Chaim Topol, best known for his portrayal as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” died in Israel on Thursday following “a long illness,” according to his representative. He was 87.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences to Topol’s family and friends, calling him a “multi-faceted artist, with great charisma and energy.”
“The story of Haim Topol’s life has been sealed but I am certain that his contribution to Israeli culture will live on for generations,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “He greatly loved the land of Israel, and the people of Israel loved him in return.”
Topol, born in Tel Aviv on September 9, 1935, went by his surname professionally. His acting career began when he was sent to the entertainment unit during his mandatory military service in Israel. In addition to meeting his future wife, Galia Topol, during his service, he was also able to help his country.
As a result of his actions, he was honored with numerous accolades in the film industry, including two Golden Globes: one in 1965 for his performance as the title character in “Sallah Shabati,” and another in 1972 for his work in “Fiddler on the Roof,” both for best actor in a motion picture comedy or musical.
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And in 1971, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Tevye, the milkman. He also played Milos Columbo opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only” (1983) and Dr. Hans Zarkov in “Flash Gordon” (1980). (1981).
Topol, known for his award-winning performance in a musical, once described music as “organized noise,” adding that he could not play an instrument or understand music.
“I actually was deprived of music until the age of 12,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 1983. “We didn’t have a radio in the house.”
Topol claimed that before his Tevye role on film, he had already played the character on stage in Tel Aviv and was later requested to perform the function in London’s West End.
“They were very brave to let me have that part … Considering that my English was so limited,” with a “vocabulary of 50 words,” he added. “I still don’t understand how they let me have the part.”
Israel’s top cultural distinction, the Israel Prize, was bestowed on Topol by Netanyahu eight years ago. On Thursday, President of Israel Isaac Herzog stated on Twitter honoring the late actor.
“From fiddler on the roof to the roof of the world, Haim Topol, who has passed away from us, was one of the most outstanding Israeli stage artists, a gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and above all entered deep into our hearts.”
Herzog and Netanyahu claim that Topol helped sick and disadvantaged kids through his charitable activity.
“Topol was one of the giants of Israeli culture and he will be greatly missed. Condolences to his dear family and all his loved ones,” he said further.
The widow and three children of Topol are left behind.
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Rebecca Martin is an author of thrillers for both adults and teens. She was born in San Francisco and has lived most of her life in Los Angeles. When not writing, she can be found hiking the Griffith Park trails, taking the Metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.