Iconic Israeli composer Nachum Heiman dies aged 82
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Iconic Israeli composer Nachum Heiman dies aged 82

Folk songwriter and Israel Prize laureate remembered for ‘unparalleled contributions to Israeli culture’

Late Israeli composer Nahum Heiman seen during a July 2013 interview. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Late Israeli composer Nahum Heiman seen during a July 2013 interview. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Renowned folk music composer and Israel Prize laureate Nachum Heiman passed away Wednesday night at the age of 82.

Heiman was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1934 and immigrated to British Mandate Palestine with his family when he was five. He grew up in Tel Aviv and in the nearby kibbutzim of Naan and Kfar Maccabi. During his army service, Heiman often put on music and dance productions, and was known to entertain the soldiers in the Nahal Brigade with his accordion.

In his decades-long career, Heiman released 40 albums, composed over 1,000 songs, including the hits “Kmo Tzemach Bar,” “Hofim,” “Anshei Hageshem,” and “Hahol Yizkor.”

Heiman fostered a number of Israeli folk singers and groups over the years, and composed music for more than 120 movies and TV shows in the 1980s and 90s.

In 2006, Heiman founded the Hebrew Song Heritage Association, a nonprofit organization devoted to archiving and preserving Israel’s musical heritage.

In 2009, Heiman was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for his contributions to Hebrew music.

He also received lifetime achievement awards from the Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers of Music in Israel (ACUM), Bar-Ilan University and the Israeli Academy of Film and Television.

Heiman was eulogized by dozens of Israeli politicians who praised the composer’s contributions to Israeli music and culture.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him “one of the greatest songwriters the State of Israel has had.”

“The songs that he left behind have planted in our hearts the love of the homeland and people and will accompany Israel for generations to come — like a wildflower,” Netanyahu said referring to one of Heiman’s most famous works, “Kmo Tzemach Bar,” sung by Chava Alberstein.

Former President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu award Nachum Heiman with the Israel Prize on Apr 29, 2009. (Kobi Gideon / FLASH90)
Former President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu award Nachum Heiman with the Israel Prize on Apr 29, 2009. (Kobi Gideon / FLASH90)

President Reuven Rivlin said Heiman was “a man who knew how to compose all our emotions. He composed the Israeli tune for earth, nature, the Israeli sun, to the stalks, the sea, and the accordion that appeared to be created for him.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett credited Heiman’s work as “paving the path of the love of the beautiful land of Israel for my generation,” adding that Israel “will remember you always, we will always sing your [songs].”

Former president Shimon Peres also paid tribute to Heiman, praising the late composer for his “unparalleled contributions to Israeli culture.”

“Your life was full of moving Israeli melodies and tunes, which you lived out in your daily life without ever losing your joy or grace, even in the difficult times,” Peres wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “I loved you, and we all will continue to love you.”

Heiman’s coffin was laid in state outside Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater at 1 p.m. on Thursday ahead of his funeral, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Kfar Saba cemetery.

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