From Palmach Commander to Darling of the Airwaves

Nativa Ben-Yehuda was known for her coarse manner and love for the Palmach, over which she reminisced in her late-night radio show; she wrote over 20 books.

Netiva Ben-Yehuda, an author, poet, broadcaster and commander in the pre-state Jewish underground Palmach, passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

Ben-Yehuda was known for her coarse manner and love for the Palmach, over which she reminisced in her late-night radio show. She wrote over 20 books, including "The World Dictionary of Hebrew Slang," co-authored with Dahn Ben-Amotz.

Netiva Ben-Yehuda in the Reshet Bet radio studioCredit: Israel Broadcasting Authority

"Netiva was one of the last of the founding fathers," Culture Minister Limor Livnat said yesterday.

Ben Yehuda's nightly radio program "Netiva Speaks and Listens" had a huge following and was broadcast on Israel Radio for 14 years. She would play songs from early days of the state and chat with callers.

One night a call came in from then-President Ezer Weizman, who wanted to talk to "Tiva," Ben-Yehuda's nickname in the Palmach days, her producer Claude Buchbinder said on Israel Radio yesterday.

Ben-Yehuda, daughter of Baruch Ben-Yehuda, the director general of the first Education Ministry, was one of the only women to pass a Palmach combat and command course in the 1940s. She wrote two books about the events of that era - the autobiographic "1948 - Between Calendars" (Keter, 1981 ) and the novel "Through the Binding Ropes" (Domino, 1985 ).

"In one of her first active missions as a Palmach platoon commander, she oversaw the bombing of a bus filled with civilians near Kiryat Shmona," said journalist Yitzhak Tishler, one of her contemporaries. "It took a toll on her health, psychologically. She never reconciled herself to the attack on civilians."

Ben-Yehuda lived for the past few decades, somewhat symbolically, on Jerusalem's Palmach Street. Most Jerusalemites knew her as a regular patron of "Cafe Netiva" - two tables and chairs outside the delicatessen under her apartment, where she used to sit daily.

"She would arrive every morning ... and drink black coffee and sometimes whiskey, but only when annoyed," Oren Ben Hakon, the delicatessen owner, said yesterday. A memorial candle and photo album were placed on Ben-Yehuda's table yesterday.



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