Chaim Topol

Chaim Topol Biography

Chaim Topol as Milos Columbo

Chaim Topol was an actor, singer, and illustrator who left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. Born in Tel Aviv in 1935, he grew up in a family of modest means, with his father working as a plasterer.

Despite the challenges, Chaim Topol was a determined and talented young man, who began working at the Davar newspaper at age 14 while also pursuing his high school studies at night.

After graduating from high school at age 17, Chaim Topol moved to Kibbutz Geva, where he began to explore his passion for the performing arts. He soon enlisted in the Israeli army and joined the Nahal entertainment troupe, where he quickly rose through the ranks to become a commander. It was during his time in the army that Chaim discovered his love of acting and singing, performing in traveling shows across Israel.


Following his military service, Topol continued to pursue his passion for the performing arts, co-founding the Haifa Theatre and touring with kibbutz and satirical theatre companies. It was his breakthrough role in the 1964 film Sallah Shabati that brought him international acclaim, earning him a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer—Male.

Chaim Topol went on to appear in more than 30 films in Israel and the United States, including iconic roles in Galileo, Flash Gordon, and as Bond ally Milos Columbo in For Your Eyes Only. But it was his portrayal of Tevye in the 1971 film version of Fiddler on the Roof that cemented his status as one of the greatest actors of his generation. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance and went on to win a Golden Globe for Best Actor.

Throughout his career, Chaim Topol remained committed to using his talent and influence for good. He was a founder of Variety Israel, an organization dedicated to serving children with special needs, and served as chairman of the board for Jordan River Village, a year-round camp for Arab and Jewish children with life-threatening illnesses. In 2015, he was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

Chaim Topol was also a devoted husband and father, marrying fellow Nahal troupe member Galia Finkelstein just two days after being discharged from military service in 1956. The couple had three children together and remained happily married until Chaim’s death on March 9, 2023, at the age of 87.