Tommy Lapid

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Tommy Lapid
Tommy Lapid at Eichman trial1961.jpg
Lapid reporting from the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961
Ministerial roles
2003–2004Deputy Prime Minister
2003–2004Minister of Justice
Faction represented in the Knesset
2006Secular Faction
Other roles
2005Leader of the Opposition
Personal details
Born27 December 1931
Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
Died1 June 2008(2008-06-01) (aged 76)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Children3, including Yair Lapid

Yosef "Tommy" Lapid (Hebrew: יוסף "טומי" לפיד, born as Tomislav Lampel, Serbian Cyrillic: Томислав Лампел; 27 December 1931 – 1 June 2008) was a Serbian-born Israeli radio and television presenter, playwright, journalist, politician and government minister known for his sharp tongue and acerbic wit.[1] Lapid headed the secular-liberal Shinui party from 1999 to 2006. He fiercely opposed the ultra-Orthodox political parties and actively sought to exclude any religious observance from the legal structure of the Israeli State.[2]


Lapid was born in Novi Sad, Kingdom of Yugoslavia (modern-day Serbia), to a family of Hungarian Jewish descent. His family was seized by the Nazis and deported to the Budapest Ghetto. His father was deported to a concentration camp, where he was murdered. Lapid and his mother were rescued by Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest.[3][4] They survived the war and moved to Israel in 1948[1] where he worked at the Hungarian language Israeli paper Új Kelet with Rudolf Kasztner. After serving as a radio operator in the Israel Defense Forces between 1950 and 1953, Lapid graduated with a law degree from Tel Aviv University in 1957.[1] He was married to Shulamit Lapid, an acclaimed novelist.[5] They had three children. Their son, Yair Lapid, is the chairman of Yesh Atid party, which became the second-biggest party in the 2013 Israeli elections, and was a columnist and television host. A daughter, Merav, is a clinical psychologist. Their oldest daughter, Michal, was killed in a car accident in 1984.[6][7]

Media career[edit]

Lapid started out as a journalist for the Israeli Hungarian-language newspaper Új Kelet.[8] Later, he was hired by the mainstream daily Maariv, where he became an influential publicist, and went on to become director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and chairman of the Cable TV Union. He was also the founding editor of Israeli women's magazine At, as well as a successful playwright.

In the 1990s Lapid was a regular guest on the political talk show Popolitika aired on Channel 1 which often turned into a shouting match; later on he moved to the Channel 2 talk show, Politika. Lapid was awarded the Sokolov Award, Israel's top award in journalism, in 1998, for his weekly radio show.[8]

Political career[edit]

In the late 1990s, Lapid joined Avraham Poraz's Shinui party, which boosted the party's standing in the Israeli political scene. Lapid became party chairman and Shinui won six seats in the 1999 elections, with Lapid entering the Knesset for the first time. In the 2003 elections the party ran on a secularist platform and won 15 seats, making it the third-largest in the Knesset after Likud and Labour. Shinui was invited to join the government of Ariel Sharon and Lapid was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice.[1]

It was suggested that Israel's pro-Serbian position in 1999, was a result of the Serbian population's history of saving Jews during the holocaust, personal memories of which were still present among older Israeli politicians serving in government at the time such as Lapid.[9]

The tension between Shinui and Likud grew when the ultra-Orthodox party Agudat Yisrael was brought into the coalition. Shinui could not implement many of its electoral promises, such as instituting civil marriage, and a dispute erupted over state aid to religious institutions. As a result, Shinui quit the coalition in December 2004. In late March 2005, Lapid voted in favor of the budget in exchange for minor concessions in order to keep the government from falling, which was liable to lead to early elections and impede the implementation of the disengagement plan.[10]

In Shinui's primary elections held shortly before the 2006 elections, Lapid retained the party leadership. However, his deputy Poraz lost second place on the list.[11] In the ensuing crisis, Poraz and several other Shinui MKs left the party and founded Hetz.[citation needed] Lapid left Shinui two weeks after the vote and announced his support for Poraz's new party,[12] but chose not to be involved in the new party's leadership, instead of serving as a figurehead. In the elections, he was allocated the symbolic 120th place on the Hetz list, but the party failed to win a seat.[citation needed]

Non-political activities[edit]

Tommy Lapid (far-left) at Yad Vashem during George W. Bush's visit, 2008

In July 2006, Lapid was appointed Advisory Board Chairman of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, a role he called "a sacred duty".[1]

He appeared on Council of Wise Men, an Israeli television program on Israel 10 channel. He hosted his own radio program on Reshet Bet. He also was a chairman of the Israel Chess Society and served as an honorary member of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.


Lapid was hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv in serious condition on 30 May 2008.[13] He died on 1 June 2008, aged 76, after a battle with cancer.[14]


In March 2011, street Nova 30 in Veternik, a suburb of Novi Sad, was renamed to ulica Tomija Josefa Lapida (Serbian for "Joseph Tommy Lapid street").[15][16]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Joseph Lapid, journalist and ex-justice minister of Israel, dies at 77". International Herald Tribune. 1 June 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  2. ^ Schmidt, Shira. (3 June 2008) website. Retrieved on 9 September 2011.
  3. ^ " - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Tommy Lapid". The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  5. ^ Israel's 60th Anniversary: 'A Jew from Morning to Night' Der Spiegel, 8 May 2008
  6. ^ Israel's 60th Anniversary: "A Jew from Morning to Night". (8 May 2008). Retrieved on 9 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Who is Yair Lapid?". Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  8. ^ a b Asaf Carmel (1 June 2008). "Olmert pays tribute to Yosef Lapid calling him a 'Jew through and through'". Haaretz. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  9. ^ Russia or Ukraine? For some Israelis, Holocaust memories are key Haaretz, By David Landau, 15 Apr. 2014
  10. ^ "Lapid and Poraz assure Sharon of Shinui's support for budget" Haaretz, 27 March 2005
  11. ^ "Report: Poraz refuses offer to rejoin Shinui after quitting". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  12. ^ "לאחר שבועיים של שתיקה - הודיע יו"ר שינוי טומי לפיד על פרישתו מהמפלגה". TheMarker. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  13. ^ Former Shinui head Yosef Lapid taken to hospital in serious condition[permanent dead link]; The Jerusalem Post, 30 May 2008
  14. ^ Former Shinui Party Chairman Yosef (Tommy) Lapid Dead at 77; Israel National News, 1 June 2008
  15. ^ Otkrivena Tabla Sa Imenom Tomija Josefa Lapida Archived 7 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. (15 March 2011). Retrieved on 9 September 2011.
  16. ^ OpenStreetMap

External links[edit]