Multi-talented Nava Semel Succumbs to cancer at age 63

Nava Semel was active in second generation survivor groups, and her anthology of short stories ‘Hat of Glass’ was the first published work in Israel dealing with the offspring of Holocaust survivors.

December 2, 2017 19:52
2 minute read.
nava semel 521

nava semel 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Prize winning author, playwright, scriptwriter, librettist, poet, journalist and translator Nava Semel died in the predawn hours of Saturday morning after a battle with cancer.

Born in Jaffa to Romanian- born Holocaust survivors Yitzhak and Margalit Artzi, Semel was the younger sister of popular singer Shlomo Artzi.

Their father Yitzhak was among the leaders of the Bucharest Jewish underground during World War II and migrated to pre-state Israel in 1946. He was politically active, and from 1974-83 was a member of the Tel Aviv City Council, serving as deputy mayor from 1979-83.

He was elected to the Knesset in 1984.

Margalit was a survivor of Auschwitz.

Unlike many Holocaust survivors who did not speak of their ordeals, the Artzis made sure that their children were wellversed in Holocaust history and even took them to Romania to retrace their own personal wartime histories.

Semel was active in second generation survivor groups, and her anthology of short stories Hat of Glass was the first published work in Israel dealing with the offspring of Holocaust survivors.

Some of her other works were also related to the Holocaust and she was a board member of Yad Vashem.

Her books were translated into many languages and her plays were written for both stage and radio. One of her plays, a monodrama about a child with Down syndrome and his mother’s fears on the night before he is due to start school, was originally written for the stage, where it ran for 11 years. It was then also produced as a radio play by the BBC in London and by other radio stations in France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy, USA, Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey and Poland.

Semel was married to Noam Semel, who was the producer and director of the Cameri Theater for 25 years and who, before his recent retirement, was referred to as a genius who had built a cultural empire.

Noam and Nava Semel were a cultural couple. In recent months, Noam Semel co-hosted a light-hearted cultural program on Friday mornings on Kan Reshet Bet with Vered Yiftachi Green, but took time out over the past two weeks to be at his wife’s hospital bedside.

For Shlomo Artzi, this has been a difficult period, as his mother and sister died within less than a month of each other.

In addition to her husband and brother, Nava Semel is survived by her three children.

She will be laid to rest on Sunday afternoon at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.

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