Yosi Gamzu’s writing talent was already evident as a child, and he published his first poem when he was only nine years old. His first verses were accepted for publication by the senior poets in Israel of the time – people like Avraham Shlonsky and Natan Alterman. Later he became a writer and editor of the journal “Bamachane Gadna” and his lyrical poems, rhyming columns about the news of the day and literary pieces were published in “Davar”, “Ma’ariv” and “Al Hamishmar” among other publications. His first book, a collection of humor and satire, was published when he was only twenty years old.
During the Six Day War, Gamzu served in one of the IDF’s entertainment teams, and performed with other singers and entertainers for soldiers all over the country. After the conquest of the Western Wall, Gamzu’s group made their way to Jerusalem to perform for the soldiers who conquered the Old City. They arrived at the Western Wall and found a narrow alley, littered with bullet cartridges, where the signs of battle were clearly visible. Soldiers were sitting on the ground, exhausted and sad; they seemed more defeated than victorious, mourning for their comrades killed in the fighting. Gamzu carried that experience with him when he returned to Tel Aviv and from there was born the song “HaKotel” (The Wall).
Among the many songs of the Six Day War, “HaKotel” is special, because, alongside the joy, it commemorates the pain and the price of victory. It includes lines like “The Wall – moss and sadness / The Wall – lead and blood.” A few days after he wrote the verses, composer Dubi Zeltzer and his wife, the singer Geula Gil, visited Gamzu. They heard that he had written a song and asked permission to compose music to it. It was not long before the song was composed and recorded and could be heard on all the radio stations. The song was very successful and was translated into many languages.
In the 1970s, Gamzu taught Hebrew literature in Australia, and during his time there he won a literary competition. He chose to use the prize money to fly to Japan, a country that always intrigued him. When he arrived in Japan, he was invited to visit a group of Macuya people, Israel-loving Japanese, and when he arrived, members of the group greeted him with the song “HaKotel” in Japanese. They gave him a scroll containing the translated version of the song, which he cherishes and keeps to this day.