Ofra HAZA (Hebrew: עפרה חזה, ; born Bat-Sheva Ofra HAZA ; 19 November 1957 -- 23 February 2000 at 7:40 p.m.) was an Israeli singer, actress and international recording artist.
Her voice has been described as mezzo-soprano, of near-flawless tonal quality, capable of lending itself to a variety of musical styles with apparent ease.
Inspired by a love of her Yemenite and Hebrew culture, her music quickly spread to a wider Middle Eastern audience, somehow bridging the divide between Israel and the Arab countries. As her career progressed, Ofra was able to switch between traditional and more commercial singing styles without jeopardizing her credibility. Her music fused elements of Eastern and Western instrumentation, orchestration and dance-beat. She became successful in Europe and the Americas; during her singing career, she earned many platinum and gold discs.
Ofra was born the youngest of nine children, to a Yemenite Jewish family, in the Hatikva Quarter, an impoverished neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Her first home was at 39 Boaz Street.
At the age of 12, she joined a local theater troupe, and manager Bezalel Aloni spotted her singing talent. He staged many of his productions around Haza, and later became her manager and mentor. At the age of 19, she was Israel's foremost pop star and retrospectively, music journalists described her as "The Madonna of the East".
By the time she had completed her military service in 1979, Haza had matured as a singer and was ready to launch a solo career.
Ofra Haza died on 23 February 2000 at the age of 42, of AIDS-related pneumonia. While the fact of her HIV infection is now generally acknowledged, the decision by the major Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz to report about it shortly after her death caused controversy in Israel.
After Haza's death was announced, Israeli radio stations played non-stop retrospectives of her music and then Prime Minister Ehud Barakpraised her work as a cultural emissary, commenting that she also represented the Israeli success story (Ofra emerged from the Hatikvah slums to reach the peak of Israeli culture ; she has left a mark on us all).
The disclosure that Haza had likely died due to AIDS added another layer to the public mourning. The fact that a star with a reputation for clean living could be stricken caused shock among fans, debate about the media's potential invasion of her privacy, and speculation about how she had become infected. Immediately after her death, the media placed blame on her husband for giving her the disease. Haza's manager Bezalel Aloni also claimed in his book that Haza's infection occurred during sex with her husband. As reported indirectly some years later, her husband had said that she became infected due to a blood transfusion in a Turkish hospital following a miscarriage.
She is buried in the Artists section of Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv.