February 14th, 2006, was a very sad day for the citizens of Israel- אזרחי ישראל. We woke up in the morning and heard devastating news that we could barely believe – the singer who sang about the morning’s light had passed away.
Shoshanna Damari-שושנה דמארי was almost 83 years old when moved on to the next world, leaving us yearning for her beautiful voice as the Queen of the Hebrew Music in Israel. It feels like you can’t speak about Israel’s independence without the mention of Damari.
Today we shall encounter two famous songs of Damari’s, whose last name is related to the city of Damar, in Yemen. Damari was born there on the last day of March and when she was two years old, her family arrived in the Promised Land by ship. In her teen years she was already a popular singer and a great performer. By the tender of age of 16 she was already performing sold-out concerts.
When I was in the first grade, or what we call in Hebrew “kittah aleph”-א כִּתָּה- our teacher, whose name was also Shoshanna, sang this song to us every morning:
“Light arises in morning upon a distant lake (I Remember). Yes, I remember and I won’t stop and I won’t be quiet….Sun, bring the sun if my skies is cloudy, I close my eyes but the sun is inside (me)”
“אור עולה בבוקר על אגם רחוק (זוכרת) כן אני זוכרת ולא אחדל ולא אשתוק…שמש, הביאו שמש אם שָמַי מעוננים עוצמת את עיני אבל השמש היא בפנים
Damari’s voice echoed throughout the adolescence of many young Israelis. It’s almost impossible to think of the formative years of Israel without mentioning her name. In remembering, one immediately pictures a robust lady with colorful clothes and loads of jewelry, no matter where she performed, in Israel or abroad. In 1988, she won the Israel Prize. The song mentioned earlier, “Light”, was her most famous from the album that she recorded that year.
Another great song that she sang, which is related to the War of Independence, is “There Were Times”- Hayu Zemanim”- היו זמנים:
“היו זמנים, אז במשלט ישבנו, היו זמנים, לחמנו ואהבנו, עכשיו דבר אין להכיר – על המשלט יושבת עיר, אולי בזכות אותם זמנים
There were times, at our post we sat, there were times, we fought and we loved. Now we can’t recognize it – at our post there’s a city, because of those times…”
Rest in Peace, Shoshanna, you will forever be in our hearts!
Photo: Israel’s national photo collection