Egyptian-born actor Jacques Cohen dies at 86

Cohen was most known for his portrayal of the iconic Arab Israeli restaurant owner Abu Rahmi in ‘Hamisada HaGedola’.

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December 4, 2016 21:25
2 minute read.
JACQUES COHEN

JACQUES COHEN. (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)

 
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Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev expressed sorrow over the death Thursday night of popular actor Jacques Cohen, 86.

Cohen was hospitalized with pneumonias and developed complications that resulted in his death.

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Regev stated that Cohen had contributed the sophisticated taste of the East to Israeli culture and his memory would forever be enshrined in the satirical television series Hamisada HaGedola (The Big Restaurant), in which the Egyptian-born Cohen played Abu Rahmi, an Arab Israeli restaurant owner.

The weekly sitcom, which had a three-year run in the mid 1980s, was one of Israel’s most highly rated comedy shows, watched by Jews and Arabs alike. In some respects it was a bridge builder not only between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities, but between Israel and the Arab world.

It was watched in many neighboring countries.

The show was the brainchild of another Egyptian expatriate, Joseph Barel, who was the director of Arabic news for Israel Television and later of TV Channel 1. Barel envisaged a program that would appeal to both Jewish and non-Jewish viewers in the region.

Cohen, who was both a stage and screen actor playing parts in either Hebrew or Arabic, became so identified with the character of Abu Rahmi that he was subsequently hired by a major food processing company to be the presenter for its brand of hummus.

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Cohen was essentially a character actor, and in private life a very gentle and cultured individual, who liked to laugh.

Having come to Israel with his parents when he was only five years old, he spoke accentless Hebrew. The family settled in Jerusalem, where Cohen found his professional niche when he was in his early twenties. He played in comedy and drama and even in children’s shows on television. Yet despite a long and varied acting career, nothing earned him greater fame than Hamisada HaGedola.

The cast and the production crew included both Jews and Arabs who got along well with each other and even became close friends. The dialogue on the show, though primarily Arabic and Hebrew, necessitated some knowledge of other languages, as befitting a cosmopolitan restaurant proprietor. Among the languages that came out of Cohen’s mouth on the show were Yiddish and Japanese.

About a dozen years ago, Cohen proved that life can emulate art when he opened a restaurant of his own at Moshav Bitzaron in the South. Moshav Bitzaron, which was also his home, on Friday became his final resting place.

Cohen is survived by his wife and three children.

His daughter Daniella Dadon eulogized him on her Facebook page, writing: “My dear beloved father, you were the great light in my life. I couldn’t ask for a better father. May your memory JACQUES COHEN (Wikipedia) be for a blessing.”

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