Israel’s Ofra Haza makes Rolling Stone’s list of top 200 singers of all time

Known as “the Israeli Madonna,” Ofra Haza was an international hit by the 1980s and famously sang on the Prince of Egypt movie soundtrack.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ofra Haza, one of Israel’s most famous singer-songwriters, made Rolling Stone’s list of top 200 singers of all time in its New Year’s day edition with some room to spare.

Dubbed by the entertainment magazine as “the Madonna of the Middle East,” Haza was slotted in at #186, beating out such well-known names as Sixties folk star Joan Baez (189) and 21-year-old Billie Eilish (198) in a list that it said “spans 100 years of pop music.”

In its description of the Israeli singer, the magazine wrote, “Inspired by her Yemeni-Jewish ancestry, Haza combined traditional vocal conventions with modern technique to create something that felt at once ancient and ahead of its time.”

It described her voice as an “expressive, fluttery mezzo-soprano” and credited the British duo Coldcut – which used her voice in 1987 in a remix of a song called “Paid in Full” that was used in a movie soundtrack – for helping bring the Israeli singer “to the pop mainstream.”

Haza was the youngest of nine children in a traditional Yemenite family who lived in a poor quarter of Tel Aviv. She shot to local fame after recording her first solo album following her army service and represented Israel in the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest, coming in second with her hit song “Chai” (Life).

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Her hip-hop song “Im Ninalu” made her an international star, and she moved to the United States to pursue both a singing and an acting career, although she returned to Israel frequently to visit and perform.

Credited with helping to popularize Mizrachi culture, her solo albums went gold and platinum, while she also gained fame in collaborative works in English with other artists.

She also sang on the animated Prince of Egypt soundtrack, introducing her voice to a new generation in 1998. She recorded its iconic song “Deliver Us” in a whopping 19 languages, including Dutch, Czech and Romanian.

Haza was personally invited by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 1994 that honored him, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat for the Oslo Accords.

She married businessman Doron Ashkenazi in 1997 and tragically died of an AIDS-related illness less than three years later. She had no children.