Deaths: Dayan, Israeli actor; Sabry, Egyptian blogger; Zweig, author


Assi Dayan, Israeli actor and director. (David Tchetchik/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY)
May 1
Assi Dayan, Israeli cultural figure

Assi Dayan, an Israeli actor and director known for his trailblazing films and troubled personal life, died May 1 at his home in Tel Aviv. He was 68.

No cause of death was given, but he was open about his bouts of drug and alcohol abuse and a series of attempted suicides.

A scion to one of Israel’s most prominent families, Mr. Dayan was the youngest son of famed military chief and defense minister Moshe Dayan. His sister Yael was also a former politician.

Despite his lineage, Mr. Dayan was regarded as a counterculture figure. He often lashed out at the state and angrily confronted his father over his military views, his marital infidelities and his reputation for plundering antiquities’ sites. He was also a popular newspaper columnist who did not shy away from sharing confessions about his multiple marriages and tumultuous personal life.

Mr. Dayan acted in 50 films and TV shows and directed 16 movies. He played the lead role in the acclaimed TV drama “Betipul,” which was adapted into the HBO series “In Treatment,” with Gabriel Byrne playing Mr. Dayan’s role. As an actor, he appeared in films such as “My Father My Lord” (2007), “Things Behind the Sun” (2006) and “Out of Sight” (2006). He wrote films including “Dr. Pomerantz” (2011) and “Mar Baum” (1997), which he also directed. In 1998, he received a lifetime achievement award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

Bassem Sabry, Egyptian blogger

Bassem Sabry, one of Egypt’s most respected bloggers and a democracy advocate who chronicled the country’s turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, died April 29. He was 31.

The cause was an accidental fall from the balcony of a Cairo high-rise, according to security officials and media reports. The cause of the fall was not immediately known, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with police regulations. The state-run Al-Ahram daily said he fell after suffering a diabetic coma while inspecting an apartment under construction.

Mr. Sabry, a political columnist for a number of Egyptian and international media outlets, won praise for his balanced analysis even amid the deep polarization that has divided Egypt over the past three years, particularly after massive protests last summer led to the military’s removal of Islamist Mohamed Morsi, the first elected president after Mubarak’s fall.

At a time when many in Egyptian media outlets were ferociously praising the military’s move, Mr. Sabry — while deeply critical of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood — raised concerns over the possible return of a police state in Egypt amid a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s Islamist supporters.

“It is now clear that January 25, as it once stood, is virtually beyond restoration,” he wrote on the news Web site Al-Monitor following a deadly police assault on pro-Morsi protests last August, referring to the Jan. 25, 2011, start of the pro-democracy uprising against Mubarak. “Politics have utterly failed in Cairo in favor of confrontation.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent democracy campaigner who briefly served as Egypt’s vice president after Morsi’s ouster, said in a tweet that Mr. Sabry was a “noble person we lost at a time of dire need.”

Mr. Sabry, who wrote in English and Arabic, contributed to Al-Monitor, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy and the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, as well as kept a blog, titled “An Arab Citizen.”

“I want to live in a country with real freedom in thought, faith and expression,” he wrote in an article on the online news portal “Yanair.” “I want the state to rise up for the sake of the individual’s political, social, economic and humanitarian rights. I don’t want anyone to face irreversible injustice. I want the rivers of blood to stop.”

Stefanie Zweig, novelist

Stefanie Zweig, a German-Jewish writer best known for her autobiographical novel “Nowhere in Africa,” died April 25 in Frankfurt. She was 81.

German news agency Dpa cited her nephew Walter Zweig confirming the death. No cause was provided.

Ms. Zweig was born in Leobschuetz, now part of Poland. In 1938, her family fled the Nazi persecution of Jews and moved to Kenya, where she attended a British school. Ms. Zweig returned to Germany in 1947 and worked as a journalist for many years before she began writing novels.

Of her more than two dozen books, “Nowhere in Africa,” first published in 1995, was the most successful and sold millions of copies. It retold the story of her family’s time in Kenya. A movie adaptation, which Ms. Zweig co-wrote with director Caroline Link, won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2003.

— From news services

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