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Jerusalem of tunnels

by ben July 26 2011
Municipal newsCity planning

shemer tunnel jerusalemite july11.jpg

You can get there from here

This Thursday morning, the Moriah construction concern and the Jerusalem city government are scheduled to collectively host a ceremony to mark the official naming of the Mount Scopus tunnel after Israel's "first lady of song," Naomi Shemer.

Shemer, who lived from the pre-state age through the age of post-Zionism's rise (1930 to 2004), penned classic Israeli songbook anthems like "Lu Yehi" and "Al Kol Eleh."

In 1966, as the regional tensions prior to the Six Day War began to reach a fever pitch, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek personally pleaded Shemer to write an ode to the Holy City. The result, "Jerusalem of Gold," is arguably the most beloved of all Israeli folk songs.

Ultimately, "Jerusalem of Gold" is far more than a staggering piece of songwriting. It's also inspiration for horrible headline punnery ("Jerusalem of tunnels?" Oy. Remember the wince-inducing "Jerusalem of celluloid," "Jerusalem of prose," or "Jerusalem of green"?), as well as being maybe - just maybe - evidence of urban planning prophecy.

Reflecting on the Israelites' (temporary, in retrospect) longing for a reunited Jerusalem, the song even includes this couplet, which, rhyming in Hebrew, addresses the travel inefficiency disadvantages of Jordanian control over eastern Judea:

And in the tunnels in the mountain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho

A few months after the song was written, among a few other changes that took place, it became possible for Shemer and friends to visit the Dead Sea via the Jerusalem-Jericho route. And in recent years, this road has become even faster, thanks to its circumventing of Jericho altogether, the addition of lanes and the digging of a tunnel which allows travelers to bypass the congestion atop Mount Scopus on the way out of town.

Ignoring the arguments of those who tend to read too much into symbolism, if there were ever a tunnel more deserving of Shemer's name, Jerusalemite defies readers to name it. There sure are loads of other options (like this one, or this one), but this tunnel has her name all over it.

Photo courtesy of the Jerusalem Municipality.

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