Yesterday Israel lost two cultural-religious icons who have greatly influenced Israeli society.
First we learned of the passing of Rabbanit Bracha Kapach, a great woman whom the average secular Israeli probably hasn’t heard of, yet she won the Israel Prize for her charitable works, and was married to a very unusual man who won the Israel Prize in his own right too:
Bracha Kapach, who in 1999 won the Israel Prize for her work helping the needy, passed away Tuesday in Jerusalem at the age of 90.
Rabbanit Kapach, as she was known, ran a private charity for at least 50 years out of her home in Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood that distributed care packages to the impoverished on holidays and before the Sabbath.
She organized a summer camp for underprivileged youth, and in the early years of the state, founded and ran a textile business which employed dozens of women.
Kapach was born in 1923 in Yemen and married her husband, Rabbi Yosef Kapach, when she was just eleven. The couple and their young children emigrated to then-Palestine in 1941, where Yosef Kapach, who died in 2000, became a leading figure among Yemenite Jews in Israel and an important scholar of Sephardic rabbinical thought.
Yosef Kapach was awarded the Israel Prize in 1969 for his scholarship. When his wife won in 1999, while he was still alive, the two became the only married couple to have both received the award, considered one of Israel’s highest civil honors.
This is the Keren Segulat Naomi that Rabbanit Kapach ran.
On a quiet, little-known street in one of Jerusalem’s poorer neighborhoods, the line on Fridays begins to form as early as 6 a.m. outside the home of Bracha Kapach.
They come from all over Jerusalem, particularly in the weeks before Passover: men down on their luck, elderly women with meager pensions, street kids living from fix to fix, mothers with too many mouths to feed. Kapach treats them all the same. She hands them challahs or clothing or cash, wishes them a “Shabbat shalom” and sends them on their way.
This is how Kapach, a diminutive Yemenite octogenarian known all over Israel for her good works, has become a lifeline for some of Jerusalem’s neediest, delivering hope in the form of food packages and small kindnesses.
Here’s a short video of Rabbanit Kappach z”l explaining her work:
Baruch Dayan Emet. We have lost a truly righteous woman.
At the other end of the cultural spectrum, last night Israel lost one of its greatest cultural icons: the singer Arik Einstein passed away suddenly at age 74.
Arik Einstein, considered Israel’s most popular singer and songwriter, died at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night at age 74, after suffering a ruptured aneurysm.
Einstein’s family, friends and fans had gathered at the hospital, including his wife, Sima Eliyahu, singers Shalom Hanoch, Israel Gurion and Dori Ben-Ze’ev, composer Miki Gavrielov, producer Zvi Shissel and actor Moni Moshonov.
“This is a huge loss,” Gurion said. “He was a great friend and a great singer. He was our Frank Sinatra.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed sorrow on behalf of the whole nation, calling his songs “the soundtrack of the country.”
“Arik was the greatest of them all,” Netanyahu said. “We all grew up on his songs. You said, ‘Arik Einstein,’ and you said, ‘the Land of Israel.’ He was a wonderful singer and a wonderful person.”
President Shimon Peres said Einstein’s “musical notes will continue to fill the country, even after his passing.”
“He equally excited our first generations and young generations,” Peres said. “He wrote his songs during our difficult days and during our uplifting moments. I loved his songs, and knew what many others know: there was no one else like him.”
Einstein, a singer, songwriter and actor who was born in Tel Aviv, is considered one of the greatest musicians in the country.
His partnership with Shalom Hanoch created the first local rock albums. Einstein’s most famous songs include “Ani Ve’ata” (Me and You), “Sa Le’at” (Drive Slowly), Yesh Li Ahava (I Have Love) and “Oof Gozal” (Fly, Little Bird).
Among other things, Einstein was national high-jump champion, a good sportsman and a huge fan of Hapoel Tel Aviv.
After his discharge from military service in 1959, Einstein joined the Green Onion band and the Sambation Theater, singing at first under the stage name Ari Goren.
He released his first solo album in 1960. In the Yarkon Bridge Trio, he performed with Yehoram Gaon, Benny Amdursky and later Israel Gurion.
In 1964, he starred in the iconic comedy film Sallah Shabbati, together with Chaim Topol. In 1966, he released the album, Shar Bishvilekh (Singing for You), and joined The High Windows, in which he performed popular songs.
Two years later, Einstein released the album Mazal Gdi (Capricorn), which was not very successful, but went on to produce the album Puzi with the Churchills, considered the first Israeli rock album.
He took part in the early 1970s cult comedic series, Lul (Chicken Coop), and was known for his sharp sense of humor. His health had deteriorated after he was involved in a serious car accident in 1982.
Einstein recorded songs with a range of top musicians, including Shalom Hanoch, Miki Gabrielov, Shem Tov Levy and Yoni Rechter.
In 2010, Einstein was the most broadcast artist on radio stations in Israel, according to ACUM.
The Times of Israel lists 6 essential Arik Einstein songs to get a taste of what the singer represented. I see one of my favourites there:
“Oof Gozal” (Fly away, little bird) is another collaboration with Gavrielov, tracing a parent’s conflicted feelings as the young chicks leave the nest, as they must, to chart their own course amid life’s dangers.
Baruch dayan emet. It won’t be easy for Israel to find a new soundtrack to its life.
May they both rest in peace.