Chaim Topol Is More Than Tevye for Sick Jewish and Arab Children

Famed 'Fiddler on the Roof' Actor Works Wonders

Fiddler on the River: Chaim Topol with campers and volunteers from the Jordan River Village.
Courtesy of Jordan River Village
Fiddler on the River: Chaim Topol with campers and volunteers from the Jordan River Village.

By Paul Alster

Published April 07, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Among the volunteers are Arab Israelis doing national service and Jewish Israelis volunteering before they join the army. On a recent visit to the camp, Bassell Halil, an 18-year-old Arab from the Galilee village of Gush Halav, and Tomi Vardi, a 23-year-old Jewish volunteer from Binyamina, were leading a group of diabetic kids when Topol stopped to join them at the climbing wall.

“I’m here on national service,” said Bassell. “We spend time learning about the conditions before the children arrive. What joins us together is the illness, not race or religion. No one cares if you’re Jewish or Arab, but we do chat together and learn a lot about each other’s cultures.”

Tomi added, “I worked in a youth center and then heard about the JRV project. When I came to look around and saw what is going on here, I so wanted to be a part of it.”

Topol is looking forward to the opening of a theater on site, at which he will give the first performance. He intends to be a central figure in the ongoing development of the village, and in its efforts to continue to raise funds both in Israel and overseas. A minimum of $4 million a year is needed to maintain and expand the services.

So, at a time in life when many people are taking it easy, might he return to the international stage, once more in the role of Tevye?

“Thank God I’m in good health” he smiles. “It’s hard work. Well, it is, the way I do it! People [play Tevye] different ways, but I try not to do anything different to when I was a younger man. People come up to me and often compare my performances, say in 1975, with what they’ve just seen.”

He glances across the village and with another half wink, adds, “Thankfully, until now, I’m still getting good reviews!”

Paul Alster is a broadcast journalist based in Israel. His website is

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.