'We crowned you the Queen of Song'

Thousands pay respects at legendary singer Shoshana Damari's funeral.

damari laughing 298 (photo credit: Channel 10)
damari laughing 298
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Thousands of people attended Shoshana Damari's funeral Friday afternoon at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, paying their respects to the empress of Israeli song. Friends and family laid flowers beside her casket which, draped in an Israeli flag, was positioned center-stage at the Tel Aviv's Cameri theater, an appropriate spot for the renowned performer. Legendary actress Gila Almagor opened the funeral ceremony eulogizing Damari in an emotional address. "How do we depart from someone who was in our lives for so many years? In a country without a king, we had a queen. We chose you and we crowned you, you were the queen of song," Almagor lamented. President Moshe Katsav also mourned the passing of "the queen of Israeli song," and noted her important place in the nation's history. "Since the news of Shoshana's passing, the nation has been enshrouded in deep sorrow and grief, which demonstrates more than anything else the place Shoshana held in Israel's heart," Katsav said. "Shoshana was a pioneer in the history of Israeli song. The story of her life and her success is a chapter in the history of Israel in the second half of the 20th century," Katsav said. "The story of the immigration from Yemen and settlement in Israel, through her music, reflect our story. Her songs represent a mirror of a time period, expressing hope and happiness throughout the difficult times Israel has experienced." "Shoshana's voice was the voice of Israel," Katsav said. Former prime minister Shimon Peres as well as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger spoke at the ceremony, paying their respects and expressing deep admiration for the deceased singer. Eulogizing Damari, Peres said that "she was the way she should have been." He then said figuratively, "Let your voice resound, for your voice is the sound of Israel." Musical producer and lyricist Kobi Oshrat said "an era is now over...we are all orphans now, we are losing a great mother." Israeli singer Gali Atari said of Damari, "She is a loss to the Israeli Yemanite culture - she gave us all a sense of honor and respect." Born in Damar, Yemen, Damari came to Israel as a two-year-old in 1925. As a child she began performing at weddings with her mother and in her early teens she starred in radio skits and theatrical performances. In 1945, Natan Alterman composed the song Kalaniot (Anemones) for Damari. It became her signature hit, with the red anemones in the song a sardonic cryptonym for the British red-berets. Damari's first record was released in 1948. Over the following decades, her strong alto voice represented the voice of a land in the process of renewal, full of optimism and hope. In the early years of the state, Damari - in addition to renown for her beauty - first brought the flavor of Middle Eastern music, complete with her guttural Yemenite pronunciation, to mainstream Israeli culture. Together with Yaffa Yarkoni, Damari was also considered to be the quintessential singer for soldiers, for whom she performed in times of both war and peace during the 1960s and 70s. In the mid-80s, Damari returned to the limelight singing a duet with Boaz Sharabi. She was awarded the Israel Prize in 1988 for her contribution to Israeli vocal music, and in the same year released the album and eponymous single Or (Light), which offered a theme of hope during the difficult period of the late 80s. Damari continued to appear occasionally on stage, most recently collaborating on several songs with the singer and composer Idan Reichel.