Moda’i, World WIZO honorary president, dies at 81

Michal Moda’i, a seventh generation Jerusalemite, was buried on Sunday in the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.

March 4, 2012 22:38
3 minute read.
Michal Modai

Michal Modai 390. (photo credit:


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Michal Moda’i, one of three honorary life presidents of World WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, died on Friday at age 81.

She was buried on Sunday in the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.

A seventh generation Jerusalemite, who was a member of the family of Yoel Moshe Salomon, one of the founders of the city’s Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, and later one of the pioneers of Petah Tikva, Moda’i was the second ever Miss Israel. She was crowned in 1951.

The first Miss Israel was Miriam Yaron, who was crowned in 1950. Because prime minister David Ben-Gurion insisted that representatives of the nascent state had to have Hebrew surnames, both women had to change their names. Moda’i, who was one of several children born to Zipporah (née Salomon) and Osher Shmuel Herison, became Michal Har’el.

Like every Miss Israel, she was sent out into the world to carry her nation’s message, and to prove that its focus was not only on military matters.

Among the countries on her itinerary was England.

While in London, she met Israel’s military attaché Yitzhak Moda’i. They fell in love and were married.

In later years, Yitzhak Moda’i became a prominent politician who held several government portfolios including that of finance ministry.

The Moda’is had three children. Harela, the eldest, who worked for Army Radio, was killed in a car accident when she was 22 years old. The Moda’is established an annual memorial prize in her name at Army Radio.

Their son Boaz Moda’i followed his parents into public service. He is currently ambassador to Ireland.

A kindergarten teacher by profession, Michal Moda’i attended Jerusalem’s famed Evelina de Rothschild School and continued to the David Yellin Teachers College. Later she worked for several years with immigrant children in transit camps.

She joined WIZO Herzliya Pituah in 1968, and soon was elected chairwoman of the branch. In this capacity, she made it her mission to recruit volunteers to work with people in the poorer neighborhoods of Herzliya.

Many residents of poor neighborhoods were recent immigrants who had little or no command of Hebrew and almost no understanding of Israel’s bureaucracy. Few veteran Israelis spoke their languages.

Moda’i moved up through the ranks of WIZO, and in 1979 was elected chairwoman of WIZO Israel. She was particularly concerned about WIZO branches in border areas, and made a point of visiting all of them.

She was also concerned that domestic violence was on the rise and that its victims had minimal recourse for escape. This prompted her to establish the first of WIZO’s shelters for battered women, which was opened in 1983.

Moda’i was extremely keen to upgrade WIZO’s schools and youth villages and persuaded the Ministries of Education and Finance to contribute 50 percent of the operating costs of these facilities.

In 1984, after having served for several years on the World WIZO Executive, she was elected as its chairwoman, and in 1996 became the president of World WIZO, a position that she held until 2004, when she became chairwoman of the Council of Women’s Organizations and was part of the Israeli delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York.

Before that, she was also a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors and a member of the World Jewish Congress. In 1999, she received the Prime Minister’s Award for volunteerism, one of numerous awards that she received over the years.

Illness precluded her from attending the annual World WIZO conference in Tel Aviv last January. She had been in poor health for a long time.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night