(photo credit: ETAN TAL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
World-acclaimed actor and activist on behalf of children with special needs Chaim Topol and veteran diplomat, politician and founder of Israel’s umbrella organization for voluntary services Esther Herlitz, will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Israel Prize Ceremony on Independence Day, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.
The two were cited for their contributions to society and state, and were selected by a committee headed by Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
Other members were Bar Ilan University president Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, constitutional law expert Prof.
Suzie Navot, head of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers Avigdor Kahalani and actress Lea Koenig.
Though Topol, 79, is best known for his roles as Sallah Shabati and Tevya the Dairyman, he has played many other stage and screen roles, but prefers to be known for his work for children with special needs. He is one of the founders of Variety Israel and chairman of the Jordan River Village in the Galilee, where children with life threatening illnesses come to play and have fun.
Topol visits the village frequently and interacts with the youngsters who are given a respite from hospital wards, tubes and even wheelchairs to have as normal a few days as possible. Topol is also a talented portrait artist who has sketched most of his theatrical colleagues in Israel, as well as the faces of a few politicians.
The portraits have been exhibited extensively, most recently in the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
Herlitz, 93, was among the pioneers of Israel’s Foreign Ministry which she joined in 1948. She was among the first Israeli female ambassadors, including her posting to Denmark.
She also participated in several missions to the United Nations.
Following her return from Copenhagen, she served on the Tel Aviv City Council and later founded the Center for Volunteer Services. In 1973, she became an MK and after losing her seat in 1977, served as secretary of the Tel Aviv branch of Na’amat and was also on Na’amat’s Central Committee. She returned to the Knesset in 1979 to take the seat of Yehoshua Rabinowitz following his demise. She also chaired the International Harp Contest and over the years has been active in promoting the status of women.