Comedian and actor Sefi Rivlin was buried Wednesday in the old cemetery in Rishon Letzion. Rivlin died Tuesday night at the age of 66, after a long battle with cancer. A memorial ceremony held Wednesday morning at Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv was attended by dozens of Israel’s best-known entertainers as well as politicians who included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Entertainer Israel Gurion opened the ceremony by singing “Ani Gitara,“ (“I am a Guitar”), which he dedicated to Rivlin. Actor Dov Reiser, who performed alongside Rivlin many times over the years, was the master of ceremonies.
After laying a wreath on Rivlin’s coffin, Netanyahu said: “We are saying good bye to you today but we will never be without your laugh, the smile, the blue eyes and the wink behind things. You were one of the most gifted actors and comedians we had, talented from head to toe.”
Netanyahu described what he said was Rivlin’s talent for capturing the audience’s attention from the moment he went on stage. “A small flutter in your eye was enough to have all of us splitting our sides with laughter. Very few had such presence on stage,” Netanyahu said, adding that a nation that has known so much pain needed Rivlin to make it happy and laugh.
Footage from an evening that Habimah held in Rivlin’s honor five years was shown.
Addressing the audience Wednesday, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat said: “For so many years you made all of us laugh, but that isn’t enough. You left before your time. You could have continued to make us laugh. You never lost your sense of humor.”
Continuing, Livnat said that Rivlin’s great patriotism was “not an easy thing” in Israel’s entertainment industry. If not for his illness, she said, Rivlin could have been elected to the Knesset and would have served fearlessly. “It was impossible not to love him, even for the left,” she said.
Rivlin was one of Israel’s leading comedians, receiving the Golden Mask Prize in 2002 for his lifetime achievement. He grew up in a Revisionist family in Rishon Letzion, where he lived his entire life. He left the theater to perform as a comedian, and it was in comedy that he found fame. He acted in musicals and was frequently the master of ceremonies at children’s festivals.
In 2007 Rivlin returned to the theater, and appeared in several plays. An enthusiastic Likud supporter, Rivlin starred in television ads for the party in the 1984 general election. He won a spot on the Likud ticket in the 2008 election, but did not make it into the Knesset. He also ran for Rishon Letzion’s city council.