Israeli actor and comedian Yosef (Seffy) Rivlin died Tuesday at the age of 66.
Rivlin, who battled cancer for many years and even lost his voice as a result of the disease, was hospitalized two weeks ago in serious condition at the hospice at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, where he passed away.
Hospital officials said his family members and close friends were at his bedside in his final days.
Rivlin was born in the central city of Rishon Lezion in November 1947 and went on to become one of the most important and successful comedians in the Israeli entertainment industry.
He studied acting at the Beit Zvi School of the Performing Arts and made his debut in the comedy "Servant of Two Masters" at the Khan Theater. His career in television began in popular 1970s satire show "Nikui Rosh."
Rivlin as a young actor (Photo: Shaul Golan)
Rivlin told Ynet how he had joined the successful show: "I was a young actor in the theater when (actor and entertainer) Tuvia Tzafir saw me there and recommended me to (TV personality) Moti Kirshenbaum. I think I was the only rightist to appear on 'Nikui Rosh.' We had 80-90% ratings. It was watched in all houses in Israel,
both those who loved the show and those who hated it. There was something original about it."
He later played the role of Fistuk in two children's shows on Israeli Educational Television, "Rega Im Dodley" ("A Moment with Dodley") and "Habayit Shel Fistuk" ("Fistuk's House"). He also made an appearance on long-running entertainment television program "Zehu Ze!" ("This is It!") and participated in other children's shows.
In the 1980s and 1990s he appeared on several comedy television series and starred in a number of films, including director Avi Nesher's "Hasodot" ("The Secrets"). He won the Israeli Academy of Television prize and the Masach Hazahav (Golden Screen) award for lifetime achievement.
Rivlin with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Likud primaries (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Rivlin, whose father was the leader of the Beitar movement in Rishon Lezion, was also politically and publicly active since the 1980s, starting off as the star of theLikud's
election campaign in 1981 and 1984.
"It's really difficult being a rightist in the entertainment industry, but on the other hand it's a privilege because you're like the entire Jewish people – one against the world. I always thought that there was a sort of intellectual arrogance in the Left. The feeling was that everyone else is the common people, while the left are the patrons of wisdom."
From 2003 to 2010 he served as a council member in the Rishon Lezion Municipality. Five years ago, he ran in the Likud primary elections, but was only placed in the 51st slot on the party's Knesset list.
Rivlin battled cancer throughout a large part of his career. He revealed that he was dealing the disease about seven years ago, but had already suffered damage to his vocal chords, which prevented him from performing on stage.
"After so many years of operations and treatments, I am living a different life and discovering new things," he wrote in an interview at the time. "Every day is a new discovery. I feel like Columbus every day, and there is no doubt that it makes you look differently at priorities in life. So many things are not important, and we attribute so much importance to them.
In September 2012 he lost his voice after undergoing surgery in his throat. In the past few days he fought for his life at the Sheba Medical Center, but passed away Tuesday evening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said
in a statement following Rivlin's death, "Together with many people in Israel I am saddened by the passing of my friend and comrade Seffy Rivlin. Seffy was a popular artist who made generations of Israelis laugh with his witty humor. He had solid national opinions and he never gave in to the winds of fashion.
"Nonetheless, he was open to a dialogue and friendship with people with different opinions who respected and appreciated him. Seffy was an ideological, educated, sharp minded and kindhearted person. He fought his disease courageously for many years out of a spirit of optimism and hope, which had always characterized him. He will be greatly missed by me and the people of Israel."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
issued a statement as well: "Seffy Rivlin was a talented actor and comedian who was not afraid to express his political opinions and fight for them even if they went against the flow. Even when he lost his voice, he was always heard and will continue to be heard in the future. Children will continue enjoying his wonderful series which will remain fresh.
"I send my sincere and deep condolences to his family and I hope the people of Israel get other artists of the magnitude of those we have lost in the past year."
Yaron Kelner, Eli Senyor, Moran Azulay and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report