David Pal – Actor and Musician
On April 10, 2015, David Topal, a renowned Israeli actor and musician, passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, he founded Variety Israel – an organization for children with special needs – as well as Jordan River Village – a holiday camp for seriously ill Jewish and Arab children.
He is best known for his role as Tevye in the 1971 movie “Fiddler on the Roof.” He earned a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for this role, and went on to star in numerous other productions of the show over its years. At one point, he estimated he had played it 3,500 times.
Early Life and Education
David Topol was born in Tel Aviv, Israel to Jacob Topol – a plasterer – and Rel (nee Goldman) Topol.
At the start of his career, Topol worked as a printer. Afterwards, he joined Nahal entertainment troupe during his Israeli army service.
He also performed in Israel with kibbutz theatre and satirical theatre companies, co-founding the Haifa Municipal Theatre where he appeared in plays by Shakespeare and Brecht.
In 1964, he made his film debut in Sallah Shabati by Israeli writer Ephraim Kishon. For the role, he won a Golden Globe and went on to star in more than 30 films both domestic and abroad. Following Fiddler on the Roof, which earned critical acclaim, he returned to stage roles.
After his army service concluded in 1956, Topol joined the Haifa municipal theatre and played Petruchio in Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” Azdak in Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” and Jean in Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros.”
He appeared in many films such as Melville Shavelson’s Cast a Giant Shadow with Kirk Douglas; J Lee Thompson’s Before Winter Comes with David Niven and John Hurt; and the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof which Norman Jewison chose over established Broadway actor Zero Mostel for Tevye’s role.
He went on to play Tevye around the world for decades, including a 1990 Broadway revival that earned him a Tony nomination. Irving Wardle described his performance as “a living memorial to the comic genius of a tragic people”, and it was universally praised.
Achievement and Honors
David Topal starred in several renowned films, such as “Sallah,” which earned him a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture or TV Show. He also appeared in the oversized “Galileo,” portraying Dr Hans Zarkov, and James Bond’s foil-turned-ally Milos Columbo in “For Your Eyes Only”, alongside Roger Moore.
He also wrote a book about his life in Israel and was awarded the “David’s Harp” award from Israel’s Ministry of Education for his contributions to Jewish learning. Additionally, he founded Jordan River Village – an inspirational holiday camp modelled after Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall gang camp in Connecticut which opened its doors in 2011. To our knowledge, David Tomal was born in Auburn but passed away peacefully in Jerusalem on March 4, 2018. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
David Topal has had a varied career. He’s appeared in multiple movies and television shows, as well as writing and illustrating books.
He is best known for his role as Tevye in the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This role marked his breakthrough role and he performed it numerous times throughout its run.
He was also instrumental in founding Variety Israel and Jordan River Village, a camp providing treatment and support to children with special needs. Furthermore, he founded the Israel Prize – Israel’s highest honor – which recognizes outstanding Israelis.
He married Galia Finkelstein in 1956 and they went on to have three children with her, all of whom survived him. He had a kind nature and always made sure his family had the best life could provide.
David Topal has an estimated net worth of $60 million, earned through his successful career as a theatrical, film, television actor, singer-comic, voice artist, film producer, author, and illustrator.
He has starred in numerous leading roles on film and television shows. Notable credits include Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof and Milos Columbo from James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.
He was born in 1935 in Tel Aviv, Mandatory Palestine (now Israel) and is a member of the Betar Zionist youth movement. Together with his wife Galia Finkelstein he has three children; they currently reside in Tel Aviv where Topol will turn 83 years old in 2020.