Josh Shron
Israeli Music Radio Host, Podcaster & Enthusiast

10 Israeli Songs Every Jew Should Know

In keeping with our mission to build “a stronger Israel, one song at a time”, we at MyIsraeliMusic.com have developed a secondary mission:

To encourage Jews around the world to create a deeper connection with Israel through music and culture.

In my humble opinion, there is no better way to connect to our beloved homeland than through music. After all, that’s my story. I was a young college student living in New Jersey with a marginal connection to Israel. I had visited once at 13, and while I enjoyed my trip, by no means was it life-changing in any way.

Once I discovered Israeli music, however, my relationship with Israel changed drastically. I immersed myself in the culture…I became part of the culture…and the next thing I knew, I was Israeli. And there was no turning back.

That’s why I’ve always been passionate about encouraging Jews everywhere to listen to Israeli music. Even if they don’t understand Hebrew! You don’t have to understand every word to appreciate great music, and you’ll feel so much more connected to the land of Israel than ever before. You’ll be “part of the family”, and there’ll be no turning back.

OK, you’ve convinced me, I hear you saying…but where to start?

Good question. I’m assuming most Jews around the world have some knowledge of the absolute basics: songs like “Hava Nagila”, “BaShana Haba’ah”, “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem” and other such Israeli classics (but if you don’t – definitely start there).

For everyone else, here are ten Israeli songs – in order of their year of release – that all Jews should know.

1. “Yo Ya” by Kaveret

“Yo Ya”
Kaveret

1973
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
Important? Maybe not. Fun? Heck, yeah! Kaveret, Israel’s answer to The Beatles, was probably Israel’s greatest rock and roll band of all time. To this day, the group still holds a special place in the hearts of most Israelis. Their final reunion tour in 2013 brought in NIS 28 million (about $8 million), with 120,000 tickets sold over five concerts. As for “YoYa”… Kaveret’s most-beloved  song is just plain fun – with humorous, clever Hebrew lyrics and an easily-singable refrain. That’s why it remains an iconic centerpiece of Israeli culture, 45 years after its release.

2. “Ani V’ata” by Arik Einstein

“Ani V’ata” (You and I)
Arik Einstein

1978
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
Arik Einstein was the Frank Sinatra of Israel. With more than 500 songs under his belt, Arik contributed more to the soundtrack of Israel than, perhaps, any other artist. His voice is instantly recognizable, each song more popular than the last. He was also named one of “the most Israeli” things in the Hatikva 6 song, “Hachi Yisraeli”. I could have picked virtually any Arik Einstein song, but I like this one because: a. it has relatively few lyrics; b. they’re optimistic and meaningful, and; c. they’re easy to understand. “You and I will change the world”…can you think of a song with a better message?

3. “Yihiyeh Tov” by David Broza

“Yihiyeh Tov” (It Will Be Good)
David Broza
1978
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
This was one of the first Israeli songs I ever learned. When I was in college, everyonewas singing this song… and it’s not hard to understand why. A beautiful melody, an optimistic message, a memorable refrain, and hope for the future. In Israel, where the present is often bleak, it’s important to look toward a future that is positive, joyous and peaceful. Unfortunately, little has changed since David Broza wrote the song with Yehonatan Gefen in 1978, but our hope for a better world lives on. David added a verse after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, concluding with the words “Od Lo Avda Hatikvah” (our hope is not yet lost) – a meaningful line from our national anthem. The song has become even more beloved ever since.

4. “Chai” by Ofra Haza

“Chai” (Alive)
Ofra Haza

1983
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
First of all, it’s Ofra Haza, one of Israel’s most talented and beautiful artists ever. Everyone should be aware of her legacy, and of her life cut way too short. Second, the message of “Am Yisrael Chai” is timeless, and no one says it better than Ofra. Third, because when Ofra performed it at the 1983 Eurovision held in Germany, she was surrounded by 5 dancers dressed in yellow – reminiscent of the yellow stars worn by Jews in the time of the Holocaust. The six performers called to mind the six million while singing “Alive”, sending a poignant message to the country that brought us Nazism as well as the Munich massacre.

And finally, because Koolulam recently brought new life to the song, gathering 600 Holocaust survivors and their descendants to sing a moving rendition on video. As meaningful as the words were before, they took on a whole new meaning when sung by those who are, indeed, still alive.

5. “Salaam” by Sheva

“Salaam” (“Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” – Peace will come upon us)
Mosh Ben-Ari & Sheva

2001
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
With simple lyrics and the perfect message, this infectious song is a favorite of Jewish camps and youth groups around the world. Have you heard the original version of the song? You will quickly find yourself swept up, singing your heart out and dancing along. Singing the word for “peace” in Hebrew and Arabic, it’s hard not to imagine a better world filled with co-existence, tolerance, and love – all tied together in one single word. It’s optimistic, euphoric, easy to understand and easy to sing. “There will yet be peace upon us and upon everyone.” Sing it, believe it, make it happen.

6. “Shirat HaSticker” by Hadag Nahash

“Shirat HaSticker” (The Sticker Song)
Hadag Nahash

2004
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
Currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, this ingenious concept has received worldwide attention, including a write-up in The New York Times. Based on a poem by David Grossman, “The Sticker Song” underscores the complexities of Israeli society by pitting opposing bumper sticker slogans against one another. Right vs. left, Israeli vs. Arab, dove vs. hawk, religious vs. secular…it’s all here, spelled out in 4-5 word battle cries. I’m consistently amazed by the number of American Jews who have never heard this song by Hadag Nahash. Want to learn more about the economic, religious, military, social, and political challenges in Israel? Study this brilliant song well.

7. “Mima’a’makim” by The Idan Raichel Project

“Mima’amakim” (From the Depths)
The Idan Raichel Project
2005
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
Idan Raichel is one of the most successful Israeli artists of the past 20 years. Lately, he’s been singing solo. But what made us fall in love with his music was his embrace of multi-culturalism in Israel, when he hit the Israeli music scene nearly twenty years ago. He assembled one of the most diverse musical ensembles ever, with artists from dozens of countries participating. His songs are mostly in Hebrew, with echoes of many other languages sprinkled throughout. The concept became an instant hit in Israel, and soon caught on around the world as well. “Mima’amakim” is the title track of Idan’s second album released in 2005, and most likely his most popular song ever. In fact, the track was named the “song of the decade 2000-2009” by Israel’s “Music 24” Israeli music TV station.

8. “Adon Olam Ad Matai” by Subliminal and Miri Ben-Ari

”Adon Olam Ad Matai” (Master of the universe, how long?)
Subliminal and Miri Ben-Ari

2007
English lyrics from HebrewSongs.com

Why it’s important:
For so many reasons. First, this is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard about the atrocities of the Holocaust – and it’s a rap song. The themes incorporated into these lyrics, as well as the disturbing yet creative images in the accompanying music video, make this song an essential part of any Holocaust education curriculum, at least in Jewish schools. Second, the refrain, hauntingly performed by rock-violinist Miri Ben Ari, calls to mind one of the most beloved Israeli melodies ever, Uzi Hitman’s “Adon Olam” from 1978. This normally-cheerful melody takes on a whole new meaning in the context of demanding answers from God, about horrors we could never begin to understand.

Third, because it’s important for people to realize that rap music in Israel might be a bit different from what they’d expect. In any given song, you’ll hear inspirational messages, meaningful themes of Zionism, Judaism, etc., controversial political opinions, and creative, poetic Hebrew lyrics that you often can’t help but appreciate. Even if you’ve never been a fan of rap in other languages…you may just want to listen with an open mind in Hebrew.

9. “Shevet Achim VaAchayot” by Various Artists

“Shevet Achim VaAchayot” (A tribe of brothers and sisters)
Various Artists

2019
English lyrics from MyIsraeliMusic.com

Why it’s important:
In honor of Israel’s 71st birthday, Idan Raichel and Doron Medalie (the co-creator of 2018 Eurovision winner “Toy”) composed a new, powerful anthem for the country. Bringing together 35 of Israel’s top musical artists, “Shevet Achim VaAchayot” is a beautiful “We Are the World”-style love song to the land of Israel. Truth is, Israelis love to profess their admiration for Israel in song. Some of the most beautiful Israeli songs of all time are patriotic love songs for the young country, and we can’t get enough. As for this most recent addition, its lyrics powerfully express our biblical connection to Eretz Yisrael, the gorgeous landscapes throughout the country, our pride of living in our ancestral homeland, and the incredible fact that when two Israeli strangers meet on the street, they instantly consider themselves brothers and sisters. Listen and be inspired.

10. “HaIvrit HaChadasha” by Hatikva 6

“HaIvrit HaChadasha” (The new Hebrew)
Hatikva 6
2019
English lyrics from MyIsraeliMusic.com

Why it’s important:
How do you say “wifi” in Hebrew? “Wifi”. How do you say “jetlag” in Hebrew? “Jetlag.” The newest entry to our list is an ingenious new song from Hatikva 6, the folks who brought us the biggest hit of 2015, “Hachi Yisraeli” (the most Israeli…also worth checking out). This creative song laments the fact that so many English words have invaded the Hebrew language. Is there a word for “VIP” in Hebrew? Maybe, but most Israelis just say “VIP”. English-speakers with (or even without) a small knowledge of Hebrew will appreciate the number of English words they recognize in this song, and the catchy chorus will be stuck in your head for days…and that’s a good thing. My family’s had this song on repeat since the day it was released.


There you have it: 10 Israeli songs every Jew should know. If you want to get a feel for the joys of Israeli music, this is a great place to start. And if you like what you hear, I’d be happy to recommend a fantastic Israeli music podcast you might enjoy as well!

But with a list of only ten, I’m well aware that I missed a ton of amazing songs. So now it’s your turn. Yeah, I hear you screaming at your screen: “What about _____?” So tell me, what did I miss? What other Israeli songs would you add to this list? Can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

About the Author
Josh Shron is the host of "Israel Hour Radio" - a weekly Israeli music radio program and podcast he's hosted on Rutgers University's WRSU Radio since 1994. He has the amazing opportunity to share his love for Israel and its music with thousands of listeners each week. Free weekly podcasts are available at the iTunes Music Store, TuneIn Radio or at https://www.MyIsraeliMusic.com. Josh is also the founder and president of Stampless Marketing, a full-service digital marketing firm. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and five children.
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