‘The soundtrack of generations’: Artists, ministers bid farewell to Yoram Taharlev

Government members fete famed lyricist’s ‘unique combination of love of country and love of his fellow person, of romance and of pain and always with humor’

The wake of songwriter and poet Yoram Taharlev (insert), ahead of his funeral, in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2022. (Courtesy; Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
The wake of songwriter and poet Yoram Taharlev (insert), ahead of his funeral, in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2022. (Courtesy; Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Numerous mourners gathered at Tel Aviv’s Habima National Theater on Friday morning to pay their last respects to Israeli songwriter and poet Yoram Taharlev, who died a day earlier at his home at the age of 83.

Taharlev wrote more than 1,000 songs, including 100 works for the army’s musical entertainment troupes, such as “Yeshnan Banot” (“There Were Girls”) and “Givat Hatahmoshet” (“Ammunition Hill”).

Visitors, including artists and several politicians, paid their respects while some of Taharlev’s most notable songs played in the background. Hundreds of people accompanied him as he was laid to rest later in the day at Kibbutz Yagur, where he was born.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that just six months ago he had gone to one of Taharlev’s performances. “I rejoiced at every moment… I left a little hoarse, and most of all happy and satisfied.”

“With an incredible combination of humor and seriousness, you shaped the soundtrack of the military, which has accompanied us soldiers for decades and still accompanies us and will continue to do so in the future,” Gantz said.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli said Taharlev’s “soundtrack is a unique combination of the love of country and love of the [fellow] person, of romance and of pain and always with humor. This humanistic voice is needed in Israel more than ever today, and it will continue to accompany us, always.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the wake of songwriter and poet Yoram Taharlev, ahead of his funeral, in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

“Taharlev wrote so many words and they connect to countless Israelis in moments of love and death, joy and sadness, on a trip in the country, in meetings, in moments of longing, and in the various life experiences,” Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper said.

“Not many manage to be the soundtrack of many generations, of grandparents, parents and children. You succeeded. You are no more, but your spirit and words continue with us. Rest in peace,” Tropper added.

Lyricist Yoram Taharlev died Thursday, January 6, 2022, a composer of more than 1,000 songs that are part of Israeli culture (Courtesy Yoram Taharlev website)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday, upon hearing of Taharlev’s passing: “His songs have accompanied the country for years — in sadness and in joy, in times of war and peace. He passed away, but his work will remain with us forever.”

Taharlev was born in 1938 in Kibbutz Yagur, where his parents lived in a small room without indoor plumbing, running water or “the slightest vestige of privacy,” he later wrote on his website.

His parents, Haim Taharlev (formerly Tarlovsky) and Yaffa Yitzikovitz, came from Lithuania to build a new country and met at Yagur.

Taharlev remained on the kibbutz until he was 26, and worked there — “not usually very successfully,” he said — at different jobs, including beekeeping, fruit picking and gardening.

His work as a lyricist took off when he moved to Tel Aviv. His songs, recorded by Israel’s top groups and vocalists, were played incessantly on the radio — then the peak of local pop culture.

“Of course, not each and every song I wrote became an instant hit,” Taharlev wrote on his website. “Some of my songs were tucked into a drawer, never to see the light of day until this site was created. Others were recorded, but for one reason or another, just didn’t make it.”

Taharlev ended up posting the never-produced songs on his site believing they should be given a second chance. He invited young singers and composers to have a look and “see if something catches their fancy.”

His career as a lyricist began when he was around seven, he wrote, when his parents bought him a special notebook to write in and keep in their house — though he slept in a “children’s house” with other kibbutz kids, as was the custom then — at the bottom drawer of a cupboard.

On Saturday, June 29, 1946, known as Black Sabbath, Yagur was surrounded by British troops searching for illegal weapons and paramilitaries.

The kibbutz adults, including Taharlev’s parents, were shipped off to prison for four months. The British troops dug up floors and basements and found caches of weapons, including under the children’s house. They tossed personal possessions, including Taharlev’s special notebook, which had been hidden in his parents’ home.

“For days I would chase every slip of paper I saw blowing in the wind in the hope that I could recover even one page of the notebook, but I never found it and to this day have not been able to recreate my first poem,” he wrote.

He swore from then on that he would copy everything he wrote and learn it by heart, “so that no one could ever take it away from me again.”

Taharlev filled many notebooks with hundreds of songs and poems during his decades as a lyricist, publishing collections of his songs, volumes of poetry, books with Jewish and Israeli themes, and books for children, more than 70 books in total.

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