Israeli Musicians Eulogize Singer, Actor Meir Banai on Stage

Banai, scion of a family with deep roots in Israeli culture, died of cancer on Thursday at the age of 55.

Meir Banai in concert in 2011.
Emil Salman

Singer and actor Meir Banai was buried in Tel Aviv's Givat Shaul cemetery on Friday morning, accompanied by hundreds of friends and family. Banai's family asked the media not to cover the funeral.

Banai, 55, died on Thursday of cancer. The scion of a family with deep roots in Israel's culture scene, he was the brother of comedian Orna Banai and singer Evyater Banai.

"How you fought, my brother, with all your strength," his sister Orna wrote on Instagram. "How you wanted, how you believed, how you hoped. You fought; you held on. That's it. It's done. Rest, my brother. It's over."

Banai's cousin, Yuval Banai, a musician as well, took his leave of him on Thursday night during a concert in the south of the country. "My childhood friend, my brother, my love Meir Banai is no longer with us," he said from the stage.

"We will go ahead with this show because I believe that's what I would want us to do. He was an incredible musician and an incredible person. Tonight is for him."

Several of the country's leading musicians were informed of Banai's death during performances on Thursday night. Ivri Lider, who was appearing in Rehovot, sang Banai's song "Shiro Shel Shafshaf" a cappella with the accompaniment of the audience.

Avraham Tal performed Banai's song "The Golden Gate" during a concert in Tel Aviv and Yehuda Poliker sang "My Eyes," which he dedicated to Banai, calling him a "dear friend."

"Meir was a radical talent, both as a musician and as an actor," said director Avi Nesher, who first worked with Banai on the 1985 film "Breaking."

"Meir had a complicated relationship with the exposure that came with his success," Nesher added. "He carried all the pain of the world on his shoulders and everything bad or evil to which he was exposed affected him deeply. Every scratch and every pain touched him deeply. It was as if he didn’t have any outer skin."

Nesher said that he wasn't surprised when Banai returned to religion. "He was looking for a world that was cleaner and better than the one he knew," Nesher said. "But I'm not certain that he found it. He was a really pure soul."