Actor, journalist and television personality Meni Peer died Wednesday, succumbing to cancer only a few days short of his 68th birthday.
Peer, a graduate of the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, appeared in theatrical productions and in several movies, including “Salomonico,” “Hasamba” and others. However, he is best known for his long and successful career as host of entertainment and cultural programs, mainly on Channel 1 and Army Radio. He was also a wine and culinary expert, serving since 2010 as the editor of the Wine, Gourmet & Alcohol magazine.
Peer made his illness public on Facebook in April, posting a picture of himself after a round of chemotherapy. He spoke about his illness in an interview with Channel 10, and in the last interview he gave, around two months ago to the “The Way it Was” program on Channel 1, he joked about his health and expected death.
“Meni came in a great mood, armed with a bottle of vodka,” said the program’s host, Yigal Ravid. “‘In my condition I don’t ask anyone what to do anymore,’ he said. It was sad to see him like that, even though his spirit seemed unscathed. He was full of black humor. When I asked what was new, he answered that [after the show] he was going to buy a gravestone, and we laughed. It was important to us to convey what a talented and breakthrough figure he was.”
Until the end he was appearing on television, conducting charity auctions, drinking wine and cracking jokes. “I only tear up when I have allergies or when I get emotional,” he told Ravid in his “The Way it Was” interview. “When I’m sad, I tell jokes. When the spotlights are on my nausea disappears.”
Peer was born Menahem Bauer on Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak in 1946. He attended the Dugma and Ironi D schools in Tel Aviv, and served in the Israel Air Force. After his discharge he studied acting with Nissan Nativ, and began working in radio and television. He earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and philosophy from Tel Aviv University.
He began working in television in 1969, hosting the children’s program, “Hahafsaka Hagedola,” (“The Big Recess”). “To this day adults come over to me and tell me, ‘I was one of the children on your show,” he told Ravid.
After the Yom Kippur War he hosted an Army Radio program on Thursday nights called “Man and Woman,” the first Hebrew matchmaking show. “Lots of people got married because of that program,” he told the Army Radio program “Night Birds” on its 35th anniversary show. “The candidate had to pick who among his listeners he was going to take to dinner at Army Radio’s expense. On Friday mornings people would ask me, ‘Meni, I fell asleep. Who did she pick?’ It was the talk of the weekend. That was a time when TV was only two colors, but the radio was colorful.”
When Peer was 40 years old he was interviewed by Maariv and was asked about his greatest regret. “That I was born too early,” he said. “Not that I would want to live like in science fiction movies, but to live in the time and place that we’re aiming for now, in a properly run state, in a society that lives in a place about which there are no question marks.”
He described himself in that interview as “a hedonist who becomes more self-aware from year to year.” He added that he “thinks I’m living very well in my professional setting … To be a host is a profession – it’s neither an interviewer nor an entertainer.”
Peer died at the Palace Medical nursing facility adjacent to Ichilov Hospital. He is survived by his wife Karni, three children and four grandchildren. He will be buried Friday morning at 10:30 in the artists’ section of the Yarkon cemetery.