Israel’s multi-award winner and much-loved theater diva died on 6th August 2015. Though her sickness was preparing her audience for the time to say goodbye, it never comes easy to accept the fact that someone we adore is not around anymore. Orna Porat died at age 91, but her legacy will outlive her for centuries.
‘Today we bid farewell to Orna Porat, a wonderful woman, and one of Israel’s most inspiring artists. Her contribution to our culture is unforgettable and touching in its uniqueness’, writes Israel’s former President Shimon Peres in a letter of condolence to Porat’s family.
And indeed, Orna Porat was not only part of historical times, but she also created history herself. Born as Irene Klein in Porz, Germany in 1924 she was raised by Catholic and Protestants roots. But Irine found her own way and was drawn to atheism and became a member of the Hitler Youth. Her rebelling moves did not last long. Meeting Joseph Porat changed her life, her religion and eventually her name that all led to a career she dreamed of since she turned 14. She was determined and strong-minded. She moved to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1947, converted to Judaism and changed her name to the more Hebrew resonating Orna.
She started to soften her German accent to get access to the theater life in Israel. And even though the HaBima (the national theatre of Israel) and Ohel theaters rejected her for not meeting the required acting style, she found her place at the Cameri Theater where she worked until her retirement in 1984. Her work was praised nationwide and by performing all the major theater roles, Porat won the Kinor David Prize and was awarded by Yedioth Ahronoth, on three occasions; in 1970, 1974, and 1980. She also received the Israel Prize for her lifetime achievement in theater in 1979 and won the EMET Prize for science, art, and culture, awarded by the Israeli Prime Minister in 2005.
‘Orna Porat was a cultural giant – she introduces theater to the Israeli society, especially the young generation. She educated our children and grandchildren to love the theater and had built her lifework over dozens of years’, continues Peres. And by this he refers to the other side of Porat’s. The Porat, who firmly believed that children need art and theatre to be educated and to realize this need, she founded the Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth in 1965. Later, in 1970, the Theater became independent and was run by her for 25 years.
Orna Porat was a versatile, charming and open woman, who was born as non-Israeli but left as one of the greatest Israel advocate of our times in which art was her strongest weapon. And that she used wisely through her career in and out of Israel. Among others, she was sent to the United States and Canada to fundraise for strengthening the Israeli Bonds. The documentary movie Three Weddings: Talking With Orna Porat, by Irit Amit, preserves her prominence.
– Porat was laid to rest at the Hadid Cemetery on 14th August 2015 –