Haim Hefer, an Israeli songwriter and poet who for many Israelis embodied the spirit of the generation that fought for their nation’s independence, died on Tuesday in Tel Aviv. He was 86.
His death was confirmed by a spokesman for the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, where Mr. Hefer spent his final weeks. No cause was given.
A native of Poland, Mr. Hefer was viewed as a quintessential Israeli who helped forge a national identity in contemporary Hebrew. Songs for which he wrote the lyrics like “Yes, It’s Possible,” “There Were Times” and “He Didn’t Know Her Name” became anthems, emblematic of a heroic era often evoked in musical tributes and communal singalongs.
His 1950s song “The Red Rock” was banned for years; the authorities feared that its romantic narrative about three young men equipped with “an old dream, a map and a water bottle” on an adventure that turned deadly would beckon more young Israelis to undertake a daring and treacherous journey through the Red Mountains to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, then enemy territory.
At a time when many Israelis were still struggling for survival, Mr. Hefer also wrote humorous, satirical songs and sketches and helped raise morale during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war as a founder of the Chizbatron, the first military entertainment troupe in Israel.
“Haim Hefer personified the words and the tune of the Zionist enterprise,” the veteran journalist Eitan Haber wrote on Wednesday in Yediot Aharonot, the newspaper where for decades Mr. Hefer wrote a weekly column on current affairs in poetic verse.
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