Israel mourns music ambassador


JERUSALEM, Feb. 24 (JTA) — Israeli singer Ofra Haza, whose blend of traditional Yemenite music and pop tunes drew international acclaim, died Feb. 23 at the age of 42.

Haza died of multiple organ failure at Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer hospital, where she was admitted 13 days earlier, hospital officials said. They said that at Haza’s request, they would not disclose why she was hospitalized.

Haza, who was born and grew up in Tel Aviv’s poor Hatikva neighborhood, burst onto the world music scene in the 1980s. Considered a goodwill ambassador of Israeli ethnic music abroad, Haza performed at the 1994 ceremony in Oslo at which the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat for the Oslo peace accords.

A Yemenite Jew, Haza was discovered in a theater workshop at age 12. Despite her successes, she never lost touch with her childhood neighborhood — when Haza married contractor Doron Ashkenazi more than two years ago, she threw a wedding party there.

Her friends and admirers had gathered at the hospital during her illness. Following news of her death, fans of the artist and residents of the Hatikva quarter gathered outside her parents’ home.

Haza’s body lay in state at an auditorium in the neighborhood prior to the funeral at Yarkon cemetery.

“She was a flower,” singer Shoshana Damari told Israel Radio.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement that Haza’s voice “made its way into the hearts of many in Israel and throughout the world.”

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