July 18, 1999
Singer-songwriter Meir Ariel, 57, known as the “Man of Words” for his poetic Hebrew lyrics, dies of Mediterranean spotted fever transmitted by a tick. He is buried at Kibbutz Mishmarot, where he grew up.
He wrote hundreds of recorded songs, many of which became modern Israel classics when performed by the likes of David Broza, Arik Einstein and childhood friend Shalom Hanoch. One of his most famous songs is “Jerusalem of Iron,” which was inspired by his service in the Six-Day War and was his response to Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold.” A paratrooper, Ariel fought in the Battle of Jerusalem during the June 1967 war and earned the nickname “the Singing Paratrooper” when he appeared on the cover of the “Jerusalem of Iron” EP in uniform. He also fought in the Yom Kippur War.
Ariel embarked on a folk-rock career after living in the United States for a few years. Back in Israel, he released his first full album, “Shirey Chag Umoed Venofel,” a play on the Hebrew for “holiday songs” that could be translated as “songs for circling, tripping and falling,” in 1978. He recorded five other studio albums in his lifetime. An album of his unreleased songs, “Modeh Ani” (“I Am Thankful”), is issued in 2000. Three Ariel tribute albums also are released after his death.
Israel produces a postage stamp in Ariel’s honor in 2009. Historian Yossi Klein Halevi features Ariel in his 2013 book on the Six-Day War and its aftermath, “Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.”