What’s left to do once you’re through the tunnel and out the other side of a wildly successful music career? Make a greatest-hits album, of course!
Or if you’re really lucky, you’ll be making midcareer best-hit CDs long before your retirement from music, like most of the Israeli artists on this list.
These are the best greatest hits compilations from the giants of Hebrew music, of all different musical genres. Let it be your crash course in Israeli musical culture as you get to fast forward through all the filler songs, and just listen to those iconic popular songs that all Israelis know.
1. Artists: Shlomo Artzi and Shalom Hanoch Album: “Shlomo Artzi Live in Caesarea with Shalom Hanoch,” 2005
Talk about two birds with one stone: Shlomo Artzi is considered by many to be THE biggest musical personality in Israel. Going strong since 1970, he still puts on charismatic live performances and continues to create new music. The crooner beloved by all ages has penned some of Israel’s most iconic folk-rock songs.
Artzi teamed up with Shalom Hanoch, the father of Israeli rock, also making music since the 1970s, for this concert recorded live from the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. It catches the best of the both of them – and Israeli musical history — in one album.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Kama Tov She Bata Habaitah” (How Good It Is That You Came Home), “Kacha v’Kacha” (Like This and Like That), “Pitom K’shelo Baat” (Suddenly When You Didn’t Come)
2. Artist: Yehudit Ravitz Album: “Greatest Hits,” 1994
Another folk-rock superstar who got her start in the 1970s and hasn’t slowed down since, Yehudit Ravitz wrote some of Israeli’s most well-known songs. Her music is ingrained in Israeli pop culture.
Rocking her full head of spiral curls, and wielding her well-worn guitar, Ravitz still performs her timeless hits at music festivals and in concert. Get to know the basics from her 1990s “Greatest Hits” album, and you’ll be singing along with the rest of the Israelis in no time.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Hayalda hHachi Yafa Bagan” (The Prettiest Girl in Kindergarten), “Shabatot V’chagim” (Weekends and Holidays), “Ba’a Me-ahava” (She Comes from Love)
3. Band: Ethnix Album: “Maksimum Ethnix Osef Halehitim” (Maximum Ethnix Greatest Hits), 2000
Israeli rock royalty, Ethnix makes Hebrew rock with a Middle Eastern influence into timeless mainstream Israeli music. The band churned out the majority of its many hits in the 1990s. Pop in this greatest-hits disc and get a feel for the songs that helped shape an era.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Tutim” (Strawberries), “Jessica,” “Tzipur Midbar” (Desert Bird)
4. Band: Mashina Album: “Eskei Ha’Rock N’ Roll” (Rock N’ Roll Business), 2010
As classic Israeli rock as it gets, Mashina’s music is everywhere if you look for it. The band has been making hits since the mid-1980s. This compilation album contains songs from the 1990s that Israelis of all ages are still rocking out to.
Learn the lyrics to “Ayn Makom Acher” and be ready to belt them out with a whole room of strangers at the bar, if you want to feel like a true Israeli.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Tahzor, Tahzor” (Come Back, Come Back), “Ayn Makom Acher” (There’s No Other Place), “Rakevet Laila” (Night Train)
5. Artist: Muki
Album: “Sh’ma Yisrael” (Hear O Israel), 2002
One of Israel’s few solo rap artists, Muki always has something to say in his reggae- and angst-infused music. Outspoken as he may be, he has also managed to rack up a long list of radio-friendly hits, which hold their own unique place in the modern Israeli music-scape.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Lev Hofshi” (Free Heart(, “Medabrim al Shalom” (Talk About Peace), “Yalda Sukar” (Sugar Girl)
6. Artist: David Broza
Album: “The Original Albums” (Haalbumim Hamekori’im), 2012
Mixing Hebrew songwriting with his Latin roots, and rapping on the front of his guitar as he tenderly strums and plucks the strings, David Broza is known around the world as an Israeli musical icon.
Drawing from a back catalog of poetic music and hopeful lyrics, this anthology includes some of the greatest and most well-known hits from the musician, including the classics listed below.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Haifa,” “Yihiyeh Tov” (It Will Be Okay), “Mitachat Lashamayim” (Underneath the Sky)
7. Artist: Arkadi Duchin
Album: “Yoter Mimeni” (More than Me), The Collection 2004
Nothing sums up Arkadi Duchin’s work more than his 2004 compilation of love songs. Here, the singer-songwriter of Soviet origin — who never seems too far from a piano or his personal diary — belts out 25 tunes of unrequited and not-so-unrequited love.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Mi Ohev Otach Yoter Mimeni” (Who Loves You More Than Me), “Hi Lo Doma” (She’s Not Like Anyone Else), “Elohai” (My God)
8. Artist: Arik Einstein
Album: “The Best of Arik Einstein,” 2003
Another folk-rock icon, Arik Einstein was a giant figure in Israeli classic folk-rock until his passing in 2013. This disc from 2003 captures the many Israeli tunes you’ve probably heard on the radio at one point or another, sung in his distinctly comforting voice.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Oof, Gozal” (Fly, Chick), “San Francisco al Hamayim” (San Francisco on the Water), “Pesek Zman” (Time Out)
9. Artists: Shlomi Shabat and Yehuda Poliker
Album: “Live in Caesarea,” 2005
Shlomi Shabat, Israel’s premier classic pop-Mizrahi (Middle Eastern-style) singer teams up on this live performance record from 2005 with another big wig, Yehuda Poliker, in — you guessed it — Caesarea.
Poliker (known for music that contains both Greek and rock influences) and Shabat make a great pair, singing their famous songs from the heart to an eager audience.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Abba” (Dad), “Yesh Lach” (You Have), “Panim El Mul Panim” (Face to Face)
10. Band: Kaveret
Album: “Hamofa Ha’acharon” (The Last Concert), 2013
Singer, actor, entertainer and TV personality Gidi Gov’s short-lived yet iconic rock band from the 1970s teamed up for one last series of live concerts in 2013 that had audiences going wild. This album gives you a front seat to the performance.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Erev Shel Yom Bahir” (The Evening of a Clear Day), “Nechmad” (Nice), “Hi Kol Kah Yafa” (She’s So Pretty)
11. Artist: Sarit Hadad
Album: “Best Of Sarit Hadad,” 2015
With popularity that breaks past cultural boundaries and country borders, Sarit Hadad, who hails from a Kavkazi (Jews of the Caucus Mountain region)-Israeli family, has been singing since she was a teenager. Always embracing her cultural heritage, and that of the Mizrahi music style in Israeli, she has been one of Israel’s top female artists and pop culture icons since the 1990s.
Hits like the ones found on her career-culminating best-hits album are a well-known part of weddings and celebrations in Israel, and her commanding presence makes her nothing short of the decorated pop diva she is known to be.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Merotz HaHaim” (Life Race), “Hayiti B’gan Eden” (I Was in Paradise), “K’she Halev Bohe” (When the Heart Cries)
12. Artists: Moshe Peretz and Omer Adam
Album: “Mahapecha” (Live), 2015
Representing modern Mizrahi-style Israeli music, Moshe Peretz and Omer Adam are two of the more charismatic artists of the genre, known for their good looks and Adam’s contagious smile.
The music on this live album captures the best of both of them, including songs so iconic as the two listed below — one that can be heard anywhere from the club to Israeli folk dancing performances, and other so classic you’ll probably hear it every Israeli Independence Day party.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Hi Rak Rotzah Lirkod” (She Just Wants to Dance), “Zikukim” (Fireworks)
13. Band: Teapacks (Tipex)
Album: “Kol Ha’Lehitim” (Greatest Hits), 2003
A quirky collective of 9+ members at any given time, Teapacks, led by frontman Kobi Oz, brought funky, rock to the 1990s and beyond. Their signature style includes narrative lyrics and a world music sound making ample use of the accordion, organ and oud.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Eyzeh Olam” (What a World), “B’toch Niyar Iton” (Rolled up in a Newspaper)
14. Artist: Ariel Zilber
Album: “The Best Of,” 2013
This 75-year old singer, songwriter and composer was born into a musical family, and got his start in the band Tamuz, which he formed with Shalom Hanoch (see above).
Later going solo, his career hits earned him a lifetime achievement award in 2014 from The Society of Authors, Composers, and Music Publishers in Israel (ACUM), and again in 2016 by the Israeli Union of Performing Artists. Needless to say, his music has had an impact on Israeli pop culture.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Rutzi, Shmulik” (Run, Shmulik), “Betty Bam,” “Ten Li Koah” (Give Me Strength)
15. Artist: Rita
Album: “Rita Osef” (Rita Collection)
A modern-day cultural ambassador between her native Iran and Israel, Rita holds a special place in Israeli hearts.
Likened to Celine Dion, Rita’s wispy voice has been heard over radio waves and in concert since the mid-1980s. This collection of her biggest hits is a good showing of why she has such staying power.
Songs off the album every Israeli knows: “Shvil Habricha” (The Escape Path), “B’gida” (Betrayal). “Michakeh” (Wait)
16. Artist: Eyal Golan
Album: “Live in Caesarea” with Ma Kashur, 2016
You can probably already guess that if you’re performing live in Caesarea, you’ve pretty much made it. Eyal Golan, a kingpin of the Mizrahi genre and a star with everything from TV shows to crossover power, is a mainstay in Israeli music, and helped pave the way for this genre of Arabic influences to take the main stage.
In this album, he hosts comedy-group-turned-musicians “Ma Kashur” (How is it Related) onstage as he belts out soulful and heartfelt renditions of his career hits.
Songs Off the album every Israeli knows: “Tzlil Meitar” (The Sound of a String); “Malkat HaYofi Sheli” (My Beauty Queen), “Rahok MiKan” (Far From Here)