Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Writer and actress of stage and screen, Gila Almagor was born in Israel in 1940. When her parents married, they lived in Haifa, where her father, Max Alexandrowitz, an immigrant from Germany, was a policeman. Shortly after the marriage, when his wife was five months pregnant, he was killed by an Arab sniper. Alone in Palestine, his widow was left with a young child to raise. An additional burden was added when it became clear that her entire family had been murdered in the Holocaust, leaving her to bear the guilt of having survived while they perished.
Gila, an only child, grew up caring for her mother, who was slowly losing her grip on reality. When her mother was permanently institutionalized in 1954, Gila was sent to the Hadassim youth village where the other students were children of Holocaust survivors or of recent immigrants to the country.
At the age of fifteen, Almagor left the youth village to go to Tel Aviv to become an actress. She studied at the Habimah Theater’s Drama School and after an internship there, was accepted into the company in 1956.
In 1958 she moved to the Cameri Theater, where she worked until 1963 and again, after a visit abroad, from 1965. While she was affiliated with the Cameri Theater she became one of Israel’s leading ladies of the stage, appearing in plays at every Israeli theater. She later began working in film and has continued to work simultaneously both in theater and film throughout her entire career.
She has appeared in approximately forty Israeli feature films, dozens of stage plays and television dramas. Her starring roles in films include Siege, 1969; Highway Queen, 1971; House on Chelouche Street, 1973; My Mother the General, 1979; Summer of Aviya, 1988; Life According to Agfa, 1992; Sh’chur, 1994; and Passover Fever, 1995.
For many years, Gila Almagor accepted her media image as a Jew of Moroccan descent, a misperception which emerged from the many and varied roles she played in Israeli films. She had actually been hiding her true family background.