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(308 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Sapho, a multi-talented artist best known as a singer with a strong East/West repertoire and a supporter of peace and human rights, was born in 1950 to Jewish parents in Marrakesh. At age sixteen, she immigrated with her family to France, and was soon accepted by the Petit Conservatoire de Mireille in Paris. Despite a 1977 contract with RCA, she did not receive much publicity until her second album,   Janis (1980), produced in London, which was followed in quick succession with three more albums by 1983. During this period, she became known for her dramatic stage …

Ben, Zahava

(399 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Zehava Ben is a female vocalist in the Mizraḥi genre and has appeared in several films. Born Zehava Benisti in 1968 to a poor Moroccan family in Beersheva, Ben began performing at a young age. Her father, Simon Benisti, was a neighborhood singer who performed at weddings and other community events in Morocco and later in Israel. Discovered in 1989, Zehava Ben produced her first album, Ṭippat Mazal (A Drop of Luck), that year, and quickly became one of the leading Mizraḥi singers in Israel. By 1991, she had released her third album, introducing her version of Umm Kulthūm’s “Anta ʿOmrī” to th…

Haddad, Sarit

(307 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Sarit Haddad (Sarah Hodedtov) is an Israeli singer born in 1978, the youngest of the eight children of a Caucasian-Jewish family originally from Azerbaijan. Haddad showed an early interest in music, releasing her first album (with estimated sales of over 50,000 copies) when she was sixteen. While subsequent albums (in 1996 and 1997) brought her increasing popularity among fans of Mizraḥi music, it was a duet of “Tipex” in 1997 with Kobi Oz  that introduced her to the Israeli mainstream. In 1997, Haddad toured for one month in Jordan under an alias, performing mater…

Argov, Zohar

(361 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Israeli singer Zohar Argov, born Zohar Orkabi in 1955, was the eldest of the ten children of  Yemenite immigrant parents and was raised in the Rishon Le-Ṣiyyon neighborhood of Shikkunei ha-Mizraḥ. Argov’s vocal talent was recognized in early childhood, and he performed at synagogue and neighborhood celebrations. Exempt from mandatory military service due to financial hardship, his lack of army experience, combined with his Middle Eastern heritage, branded him as an outsider to mainstream Israeli…

Levi-Tannai, Sara

(414 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Sara Levi-Tannai (1911–2005) was an Israeli choreographer, founder of the Inbal Dance Troupe, and recipient of the Israel Prize in 1973 for her life’s work in dance. Born in Jerusalem, she lost her Yemenite immigrant parents at a young age and was raised in orphanages, where she was first introduced to Western culture. As a young woman, Levi-Tannai studied early childhood education in Tel Aviv and found a creative outlet composing songs for preschoolers, some of which remain popular to this day.…


(274 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
The Israeli pop rock singer Rita has produced eleven albums, most in collaboration with her artistic partner and former husband Rami Kleinstein, with whom she worked for thirty years until their separation in 2007. They have two children, Meshi (b. 1992) and Noam (b. 2001). Rita was born Rita Yahan-Farouz in Tehran in 1962, but her family immigrated to Israel when she was eight years old. Her stage career began in an Israel Defense Forces performing troupe, followed by acting school. Her first album ( Rita), released in 1986, followed close upon several successful singles, the f…

Toledano, Avi

(292 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Avi Toledano is a popular Israeli singer in the musiqa mizraḥit (Heb. Mizraḥi music) genre. He was born 1948 in Meknes, Morocco. In 1965, at the age of sixteen, he immigrated to an Israeli kibbutz with the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. Shortly after his arrival in Israel, Toledano appeared on the Teshuʿot Rishonot radio show, a venue for the development of young talent. He released his first album during his army service, and several of his songs, such as “ Yehuda My Younger Brother,” about a fallen soldier, became popular. Toledano placed third in the 1969 Israel Song F…

Sharabi, Boaz

(563 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Yemeni Israeli singer, songwriter, and drummer Boaz Sharabi was born in the Kerem Ha-Temanim neighborhood of Tel Aviv on May 28, 1947, one of the ten children of parents who had emigrated from Yemen. A prolific artist on the Israeli popular music scene for over forty years, he has collaborated with some of Israel’s top composers and written for mainstream singers and films across the ethnic spectrum. Sharabi began playing drums as a child and performed with the Karmon dance troupe during the 1960s. In 1971, he recorded an English-language version of his composition Pamela. The song was b…

Haza, Ofra

(537 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Ofra Haza (1957–2000) was an Israeli singer who rose from poverty to international acclaim. Born in the Shkhunat ha-Tikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv, to traditional parents who had immigrated from Yemen to Mandatory Palestine in 1944, she grew up at the height of the struggle against ethnic discrimination on the part of Israeli Jews from the Islamic world. Haza began performing at neighborhood events as a child and at twelve was invited by the activist/producer Bezalel Aloni into his Hatikva Quarter Theater Workshop. In 1973, Haza’s Gaʿaguʿim (Longing) won first place in Israel’s h…