Legendary Actor, Director, and Teacher Nissan Nativ Dies at 86

Founder of famous acting school was to receive the Israel prize on Independence Day next month.

Director, actor and acting teacher Nissan Nativ was found dead in his Tel Aviv apartment Sunday after suffering a heart attack. He was 86 years old. Students from his acting school became worried when Nativ did not answer his phone for a number of hours. They broke down the door to his apartment, where he was found laying lifeless on the floor.

Nativ, who founded the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, was slated to receive the Israel Prize for his life's work on Independence Day next month.

He was born in Amsterdam in 1922 and immigrated to Israel in 1937, as a youth without his family. During Israel's War of Independence, Nativ served as an officer in the infantry. He changed his surname to Nativ after it was suggested to him by famed poet Avraham Shlonsky over a game of chess at the legendary artist hangout of the time, Kasit Cafe. During his long career, he studied acting at the Habima theater, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and under mime master Etienne Decroux. In the 1950s and '60s, he staged a number of experimental plays in Israel and appeared as a member of Decroux's troupe during a visit. In addition, he had his own radio program on Israel Radio.

In 1963, he set up an acting studio in a small basement on Tel Aviv's Reines Street. During its first years, the establishment received only nominal funding from the state, according to Nativ.

In 1986, Nativ was invited by the Jerusalem municipality to open a studio in the city, which is slated to close this year. "I think it's an example of the Israeli paradox that my school in Jerusalem is about to close just when I was awarded the Israel Prize," Nativ said. Many of Israel's leading actors studied under Nativ, including Keren Mor, Udi Ben-Moshe and Rami Heuberger.

Nativ had already received awards by the city of Tel Aviv in 1992 and the Israel Theater Academy in 1999. On receiving the Israel Prize, the country's highest honor, he said: "This prize doesn't really suit me: I don't belong in those circles. The establishment and I never worked together."