Adamo's song Inch Allah is probably the most haunting Jerusalem song of modern times. Perhaps the biggest Jerusalem world-wide hit ever, over the years it has become a beloved historical classic.
Inch Allah, by Belgian singer-songwriter Adamo, dominated the number one slot in the European hit parades for much of 1966-1967. It scored big in Latin America and even Japan. This Jerusalem song was originally in French, but it was later also recorded in Italian.
For anyone old enough to remember the European sixties, this song colored their youth. For their children, this song was the background to many of their parent’s stories and, in fact, probably to much of their own lives as well, since it still played frequently throughout the seventies and eighties. Not only has it remained a popular, well known ballad, Inch Allah even made a come back in 1993 when Adamo recorded it again.
What was all the fuss about? Jerusalem in 1966 was a city divided by barbed wire walls. From the heights of the Old City ramparts, Jordanian snipers would shoot and kill Jewish Jerusalemites on a daily basis.
Inch Allah is Arabic – it means “If God wills it ...”
As the singer looks upon Jerusalem, a blood-red poppy on a rocky promontory, he sees the birds daring to fly over the deadly fences, the butterfly wondering whether he should reach for a flower on the other side, the women who risk their lives daily to reach a well, the olive tree mourning its shadow that lies in enemy territory. He looks at the suffering of Jerusalem, the road built of sacrificial courage, and hears a requiem for the six million dead who have no mausoleum, and who despite the desert sand have grown six million trees.
Adamo’s haunting ballad could not have been better timed – it played non-stop in much of Europe, Latin America and Japan for the better part of 1967, an almost prophetic prelude to the Six-Day War in the fall of 1967 that liberated Jerusalem and made it whole once more.
Although the song still plays in Europe, it is one almost never heard in Israel anymore. The pain of life in a divided Jerusalem is still too raw, the wound unhealed, and the specter of it ever happening again haunts too many Jerusalemites for us to have the heart to sing about it. Nevertheless, the song’s haunting images of Jerusalem in the moonlight remain a powerful statement for anyone who has ever heard it.
Adamo’s discography is extensive, spanning many decades of work, but Inch Allah must have been one of the decisive factors that led to his appointment as Belgium’s honorary UNICEF ambassador.
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