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The Best Instructor and Dancer I Have Ever Known!

Memories of a Friend

Avital Efrat

I met Mishael in 1976 by chance. In high school I participated in the dance troupe of Holon under the direction of Yossi Frum. One day I asked my manager at work – Hanania, to leave earlier in order to register to an Israeli folk dance class. He refused. He told me that on Saturday his friend is leading an advanced dance leader’s session in Holon and after that he will do the introductions.

On Saturday, I arrived at Mishael and Yehuda Emanuel’s advanced dance leader’s session in Holon without them knowing why I was there.

Hanania introduced me to Mishael who invited me to his class in Neot Rachel in Holon. Mishael noticed my talent and invited me to dance with him at the “Youth Club” in Jaffa. I danced at that club during the days of my service in the IDF.

Mishael believed in me and gave me the opportunity to lead the dancers in his IFD dance classes at the schools and in the evenings at Beit Barbur, Beit Ha’Sofer, Ironi A, Bank Leumi and more. all are known locations were dance sessions were held in the 70’s and 80’s). Mishael recommended that I join the course for Israeli folk dance instructors.

From the day we met, there was great chemistry between us. He encouraged and promoted me, helped me find a job and more. I also instructed in his classes and demonstrated the dances with him in all dance sessions and in the Israeli folk dance instructor’s courses. We became very close friends.

In those days Mishael had large classes in Tel Aviv and its surrounding cities. Dancers followed him from session to session. His most famous dance session was in old Jaffa, a session whose participants formed a close family. We traveled together throughout Israel. After class we would sit in the “Lighthouse” restaurant and sing until the wee hours of the night. To this day there is a close relationship between the dancers, members of that tight family.

Mishael nurtured and promoted dance leaders who studied with him and began to leade dance session. Dance leaders and choreographers like Israel Litzi, Moshe Levy, Eyal Ozeri, Eyal Levy, Israel Shiker, Victor Gabai, myself and many more.

I remember the session at Beit Barbur where, after class, we would take a dip in the pool. I remember the dancing in the Kings of Israel Square (now Rabin Square), on holidays and Saturdays, where I was one of the dancers on stage. Mishael’s style, warmth and love of dance captivated everyone who met him.

Later Mishael started working at Bikurey Ha’Itim, Beit Ha’Sofer, Beit Kazanchi and Golda (Briza) in Holon. He had a unique style, and he created a unique atmosphere in his dance sessions. His Seminars of Israeli Folk Dances had a good reputation as training courses for Dance Leaders. Dance Leaders wanted to teach with him in training courses and dance sessions. Of course, almost all of them participated in his Seminars.

His classes had a family atmosphere. He always helped everyone. Mishael was always the center of the sessions. He knew how to win people’s hearts and make them happy.

When Mishael would travel to dance sessions in the north of Israel, many would travel with him. I remember visits to the late Menachem Menachem session in Nahariya. The marathons that Sefi Aviv held in Machanaim. The late Benzi Tiram, during Sukkot, always invited us to his dance sessions at the Technion, for the Oshpizin custom. We danced with the late Yankale Levy in Beit Katz and Beit Nagler, and with Eli Shtamer (Elad Shtamer’s father) and many more. He never refused to take us. We never paid for fuel expenses. He always respected everyone. Dance Leaders from Israel and around the world would come to his home and sleep over. The home which was an IFD social center. My dance style and training were greatly influenced by him.

Mishael was known as an excellent dancer and always was in the center of things. He had a special partner, Batshi, who danced with him Rock and Roll. They danced together wonderfully. When they danced circles formed around them to watch.

At the beginning of Sukkot In 1990, Mishael organized a television show, which was directed by Yigal Ben David. The television show presented the influence of the original Yemenite dance form on Israeli folk dances. Participants like Yemenite dance troupes from around the country, such as the Amka dance troupe, participated in the show. Also, singers such as Aharon Amram, Zion Golan, Ofra Haza, the Amranim and others, who performed original Yemenite songs.

Mishael started a troupe, consisting of excellent IFD dancers, who demonstrated Israeli folk dances. Participants in the troupe were Seadia, Dani Benshalom Ami from Emek Hefer, Eyal Ozeri, Mishael and me. At that time, Television in its infancy, was in black and white.

Throughout the years he was active in caring for the success of Dance Leaders. Mishael was a founding Member of the Association of Folk Dance Instructors and Choreographers in Israel. The association was very important to him. Each Thursday, he attended the association executive committee meetings. He was involved in the management of the association for many years. He was the one who instilled in me the importance of being active in the Association.

One example of caring for dance leaders was Mishael’s initiating the import of the “SuperScope”. The SuperScope, a tape player, had an innovation that allowed the operator to change the playing speed. This enabled dance leaders to play a song slower for beginner dancers. Dance Leaders have purchased and worked with it for many years until the advent of the minidisc player, followed by the CD player and the computer.

Mishael was always linked to key figures in the Israeli culture scene. People like Ofra Haza, Zion Golan and many others. He was also well connected with the Israeli media.

There was nothing you would ask Mishael to do, that he would refuse. He always helped everyone voluntarily. I remember many cases where I recruited him to voluntarily lead various events.

One day Mishael decided to produce recordings with new arrangements for the basic Israeli folk dances. He worked with Yehuda Kissar a fantastic Guitar Player. He invited me to hear the arrangements in real time, before production, and express my opinion. He produced the records with the Reuveni brothers.

For me, Mishael was the most significant teacher. To this day, in my heart, I cherish this privilege. I was invited to all his family celebrations that were in his home. I knew, very well, his family and friends, including those who didn’t dance.

In the last few years, Mishael lead dancing at Beit Kazanchi and Golda (Briza) in Holon, at Beit Dani in Tel Aviv and Nostalgia at Kfar HaMaccabiah in Ramat Gan. I loved participating in his dance sessions.

When I learned that Mishael is sick, I couldn’t believe it. He Always danced, played sports, swam and ate healthy food. It was hard for me to accept that such a disaster happened to a person so significant in my life. Such a happy person. Throughout the period of his illness, I visited him many times and was in contact with his family. The announcement of his passing was difficult for me to hear. It is a great personal loss for me.

May his memory be blessed.


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