Yankele Rotblit 521.
(photo credit: Michael Humash)
To say that Yankele Rotblit is one the unsung heroes of the Israeli cultural
community would be something of a contradiction in terms although, possibly also
The 65-year-old Haifa-born Jerusalemite has been spinning
out the lyrics of some of our best-loved pop songs for more than four decades
now although, like most songwriters who only infrequently perform their own
penmanship, he has largely stayed behind the scenes.
Today, at least some
of that lack of public acclaim will be redressed when the Cameri Theater in Tel
Aviv, in conjunction with Educational TV, hosts two performances of a tribute
show to Rotblit. The roll call of the concert program gives some indication of
the esteem in which Rotblit is held by his professional counterparts, with actor
Natan Datner emceeing, and the likes of Corinne Alal, Yehudit Ravitz, Miki
Gabrielov and Mika Karni lending their seasoned talents to the testimonial
event. The list of artists who have performed and recorded Rotblit’s material
reads like a Who’s Who of our music industry’s pantheon and includes Arik
Einstein, Shmulik Krauss, Yehuda Poliker, Ravitz, Shalom Hanoch, Matti Caspi,
Chava Alberstein and Nynet.
Rotblit served in a Nahal unit of the IDF and
later wrote one of the most anthemic songs ever performed by a Nahal group –
“Shir Le’shalom” – which was originally recorded by Miri Aloni and a Nahal band
The song later took on political meaning and was adopted by
leftwing Israelis and, two and a half decades later, it was to be etched into
the national psyche after it was performed by Aloni, then foreign minister
Shimon Peres, and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin just minutes before Rabin was
assassinated after a peace rally in 1995.
In 1967 Rotblit served as a
platoon commander in the Six Day War and was seriously wounded in exchanges in
Jerusalem’s Abu Tor district. The following year he recorded his first song,
“Zemer She’kazeh” (A Song Like This). The war left its emotional and physical
imprint on Rotblit – he lost a leg in the fighting – and he subsequently wrote
and recorded several bluestinged songs about his military experiences,
principally the largely angst-filled 1978 record Kach Shichrarti et Yerushalayim
(That’s How I Liberated Jerusalem). The album included an emotively bluesy
number called “Bimkom Choveret Le’zichro” (Instead of a Memorial Book), which
lamented the death of his comrades-in- arms.
To date, besides the scores
of songs he wrote for other artists, Rotblit has put out just three albums under
his own name.
He has also chalked up an impressive resume as a
journalist, poet and satirist. He made one of his most notable appearances in
the latter capacity in the mid- 1970s when he joined Yehonatan Gefen and Danny
Litani in the bitingly satirical show Michtavim Lamaarechet (Letters to the
Over the years, Rotblit has picked up the odd kudo, including a
tribute show in the 1999 Israel Festival, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from
the ACUM Israeli musicians’ association.
Those commendations, and today’s
shows, are a small example of what Rotblit deserves.The Yankele Rotblit
tribute shows will take place today in the Cameri 1 auditorium in Tel Aviv at 11
a.m. and 1:30 p.m. For more information: (03) 606-1911-2 and www.cameri.co.il