Doing Naomi Shemer proud! With a guitar in hand and a microphone at his disposal – and an election just two days away – Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett took to the stage at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to serenade supporters with a performance of the mega-popular song “Jerusalem of Gold.”
“Avir harim zalul kayayin [The mountain air is clear as wine],” the economy minister belted out the opening line of the famous melody, as a bustling crowd cheered him on with the following line, “Ve-rei'ah oranim [and the scent of pines]."
Sunday’s event, dubbed “United for the Land of Israel,” drew tens of thousands of right-wing demonstrators, who flocked to the city square to rally around their party favorites.
“The Left tried to silence us and prevent this rally," Bennett said prior to his rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold,” a ballad written before the Six Day War in 1967 by legendary Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer. The song evokes the Jewish people's longing to return to Jerusalem.
As Bennett crescendoed towards the chorus, the immortal words of Shemer – “Yerushalayim shel zahav/Ve-shel nehoshet ve-shel or
[Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light]” – echoed across the square, evoking the memory of a once-divided Jerusalem. Yellow balloons bobbed up and down, and blue-and-white banners, bearing the names of right-wing parties, fluttered in the night sky.
The city hall building glistened in the background as Bennett revved up his political base. “The Central Elections Committee said no artists and no songs here,” he said, referring to a law banning performers from political events. “We will not be silenced; we will not stop singing.”
In a jab at Zionist Union co-leader Isaac Herzog, who has been perceived by his right-wing foes as someone willing to capitulate for peace, Bennett asked the Labor chairman if his stop at the Western Wall earlier in the day was his "last visit before the division."
A key issue of the election campaign has been Jerusalem and its final status under any future agreement with the Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Herzog of buckling to international pressure, while he, in turn, has promised to keep the capital united.
Touching on an issue that has been a primary concern among Israeli voters for the past two elections – the high cost of living – the Bayit Yehudi leader said Israel does not “need to divide the Land of Israel to lower the price of cheese.”
“My parents taught me that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” he said, adding in English to the foreign press, “One cannot occupy his own home.”