Yaffa Yarkoni, 1925-2012
Photo: Yaakov Saar, GPO
Singer Yaffa Yarkoni dead at 86
Veteran performer, known as Israel's 'War Singer', dies in Tel Aviv hospital after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years

Veteran singer Yaffa Yarkoni, known as Israel's "War Singer" due to her frequent performances in front of IDF soldiers, died Sunday at a Tel Aviv hospital at the age of 86.


She will be laid to rest at the Kiryat Shaul cemetery, where she asked to be buried next to her late husband Sheike Yarkoni. The date of the funeral has yet to be set.


Yarkoni, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease in the past few years, is survived by three daughters, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.



One of the most prominent and popular performers in Israel, Yarkoni began her career as a dancer. In the War of Independence she was drafted to the army and later joined one of first military bands. Her numerous performances during Israel's battles earned her the title of "War Singer".


In 1948 she recorded her first song, "Green Eyes," which became a hit. At the end of the War of Independence, she became active in the Israeli world of music.


Criticism of IDF

Throughout her career, which spanned decades, she recorded hundreds of songs in different styles and many languages, including children's songs and dance music.


In the 1990s, Yarkoni starred in a children's television show alongside her son-in-law, actor Meir Swisa.


In 1998, on the State of Israel's 50th anniversary, she was awarded the Israel Prize for her contribution to Hebrew music.


On Independence Day 2002, shortly before a tribute event, Yarkoni criticized the IDF's activities during Operation Defensive Shield in an interview to Army Radio. The interview sparked angry responses and led to the cancellation of the planned event.


"We are a nation that went through the Holocaust. How can we do things like this to another nation?" she told Israel's Army Radio.


In an interview she gave to The Associated Press following those remarks, Yarkoni said she was tired of war, of dead young men and heartbroken mothers.


"I am tired. For 51 years I am singing about Israel all over the world, telling stories about how it was before - the first war, the second war, every war. War, war, war. They call me the singer of wars. I don't like this name. I want to be the singer of Israel," she said.


Quite a few artists and public figures rushed to defend Yarkoni and the freedom of speech, and organized an alternative tribute.


"While the Israel Defense Forces conquered enemy positions, she conquered the soldiers' hearts," President Shimon Peres said Sunday, calling for a moment of silence in Yarkoni's memory.


Yarkoni faded from the public stage over the past decade, and in the end, her powerful music obscured her contentious statements. Upon word of her death, tributes from Israeli politicians across the spectrum poured in, and her music filled radio airwaves.


"Many soldiers sang her songs along with her that were steeped in a love for Israel," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


"One of the greatest Israeli singers ... Yaffa Yarkoni's songs made up the soundtrack of Israel from the days of (Jewish) settlement," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report 



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