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Singer Yafa Yarkoni Dies at 86

Yarkoni was known as the "singer of the wars" because of military-themed songs but held ultra-leftist views.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 1/1/2012, 4:58 PM

Yarkoni (left) with Shoshana Damari
Yarkoni (left) with Shoshana Damari
Flash 90

Yafa Yarkoni, known as "the singer of the wars" because of the military themes that dominated many of her songs and because of her numerous performances before IDF soldiers, died Sunday at age 86. She had suffered from Alzheimer's disease in the past few years.

Yarkoni's funeral is scheduled for 2:00 p.m., Tuesday in Tel Aviv's Kiryat Shaul cemetery, where she will be laid to rest next to her husband.

Yarkoni's strong, clean vocalizations popularized songs that often centered on the wartime experience of the Palmach and Hagana troops – the socialist-led military force that was the largest component in the pre-state Jewish military. One of these, "Dudu," was about a Palmach hero by that name: "Tell me my comrades," asks the chorus. "Is there another Palmachnik like Dudu?"

The lyrics to another famous song – "A Day will Come, Believe It!" – evoked a letter by a soldier to his love, whom he promised: "A day will come, believe it / things will be fine, I promise you / I will come and hug you / and tell you everything" (video embedded below).

Perhaps her most famous song is "Bab El-Wad," which commemorates the bloody battles that broke the Arab siege of Jerusalem during the War of Independence. The gateway to the winding wadi that leads to the city from the west is known in Arabic as Bab El-Wad and in Hebrew as Shaar HaGay.

Yarkoni received the Israel Prize in Israel's jubilee year, 1998.

However, she became increasingly controversial in later years, when her extreme political views became known. In 2002, an evening saluting Yarkoni was cancelled by the Israeli Artists' Union, after she voiced support for draft evaders. In addition, Yarkoni compared pictures of Arab children in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to pictures of Jews during the Holocaust.

Yarkoni's main competitor in the genre of songs she was famous for was Shoshana Damari, who died 5 years ago.