Yehonatan Geffen, right. Photo: יהודית גרעין-כל via Wikimedia Commons
Israeli poet, author and playwright Yehonatan Geffen died on Wednesday at the age of 76.
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog eulogized Geffen after his death in a series of Twitter posts, calling the Israeli cultural icon “someone who knew how to capture the smallest and biggest moments, and turn them into eternal texts.”
“It is hard to imagine the existence of Israeli art, our hymns, the worlds of literature and theater without his unique and unforgettable contribution,” Herzog added.
Geffen was born in Nahalal, Israel, in 1947. He served in the Israel Defense Forces in the Golani Brigade and was a paratrooper, and fought in Nablus and the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War, according to The Jerusalem Post. His mother Aviva Dayan — the sister of former Israeli General and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan — died of an overdose while he was serving in the IDF.
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Geffen moved to Tel Aviv and published a number of his poems after his release from the army, JPost added. In 1970, he moved to England to study at Cambridge University and during his time abroad his younger sister, Nurit, committed suicide. Yehonatan returned to Israel the following year and began writing a weekly column for Maariv, which he continued to do until 2013. In 1973, Yehonatan fought as a reserve soldier in the Yom Kippur War.
He launched a number of shows, including That’s All for Now, For Now That’s All with Israeli musician Dani Litani. He also wrote lyrics of songs for many Israeli singers, published children’s books, as well as hundreds of poems for both adults and children. Some of his poetry was set to music in the late 1980s on an album titled The Sixteenth Sheep, which became one of the all-time best-selling Israeli albums, Haaretz reported.
Yehonatan is survived by his son, singer Aviv Geffen, and two daughters, playwright and actress Shira Geffen and Natasha Geffen.
“We prematurely lost a sharp and wonderful creator, one of a kind, a member of a privileged family who was also blessed to have a second, creative and talented generation after him, whose talent we are all blessed with,” said Israeli President Herzog.