Tamar Golan, the veteran Israeli journalist, diplomat and leading expert on
African affairs, passed away Wednesday at age 76.
The funeral will take
place in Haifa at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sde Yehoshua Cemetery, leaving from the
With her fiery red hair and white clothes, Tamar was always
an immediately recognizable and striking figure.
Though diminutive, she
had a charismatic and forceful presence.
Born Tamar Knafi in Haifa, Golan
and her late husband, Avihu, were among the founders in the early 1950s of
Kibbutz Lahav in the Negev.
She left Lahav in the late 1950s for Haifa,
where she became the first Jewish teacher in an Arab school.
the Foreign Ministry for a diplomatic position because she was married, she sent
an indignant letter to Golda Meir, then Foreign Minister, who invited her for a
chat. The result was an assignment to Ethiopia as part of the Foreign Ministry’s
It was there that Avihu Golan was killed, and following
Indian and African mourning custom, Tamar Golan began wearing only white. Still,
Ethiopia was the beginning of her long love affair with the African
In the 1960s she earned a PhD from Columbia University, and
eventually became the Africa correspondent for Ma’ariv, Army Radio and the
A groundbreaking and bold journalist, she traveled to Arab countries
long before it became fashionable for Israeli reporters. (The first time I was
assigned to report from an Arab country I called Tamar in Paris to ask advice
“from one Golan to another.”) Golan’s famous afternoon teas at her Paris
apartment were a de rigueur experience for visiting Israelis, African noblemen
and Arab statesmen.
It was in her Paris intellectual “salon” that
Israelis and Palestinians formed a dialogue group in days when such contacts
Throughout her career, Golan built a network of contacts
with influential figures in Africa, France and Arab countries, and was
reportedly privy to many state secrets.
In 1995, Golan was appointed the
first Israeli ambassador to the west African country Angola – as well as the
first female ambassador there.
Golan also became Israel’s envoy to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic
Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. After her diplomatic tour of duty, Golan
remained in Angola to work for removal of mines throughout the
Her first love was always Africa. She wrote three books on
Africa, but only Angolan Rendezvous: Man and Nature in the Shadow of War,
written with zoologist Dr. Tamar Ron, has been translated into
On her return to Israel in 2003, she began teaching African
studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, eventually founding the Africa
Center at BGU.
“Tamar’s approach to the study of Africa was never purely
academic, but also involved political and cultural engagement with Africa,” said
Dr. Lynn Schler, head of BGU’s African Studies Division.
established BGU’s Student Volunteers Program, which sends delegations to various
countries for three months of service.
In 2003, I was commissioned by The
Jerusalem Post to write a long feature about Golan. As if I were writing a New
Yorker profile, I followed her around for a month, even sitting in at her
electrifying lectures. But in the end, the piece never ran because Tamar
insisted the article be about Africa, and not her.
Alas, this piece is