Unlike many progressive scenes throughout the world, the Israeli progressive rock scene remained virtually unknown outside of Israel and in many cases also in Israel Itself. The beginning could be traced in the late sixties, when Israel had a vivid but small clubs/discothèques scene, which gave many bands the opportunity to perform and polish their sound. Most of these bands (The Lions, Uzi Ve'hsignonot, Hachocolada, Hashmenim Ve'harazim etc.) had concentrated in doing cover versions of the than popular artists such as the Beatles, Procol Harum, The Searchers etc. while other acts started developing their own unique sounds.

In Jerusalem a brilliant young guitarist named Shlomo Mizrahi formed a Hendrix influenced band called Ha'Bama Ha'Hashmalit (The Electric Stage), this band was considered radical for it's time and paved the way for many others acts to follow.

In Tel Aviv on the other hand, a bunch of youngsters formed what was to become one of Israel's most famous and most sought after bands: The Churchills. The Churchills (originally known as Churchill's Hermits) were active since 1965. They had several line-up changes until the line-up stabled on with Haim Romano (guitar), Mickey Gavrielov (Bass), Amy Treibatch (Drums) and two newcomers British guitarist Rob Huxley and Canadian vocalist Stan Solomon with this line up they recorded three songs (two of them were released as singles). They went to Denmark for a while (they were a support act for Deep Purple), where they were exposed to drugs and underground music as a result their music had gradually become more and more psychedelic.

Upon their return to Israel they started adopting Arabic and Greek music motives and use them in their music. They created several soundtracks to Israeli, which were the Basis for their album The Churchills this album combined Psychedelic and Underground music with Greek and Arabic motives. It was a revolutionary album (which until today is considered a milestone of Psych rock and is highly sought after and very expensive). In spite of their uniqueness (or because of it) the album sold in poor quantities. Stan Solomon had retired from the band and they spent some time as a session group for other Israeli or visiting Artists.

Eventually they teamed up with a young pop singer Arik Einstein who aimed to change his direction into rock, along with them and with another accomplished musician Misha Segal, Einstein had recorded what is considered to be the first Hebrew Rock album in 1969, this album Poozi was made up of rather standard rock and pop songs with a slightly psychedelic bend, but also comprised the first ever Israeli Progressive Rock song "Hayo Haya" (used to be), this song opens up with a jazzy piano solo with tapes of glasses clicking and coughs, before it merges into a Procol Harum Like organ with Einstein singing and moaning, this is being interrupted by a superb Acid guitar solo by Haim Romano and then goes back to the jazzy piano and then back to the organ and ends in a climax where Einstein screams his lungs out. This is an essential Israeli prog IMHO. Einstein had gone on to become one of Israel's most popular singers and released numerous albums. Some with the next generation of Israeli Progsters. But this album of his is the only one that might interest International collectors.

The Churchills meanwhile had teamed up with Israeli composer/conductor Noam Shariff, who arranged for them a mutual concert with the Israeli Philharmonic orchestra; Shariff a serious Classical composer who had already collaborated with them on their album, was influenced by Deep Purple's album with the London Symphony and thus the band performed two tracks by Bach: "Choral for Young Lovers" and "Concerto X 2", this effort was released on a single entitled "Churchill Sebastian Bach" and gained some success.

By 1970 the band were joined by a new vocalist Danny Shushan which changed their direction into hard-rock, they went to London by 1971 and recorded an album under a new name Jericho Jones, this album "Junkies, Monkeys and Donkeys" had combined hard rock with more serene and progressive moments. After this they gave some concerts in England and started working on a new album for which they shortened the band's name to Jericho, this was a more complete work, the band had maintained their heavy/hard-rock sound but developed a more complex songwriting and the album also included an excellent fully progressive song "Justin and Nova" with piano and strings arrangements. This is a good album much influenced by Led Zeppelin but also quite original, both of these albums were reissued on CD by the German Repertoire label.

The second album was quite successful in Europe at the time and the band toured a lot. However they got homesick and after a planned tour with Led Zeppelin was canceled, the band broke-up.

Meanwhile back in Israel, some exciting new things had begun to happen. By 1971, a new band was put together by drummer-composer Zohar Levy. They called themselves Acharit Ha'Yamim (Apocalypse), although not a prog band they were rather important and influential and their sole album (now considered a milestone of Israeli Rock) comprised psychedelic hard rock with strong Blues and soul influences and some progressive overtones, this album also failed commercially and the band broke-up.

Shlomo Gronich

Another important artist who emerged by 1971 was Shlomo Gronich, son of a music teacher and a child prodigy. He grew up on classical music until he discovered the Beatles. After his army service, he became professional and by 1971 his first album "Why Didn't You Tell me?" was released. This was the first Israeli prog-rock album and a very revolutionary work. It comprised many facets of his complex music and personality. The influences were numerous from his classical background through Jazz, Underground rock, traditional Jewish music, Cabaret music and the title track, which captured him screaming, crying and freaking out on the piano and vocals. The album had a very desperate atmosphere and it is an essential album for everyone who wants to hear the development of Israeli prog.

The album failed commercially, and Gronich went on collaboration with another talented musician Mathi Caspi. Caspi who had a similar background was a composer/arranger/producer and multi instrumentalist. They started writing songs and touring, the result of this collaboration was "Behind The Sounds" another milestone of Israeli prog. This live album featured Gronich on piano and vocals and Caspi on acoustic guitar and vocals and in spite of the scarce instrumentation, they managed to create a full and compelling sound. The music included the usual blend of Classical music, Jazz, Cabaret music, Rock and even some Brazilian influences, it ranged from the beautiful to the frightening, from rather accessible songs to sheer avant-garde. This is another essential Israeli prog album.

After this, Caspi had gone solo and gradually abandoned rock, concentrating on other directions such as bossanova, reggae and so on. The two reunited for a tour and another album by 1984, but this was rather disappointing.

By 1973 Israel had been attacked by several Arab countries, which led to a terrible war The Yom Kippur War, this war was very traumatic for the Israeli people and put a stop to all musical and cultural activities in Israel of that era. After the war, many artists had tried to express their pain. Gronich had teamed up with two other talented youngsters Shem Tov Levy and Shlomo Ydov. With Gronich on keyboards, percussion and vocals, Levy on flute, keyboards percussion and vocals and Ydov on guitars, bass, percussion and vocals and with assistance from several session musicians they recorded a brilliant album under the name Ktzat Acheret ("A Little Different") or as they called themselves in English "Nonames". This album had reflected some of the pain and anguish of the Yom Kippur war and was very varied musically. The group at this stage was very influenced by groups such as Gentle Giant, Yes and The Mahavishnu Orchestra and it was reflected in their music, but they also add their own dose of Jazz, Classical Avant-garde and Middle and Far Eastern music. This album is a masterpiece of Israeli prog and is essential. After a while, the band split due to Gronich's departure to USA.

At the same time a couple of other talented musicians Yoni Rechter, who was the keyboard player for Israel's most popular band at the time Kaveret (beehive) during his stay with this band he was also a student at the music academy in Jerusalem, in this academy he befriended another talented musician Avner Kenner. Beside their classical background the two shared a passion for (then) current top progressive acts such as Yes, Gentle Giant etc. they started writing original music based on these influences and teaming up with drummer Zohar Levy (of the aforementioned Apocalypse) and several session musicians (including Gronich and several members of Kaveret) they recorded the Album "14 Octaves" although not as good as Ktzat Acheret this album had it's moments and it's quite good progressive work.

Zingale

By 1974 perhaps the most well known Israeli prog band Zingale had emerged. The band was formed in 1974 by bassist Udy Tamir, Keyboardist Ady Weiss, vocalist/guitarist Efraim Barak, Drummer David Shanan, Violinist Tony Brower and several other members. They named themselves after the Hebrew slang word for a Joint. They were the first Israeli prog group to use theatrical elements in their concerts (masks, lightning etc.) although recording several singles (that failed) in Hebrew, they decided to concentrate on English lyrics and mostly instrumental work, as they were aiming for the international market. At a certain stage British Decca records showed interest in the band but nothing came out of it eventually. They started working on their classic and only album "Peace" and the end of 1975 finished it. Like other Israeli Prog album of that period this album also reflected the Yom Kippur War trauma, but unlike others it had only English lyrics and was by far the most accomplished Israeli prog album ever. This is a great and essential album equally influenced by the Symphonic rock of Gentle Giant and Yes and by the stoned Jazz-rock of the Canterbury scene, in spite of all of these influences they managed to maintain their own identity and are highly important band. The album came out only two years after it's recording in a limited quantity and became very rare and sought after album. It was reissued on CD in the 90's also in a limited and numbered edition. Which was sold out and also impossible to get now. In the time that passed since the recording sessions to the release of the album they recorded several more Hebrew songs, which got them no attention (by 1996 Band member Johnny Stern had privately printed a CD with all of their Hebrew recordings under the title " A Party Inside"). As a result of several members growing interest in religion and due to the lack of success, they eventually broke up, leaving only one album, a masterpiece.

Shem Tov Levy's (a member of Ktzat Acheret and a long time collaborator of Arik Einstein) had recorded and released his first solo album "In The Mood" by 1976, the album which had guest appearances by the Churchills' Haim Romano, Apocalypse And Kaveret guitarist Ytzhak Klepter (also a former member of The Churchills) and 14 Octaves member Avner Kenner, was another excellent prog album. As well as influences of the usual suspects (i.e. Gentle Giant, Yes and the Mahavishnu Orchestra) it also comprised classical music, jazz and Middle Eastern influences, which would become Levy's trademark sound in latter years. This album was unique and well done and set new standards to the Israeli prog legacy and is highly recommended.

Two more important groups to emerge in the mid-Seventies were Piamenta and Atmosphere. Piamenta was named after its founder member Yossi Piamenta a virtuoso guitar player, highly influenced by Jimmy Hendrix. The band gigged for several years and recorded several singles/demos, until 1977 when famed Jazz Saxophonist Stan Getz, who toured Israel at the time heard them and was highly impressed by them. Together with Getz the band had recorded an album that combined heavy metal, Jazz and Arabic/Oriental elements. This was very unique effort but unfortunately the album was never released and the band split when Piamenta followed Stan Getz' Invitation to work with him in the USA. Piamenta is still active musically and released several albums throughout the 80's and the 90's.

Atmosphere who emerged by 1976 were a group comprised of students, they gigged regularly with Piamenta and other progressive acts of the era. By 1977 together with Efraim Barak of Zingale, they recorded material for a whole album; unfortunately this was also never released, but tapes of these band circulate among collectors and reveals one of the finest Israeli prog bands of all times, with very professional approach they recorded long and complex tracks highly influenced by Yes and well worth tracking down.

An important band that emerged by 1975 and released their sole album by early 76' was Tamouz. This was a supergroup led by two of the most important Israeli rock artists of all times, Shalom Hanoch & Ariel Zilber. Although essentially a hard rock band, their album "The Orange Season is over" did contained one good progressive track with long and complex instrumental passages. This track "The deeper, the bluer" was a significant contribution to the Israeli prog canon by a non-progressive band.

Sheshet

After releasing his debut, Shem Tov Levy had formed a new group Sheshet; this band featured female singer Judith Ravitz (who became a megastar in Israel during the Eighties) and several veteran musicians from with Rock and Jazz backgrounds, this band had much difficulties in gaining concerts as no one was willing to manage them due to the uncommercial nature of their music. The band had split but a record company executive had heard them in one of their rare concert and offered them a record deal, and thus the band reunited for the purpose of recording an album, the self titled album was recorded and released by 1977 and is considered one of the best Israeli progressive rock albums, it contained elements of prog, jazz, Arabic and Balkan music and was highly influenced by the first incarnation of Chick Corea's Return to Forever with strong compositions and playing by all members.

The aforementioned Arik Einstein had "adopted" during mid to late Seventies, many of the Israeli progsters to work on his albums, notably Shem Tov Levy And Yoni Rechter, but also Avner Kenner, Ady Weiss (of Zingale) and Shlomo Ydov (of Ktzat Acheret) who by 1978 had released his first solo album The First Time this was another strong and solid album of symphonic rock in the vein of Camel, Genesis and of course Gentle Giant. I consider this album as one of the finest prog albums ever released in Israel and recommend it whole-heartedly. It was mostly song based but also contained two excellent instrumental pieces, which are simply great.

Two more bands who emerged by the late 70's were Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) who were essentially a heavy metal band, but their sole and rare album contained one progressive instrumental piece called "Paramix" More significant was the Jerusalem band Duvdevan (Cherry), this band led by vocalist/keyboardist Yves Touati and electric violin player Danny Tibberin, although recording several demos for the Israeli radio, only one track by them "Ben Gurion Airport" is available on a compilation CD, this is a shame because they were really excellent. Their music comprised progressive and psychedelic jazz-rock and was quite unique. They split and reformed for several times during the eighties and their recording are yet waiting to be issued.

By 1979 Yoni Rechter had also released hid first solo album "Intentions" this album included some good progressive stuff as well as some more popish material, this album is fine but not totally progressive, therefore is only partly recommended.

1980 also saw the return of Shlomo Gronich after several years in USA. He went on a tour which resulted in a live album, this album featured both new and old material and one side of it was dedicated to the rock opera he wrote "America" that was staged only several years later, this album however is recommended only to diehard fans, it's good but not brilliant and innovative as his previous works.

His next album, however was a totally different story a much better and unique affair, "Cotton Candy" saw Gronich at his most mature and complex. The album contained several excellent tracks including "Nueba" (which was covered by famed jazz flutist Herbie Mann); "I hadn't stopped yet" with a great sitar passage, "Nowhere" - a great jazzy piece of prog and what some consider the greatest Israeli prog track ever "Luna Park" a crazy jazzy Gentle Giantish piece.

Gronich's next venture was a reunion with Shem Tov Levy. The two who also became brothers in low, recorded "Family Album" in 1983. This was to be their last progressive effort so far. The frustrated Gronich wrote a protest song called "Simple Songs" which protested about people aren't willing to hear complex music, absurdly this song became his greatest hit ever. The rest of the album included recording of family members playing folksy tunes, a rework of "autumn nights" from the Sheshet album and several excellent progressive tracks; "Transition", "Dance of the Hobbits" and "The Heart Opens". In overall this album is not great, but still good.

The duo of Ilan Virtzberg And Shimon Gelbetz had emerged and recorded "Good Vintage" in 1981; this was an album dedicated to the songs of Israeli Poetess Yona Wallach. Not strictly progressive, but more in art rock direction, this excellent album had some strong progressive overtones and is recommended.

Lord Flimnap's Point of View

The last band to emerge in the Eighties after several years without prog activity in Israel, were Lord Flimnap. This band comprised of 3 teenagers; Itay Eyal (voice/guitar/bass), Ohad Goldbrat (Voice/Keyboards) and Alon Weissman (drums). This trio who were 15-16 years old at the time of the recording sessions had managed to come out with a mature and quite good album. Their music and sound resembled early British Prog bands such as Spring, Cressida, Fields etc. indeed the CD was reissued in Germany by a Label who tried to market them as a mysterious early 70's British Band. This label also promised to arrange a European tour for them, this was never materialized and the band broke up.

The early 90's were a quiet period for Israeli prog, however several new faces did appeared on the scene. Bands and artists such as Rockfour (who's getting some attention abroad this days) Tom and The True Story, Doppler Effect and Eviatar Banai were influenced by or used Progressive elements to some extant.

By the end of the millennium and the beginning of the new one, several more fully progressive rock bands emerged, most of them had recorded demos but none got commercial release among these bands are Ashkelon Quilt (who are about to release an album in England), Parva Chama (Hot Fur) and a promising new band called Trespass.

A (selected) discography of Israeli prog:
The Churchills - S/T (69)
Arik Einstein - Poozi (69)
Jericho Jones - Junkies, Monkeys and Donkeys (71)
Shlomo Gronich - Why Didn't You Tell Me? (71)
Acharit Hayamim/Apocalypse - S/T (72)
Mathi Caspi & Shlomo Gronich - Behind The Sounds (72)
Jericho - S/T (72)
Ktzat Acheret/Nonames (74)
Yoni Rechter & Avner Kenner - The 14 Octaves (75)
Shem Tov Levy - In The Mood (76)
Tamouz - The Orange Season Is Over (76)
Zingale - Peace (77)
Sheshet - S/T (77)
Shlomo Ydov - The First Time (78)
Yoni Rechter - Intentions (79)
Shlomo Gronich - Concert (80)
Ilan Virtzberg & Shimon Gelbetz - A Good Vintage (81)
Shlomo Gronich - Cotton Candy (82)
Shlomo Gronich & Shem Tov Levy - Family Album (83)
Arik Einstein - Collection (81)
Arik Einstein - 2nd Collection (86)
Lord Flimnap - Point Of View (89)
Zingale - A Party Inside (96)