The inexorable march of time perforce depletes the ranks of the eminent
hierarchs who once proliferated in this country’s cultural setting. The
most recent to depart was iconic Palmah songwriter and Israel Prize laureate
(1983) Haim Hefer, who passed away on the second day of this new
Hefer’s output was near-omnipresent in numerous niches of our
communications and entertainment spheres. Nevertheless, compared to other titans
– like the late Natan Alterman, who modernized the Hebrew idiom and cadences –
Hefer was a relative lightweight. His material was easy to digest and he
was popular with the establishment and thus assured resonance and
It’s an undeniable fact, though, that as the last of
yesteryear’s household names disappear, so the heart chords are tugged ever
harder and the sendoff is accompanied by ever greater tributes, longings and
We know that decades of unparalleled originality,
inspiration and ingenuity are now consigned formally to the past. The outpouring
of pioneering creativity is already the stuff of nostalgia, but the death of
each of the few remaining superstars from the golden age of the country’s
artistic burgeoning adds another stamp of grim formality to the relentless
So it is incontrovertibly with Hefer. His absence serves to
underscore how much more impoverished our culture has become since the days of
the legendary Founding Fathers and of the homegrown generations of literati that
followed hot on their heels – just before and after the establishment of the
There’s still a great deal of hubbub in artistic cliques, but the
buzz is about pseudo-creativity and formulaic superficiality. The great
outpourings of ideas and emotions wane steadily. This is true both of
fashionable lyrics and flatline music. With little depth, clichés
This betokens a cultural/spiritual void. The greatness of
Alterman, Naomi Shemer, Hefer and others of their day is plainly not equaled. As
our energies are focused on material comforts and as the venue of creativity
shifts to cyberspace, no one today can claim worthiness of the mantle that Hefer
so ably donned for so long.
This isn’t just the sad way things are in the
world of Israeli songwriting and popular culture. It permeates everywhere.
Ideology appears as passé in our mainstream as the study of literature and
history appear in our creed-deficient institutions of higher learning.
may argue that this isn’t unique to us, but is the way of the entire Western
civilization. Our situation isn’t, however, anywhere as secure as that of other
sated and smug societies. In Hefer’s own words (from his lesser known lyrics,
The Safest Place in the World), we are surrounded by enemies who bay for our
blood:They hate us without justification.“They aren’t human,” is their
With bloodlust in their eyes, They hound us with
They call for their hour of revenge.
To throw us in the seas
IN SUCH an environment we cannot afford to stray as far from
our articles of faith and from trust in our cause as our counterparts in fellow
democracies presume (not always rightly) that they can.
We may never
again see a generation of giants like the one to which Hefer belonged and which
is almost gone from our midst, but we mustn’t consider the giants’ strength of
mind obsolete. We need their stirring resilience to bolster our own fortitude in
the face of the tempests raging relentlessly all around us.
minced words and could be bluntly controversial. He didn’t always aim to
please and certainly not to make nice. But perhaps, precisely with that in mind,
we ought to memorize his confidence in Israel’s future, beleaguered though it
There are countries so serene,
Where there’s no Fatah and no Fedayeen,
folks can sleep at night
With no reserve duty or call to fight,
Where they can
leisurely make a living
And enjoy good times each evening.
But if you
pardon a little Zionism,
We will seriously insist...
And of all of you
That you send out word
That ours is the safest place in the world.