The composer was born 1897 in Munich, Germany, named Paul Frankenburger. He studied in Munich and thirty years old he was appointed Music Director of the opera house in Augsburg. The increasing anti-Semitism caused his dismissal and after early successes in his country of birth, both as a composer and a conductor, he emigrated to Palestine in 1933 and changed his name to Paul Ben-Haim. In his new home country he immediately became the central figure on the local music scene, in particular among the composers who strove to establish an Israeli national school. Ben-Haim was deeply impressed and influenced by the oriental songs he discovered on arrival, in particular by the songs of the late Bracha Zefira, many of whose songs he arranged and whose oriental melos pervaded his own personal musical style. Soon enough, his compositions became models for what was later called by Max Brod 'the Mediterranean Style'.

Until his death in 1984 he lived in Israel and composed more than 250 works. Before his retirement he teached composition and music theory in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Paul Ben-Haim felt deeply indebted to the traditional jewish inheritance and is known as the founder of an Israelic national sound. At the same time the formal structure of his works is based on the classic-romantic tradition. Prof. Jehoash Hirshberg, author of a Monograph about Ben-Haim, comments: "Ben-HaimĀ“s compositions are dominated by lyric and clearly defined melodies and a personal instrumental and vocal voice."

Ben-Haim was also a most influential teacher and educator. Among his pupils were some of the leading composers of the 'second generation': Tzvi Avni, Ben-Zion Orgad, Ami Maayani, Noam Sheriff and others. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 1957 and with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1968. Paul Ben-Haim died in Jerusalem on January 20, 1984.