Singer-actor Yossi Banai laid to rest

Thousands attend funeral; family requests that there be no eulogies.

yossi banai 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
yossi banai 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of actor-singer Yossi Banai at Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha Friday Among them were hundreds of artists, friends and family members of the artist, who died Thursday at 74 of cancer. At the family's request, no eulogies were given at the gravesite, and no photographers were present during the funeral. His son Yuval recited kaddish, and an a cappella choir sang the prayer El Malei Rahamim. Among the many artists in attendance were singer David Broza, composer Nahum Heiman, actress Gila Almagor, actor Shaike Levy, composer Yoni Rechter, actress Tiki Dayan and singer Yonatan Gefen. News of Banai's death came as a surprise to the Israeli public, as well as to many of his friends and relatives, who did not know he was gravely ill. "Israel has lost one of its cultural giants, a winner of the Israel Prize, a man of Jerusalem, Yossi Banai," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said after learning of Banai's passing. "Yossi Banai was an example of multidisciplinary talent as a director, playwright, satirist, actor and singer. "Yossi's unique voice played a central part in the story of the rebirth of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel and in Jerusalem. Yossi embodied a rare fusion of styles and cultures and a combination of the classical and the modern, the old and the new, which made him a pillar of Israeli culture. For all these, the bitter and the sweet, and what Yossi means for many generations of Israelis, the State of Israel bows its head today and sends its consolations to his wife Aviva and his sons," Olmert said. Indeed, Banai was admired as an extraordinarily talented man who was celebrated for his ability to move effortlessly between the worlds of high culture and popular entertainment, and for his love for and command of every register of the Hebrew language. He acted in plays written by the great Israeli playwrights Nissim Aloni and Hanoch Levin, as well as in classics of world theater. His career took him from the IDF's Nahal entertainment troupe to the Habima National Theater, the Cameri Theater and numerous other stages. Besides the countless Israeli songs for which he was treasured, he was known for his renditions of cabaret songs by Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens. Wreaths from both the Cameri and Habima theaters were laid upon Banai's grave Friday. Born in the Mahaneh Yehuda neighborhood of Jerusalem in 1932, Banai grew up in an observant family in which he acquired a knowledge and love of Jewish religious texts. In one of his best-known songs, "Me and Simon and Little Moise," he described his longing for the friends and alleyways of his childhood. Over the past year and a half, a number of prominent Israeli artists have died, including Arik Lavi, Uzi Hitman, Ehud Manor, Shoshana Damari and Naomi Shemer. Banai's death seemed to definitively mark the end of an era in Israeli culture, and the gradual passing not only of some of its greatest artists, but also of the world and the way of life they wrote and sang about. Banai is survived by his wife Aviva and by his sons Yuval, Daniel and Ariel.