The Israeli Actor Who Brought the Shtetl to the Silver Screen

Born in Tel Aviv in 1935 to a working-class family, Chaim Topol gained fame in Israel for his role in the film Sallaḥ Shabati, but it was his performance in the Israeli production of Fiddler on the Roof that propelled him to the part for which he is best remembered—as Tevye in the Hollywood version of the musical. Topol died on Wednesday at the age of eighty-seven. David Herman reflects on his career:

Topol was then chosen over the more renowned Zero Mostel (who famously played the part on Broadway) to play Tevye in Norman Jewison’s Hollywood adaptation. According to Alisa Solomon in her book Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof: “Jewison felt Mostel lacked reality. He was too big, too American.” The director wanted a much more realistic feel for his film, especially for the part of the dairyman.

Mostel was religiously observant and spoke Yiddish, but Topol was a Hebrew-speaking sabra (Jew born in Israel) and was still in his thirties. Critics agreed. Pauline Kael, writing in the New Yorker, said Topol’s “brute vitality” helped to “clear away the sticky folk stuff.” Fiddler went on to become the top-grossing film of the year and was part of Jewish wave of Hollywood films in the 1960s, which included Goodbye Columbus, The Graduate, and Woody Allen’s early films.

Along with the musical duo Esther & Abi Ofarim and a new generation of Israeli writers, including Amos Oz, whose first novels were published in the mid-1960s, and S.Y. Agnon, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, Topol symbolized a new Israeli culture. . . . His death was announced by Israel’s president Isaac Herzog, who described him as a “gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence, and especially entered deep into our hearts.”

Read more at Jewish Renaissance

More about: Fiddler on the Roof, Film, Israeli culture

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security