Actor Chaim Banai of Israel's famous Banai family died Sunday at his home in Jerusalem at the age of 71, apparently of cardiac arrest. He was survived by his wife and four children.
The brother of late actor and singer Yossi Banai and actor Gavri Banai of the legendary comedy trio Hagashash Hahiver, Chaim Banai was born in 1937 at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda neighborhood.
Over the years, he performed in a large number of theatre plays, television shows ("Shabatot Vehagim", "Hafuch") and films ("Mishpahat Tzana'ani", "Ezrah Amerikai").
Banai gained fame among the Israeli public after playing the role of greengrocer "Albert Perot" in public service broadcasts of the Fruit and Vegetable Council in the 1980s.
Chaim Banai at the funeral of his brother Yossi (Photo: Tzvika Tishler)
Yankale Mendel, chairman of the Israeli Union of Performing Artists, said Sunday, "Today we bid farewell to one of our oldest friends. This is undoubtedly a sad day. We have lost another cultural icon whom we will miss in the local culture mosaic."
"I spoke to him three days ago, when he left the hospital in Jerusalem," said singer Yaakov Naveh, with whom Banai cooperated for 20 years in the show "Shirim Vesipurim Mibeit Ima" ("song and stories from home").
"We spoke about our performances in the horizon and our upcoming show before bereaved parents in Haifa. Not one day had passed without us talking, and not only about our shows. He was the salt of the earth, a person who was everything to me."
"He went to sleep in the afternoon and didn’t wake up," said Yossi Alfi, head of the Storytellers' Festival, where Banai used to perform. "On the one hand it's good that he did not suffer when he died, but on the other hand, he suffered a lot during his lifetime with his heart problems and all sorts of other things."
Boaz Banai, Chaim's nephew, said he was surprised by his uncle's death. "May parents were at his house yesterday and he seemed like a healthy person in a pretty good mood. I am very sad."