Tamar Golan, Israel's Queen of Africa, Dies at 76

The co-founder of Kibbutz Lahav served as ambassador to Angola.

Tamar Golan passed away yesterday at age 76 at her home on Kibbutz Lahav - a kibbutz in the Negev she and her husband helped found. She had returned to Lahav from Angola, where she had served as Israel's ambassador.

After earning a doctorate at Columbia University, Golan pursued a varied career. She had a stint in Africa, where she served as a correspondent for the Maariv daily and as a reporter for Army Radio on African affairs. She then moved to France, but maintained her ties to the African continent.

Tamar Golan
Daniel Tchetchik

As far as I am concerned at least, she was the queen of Africa. More precisely, she was the queen mother and we were her young fledglings even when we were not so young. She charmed me from the time I met her in Paris in the 1970s. Her Paris apartment was a destination for African noblemen, Israeli and Arab statesmen, European nobility and kibbutzniks from the Levant who mingled together there. It was also there that a dialogue group was founded that fostered interactions between Jews and Palestinians at a time when such things were prohibited. It was also here that Andre Azoulay, who ultimately became the adviser to two Moroccan kings, shaped his impressive and complex political identity.

I met Eric de Rothschild, who would frequently come in his Volkswagen Beetle, at her apartment, and it was from there that Aliza Shagrir departed to meet her death in a terrorist attack at the Rue Copernic synagogue nearby.

Like the colorful matron of the house, she ruled her salon with a firm hand. You could only come after 5 P.M., but there was no need to let her know you were coming. Even the furniture in the apartment was a melange of different worlds. She worked not only to bring Israelis and Arabs together but, to no lesser extent, also people from her two homelands - Israel and Africa.

She was a woman of the grand gesture. Calling her larger than life would be an understatement. She was a woman of great passions and no less of major hatreds. She once held me up at her apartment almost by force just so I would be late for an appointment with an Israeli journalist who had made her angry. She would only close her salon about once a year, when she suffered relapses of the African fever she contracted on her beloved continent.

She had no love like her love of Africa. She was a missionary preaching a love of Africa, despite all its ills. I will carry the hours I spent at her apartment with me always. Tamar Golan was larger than life and now she is no more.