The late Ofra Haza

This note was originally posted on Facebook, Feb 16. 

Monday night February 17th — Tuesday February 18 corresponds with 18 Adar I in the Hebrew calendar, the Yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Ofra Haza. 

Ofra Haza was an Israeli and international singing sensation, actress and recording artist of Yemenite ancestry. She came from an impoverished area in Tel Aviv and started her career in the Army performance troupe and in… children’s television. She moved easily between traditional Yemeni songs in Arabic and Hebrew, Israeli standards, international, and popular music, and was voted the 32nd most important Israeli of all time. Her music, including songs in Arabic, was popular in the Middle East outside Israel, and she achieved international recognition, including “platinum” recordings. She died February 23 2000, age 42.

One of the pieces she is most closely associated with is a traditional wedding song “im nin’alu” by the Yemenite author Shalom Shabazi, To give you an idea of the basic song, here it is performed by Aharon Amram. Here are the words:
In 1978, singers from Shekhunat Ha-Tikvah, a dirt-poor section of Tel Aviv performed this on television: .

This was one of the first appearances introducing Ofra Haza to Israeli TV audiences, where she became a regular on Israel educational TV. Soon, her recordings were reaching gold status in Israel.

Five years later, in 1983, she performed Chai (“Alive”) at the Eurovision Contest, narrowly missing the number 1 spot. The performance was in Munich, the place where in 1972, Israeli athletes were killed in a terrorist attack at the Olympics). I cannot find a video with subtitles in English so here is the translation: Here is a video of her performance:
This is a youtube of her singing the same song at an Air Force event:

Another five years later, in 1988, Ofra Haza was an international sensation, with her music video of Im Nin’alu, sung in Hebrew, Arabic and a little English, was at the top of the charts in Britain, Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

For many in the US, her most famous performance was: Deliver us, sung at the beginning of the animated film Prince of Egypt. Ofra Haza recorded it herself in 17 languages, although Yaldi ha-tov ve-ha-rakh (my good and tender son) was kept in Hebrew, at least in some versions.
Ofra Haza’s solo entrance is about minute 2:00.

Haza died of AIDS in February, 2000; possible from a tainted blood transfusion when she was hospitalized for complications of a miscarriage.

Here is a tribute site: and there is a park devoted to her memory at the end of the street where she grew up.

May her memory be a blessing.

Seth Ward

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