stage?
Shuly Nathan: Well, Nomi [Naomi] Shemer chose me to sing this song. Teddy Kollek [the mayor of Jerusalem] asked for songs for Jerusalem for the festival. Outside of the contest, Nomi had been asked to write a song and she wrote Jersualem of Gold. And then when they asked who would like to perform this song, she said, "I heard a young girl singing not long ago in an amateur program and I would like her to sing the song." So first they objected and said this girl, her name is Shuly Nathan, she is a soldier and she is an amateur singer and they don't use amateur on that festival. And Nomi said, "If you don't let her sing that song, I am not going to submit the song." That is how my fate went.
Israel Beat: So you've worked with her this entire time?
Shuly Nathan: Yes. I worked with her in the winter that was before January and February, before the festival. The festival was in April. And I got to know her. We worked plenty on the song. Although she gave me quite a lot of freedom, she insisted on the harmonies and the general frame of the song but she gave me quite a lot of freedom to make my own interpretation.
Israel Beat: So that performance was actually before the war?
Shuly Nathan: It was before the war. It was two and a half weeks before the war. The next day they started to call the Miluim [reserve duty soldiers]. Two and a half weeks later, the city was free. General Motta Gur said "Har Habayit is in our hands", and all the paratroopers that were there were yelling and shouting "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav!" It became like a hymn.
Israel Beat: What are you doing now? You're now releasing new albums, right?
Shuly Nathan: I made about six albums in the first part of my career, long-plays, between '67 and '75. Then I got married and had five children and I stopped for ten years. My second career started when my youngest son was two, and it lasts 'til now. I released four CDs. Amongst them, one of Shlomo Carlebach which I released about two years ago. And I'm going on and I'm very, very busy. Singing in Israel and around the world as well.
Israel Beat: Do people recognize your name? Do they know you?
Shuly Nathan: Most people do. They young people, they know, if you tell them, I'm the original singer of Jerusalem of Gold. So everybody knows Jerusalem of Gold.
Israel Beat: Did you work with Naomi Shemer this entire time?
Shuly Nathan: I worked with her later. We released another LP. Shuly Nathan Sings Naomi Shemer Songs. That was in 1974. We were always in touch with her and with her family -- her husband and her children. We were very found of each other.
Israel Beat: Have you been all over the world touring?
Shuly Nathan: I've been, yes. All through the years, yes.
Israel Beat: What have the reactions been?
Shuly Nathan: It's always very exciting. When they hear Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, people cry. They get very excited.
Israel Beat: How did you learn how to sing?
Shuly Nathan: I started to play the guitar and that made me start singing when I was sixteen.
Israel Beat: Do you have any CDs coming out now?
Shuly Nathan: I am working. I am starting one now that will be more ethnic music. Ladino songs, Italian, Moroccan, Jewish. Maybe some songs from around the world.
Israel Beat: Are there any Jerusalem of Gold type songs now?
Shuly Nathan: Not that I know. There isn't anything like it. Because it's not a normal song. So it's really something once in a decade.
Israel Beat: Do you have any advice for people for people who want to write a great song such as that?
Shuly Nathan: It's not something that you can do with intention. I don't think she did it with intention in her mind. She just went to Jerusalem, walked in the streets of Jerusalem, wrote about the sadness of us not being able to reach The Wall and the holy places and she was inspired. She certainly was inspired.
Ben Bresky interviews Shuly Nathan