National icon, Palmach poet, Haim Hefer, dies at 86
Hefer wrote songs that built the country's character, established the first army entertainment troupe and was awarded the coveted Sokolov Prize for journalism and Israel Prize for Hebrew song • Friends: He was a father of Israeli culture.
Sigal Arbitman, Eran Swissa and Yehuda Shlezinger
Haim Hefer, national songwriter and publicist, 1925-2012.
Photo credit: KOKO
Hefer receiving the Israel Prize from then President Yitzhak Navon in 1983.
Photo credit: Yakov Saar, GPO
Hefer (left) with Yaffa Yarkoni and Yaakov Orland in 1989.
Photo credit: Moshe Shai
With singer, songwriter Nurit Hirsch at the Palmach's 70th birthday event in 2011.
Photo credit: KOKO
Hefer left behind him a legacy of Israeli folklore and character.
Photo credit: Israel San
Poet, songwriter, publicist and winner of the Israel Prize for Hebrew song Haim Hefer died on Tuesday at the age of 86. Hefer was hospitalized in Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and succumbed after a long fight with a difficult disease.
Hefer was credited with establishing the first army entertainment troupe, known as the "Chizbatron," and writing songs that gained the status of national anthems over the years, such as "It's Possible," "History is Back," "The Red Rock," "Rosa" and others.
Together with Dan Ben-Amotz, Hefer created the satirical program called "A Bag of Fibs," authored many columns in newspapers, won the Sokolov Prize for journalism and wrote many songs that were set to music and sung by Israel's most widely renowned composers and singers.
Hefer contributed many of the hit songs performed in musicals such as "Kazablan," in which the legendary performer Yehoram Gaon played the leading part; wrote songs for the film "Sallah Shabati," which featured well-known actor Chaim Topol; and translated many plays into Hebrew for Israeli theaters.
Many top Israeli performers, composers and actors eulogized Hefer on Tuesday. "I am very sad, but there is comfort in what he has given to us throughout his lifetime, this vast heritage he has left for us," Arik Einstein, a veteran and favorite Israeli singer-songwriter said.
Actress and singer Shoshik Shani said "He was a precious man, one of the greatest. Although he wasn't born in Israel, he was a true native of the land and a Palmachnik in his soul, and he made a great contribution to the country."
Actor Shlomo Bar-Shavit, who was a member of the Chizbatron, said "Haim Hefer is among the artists who, in fact, created the classic Israeli culture of military entertainment troupes. He was among those who developed Israeli culture. This is a big loss for us, his friends and especially for former members of the Palmach."
Actress, singer and television and radio personality Rivka Michaeli, who was a close friend of Hefer, said "That generation is ending. The War of Independence was at the center of his creativity and thought. That young boy and his comrades sanctified the land with their blood, and those who survived vowed to tell the tales and remember the events. Haim produced many programs for the Palmach and contributed films and songs, always remembering his origins. He was a man filled with humor, very intelligent and sensitive and always full of energy."
Adding a more personal touch to Hefer's image, singer and director Naomi Polani said "He was a funny man. When a person leaves this world and enters another sphere, we always recall how wonderful he was. We need to pass away to receive pleasant compliments. But in his case, there is no choice, because there is just so much to say about him. Haim was a true and devoted friend. His only social yearning throughout his life was to be among friends. He enjoyed life among friends and helped them to enjoy life in return. That was the spice of his life. Whoever had a friend like Haim, felt secure."
Hefer was born in Poland on Oct. 29, 1925 and immigrated to Palestine with his family in 1936. Before the establishment of the state in 1948, he joined the Palmach, a pre-state military defense group, helped many illegal immigrants make their way into the country and participated in other daring operations.
During that period, Hefer began writing songs describing the experiences of the Palmach fighters. He set the songs to music and taught them to his close friends, who publicized them at every opportunity.
Hefer's coffin will be placed on the stage of the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv during the day on Wednesday and a memorial ceremony will take place at the theater, after which he will be interred at the Ein Hod cemetery later in the evening.