(Haaretz) — A part of Israel passed away on Tuesday night. A slice of its soul has departed. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, possibly millions, have lost a close personal friend, an intimate lifelong companion. A voice of Israel – the voice of Israel, for many – will sing no more.
His name is Arik Einstein, and he died on Tuesday night at the age of 74. He may not have been very well known outside of Israel, but he was, in many ways, the most adored of Israeli singers, the most admired, the most iconic. He was our Frank Sinatra, our Elvis Presley, our Bruce Springsteen all rolled into one.
Einstein was the embodiment of the new, liberal, secular Israel that we once thought we would be. He was the quintessential, apolitical, fun-loving king of Tel Aviv decades before the city became so hot and trendy. A superstar by anyone’s standard, he remained shy, modest and unassuming until his very last day.
He was the antidote to arrogant generals, the antithesis of pompous politicians, the polar opposite of crass capitalists and manipulative machers. He was no heroic kibbutznik, no daring commando, no pretentious preacher or dogmatic fanatic. He was unencumbered by history, unburdened by Jewish suffering, undaunted by the bombastic ideology of his elders and peers.
He was a genuine sabra, Tel-Aviv-born, locally grown - less Diaspora Jew, more reborn Israeli. He was a normal sabra and he sang of the mundane, day-to-day things that a normal Israeli would wish for, if he could only be normal.
He wrote the words for some of his songs and composed the melodies of a few of his hits, though “not enough to challenge Mozart,” as he once laughed. But he had a canny eye for budding young musicians to take under his fold, an incomparable ear for the zeitgeist of his times, a baritone as smooth as silk and the dashing looks of a Hollywood star.
His popularity has withstood the passage of time. His tunes for children pick up new fans as soon as they were born, his challenge to conventions continues to entice rebellious teens, his love songs – his exquisitely tender and romantic love songs - endeared him to lovers both young and old. He resuscitated, almost singlehandedly, the songs of the first Zionists, the hymns of “Good Old Israel,” the days of early innocence and boundless optimism, when hopes were high and possibilities seemed endless.