A time-honored Israeli tune playing in a space shuttle orbiting the earth was
the perfect way to symbolize the impact iconic musician Shmulik Kraus had on
Israeli pop culture, according to one of his oldest friends.
Rotblit, a friend of Kraus’s for over four decades, was the only person to
eulogize him at his gravesite on Monday. When asked what impact his friend had
on Israeli culture, Rotblit mentioned that astronaut Ilan Ramon had decided to
play Kraus’ song “Hatishma Koli” as he orbited Earth on the illfated Columbia
space shuttle in 2003.
In Rotblit’s eyes, the anecdote symbolized the way
his friend opened new cultural horizons for Israelis in the 1960s, he
“This is the man who actually created the first Israeli rock ’n’
roll or pop music. He changed the face of music in that respect,” Rotblit said
when asked what impact his friend had had on Israeli pop culture.
personal level, he said, Kraus “was a very dear man to me. He had his
Okay, we all have our moments.”
Kraus died from swine
flu on February 17 at Ichilov Hospital, part of the Souraksy Medical Center in
Tel Aviv, at the age of 77.
On Monday mourners in Petah Tikva recalled
him as a gifted artist with an outsized influence on Israeli culture, and a man
plagued by the turmoil of his personal life.
Actor Shlomo Vishinsky said
his friend was “like an Israeli Ernest Hemingway” both because of the cultural imprint he left and the hectic lifestyle he
Vishinsky, Kraus’ commander during the Six Day War, said “every
young person who plays music has Shmulik’s tunes in his head. He brought us all
types of things that weren’t in Israel before, that weren’t part of our
Kraus was born in Jerusalem, one of four brothers. After his
service in the Israel Navy he worked for a spell as a merchant seaman and not
long after, in the early 1960s, joined Esther and Avi Ofarim as part of what
became the Ofarim Trio, and later formed the legendary group Hahalonot
Hag’vo’him (High Windows) along with, Josie Katz, who was his wife, and Arik
Kraus and Katz moved to New York for a few years and later
divorced, while Kraus continued with his musical career and made a foray into
Over the years he was arrested on a few occasions for
violence, and was twice hospitalized at the Abarbanel State Mental Health
Israeli composer Kobi Oshrat stood by the roadside at the Yarkon
cemetery near Tel Aviv, speaking about his friend of 40 years and the secret
conversations they’d have in Ladino when they didn’t want anyone to understand
Oshrat called Kraus “a sensitive soul” and added that there was a
simple genius to his music that will stand the test of time.
a few songs that became classics, and Shmulik will be with us forever.” •