Popular Israeli actor and comedian Sefi Rivlin lost his battle to throat cancer on Tuesday night, leaving behind a legacy as one of the country’s most popular entertainers. He was 66 years old.
Rivlin, who won the 2002 Golden Mask Prize for lifetime achievement in the entertainment industry, passed away surrounded by his wife and children in hospice care at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
Rivlin’s casket will be placed in the Habima national theater in Tel Aviv starting from 11 a.m. on Wednesday. He will be laid to rest at 3 p.m. in the old cemetery of Rishon Lezion.
One of Israel’s most successful comedians, Rivlin gained fame on shows like “Nikui Rosh,” “Zehu Ze,” “Habayit Shel Fistuk” and “Hoppa Hey.”
He started his career as an actor in Jerusalem’s Khan Theater, but eventually turned to comedy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Rivlin a “friend and companion” and said the comedian “was a beloved artist who made generations of Israelis laugh with his witty humor.”
Netanyahu praised Rivlin for his “solid political views,” as well as for his openness to dialogue and friendship with “those whose opinions differed from his own, who respected and appreciated him.”
“Sefi was an ethical, principled, educated, sharp and kindhearted man,” Netanyahu said.
Rivlin was known to be a longtime supporter of the Likud party, appearing in its 1984 campaign ads and even running in the party primaries in 2008. He is related to Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, a former Knesset speaker.
Reuven Rivlin said his twice-removed cousin was “a member of the generation that shaped the Israeli experience.”
“Sefi was the most serious comedian I knew. Content was more important to him than presentation and performance,” he said. “His works and shows were so funny and moving that they brought us to tears. He was wonderfully adept at conveying messages to audiences of all ages.”
“I knew him as a man with a deep national consciousness, who loved his country and his people, who always had faith and who radiated warmth and the power of infinite empathy,” he said.
Alluding to the passing of beloved musician Arik Einstein last week, Rivlin said, “Our best and brightest are disappearing. I don’t know if Israel will stay the same as the generation that shaped it passes away.”