What is the origin of the concept of Yerushalayim being a "City of Gold"?

It is the name and theme of a famous Israeli song from the 1960s, and I always assumed it was either from that song, or that the song was based on an Israeli cultural idea, or possibly an older idea, possibly predating modern Zionism, that (I assumed) stemmed from the Dome of the Rock being so prominent and reflecting a golden light at sunrises and sunsets. At least, I assumed, it was 45 years old. At most, I assumed, it was about 1300 years old. Most likely, I figured, it was somewhere in between. But it's mentioned in the Gemara (Bab. Shab. 59a), which predates Islam by several centuries, and which further cites it mentioned by Rabbi 'Akiva in a Baraitha, several hundred years older than the Gemara itself. What is the origin of this concept?

This question is part of the (struggling) Daf Yomi Challenge

  • What makes you think that the Gemara and Braita (quite early sources) are not the earliest it gets? Are you looking for a Pasuk?
    – Double AA
    Dec 3, 2012 at 3:37
  • 2
    The Mishna is not calling Yershalayim itself "A city of gold", rather it is calling the golden ornament R' Akiva made in the likeness of Yerushalayim a "city of gold".
    – Michoel
    Dec 3, 2012 at 3:38
  • @Michoel True but there might be some reason that images of Jerusalem specifically were made of gold. To quote a user of ours with the name Gold: "Most things have a significance" judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/22532/… .
    – Double AA
    Dec 3, 2012 at 5:45

2 Answers 2


There are numerous Talmudic sources which refer to a "Golden Jerusalem", these sources, however, are not referring to the actual city of Jerusalem but to a piece of jewelry which was colloquially referred to as "Golden Jerusalem" or "Golden City". It was probably a tiara which was engraved to resemble a city skyline.

That being said, the song Yerushalyim Shel Zahav (written by Noami Shemer in 1967), which is most probably the reason that Jerusalem is referred to as a "City of Gold", was inspired by the Talmudic story of Rebbe Akiva and his wife in which he promises her that if he had the means he would give her a "Golden Jerusalem" as a gift. It embodied the hope that although at that time Jerusalem was gray, it would one day be Golden.


The source is a song which was written not too long ago. The words of the song are a pun based on the Gemara (which you quoted) which refer to a certain type of jewelry which depicted the city of Jerusalem in gold.

  • How do you know that's where the author of that song (does it have a name?) got the idea and that she didn't get it from the Dome of the Rock as speculated in the question?
    – Double AA
    Dec 3, 2012 at 5:42
  • @DoubleAA, how do you know the writer is a "she"?
    – Seth J
    Apr 24, 2013 at 14:30
  • @Seth who says I do?
    – Double AA
    Apr 24, 2013 at 20:31
  • @DoubleAA, your comment suggests it.
    – Seth J
    Apr 24, 2013 at 20:32
  • @SethJ I don't think it does. Many authors are women. You may even try to argue it's more of a left brain thing.
    – Double AA
    Apr 24, 2013 at 23:25

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