Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Naomi Polani is to receive the Israel Prize this year for her life-long achievements in theater and music.
“I have just called Naomi Polani, 'the mother of IDF bands' [to tell her that] she won the Israel Prize in theater and dance,” Bennett wrote on his Twitter account.
Polani was instrumental in shaping the way the IDF incorporated musicians and actors into its entertainment division. Sent to entertain troops in peace time as well as in war time, the military bands were also extremely popular among civilians in the early decades of the State of Israel and were effectively the main route for artists to receive national acclaim.
Born in 1925, Polani served in the 1948 War of Independence as a singer, shaping the culture of IDF bands in the 1950’s.
She was also the creator of HaTarnegolim [The Roosters], one of the first music bands to gain a massive following in the early 1960’s.
She continued to influence Israeli culture by creating and hosting a variety of radio programs, as well as taking on minor roles in film and theater, the latest being in the 2006 film Someone to Run With, in which she played the role of a nun.
Bennett called her “a real warrior for culture” and offered her his congratulations.