Former Minister of Justice, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid died this morning from cancer in Tel-Aviv. Lapid was a life-long journalist and publicist. He was a central figure in Israeli media, as is his son, Yair Lapid. In 1999, Tommy Lapid became chairman of Shinui, a political party which acted under the banner of secularism and the rights of the middle class.
Lapid was born in Serbia, and had survived the holocaust. Among his many positions, he served as the chairman of Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial center. The word Lapid means “Torch” in Hebrew.
As a child, I became familiar with the name Lapid via the travel guides Tommy wrote in his travels around Europe. I remember his books being arranged on my parents’ cupboard. Later, I came to know him as the “loud man” on “Popolitica” — the weekly television panel, hosted by journalist Dan Margalit. Every week, Dan and the panel interviewed political guests and discussed current events, while accompanied by pop performances between the different items.
Later in his life, Lapid became the torchbearer of the secular vendetta. He led Shinui in 2003 when it gained its largest electorate ever, promising to fight religious coercion and to diminish the massive financial support that large parts of the orthodox community receive regularly from the government. As a result, he was accused of being overly divisive.
Whether you endorse Lapid’s doings or not, one thing is certain — his legacy is not one to be overlooked.