Rotblit’s reward

An impressive roster of acclaimed local musicians perform in tribute to beloved singer/songwriter Yankele Rotblit.

Yankele Rotblit 521 (photo credit: Michael Humash)
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 an oxymoron.
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 in 1969.
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 Editor).
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