Israel’s First Mime

Stand for Israel  |  August 21, 2023

A Jerusalem-born actor and comedian, Shaike Ophir charmed Israel with his gift of entertainment and served her during the 1948 War of Independence.

Yeshayahu “Shaike” Goldstein-Ophir was born in Jerusalem to a family who had lived in the Holy City since the mid-1800s. While young, Shaike studied acting, but left school to join the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the precursor to the IDF. During the War of Independence in 1948, he escorted convoys to the Holy City while it was under siege by Israel’s enemies, and took part in naval battles, as well.

After the war, he was accepted into the Chezbatron, the IDF’s entertainment troupe, thanks to his gift for comedy—a gift seen in the above video. During the 1950s, Shaike became popular in the Holy Land for his acting and his singing—he even recorded a few hit songs.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Shaike guest-starred on such American TV shows as Shirley Temple’s Storybook and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. During his career, Shaike acted in 28 movies, including the 1986 Chuck Norris hit, Delta Force; wrote, directed, and starred in several shows; and was an accomplished mime. In 1972, Shaike starred as the title role in Ha-Shoter Azoulay (translated as The Policeman), which won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film and was nominated for the Oscar in the same category.

Shaike Ophir passed away due to cancer in 1987, leaving behind two children, including a daughter Karin, who is also an actress. In his honor the Israeli Film Academy Award was named the “Ophir Award.”