Meir Ariel: Jerusalem of Iron

Jerusalem of Iron” was written by Israeli singer-songwriter Meir Ariel following the Six Day War to the melody of Naomi Shemer’s famous “Jerusalem of Gold.” After taking part in the costly battles for Jerusalem as a reserve soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade, Ariel wrote these dark and cynical lyrics, provided below in English, which describe Jerusalem trampled by blood and war. Gaining immediate popularity in Israeli society, the song was not intended as a protest, but rather a solemn reminder of the high cost of reunifying the holy city in a time of hyper-patriotism and enthusiasm. The sad but beloved song did not replace or compete with Shemer’s original, but simply told the other side of the story, praised by the Israeli public and Shemer herself. See the Hebrew lyrics of the chorus below and the complete Hebrew lyrics here.

ירושלים של ברזל
ושל עופרת ושל שחור
הלא לחומותייך
קראנו דרור

Jerusalem of Iron

In your dark places, Jerusalem,
we found a loving heart
as we came to broaden your borders
and overthrow the enemy.
We had our fill of his mortars,
and dawn broke suddenly –
it had just risen, not yet white
and was already red.

Jerusalem of iron,
and of lead, and of blackness,
have we not declared your walls liberated?

The shelled battalion broke ahead,
all covered in blood and smoke,
and mother after mother
joined the hosts of the bereaved.
Biting its lips, fatigued,
the battalion kept fighting,
till the flag was finally replaced
above the museum.

Jerusalem of iron,
and of lead, and of blackness,
have we not declared your walls liberated?

The king’s battalions are scattered,
the sniper’s tower is silent
now the way is open to the Dead Sea
by the Jericho road.
Now the Temple Mount is open
and the Western Wall,
here you are in the light of dusk
almost all of you gold.

Jerusalem of iron,
and of lead, and of blackness,
have we not declared your walls liberated?

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