Born Ewa Alberstein in Szczecin, Poland, her name was Hebraized to Chava when she moved to Israel with her family in 1950. Drafted into the army, she, as many others back in the day, rose to fame by entertaining the troops.
Alberstein recorded more than 60 albums, in Hebrew, English and Yiddish. Her career started in the sixties and moved between two musical paths: Hebrew-tzabari songs, and her personal love, Yiddish songs.
When it comes to Yiddish, the old, European language of the Jews, Chava Alberstain was quoted saying: “Yiddish gives me inspiration straight-away. I see colors, smells, and I just want to sing.”
And so she brings also the-almost-extinct language of Yiddish to life!
Alberstein’s success in my opinion is rooted in her ability to sing about the most tragic events in Jewish-Israeli, and make every person relate to it.
And indeed, she took upon herself the role of person who sings about past events such as the Holocaust, and wars that took place back then, like the Six Days War, Yom Kippur War and more.
“לוּ יֵהִי”, which was written by Naomi Shemer, became the symbol of Yom Kippur War.
And yet, another tragic song about the deaths of young Kibbutz men who will never see the light of day after Yom Kippur War.
It’s impossible not to mention her most successful album, כְּמוֹ צֵמַח בַּר, which includes many of her known songs. The album brought the spirit of Israel and Israelis, and their sadness, frustration and fear after the Yom Kippur War into life, and without any doubt helped many Israelis like my parents back then to cope.
My first vinyl record is exactly that album, which my mom had since 1975!
Of this particular album, I picked my favourite song, יַמֵי בִּינְיַמִינַה.
The song, which was written by Ehud Manor and was composed by Matti Caspi – symbolizes our yearning for the past, and that nostalgic effect cannot but bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
Alberstein’s success continued, and she became
a woven part of the Israeli society and culture.
Moving from genre to genre, around the end of the 80’s, she experienced with rock music – to great success!
Not saying rock music has anything to do with rebellious feelings, but her song לוֹנְדוֹן, is the start of her criticism of the Israeli government. But again, she brought to life the frustration of millions of people around the nation, and gave them hope and a way to cope.
Her most rebellious song is without a doubt, חַד גַדְיַא.
The song which criticized Israeli government’s treat of Palestinians in what they consider Occupied Palestine, came to be due the First Intifada, in which many civilians died.
It was so provocative, that it was banned to be played on any musical platform (back then mostly the radio), and hurt her popularity among people who didn’t agree with her opinion.
Her popularity stayed steady, even through all the political issues she entangled herself with – and is high until this very day!
Her music is the whole essence of Israeli spirit, which is her exact strength. Ranging from genres to genres, collaborations to solo works, it’s impossible not to find her music enchanting, and her relevance even more.