Yerushalayim shel Zahav


Yerushalayim shel Zahav


It’s good to be here again.


Coming up the steep road from Jericho (820 feet below sea level), I always remember how, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, “a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30).  And how, at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Lehi and his family go down from Jerusalem (roughly 2577 feet above sea level) into the wilderness, and Lehi sends his sons back up to the city, and then, having accomplished their fearful but essential task, they return down to their father in the wilderness.


More than that, though, the first view of Jerusalem that one has after emerging from the tunnel near the Hebrew University — of the BYU Jerusalem Center, the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, and so forth — remains stirring to me even after all these years.


For a performance of the beautiful Hebrew song “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”) by the late Ofra Haza, see here.

The mountain air is clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Is carried on the breeze of twilight
With the sound of bells.
And in the slumber of tree and stone,
Captured in her dream
The city that sits solitary,
And in its midst is a wall.
Jerusalem of gold,
And of bronze, and of light.
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.
How the cisterns have dried.
The market-place is empty,
And no one frequents the Temple Mount
In the Old City.
And in the caves in the mountain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho.
But as I come to sing to you today,
And to adorn crowns to you,
I am the smallest of the youngest of your children
And of the last poet,
For your name scorches the lips
Like the kiss of a seraph
If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
Which is all gold…
We have returned to the cisterns,
To the market and to the market-place
A ram’s horn calls out on the Temple Mount
In the Old City.
And in the caves in the mountain
Thousands of suns shine –
We will once again descend to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho!


A Palestinian Muslim friend of mine posted a photograph of Jerusalem on his Facebook page the other day, proclaiming it “the most beautiful city in the world.”  In many ways, I agree with him.  Which is why the strife and hatred in and around the city are especially sad.


I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.

Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:

Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.

For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.

Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.  (Psalm 122, KJV)


Posted from Jerusalem




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  • John Ziebarth

    [I am speechless, but,] thanks! You sound like Peter after the transfiguration experience- didn’t he want to build a monument? Did you….?