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Israelis mourn death of singer Ofra Haza
TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israelis are mourning the death of one of their first international pop stars, Ofra Haza. She was 41.
Haza, known for blending Yemenite melodies with techno music, was buried on Thursday in Tel Aviv. She had died the previous evening at Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer of massive organ failure, Dr. Zeev Rortenstein said. He refused to discuss what led to the failure, saying that was her wish.
Haza had been in serious-to-critical condition for two weeks, unconscious and receiving intravenous drug infusions and dialysis treatment. A recent article in the Jerusalem Post reported she was believed to have developed pneumonia as a complication of untreated influenza.
Her flag-draped coffin was on public display in Hatikvah, the poor Tel Aviv suburb where she was born. Thousands of people flooded the town on Thursday to pay their respects, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
"The songs of Ofra were not meant for only our ears. She entered the hearts of many in Israel and throughout the world," Barak said in a condolence message. "Her contribution to Israeli culture and the honor she brought to the country will be remembered always."
Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres was among the crowd that attended the funeral Thursday at the Yarkon cemetery. He praised Haza as a figure who bridged the traditions of east and west.
Israeli radio played Haza's songs throughout the day, and all the major newspapers devoted their lead stories to her. The county's largest paper, Yedioth Aharonoth, focused its first seven pages on her life.
Haza was the youngest of nine children born to Yemenite immigrants. She had told a television interviewer she grew up in a home that was filled with song -- her mother having been a well-known singer in Yemen.
A talent scout discovered Haza at age 12. But it wasn't until 1983 that her career took off. That year, she won second place in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Ani od Hai" ("I'm still alive").
Two years later, she released "Yemenite Songs," which became an instant hit in Israel. Its signature track, "Im Ninalu," ("If the gates of Heaven were locked") expanded a devotional poem by 17th century rabbi Shalom Shabazi into a modern love song. U.S. rap artists Eric B. and Rakim sampled "Im Ninalu" on their dance hit "Paid in Full" in 1988, bringing Haza onto the international scene.
Haza's 1993 album "Kirya" was nominated for a Grammy, and she had the honor of performing in Oslo, Norway, when Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, then-Foreign Minister Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. She most recently sang the role of Moses' mother in the 1998 film "The Prince of Egypt."
Haza is survived by her husband, businessman Doron Ashkenazi, whom she married two years ago. They didn't have any children.
Israeli singer Ofra Haza in intensive care
Official 'Prince of Egypt' site
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