Yaffa Yarkoni: A Voice for Peace; Gave Voice to Israeli Pride; Supported National Morale for Half Century

Yaffa Yarkoni, (December 24,1925-Jan 1, 2012). Born in Giv’ atayim, Israel. Yarkoni, as many of her generation, was the child of immigrants from the Caucuses. She was the daughter of Malka Alhassof and Avraham Abramov, the middle daughter of three children. Each parent had migrated early in the 20th century. Avraham Abramov, a fabric and carpet dealer, met Malka in Tel Aviv and married her there. Later, he left his family and moved to South Africa. Meanwhile, Malka was left to raise the children. She owned Tslil coffee house in Givatayim (Givat Rambam). All three young children (including Yaffa’s siblings Binyamin, Tikva) proved to have musical talent in singing, dancing and playing musical instruments. They started off in a teenage group Basmati. Yaffa attended Gertrude Kraus Dance School and from there succeeded in landing a place with the dance troupe of the Palestine Opera Company.
In 1944, she married a young solider, Yosef Gustin, who was in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army. He was stationed in Italy and killed just before the end of the World War II. Yaffa was not yet 20 years old.

Yaffa developed a successful singing career in the new State of Israel, starting off singing songs of the Palmach while in the Army’s Givati Brigade. She was a radio operator during Israel’s War of Independence. She started singing for large groups at that time, appearing in the army choral troupe and continued to bolster the nation’s morale through many of the tough wars for the next fifty years and became known as “the Singer of the Wars,” a designation she didn’t like. In 1948, she married Shaike Yarkoni and had three children, Orit, Tamar and Ruth.

After her first album was a hit, she started recording songs for the troups with Hed Artzi, a new record label in Israel. Such memorable tunes as “Bab el Wad” were sung worldwide. In 1967, Yarkoni was chosen to sing “Jerusalem of Gold” in front of the Western Wall after Israel recaptured the city. She traveled throughout the world singing Israel’s new Hebrew songs to sell-out audiences in world venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Paris Olympia and London’s Palladium. In 1998, she was awarded the Israel Prize during the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the State. In 2000, a CD, “Rumania, Rumania” of Yarkoni singing Yiddish songs (with arrangements by Glenn Osser) was produced by Simon Rutberg of Hatikvah music. She felt it was OK to sing in languages, even if she didn’t understand them (she didn’t know Yiddish, but she did learn French, Spanish and even enough to sing in Japanese). She also recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, the jazz artist. In 2002, after a controversial radio interview in which she opposed some political actions of the Israeli government, Yarkoni received hate mail and had her life threatened. Many of her concerts were canceled and there was a boycott called of her music. Later, such harsh attitudes by many softened, due to her great service for so many decades to the country. In 2005, nearing age 80, she sang again for the 57th anniversary of Israel, but also agreed to appear at the Vox Club for gay fans in Tel Aviv. Her show of support by agreeing to sing there was very well received among that community. Yarkoni died Jan. 1, 2012, age 86, from a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. She was honored in Israel with music on radio, TV and in national salutes by politicians and citizens.

See: Washington Post Obit at:

See: Jerusalem Post Obit at:

<src=”http://www.jmwc.org/images/YaffaYarkoni.jpg” alt=”Yaffa Yarkoni” align=”left”>