Monday, March 13, 2023

Chaim Topol Dies at 87

A Rich Man: As we all learned last Wednesday - Chaim Topol, the iconic Israeli actor who brought Sholem Aleichem's Tevye der Milkhiker to the screen in 1971's Fiddler on the Roof, has died, in Israel, at the age of 87.

Chaim Topol obm

Chaim Topol, who passed away in Israel on Wednesday, was a beloved, acclaimed Israeli actor, best known around the world for his portrayal of Tevye in the film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. He was 87.

Decades before Gal Gadot, Topol was the first Israeli to conquer Hollywood, receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for Fiddler on the Roof in 1972 and winning a Golden Globe for the role. As David Brinn put it in a 2012 Jerusalem Post profile of the actor, “He was Israel’s most famous export since the Jaffa orange.”

He also won a Golden Globe in 1965 for Most Promising Newcomer – Male for the other role with which he would be most closely associated throughout his career, the title role in Ephraim Kishon’s comic masterpiece, Sallah Shabati.

Topol, who was usually known abroad only by his last name, was a gifted singer, as well as a talented actor. His legacy as a performer was sealed by these two roles, in which he played characters decades older than his real age – a rarity for an actor – and was utterly convincing in both.
And Ynetnews reported:

Shortly after his death, President Isaac Herzog issued a statement honoring "one of the most prominent Israeli stage artists, a gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and, above all, deeply entered our hearts". 

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated "his wide smile, warm voice, and unique sense of humor made him a folk hero who won the hearts of the people",

and former prime minister Yair Lapid remarked "He and his smile will continue to accompany Israeli culture, his rich legacy will forever remain a part of Israel".


Let's go back for a minute. You younger folks clearly know Chaim Topol from Fiddler. But we older folks - especially those (like Abq Jew) who were in Old Israel back in the day - know Chaim Topol from Sallah Shabati.

Wikipedia tells us:

Sallah Shabati (Hebrew: סאלח שבתי) is a 1964 Israeli comedy film about the chaos of Israeli immigration and resettlement. 

This social satire placed the director Ephraim Kishon and producer Menahem Golan among the first Israeli filmmakers to achieve international success. It also introduced actor Chaim Topol (Fiddler on the Roof) to audiences worldwide.

The protagonist's name, Sallah Shabati, is perhaps a play on the phrase סליחה שבאתי, Sliḥa she'bati, "I apologise for coming". 

The film begins with Sallah Shabati, a Mizrahi Jewish immigrant, arriving in Israel by plane with his family: very pregnant wife, ancient female relative and seven children. Upon arrival he is taken to live in a ma'abara, or transit camp, where he and his family are given a broken-down, one-room shack to live in.

The rest of the film follows Sallah's many attempts to earn enough money to purchase an apartment in a nearby new housing development. His money-making schemes are often comical and frequently satirize the political and social stereotypes in Israel at the time.

Finally realizing that people are more likely to get what they don't want, he organizes a demonstration against the housing office shouting the slogan: 

"We don't want the development: we want the ma'abara!" 

The film ends with residents being forcibly evicted by police and transported to the new housing complex.

Chaim Topol z"l

"Hundreds say goodbye to Chaim Topol in ceremony at Tel Aviv theater," The Jerusalem Post reported.
"Chaim brought gifts and respect to this country," 
said Gabi Armani, who was with Topol in the Nahal band and their Green Onion band later on. 
"Chaim, you are leaving us, but you are leaving us with so much. Thank you, Chaim."

Memory Blessing

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