Ofra Haza

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Ofra Haza
עפרה חזה‎
Ofra Haza (Cutout).jpg
Haza in 1994
Bat-Sheva Ofra Haza

(1957-11-19)19 November 1957
Died23 February 2000(2000-02-23) (aged 42)
Cause of death AIDS-related pneumonia
Resting place Yarkon Cemetery
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
Years active1969–2000
Doron Ashkenazi
(m. 1997)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • piano
Website www.haza.co.il

Bat-Sheva Ofra Haza-Ashkenazi, known professionally as Ofra Haza (Hebrew : עפרה חזה; 19 November 1957 – 23 February 2000), was an Israeli Yemenite Jewish [1] singer, actress and Grammy Award-nominee recording artist, commonly known in the Western world as "The Israeli Madonna", [2] or "Madonna of the East". [3] Her voice has been described as a "tender" mezzo-soprano. [4]


Of Yemenite heritage, Haza's music is known as a mixture of traditional and commercial singing styles, fusing elements of Eastern and Western instrumentation, orchestration and dance-beat. She became successful in Europe and the Americas; during her singing career, she earned many platinum and gold discs. In Israel, Haza was an influential cultural figure that helped to popularize Mizrahi culture. [5]

Early life

Bat-Sheva Ofra Haza was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, [6] to Mizrahi Jewish parents from Yemen who immigrated to Israel. [5] [7] She was the youngest of nine children [8] (six sisters and two brothers) to Yefet and Shoshana Haza. They were raised in a Masorti household[ citation needed ] in the Hatikva Quarter, then an impoverished neighborhood of Tel Aviv. [7] [9] [8]

At the age of 12, Haza joined a local theater troupe, [5] and manager Bezalel Aloni noticed her singing talent. He spotlighted her in many of his productions, and later became her manager and mentor. At 19, she was Israel's foremost pop star, and music journalists retrospectively described her as "the Madonna of the East".[ citation needed ]

Haza served two years in the Israel Defense Forces. [7]

Haza in 1997 HazaOfra01.JPG
Haza in 1997

International artist

Her major international breakthrough came in the wake of the album Shirei Teiman ("Yemenite songs"), which she recorded in 1984. The album consisted of songs that Haza had heard in childhood, using arrangements that combined authentic Middle Eastern percussion with classical instruments. [10] Further recognition came with the single "Im Nin'alu", taken from the album Shaday (1988), which won the New Music Award for Best International Album of the Year. [11] The song topped the Eurochart for two weeks in June that year and was on heavy rotation on MTV channels across the continent. In the annals of classical hip-hop this song would be extensively re-released, re-mixed and sampled, for example on Coldcut's remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full". The single made only a brief appearance in the UK top 40 singles chart, but became a dance floor favorite across Europe and the USA, topping the German charts for nine weeks. Subsequent singles were also given the dance-beat / MTV-style video treatment, most notably, Galbi, Daw Da Hiya and Mata Hari, but none quite matched the runaway success of her first hit. Im Nin'alu would go on to be featured on an in-game radio playlist of the video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories , released in 2005 and featured on Panjabi MC's album "Indian Timing" in 2009.[ citation needed ]

Haza also received critical acclaim for the albums Fifty Gates of Wisdom (1984), Desert Wind (1989), Kirya (1992) and Ofra Haza (1997).[ citation needed ]

In 1992, Kirya (co-produced by Don Was) received a Grammy nomination. [11]

In 1994, Haza released her first Hebrew album in seven years, Kol Haneshama ("The Whole Soul"). Though not an initial chart success, the album produced one of her biggest hits to date, Le'orech Hayam ("Along The Sea"), written by Ayala Asherov. The song did not have any substantial chart success upon its release to radio but became an anthem after Haza performed it on the assembly in memorial to deceased Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a week after he was assassinated. Radio stations around the country began to play it. Its lyrics became even more symbolic following Haza's own death in 2000.[ citation needed ]

Collaborations and performances

A memorial to Ofra Haza in the Hatikva Quarter garden, Tel Aviv Ganhatikva050.jpg
A memorial to Ofra Haza in the Hatikva Quarter garden, Tel Aviv
Memorial plaque in memory of Ofra Haza at her childhood home in 39 Boaz Street, Tel Aviv. Memorial Plate on Ofra Haza Childhood Home in Tel Aviv.jpg
Memorial plaque in memory of Ofra Haza at her childhood home in 39 Boaz Street, Tel Aviv.

Her collaborative work with internationally established acts included the single "Temple of Love (Touched by the Hand of Ofra Haza)", recorded with The Sisters of Mercy in 1992. Thomas Dolby co-produced Yemenite Songs and Desert Wind, on which he was also a guest musician. Haza guested on Dolby's album Astronauts And Heretics (1992), singing on the track "That's Why People Fall in Love". She recorded "My Love Is for Real" with Paula Abdul in 1995 and on Sarah Brightman's album Harem , Haza's vocals were included on "Mysterious Days", thanks to an idea by Brightman's partner Frank Peterson (ex-Enigma), who produced both Harem (2003) and the album Ofra Haza (1997). Haza also sang backing vocals on the song "Friend of Stars" by the German electro-pop band And One, from the Spot (1993) album.

For the Kirya album, Iggy Pop, a friend of Don Was, performed the narration on "Daw Da Hiya" and Haza joined him and a host of other stars for the video and single release "Give Peace A Chance" in 1991. She also sang on the soundtracks of Colors (1988), Dick Tracy (1990), Wild Orchid (1990), Queen Margot (1994) and The Prince of Egypt (1998).

In The Prince of Egypt, she voiced the small role of Yocheved, singing "Deliver Us". When Hans Zimmer, who was working with Haza on the music for The Prince of Egypt, introduced her to the artists, they thought that she was so beautiful that they drew Yocheved to look like the singer. For the film's soundtracks, Haza sang the song "Deliver Us" in 18 languages, about half of which were sung phonetically, including:

On the soundtrack of The Governess (1998), Haza is the featured singer on seven of the twelve tracks and worked closely with film music composer Edward Shearmur. In 1999, she performed (together with late Pakistani artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) the track "Forgiveness", on the contemporary symphony album The Prayer Cycle by Jonathan Elias. As a featured background vocalist, Haza's voice has been recorded, re-mixed or sampled for Black Dog's "Babylon" single, Eric B and Rakim's "Paid in Full (Coldcut Remix)", "Temple of Love (1992)" by The Sisters of Mercy, and for the M/A/R/R/S hit "Pump Up The Volume". The single "Love Song" has been re-mixed by DJs many times, its powerful vocal performance and comparatively sparse musical arrangement making it the perfect vehicle for a dance-rhythm accompaniment.

Covers of songs by other artists included the Carole King/James Taylor song "You've Got a Friend", Madonna's "Open Your Heart", Gary Moore's "Separate Ways", and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir".

There were many live performances and Haza spoke with fond memories of her visits to Japan and Turkey. She performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, where she appeared alongside Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor. "Paint Box" was written specially for the event. Her 1990 live recording, Ofra Haza at Montreux Jazz Festival was released in 1998.

Haza shared duets and concert performances with Glykeria, Yehudit Ravitz, Paul Anka, Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson, Iggy Pop, Hoite, Buddha Bar, Ishtar, Gidi Gov, Whitney Houston, Tzvika Pick, Khaled, Prachim Yerushalaim, The Sisters of Mercy, Thomas Dolby, Stefan Waggershausen, Eric B and Rakim, Gila Miniha, Hans Zimmer, Hagashash Hachiver, Yaffa Yarkoni, Dana International, Shoshana Damari and posthumously with Sarah Brightman.

In late 1999, Haza recorded new material for a new album that she worked on with Ron Aviv, a music producer from Petah Tikva. At the time, she also worked with the Finnish violinist Linda Brava, who released a previously unreleased track called Tarab on her MySpace page on 14 May 2010. On the track, Haza sings in English, Arabic and Hebrew, while Brava plays the electric violin. The track is possibly Haza's last recording. [12]


On 15 July 1997, Haza married businessman Doron Ashkenazi. The couple had no children, but Ashkenazi had an adopted son, Shai, and a biological daughter from his first marriage. [13] [14]


Ofra Haza's grave in Yarkon Cemetery The Grave of Ofra Haza.jpg
Ofra Haza's grave in Yarkon Cemetery

Ofra Haza died on 23 February 2000, at the age of 42, of AIDS-related pneumonia. While the fact that she was HIV-positive is now generally known, the decision by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz to report it shortly after her death was controversial in Israel. [15]

After Haza's death was announced, Israeli radio stations played non-stop retrospectives of her music. Then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak praised her work as a cultural emissary, commenting that she also represented the Israeli success story — "Ofra emerged from the Hatikvah slums to reach the peak of Israeli culture. She has left a mark on us all."

The fact that Haza died because of an AIDS-related illness added another layer to the public mourning. The revelation of Haza's illness caused much surprise among fans, along with debate about whether the media invaded her privacy by reporting it. There was also speculation about how she had acquired the virus. Immediately after her death, the media placed blame on her husband, Tel Aviv businessman Doron Ashkenazi, for infecting her with the disease. [16] Haza's manager Bezalel Aloni supported this belief, writing in his book that Haza acquired AIDS through sex with her husband. [17] Later, it was revealed that her husband believed Haza became infected because of a blood transfusion she received in a hospital following a miscarriage. Ashkenazi himself died of a drug overdose roughly one year later on 7 April 2001, leaving a daughter from a prior marriage and a 14-year-old adopted son, Shai Ashkenazi. [18]

Haza is buried in the Artists section of Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv.


Bezalel Aloni, Haza's manager and producer of 28 years, published a book Michtavim L'Ofra (Letters to Ofra) in 2007. The book is partly Aloni's autobiography and partly a biography of Haza, and includes letters written by Aloni. [19]

On 22 March 2007, on the seventh anniversary of her death, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and the Tel Aviv Development Fund renamed part of the public park in the Hatikva Quarter Gan Ofra (Ofra's Park) in her honor. The park is placed at the end of Bo'az street, in which Haza's childhood home stood. The park features a children's playground, symbolizing her love for children and the old quarter she grew up in and always came back to.

On 19 November 2014, Google celebrated her 57th birthday with a Google Doodle. [20] Pakistani blogger Sarmad Iqbal who is known for his pro-peace stance, immensely praised Ofra Haza in his blog post titled A Pakistani’s love letter to Israeli pop music and cinema for The Times of Israel in 2017. Sarmad wrote "She was more than just a cultural icon of Israel as she also tried to bridge the wide gap between Israel and her Arab neighbors as her songs spread to a wider Middle-Eastern audience defying all the barriers to peace and friendship between Arabs and Israel.". [21]

In the videogame Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories , her track "Im Nin'Alu" is featured in a fictional radio station which plays Middle Eastern and Indian Music.




Studio albums
  • 1974: Ahava RishonaFirst Love (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
  • 1976: Vehutz Mizeh Hakol BesederApart from that All Is OK (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
  • 1977: Atik NoshanAncient Old (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
  • 1977: Shir HaShirim Besha'ashu'imThe Song of Songs (with Fun)
  • 1980: Al Ahavot ShelanuAbout Our Loves
  • 1981: Bo NedaberLet's Talk
  • 1982: PituyimTemptations
  • 1982: Li-yeladimSongs for Children (children's album)
  • 1983: HaiAlive
  • 1983: Shirey MoledetHomeland Songs
  • 1984: Bayt HamA Place for Me
  • 1984: Yemenite Songs Shiri Teyman (aka Fifty Gates of Wisdom)
  • 1985: AdamahEarth
  • 1985: Shirey Moledet 2Homeland Songs 2
  • 1986: Yamim NishbarimBroken Days
  • 1987: Shirey Moledet 3Homeland Songs 3
  • 1988: Shaday
  • 1989: Desert Wind
  • 1992: Kirya
  • 1994: Kol HaneshamaMy Soul
  • 1997: Ofra Haza
Live albums
  • 1983: Selected Hits (with Shechunat Hatikvah Workshop Theatre)
  • 1986: Album HaZahavGolden Album
  • 2000: Manginat Halev Vol. 1Melody of the Heart Vol. 1
  • 2004: Manginat Halev Vol. 2Melody of the Heart Vol. 2
  • 2008: Forever Ofra Haza (remix album)


YearSinglePeak positionsAlbum
"Im Nin'alu"1516291462312161315
"Galbi" (reissue)8201921
1989"Eshal" (ITA only)43
"Wish Me Luck"18Desert Wind
"I Want to Fly" (JAP only)
1990"Ya Ba Ye"20
1991"Today I'll Pray (Oggi Un Dio Non Ho)" (from Sanremo – ITA only)single only
1992"Daw Da Hiya"Kirya
"Innocent – A Requiem for Refugees"
1994"Elo Hi" La Reine Margot OST
1995"Mata Hari"singles only
1996"Love Song"
1997"Show Me"Ofra Haza
1998"Give Me a Sign"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.


See also

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<i>Desert Wind</i> (album) 1989 studio album by Ofra Haza

Desert Wind is a 1989 album by Ofra Haza, who was one of the most popular singers in Israel at the time. Haza was unknown in the rest of the world until the previous year when the song "Im Nin'Alu" and the following album Shaday were released, bringing her to the attention of Europe and the United States. Desert Wind was therefore more oriented toward the international market.

Im Ninalu

"Im Nin'alu" is a Hebrew poem by 17th-century Rabbi Shalom Shabazi. It has been placed to music and sung by Israeli singer Ofra Haza and others. Haza first performed this song with the Shechunat Hatikva Workshop Theatre, appearing on television on IBA's General Television in 1978. She went on to become famous in Europe with the song in 1987, when a remixed version of the song, produced by Izhar Ashdot, reached the Top 10 in different countries. The single reached #1 in Finland, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and West Germany, where it topped the charts for nine weeks in the summer of 1988. In the UK, the track was a Top 20 hit, peaking at #15; and in the US it reached #15 on Billboards Hot Dance Club Play chart and #18 on Hot Modern Rock Tracks. London-based duo Coldcut produced a remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid In Full" which heavily sampled "Im Nin'alu". The single reportedly sold some three million copies worldwide, making it one of the first world music recordings to extend over to mainstream pop chart success. The original version was included on the 1984 album Yemenite Songs, also known as Fifty Gates of Wisdom. The remixed version was part of her international debut Shaday of 1988. A version recorded in 1978 along with Sadnat Te'atron Shechunat Hatikva is available on YouTube.

<i>Kirya</i> (album) 1992 studio album by Ofra Haza

Kirya was Ofra Haza's 1992 follow-up to the internationally successful Shaday (1988) and Desert Wind (1989). Building on her successful blend of European pop and traditional Middle Eastern sounds, the album was a logical next step for Haza. Musically, it applied the sensibilities of pop producer Don Was to traditional song writing and instrumentation; lyrically, it delivered powerful themes of longing, joy, and the plight of the downtrodden in several languages, much like Haza's earlier work.

Hatikva Quarter

Hatikva Quarter is a working class neighbourhood in southeastern Tel Aviv, Israel.

<i>Shaday</i> 1988 studio album by Ofra Haza

Shaday is an album by Israeli singer Ofra Haza, released in 1988. Shaday, recorded in both Tel Aviv and England, became Haza's international breakthrough album and includes the Hebrew-English language remix singles "Im Nin'alu" and "Galbi," as well as "Shaday" and "Da'Ale Da'Ale," also released as remix singles.

<i>Yemenite Songs</i> 1984 studio album by Ofra Haza

Yemenite Songs is a 1984 album by Ofra Haza, in which the Israeli pop star returned to her roots interpreting traditional Yemeni Jewish songs with lyrics coming from the poetry of 16th century Rabbi Shalom Shabazi. The album was recorded with both traditional and modern musical instruments; wooden and metal percussion, Yemenite tin and tambala, strings, brass and woodwind as well as drum machines and synthesizers. The songs are sung in Hebrew with a Yemenite accent and in Arabic.

<i>Ofra Haza</i> (album) 1997 studio album by Ofra Haza

Ofra Haza is the eponymous 1997 album by Israeli singer Ofra Haza. The album was produced by Frank Peterson, recorded both in Hamburg as well as at legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, and includes the single release "Show Me", an updated version of "Im Nin' Alu", songs co-written by Peterson, Haza and manager Bezalel Aloni as well as a cover version of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend". Although Haza continued recording until 1999, mainly songs for movie soundtracks and collaborations with other artists, this was to be her final full-length studio album before her death in 2000.

<i>At Montreux Jazz Festival</i> 1998 live album by Ofra Haza

At Montreux Jazz Festival is a 1998 album by Israeli singer Ofra Haza. The recording which captures Haza and a five-piece band live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1990 comprises material from her international studio albums Shaday, Yemenite Songs and Desert Wind, including hit singles like "Im Nin' Alu", "Galbi", "Shaday", "Ya Ba Ye", as well as Yemeni Jewish traditionals and the a cappella performance of "Love Song" with lyrics from The Song of Songs.

Galbi (song)

"Galbi"(Hebrew: גלבי, Arabic: قلبي) is an Arabic Musical poem by Aharon Amram Yemenite that was sung by Israeli Yemenite singer Ofra Haza and others. The 1988 remix of the song, taken from the album Shaday, was issued as the follow-up to Haza's worldwide chart hit "Im Nin'Alu ".

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  1. Satenstein, Liana. "The Ancient Beauty of Yemenite Wedding Ceremonies, Up Close". Vogue. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  2. "The Israeli Madonna". BBC Four . 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  3. "Ofra Haza, Madonna of the East". Legacy.com. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. Pareles, Jon (24 February 2000). "Ofra Haza, 41, Israeli Pop Singer Who Crossed Cultural Bounds". The New York Times . New York. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 Joffe, Lawrence (25 February 2000). "Ofra Haza". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. "Ofra Haza". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  7. 1 2 3 "Ofra Haza | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  8. 1 2 "Death Of A Diva". POZ. 1 June 2000. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  9. "Paying tribute to a Mizrahi legend". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  10. Ofra Haza in the "Jewish Women's Archive"
  11. 1 2 "Ofra Haza: From Hatikva to Hollywood". Jerusalem Post online. 24 February 2000. Archived from the original on 13 October 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  12. "About Me". Lindalampenius.com. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  13. Amit Ben-Aroya. "Ofra Haza's husband found dead, police suspect drug overdose", Haaretz, 7 April 2001
  14. Greer Fay Cashman. "Jerusalem Post Article about Shai Ashkenazi" Archived 24 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine , The Jerusalem Post, 21 October 2007
  15. Sontag, Deborah (29 February 2000). "A Pop Diva, a Case of AIDS and an Israeli Storm". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  16. "Singer's death prompts AIDS debate". London: BBC News. 5 March 2000. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  17. "The double life of Ofra Haza". Haaretz.
  18. "Ofra Haza: Madonna of the dark soul". The Guardian. London. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  19. "'Letters to Ofra' – The double life of Ofra Haza" . Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  20. "Ofra Haza's 57th Birthday". Google. 19 November 2014.
  21. "'A Pakistani's love letter to Israeli pop music and cinema'" . Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  22. "Official Charts Company: Ofra Haza". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  23. "Ofra Haza – German Chart". charts.de. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  24. "Ofra Haza – US Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Avi Toledano
with Hora
Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
Izhar Cohen
with Olé, Olé