PM: Taharlev's songs 'will remain with us forever'

Yoram Taharlev, prolific lyricist, dies at 83, leaving cache of unpublished songs

Born in Kibbutz Yagur, he began writing poetry at the age of 7, publishing dozens of books alongside hundreds of songs

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Israeli poet Yoram Taharlev, May 10, 2021. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Israeli poet Yoram Taharlev, May 10, 2021. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The prolific Israeli songwriter and poet Yoram Taharlev, who wrote some of the country’s most notable songs, died Thursday 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).

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

He was born on Kibbutz Yagur in 1938, where his parents lived in a small room without indoor plumbing, running water or “the slightest vestige of privacy,” wrote Taharlev 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 website, 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 the children’s house, as was the custom in those early kibbutz days — in 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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