+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Arik Einstein: The iconization of a non-icon

Israeli singer and actor Arik Einstein died last night at 74. More than any other in the previous two decades, the moment of his death resembled that of Rabin’s – the face of the TV anchorman, the reactions of my friends (this time on social media), the people gathering in front of Tel Aviv City Hall. I was listening to a pop show on the radio when the music stopped; Einstein’s version of “Hachnisini” by Israeli national poet Haim Nachman Bialik was played, and we all knew.

In the hours that followed, some crowned Einstein the “Israeli Sinatra.” This is perhaps true of his national status (he performed “the best Israeli song of all time“) and the volume and influence of his work, but part of Einstein’s magic laid in the places where he wasn’t present – he avoided the celebrity crowd and TV talk shows, he stopped acting and performing decades ago, his interviews to the print media were confused – his answers brief and not always to the point.

He lived in Tel Aviv, went to the local football team’s match every weekend. His phone was listed in the national directory. There was something melancholic and very intimate in his most popular songs. Einstein wasn’t the singer of every Israeli, as today’s newspapers claim. I suppose ultra-Orthodox Jews or Palestinian citizens hardly knew of him. But for a certain group, one which often likes to think of itself as the core of Israeli national identity, Einstein held a special status. I belong to this group. Like others, I have my favorite Einstein Album – (Songs by Avraham Halfi, which my dad introduced me to), my favorite Einstein movie (Big Eyes). We sang an Einstein lullaby for our son when he was a baby, and “Einstein for Kids” is just about the only reason we play still keep the CD player around.

In these very moments, Einstein is becoming what he tried to avoid all his life – a national icon. Will his songs still feel the same? I would like to believe so.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. Philos

      Noam, you forgot to mention swathes of Israeli Mizrachim who couldn’t stand his music. They knew his music and like my grandmother would say every time he was on the radio “I can’t suffer him. All his songs sound the same.” A sentiment shared by Ashkenazi Israelis about most Mizrachi music I think

      Reply to Comment
      • I am not so sure. that’s very personal experiences. My father was born in Iraq, and as I said, he introduced me to Einstein.

        Reply to Comment