Popular Music: Famous Israeli Songs in Israel and Around the World
Xulan Zhang


Through this presentation, we’ll explore topic of how certain Israeli songs become famous worldwide and the preserve and transformation of performance form, context and people’s interpretation of these songs when they went “globalized”.  And try to answer the question: Is the music a universal  language or a mirror that reflects the difference between different cultures?

Case 1:  Donna Donna

Origin: Yiddish theater song written in the time of Nazi

Performance form: a duo of a man and a woman, choral with the orchestral accompaniment

Became popular when American country music singer Joan Baez performed it in English with guitar.

Represented spirit of freedom in Israel during the WWII.

Became a worldwide symbolic song for people who are pursuing freedom.

Case 2: Hallelujah

Origin: sung by the Israeli band Hakol Over Habibi for 1978’s Eurovision’s competition

Became popular when it was performed by Gali Atari and Milk & Honey song in 1979 and won the competition for Israel as the hosting country

Performance form: alternate among 1 female voice and 3 male voices

The song roused the national pride in successfully winning and hosting Eurovision Competition.

Case 3: Diva

Origin: sung by Dana International, an Israeli transsexual singer

Performance form: It was originally only performed in the form of singing on the competition but later on was added the dancing part

Became highly popular after Dana International performed this song in Eurovision 1998.

But in its own country, Dana International’s big success triggered controversy.

Conclusion: Through these three different cases, I see music’s role both as a universal language that connects people from different culture and a mirror that reflects cultural gap.



  1. Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi , Popular Music and National Culture in Israel
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Donna  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallelujah_(Gali_Atari_and_Milk_%26_Honey_song)


  1. http://www.metrolyrics.com/donna-donna-lyrics-joan-baez.html


  1. http://www.hebrewsongs.com/?song=haleluyah-eurovision
  2. http://members3.jcom.home.ne.jp/goetheschubert/Donaenglish.htm
  3. http://www.friendsreunited.com/dana-international-diva/Memory/69dd2604-4ae2-41ed-8453-a1b900fbd9de


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqzGZ5AaeSs
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C33kO3fvjkI
  3. http://www.friendsreunited.com/dana-international-diva/Memory/69dd2604-4ae2-41ed-8453-a1b900fbd9de