Born in Zamoscz, Poland. Immigrated to Palestine in 1922, settled in Kibbutz Bet-Alfa and later moved to Kibbutz Ramat-Yohanan. Shelem worked as a shepherd, and his early songs include shepherd songs and songs for kibbutz festivals. His most renowned work is Havaʼat haʻomer, composed for the Omer festival of Ramat Yohanan. This work and Yehuda Sharett's Seder constitute the central musical pieces of the 'new ceremonies' of the secular Kibbutz movement. Shelem also composed many Hebrew folk songs.