Second Verse

I recently obtained a copy of A.W. Binder’s “New Palestinian Folk Songs: Book II,” published in 1933 by Bloch Publishing. It contains twenty songs arranged for piano and voice, some of which have stood the test of time, but many of which are all but lost to collective memory.

What struck me here was a song I know and have loved for a long time, “Yerushalayim,” also known as “Mé’al Pisgat Har Ha-Tsofim,” since I heard the recording of Yehoram Gaon singing it so many years ago. 

The lyrics I have known appear in the first verse:

2013-05-30 15.50.22

From atop Mount Scopus,
I bow to you twice.
From atop Mount Scopus,
Peace unto you, Jerusalem.
A hundred generations have I dreamt of you,
To be privileged to see the light of your face.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Lift up your face to your child.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
From your destruction shall I rebuild you.

This is the verse I fell in love with when I first heard the song.

However, the lyrics to the second verse seems to be highly debatable. Yehoram Gaon’s version, which claims to have lyrics from poet Avigdor Me’iri, as Binder’s version does, has this second verse:

meal pisgat

From atop Mount Scopus,
I bow to you twice.
From atop Mount Scopus,
Peace unto you, Jerusalem.
May you be blessed with a thousand blessings,
Sanctuary, King, Royal City!

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
I will not move from here!
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
The Messiah will come. He will come.

Another popular version, sung by Ofra Chaza, contains the following second verse:

me'al pisgat

From atop Mount Scopus,
Peace unto you, Jerusalem.
A thousand exiles from all over the world
Lift their eyes to you.
May you be blessed with a thousand blessings,
Sanctuary, King, Royal City!

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
I will not move from here!
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
The Messiah will come. He will come.

I’ve sung both versions listed above at various occasions in various arrangements. When looking at Binder’s version, what I was not at all expecting to see was these lyrics:

2013-05-30 15.50.30With a secure heart I came here,
Raised up your ruins.
But how could I build your Temple
If there is not peace among your children?
Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Yemenites,
Ethiopians,
[several other groups which I do not know how to translate].

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
This is not what I saw in my dream!
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Please facilitate peace between your children!

So which version is most accurate?

It is worth noting that all editions I have seen of this song have noted that the poetry is by Avigdor Ha-Me’iri, but that the melody is a folk tune. Zemereshet, however, asserts that the composer of this tune is the Polish composer and conductor Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-1872), though I  have to assume the assertion implies contrafaction; not that Moniuszko had any knowledge of Ha-Me’iri’s poem. The melody is featured in Act IV of Moniuszko’s “Halka.” Another source asserts that Moniuszko’s piece and Ha-Me’iri’s share an ur-tune – that Moniuszko, as was popular at the time, borrowed from a folk-tune in his piece, which happens to be the same folk tune as Ha-Me’iri borrowed to set his poem.

A brief search of the inter-webs and the assistance of Google Translate to interpret a page on Izrael.org.il about the origin of the piece (an essay entirely in Polish) gives me the following information:

In 1927, just three years after the founding of the Tel Aviv Theatre, Avigdor Ha-Me’iri and his friend Arther Koestler, both Hungarian immigrants, founded Ha-Kumkum, the first satirical cabaret in Tel Aviv. Ha-Me’iri is remembered as an important poet in Israel, and also one of its first and finest satirists. In 1929, the piece was performed by the first time at Ha-Kumkum. In 1930, the song was used in a social campaign to promote the Jewish National Fund (JNF) / Keren Kayemet L’Yisraél. My assumption (without much proof) is that the lyrics printed in Binder’s copy – only four years after its debut – are the most original, probably the ones that were premiered in Ha-Kumkum at that first performance. The version of the song that was used to promote the JNF was already Yehoram Gaon’s version. Is it possible that Ha-Me’iri, having been commissioned by the JNF, wrote the other lyrics? I assume so. The latter lyrics are certainly more suited for Zionist public relations, and would be most likely to stand the test of time.

The world may never know.

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