Ofra Haza was undeniably one of the greatest and most beloved Israeli singers of all time, taken from this world way too soon. Ofra passed away in 2000 at age 42. But she leaves behind an incredible musical legacy that continues to be enjoyed by her many fans around the world.

If you miss Ofra’s voice as much as we do – or if you want to learn more about one of the most talented Israeli singers ever – these ten songs (in no particular order) are the perfect starting point to experience the magic of Ofra Haza.

1. Tefila (Prayer)

“God, watch over us like children / watch over us and don’t leave…” A classic Ofra song of hope and optimism, this 1981 “prayer” is one of Ofra’s greatest hits. Turns out she also recorded it in French, along with its own music video.
Lyrics and translation

2. Im Nin’alu (If the Gates Are Locked)

No matter how big Ofra got, she never forgot where she came from. Ofra recorded several Yemenite songs as a tribute to her heritage, and some of them became quite popular outside of Israel. This 1988 song gained a following around the world, as explained in this article about the song.
Lyrics and translation

3. Deliver Us (from The Prince of Egypt)

“Deliver Us” (Ofra starts singing at 2:15)

In 1998, Dreamworks Animation released The Prince of Egypt, an epic animated depiction of the Biblical Exodus. Steven Spielberg, one of the film’s Executive Producers, hand-picked Ofra to voice the character of Yocheved, mother of Moses. He was so impressed with her performance, her emotion, and her sincerity, that he realized no other voice actor could take her place. Spielberg asked if Ofra could voice the character in ALL languages in which the movie would be released – and Ofra agreed. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we can now witness this incredible feat – with Ofra singing in Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, and many, many more languages.
Lyrics

4. Yad B’yad (Hand In Hand)

One of the things about Ofra that made her so darn likeable was that she was always smiling, always optimistic. Her warm smile could light up the darkest of nights. Her song lyrics also helped – with upbeat, positive messages that helped you believe you could take on the world. Here’s her 1984 hit, “Yad B’yad” (Hand in Hand).
Lyrics and Translation

5. Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold)

Composed by Naomi Shemer in the dark days leading up to the Six Day War in 1967, “Jerusalem of Gold” boosted the morale of the country at a time they needed it most. Following Israel’s miraculous victory in the war, a new celebratory stanza was added…further solidifying the song as a major artifact in Israel’s modern history. One of the most popular Israeli songs of all time, the song has been covered by many, many artists. However, if you’ve never heard Ofra Haza’s hauntingly beautiful version…well, you’ve never truly heard the song.
Lyrics and Translation

6. Mishehu Holech Tamid Iti (Someone is always walking with me)

Was Ofra a religious woman? Definitely, and her songs often crossed over into the spiritual. But as her obituary in the “Jewish Journal” points out, she was “more traditional than observant.”

“She lit candles on Shabbat. On her travels abroad, she wouldn’t eat non-kosher meat. She tried to avoid Friday night bookings. But she did drive on Shabbat.

“’I don’t know what I would have done without believing in God,” she said. “His support gives me power and energy to continue to be optimistic, to smile, not to be depressed. Sometimes, if things are not going so well, I don’t cry. I say maybe it’s meant to be.’”

Jewish Journal: “Remembering Ofra Haza, March 2, 2000 (https://jewishjournal.com/old_stories/2581)

This song, “Someone Is Always Walking With Me”, is one example of Ofra’s deep belief in God. “But when evening came / With the evening wind / A leaf falls on the roof of my home / I know / I hear / Someone always walks with me.” Gorgeous and profound.
Lyrics and Translation

7. Shir Hafrecha (The Bimbo Song)

Light, funny, and controversial, “Shir Hafrecha” is widely regarded as Haza’s signature song. The Jerusalem Post explains that “Freicha,” which means flower or blossom, is also slang for “Mizrahi bimbo,”:

“The singer, who grew up in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah slum, embraced every aspect of her Mizrahi heritage, singing traditional Yemenite songs in Arabic, wearing traditional Yemenite garb and performing the upbeat, “Shir HaFreicha” as if to wink at the ethnic stereotypes about Mizrahi women. Its lyrics were composed by the actor/director Assi Dayan, and its melody by Svika Pick (today also known as Quentin Tarantino’s father-in-law). In it, a young woman tells off a man, saying that although she loves life, including being silly and dancing, she isn’t into him. It was composed for Dayan’s 1979 movie, Shlager, in which Haza had a role. At first, radio stations in Israel refused to play it, considering the word “freicha” and the lyrics too suggestive, although it quickly became a huge hit.”

The Jerusalem Post: “Festigal’s removal of the word, ‘freicha,’ from song sparks debate”, December 4, 2019

Lyrics and Translation

8. Goral Echad (One Destiny)

Ofra sang about Yemen, she sang about love, she sang about optimism, she sang about God. But she also sang – a lot – about the land of Israel. No matter where around the world her fame took her, she always remembered that Israel was home, and her songs reflected her patriotism. The best known example is probably 1985’s“Goral Echad”. The song reminds us that no matter how far we may travel…na matter how much we may try to forget…the Land of Israel is our destiny and we will always be drawn back home.
Lyrics and Translation

9. Hakotel (The Western Wall)

In 1967, on the day of the liberation of the Western Wall, poet Yossi Gamzu was in the Old City. He saw the victorious soldiers looking depressed and despondent. Why? Despite the euphoria of the liberation of the Kotel, the soldiers lost many friends during the fighting. Yossi went home that night and wrote a song about the sacrifices made by so many in order to achieve this tremendous milestone. “There are men with hearts of stone / There are stones with hearts of men.” This inspirational song has been sung by many since 1967, but once again, Ofra Haza takes it to new heights and brings out the words as no one else can. Her gorgeous rendition will give you chills, and you’ll never look at Judaism’s holiest site in quite the same way again.
Lyrics and Translation

10. Chai (Alive)

It was 1983, and the pain of the Munich Olympic massacre was hardly forgotten. The Eurovision Song Contest took place that year in Munich, and lyricist Ehud Manor wanted to send the world a message: Am Yisrael Chai – the nation of Israel is alive and well. When it came time to perform in the finals, Ofra Haza appeared on stage flanked by five dancers dressed in yellow. The six of them resembled the yellow Star of David worn by Jews in the time of the Holocaust, with red belts recalling the Jewish blood spilled on German soil.

The result, of course, was Ofra Haza’s “Chai”, one of the most beloved Israeli songs of all time. It came in second place in the Eurovision, but won the hearts of Jews and non-Jews around the world. To this day, it continues to inspire: in 2018, Koolulam assembled 600 Holocaust survivors and their descendants to sing the most moving version of the song you’ll ever hear.
Lyrics and Translation

What did we miss?

With a seemingly-endless string of hits, it’s not easy to boil Ofra Haza’s incredible legacy down to just ten songs! So what did we forget? What’s your list of “essential” Ofra Haza songs? What are your memories of Ofra? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.

Ofra Haza lived a beautiful life that ended way too soon. She is sorely missed, even 20 years later. May her memory be a blessing.