Israeli Satirist Ephraim Kishon Dies at 80 (AP) By MARK LAVIE JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 01/30/05 6:01 PM)
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JERUSALEM - Israel on Sunday mourned the passing of its premier
satirist, Ephraim Kishon, whose biting wit shaped the national agenda
of the formative years of the Jewish state and kept people laughing
at the same time.
Kishon, who apparently suffered a heart attack, died in the shower at
his home in Switzerland, his son, Rafi, said. He was 80.
It was a swift and unexpected end to the life of an artist whose
influence went beyond the large numbers of people who read his books
and newspaper column or watched the skits, plays and movies he wrote.
Kishon, who had mixed feelings toward Israel late in life, also
gained widespread popularity in Europe, and he often felt better
appreciated there than in his adopted home of Israel, target of his
He helped set the tone of national discourse by drawing attention to
social problems facing the nation in a way people could relate to -
Paramount was his 1964 play "Salah Shabati," later made into a movie,
lampooning Israeli society for making life hard for new immigrants.
In one telling scene, a North African newcomer is mocked by a veteran
European for his supposed lack of culture.
The same idea was reflected in last year´s award-winning Israeli
movie, "Turn Left at the End of the World," about Jewish immigrants
from India sent to a desert development town, where they are
disparaged by Moroccan immigrants who arrived just 10 years earlier.
That was an example of how Kishon´s sharp vision influenced
generations of artists and ordinary Israelis in ways they may not
have been aware of.
A friend for decades, actor Haim Topol - who won international fame
in the leading role of the 1971 movie "Fiddler on the Roof" - said
Kishon´s satirical column in the Maariv daily newspaper reached the
hearts and minds of "simple readers and decision-makers."
Topol, who also played the title role in "Salah Shabati," said Kishon
was a significant factor during the difficult period of the 1960s,
when the young state was surrounded by enemies and hard-pressed to
provide for its citizens.
"He held up morale in this country and had a great influence over
(then-Prime Minister Levi) Eshkol," Topol told Army Radio.
Born Ferenc Hoffmann in Budapest, Hungary, on Aug. 23, 1924, Kishon
narrowly escaped death in the Holocaust.
In one Nazi camp, a German officer lined up Jewish inmates and shot
dead one in every 10, passing him by. He later managed to escape en
route to the Sobibor death camp, his son said.
Kishon later wrote of the experience: "They made a mistake - they
left one satirist alive."
He changed his name to a Hebrew form when he immigrated to Israel in
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting
Sunday, spoke of Kishon´s transformation from Holocaust refugee to
"These hardships could not prevent the blossoming of talent and an
incredible writing ability," Sharon said, noting that Kishon wrote in
Hebrew, a language he learned as an immigrant.
Kishon won the nation´s highest civilian award, the Israel Prize for
lifetime achievement, in 2003. But by then he was increasingly
estranged from the country, spending most of his time in Switzerland.
"He always had the feeling that he wasn´t appreciated in Israel,"
Topol told the Yediot Ahronot daily. "He spoke often of the native-
born Israelis who he felt were against him as a Hungarian immigrant."
Kishon felt pleased with his success in Europe, particularly in
"He said, ´It´s a great feeling that the children of my hangmen are
my admirers,´" Rafi Kishon said.
Kishon´s body was being flown to Israel for burial in Tel Aviv on
Tuesday, Israeli media reported. He is survived by Lisa, his third
wife, and three grown children. (Leads with six paragraphs to correct
plot of "Salah Shabati.") (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 01/30/05)
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