The concept of 'popular' entertainment began in pre-state Israel during the 1940s with such groups as Chizbatron, Matateh, and Batzal Yarok. However, the major impetus occurred during the 1960s with the formation of entertainment troupes attached to different military units. Among the country's leading entertainers who began their careers during their army service are Haim Topol, Si Hyman, Miri Aloni, Dorit Reuveni, and Yardena Arazi. During this era, the Israeli comedy group Hagashash Hahiver rose to fame, going on to perform decades of what became classic Israeli sketches and eventually winning the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement in the arts.
While television and radio are the main outlets for popular entertainment, live performances by comedians, singers, musicians, bands, and groups take place regularly throughout the country.
Israeli singer Rita (Government Press Office / A. Ben-Gershom)
Some vocalists have achieved star status, among them Arik Einstein, Shlomo Artzi, Matti Caspi, Rita, Dana International, Corinne Alall, Hava Alberstein, Shalom Hanoch, and Yehudit Ravitz; as have some groups including Teapacks, Mashina, Atraf, Etnix, Friends of Natasha, and Beit Habubot. Certain artists have also made a name for themselves abroad, including Dudu Fisher, the late Ofra Haza, Rami Kleinstein, Aviv Gefen, David Broza, and Noa (Ahinoam Nini). In 1998, Israeli transsexual Dana International won the Eurovision song contest and become a global star. Her song, "Diva", was since chosen the 14th greatest ever Eurovision song. She recently released her 11th album, "Hakol Zeh Letova" (All for the Good).
Grand-scale musicals in Hebrew translation, including "Les Miserables" and "The Sound of Music," have been revived to enthusiastic acclaim.
Increasingly popular among all Israelis is a Mediterranean musical genre deriving primarily from Arabic and Greek influences, as performed by singers Boaz Sha'arabi, Yehuda Poliker, Sarit Hadad, Avihu Medina, Margalit Tsa'anani, Zehava Ben, and Ofer Levy. Newer names include Eyal Golan, Amir Benayoun, and Miri Mesika.
A new generation of stand-up comics, such as Eli Yatzpan and Adi Ashkenazi, is beginning to command substantial followings.
Bukharan ensemble (Photo: Y. Loeff)