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Tommy Lapid
Date of birth 27 December 1931(1931-12-27)
Place of birth Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
Year of aliyah 1948
Date of death 1 June 2008 (aged 76)
Place of death Tel Aviv, Israel
Knessets 15th, 16th
Party Hetz
Former parties Shinui
Ministerial posts
(current in bold)
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Justice

Yosef "Tommy" Lapid (Hebrew: יוסף "טומי" לפיד‎, born Tomislav Lampel (Serbian: Томислав Лампел), 27 December 1931 - 1 June 2008) was an Israeli television presenter, journalist, politician and government minister known for his sharp tongue and acerbic wit.[1] Lapid headed the secular-liberal Shinui party in 1999-2006. He was fiercely opposed to the ultra-orthodox political parties and actively sought to exclude any religious observance from the legal structure of the Israeli State[1]. [1]



Lapid was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (today Serbia) to a Hungarian Jewish family. His family was seized by the Nazis and deported to the Budapest ghetto, and later His father was deported to a concentration camp, where he was murdered. Lapid and his mother survived the war and moved to Israel in 1948. [2] After serving as a mechanic in the Israel Defense Forces, Lapid studied law at Tel Aviv University. [2] He was married Shulamit Lapid, an acclaimed novelist. [3]They had three children. Their son, Yair Lapid, is a well-known columnist and television host. Their oldest daughter, Michal, was killed in a car accident.[4]

Media career

Lapid started out as a journalist for the Hungarian-language newspaper Új Kelet. [5] Later, he was hired by Maariv, where he became an influential publicist, and went on to become director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and chairman of the Cable TV Union. He was also the founding editor of Israeli womans' magazine At and a successful playwriter. In the 90's was a regular guest on the political talk show Popolitika aired on Channel 1 which often turned into a shouting match, and later moved to a Channel 2 talk show, Politika. Lapid was awarded the Sokolow Prize, Israel's top award in journalism, in 1998, for his weekly radio show. [5]

In 1974, after most of the black African states severed all official relations with Israel after the Arab Israeli war of 1973, he wrote an article in Maariv, titled "For the Sake of South Africa I Shall Not Keep My Silence" (Hebrew: "Le'maan D'rom Africa Lo Esheshe"): The supposedly liberated African states are for the most part a bad joke and an affront to human dignity...A few weeks ago Professor Baker's research was published in Britain which, among other things compared the history of Jews and Negroes in New York so as to investigate differences in achievement obtained by races with different IQs and different aptitudes under constant conditions...Evidently, there is, after all, a hereditary difference in intellect between a man whose father lived in the jungle and one whose forefathers were priests in the Temple, as D'Israeli put it...It is very regrettable that South Africa's white rulers found it impossible to grant the greatest amount of civil rights to the Negro majority in their country. I presume they would have done so if only they could trust that the black majority would not oppress the white minority, would not rob it and would not turn a wealthy and prosperous country into another parody of political independence...For the life of me, if I have to choose between the friendship with today's black Africa and friendship with a white, organized and successful country with a thriving Jewish community, then I prefer South Africa. It is only too bad we waited for the Negroes to throw us out.[6]

Political career

In the late 1990s, Lapid joined Avraham Poraz's Shinui party, which boosted the party's standing in the Israeli political scene. Lapid became party chairman and Shinui won six seats in the 1999 elections, with Lapid entering the Knesset for the first time.

In the 2003 elections the party ran on a secularist platform and won 15 seats, making it the third largest in the Knesset after Likud and Labour. Shinui was invited to join the government of Ariel Sharon and Lapid was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice.[1]

Tension between Shinui and Likud grew when the ultra-Orthodox party Agudat Israel was brought into the coalition. Shinui could not implement many of its electoral promises, such as instituting civil marriage, and a dispute erupted over state aid to religious institutions. As a result, Shinui quit the coalition in December 2004. In late March 2005, Lapid voted in favor of the budget in exchange for minor concessions in order to keep the government from falling, which was liable to lead to early elections and impede the implementation of the disengagement plan.[7] In Shinui's primary elections held shortly before the 2006 elections, Lapid retained the party leadership. However, his deputy Poraz lost second place on the list. In the ensuing crisis, Poraz and several other Shinui MKs left the party and founded Hetz. Lapid left Shinui two weeks after the vote and announced his support for Poraz's new party, but chose not to be involved in the new party's leadership, instead serving as a figurehead. In the elections, he was allocated the symbolic 120th place on the Hetz list, but the party failed to win a seat.

Non-political activities

On July 2006, Lapid was appointed chairman of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, a role he called "a sacred duty." [1] He appeared on Council of Wise Men, a TV show on Israel 10 and hosted his own radio program on Israeli radio Reshet Bet. He was also a former chairman of the Israel Chess Society and served as an honorary member of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.


Lapid was hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv in serious condition on 30 May 2008.[8] He died on 1 June 2008, after losing a battle with cancer.[9]


External links



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