Poet, songwriter, filmmaker and playwright Haim Hefer, one of the icons of
Israeli culture, died on the second day of Rosh Hashana at Sourasky Medical
Center in Tel Aviv, after a long illness. His funeral will take place on
A prolific songwriter and poet whose works are at the
foundation of Israel’s national cultural treasure, Hefer for many years wrote
poems based on current events for Yediot Aharonot.
Born in Sosnowiec,
Poland, in 1925, he came to British Mandate Palestine in 1936, and at age 17
joined the Hagana.
He helped to smuggle illegal immigrants through Syria
and Lebanon. He was the founder the Palmah’s military entertainment unit
Chizbatron, which was the forerunner of the IDF entertainment units.
imprint on Israeli culture earned him the Israel Prize for Hebrew song in
A gruff, straight from the shoulder personality, Hefer was the
darling of radio and television interviewers because he had no compunction about
telling it like it was whether he was talking about events that happened before
the creation of the state, the early years of the state or current
Among his most popular songs were “The Last War,” “He Didn’t
Know Her Name” and “Yes, It’s Possible.” Another of his songs, “The Red Rock,”
made popular by performer Arik Lavi, was initially banned because it was thought
that it would encourage adventurous Israelis to make dangerous, illegal
excursions to Petra in Jordan.
The songs he wrote never went out of
style, and were frequently played not only on radio musical programs, but as
background to radio and television documentaries.
Hefer’s father had made
sure while they still living in Poland that his son would receive a good Hebrew
education, but when the family settled in Ra’anana, the other children mocked
the Polish newcomer because he did not speak colloquial Hebrew. His Hebrew was
far more classical, and some of the expressions he used were already passé. He
eventually overcame this obstacle and found his place in Israel’s entertainment
world and in mainstream society.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who was
among the many who expressed regret at Hefer’s death, issued a statement saying
that his work embodied the spirit of Israel’s struggle for independence, the
heroism of its soldiers and the nation’s yearning for peace. It was difficult to
imagine Israeli culture without Hefer’s songs, Saar stated, adding that he has
instructed the Education Ministry to include his contribution to Israeli culture
in school curricula.
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich also expressed
her regret, adding that his work has had a deep impact on the language, culture
and humor of the state of Israel, and in this way, “he will stay with us
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.