To mark 40 years since John Lennon’s murder, Israeli television on Tuesday aired a 1969 audio clip of the Beatle singing a Hebrew song “Oath to Jerusalem,” and interviewed Akiva Nof, the Israeli journalist, songwriter and later Knesset member who wrote the song and taught it to Lennon.
Lennon, who was in Amsterdam at the time holding a “bed-in for peace” with wife Yoko Ono, sings two lines from the song in the brief audio clip, after introducing it as “the voice of Lennon talking to the Voice of Israel”: “Jerusalem, we have all sworn for eternity, we will not abandon you from here and forever.”
Nof, recalling the interview, told Channel 12 News he was working as an Israel Radio (AKA Voice of Israel) correspondent at the time, was in Amsterdam, and knocked on the door of Lennon’s hotel room to ask for an interview. He said he didn’t think he’d have the courage to do that kind of thing nowadays, but hadn’t quite internalized “the greatness of the moment.”
A member of Lennon’s entourage was in the process of shaking his head to deny the interview request and closing the door in his face, Nof remembered, when Lennon called out from inside, “Let the Voice of Israel come in.”
He found himself alone with Lennon in the room — “for 10 minutes, and then another 10 minutes, and we had more than an interview; it was a discussion for half an hour,” he said. “My impression was that Lennon simply wanted to talk.”
At one point, said Nof, “I asked him if he knew any Israeli songs, and he replied, ‘Only Hava Nagila, ha-ha-ha.’
“So I asked him if he would let me teach him two lines of a song of mine that at the time was being sung by the Israeli Army’s rabbinical choir. He said, ‘yes, yes, yes.'”
Nof — who had headed the youth leadership of the Herut party, a forerunner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, and who later served three terms as an MK — continued: “I wrote out the words for him in Latin letters, taught him the tune in a flash, and he sang.
“And what did he sing? ‘Jerusalem, we have all sworn for eternity, we will not abandon you from here and forever’.”
Nof said Lennon also told him he was “looking forward to being an old person.”
When he was murdered, said Nof, “I thought to myself that ‘you will never be old, but you will be young in our hearts forever’.”