Intrepid journalist who survived bombing, interviewed Ben-Gurion, dies at 94

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December 25, 2016 16:06

Veteran ‘Post’ journalist survived 1948 bombing of paper’s building, went on to illustrious career as ‘Time’ correspondent

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Moshe Marlin Levin

Moshe Marlin Levin. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Moshe Marlin Levin, one of the last surviving Jerusalem Post staffers who was working when the paper’s offices were blown up in February 1948, died over the weekend.

The 94-year-old Levin, a lifetime journalist who worked for the Post, the TIME LIFE company and ABC TV over a six-decade career, grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Three years into a journalism degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, he was drafted into the US Army and served on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff at the advance communications headquarters in Versailles as a cryptographer.

After the war, he completed his degree, married Betty Schoffman, and six weeks after their wedding in 1947, immigrated to Palestine.

A friend brought him to the offices of The Palestine Post for a meeting in Jerusalem with the paper’s founder and editor, Gershon Agron.

“He looked up at me, asked me what I did, and told me to get in the newsroom,” Levin told the Post in 2012, explaining that he was one of the few people in the city with a journalism degree.

Levin’s new position at the Post, as a copy editor “rewriting the bad English of some of the German refugees who wrote for them,” sparked a 13-year tenure at the paper that included stints as news editor and diplomatic editor.

“He arrived at the Post full of energy. He was a volcano,” recalled Alexander Zvielli, the Post’s chief archivist, who was a colleague of Levin’s. “He was one of those Americans who came to Israel not to have an experience for a year and then go back, but to stay and build a family.”

On February 1, 1948, Levin was on the night desk at the Solel [now Havatzelet] Street editorial offices of the Post.

“I generally sat opposite the window, but that night I decided to sit over in the corner in someone else’s seat who had also gone to Tel Aviv that night. Just before 11 p.m., there was a tremendous blast,” Levin said.

A stolen British police car, loaded with half a ton of TNT by Arab terrorists, exploded outside, destroying the two adjacent buildings and setting fire to the Post’s press and offices. Two people died in the blast.

According to Levin, his inexplicable decision to change seats may have saved his life.

“A huge chunk of iron blasted through the window and lodged in the wall right behind my desk. If I had been sitting there, I would have been decapitated,” he said.

Despite the chaos, flames and darkness engulfing the newsroom, the first thing an unhurt Levin did before helping the wounded was to rip the copy he was working on out of his typewriter.

In 1952, he was hired as Israel correspondent by the American Broadcasting Co., and in 1959-60 covered the Eichmann trial for ABC-TV and the London Daily Mail, as well as for Time and Life. In 1958, he became Time’s correspondent in Jerusalem, a position he held, aside from four years in the Time Boston bureau, until his retirement in 1990.

Levin was one of the founders of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, and served as chairman in 1972-73.

In addition to covering landmark events such as Israel’s momentous wars, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the 1977 Sadat-Begin meetings, Levin said that he especially remembered his encounters with founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

“Ben-Gurion once told me that Israel won’t be a real state until we have eight million Jews living in it. We’re almost there,“ Levin told the Post.

Levin is survived by his wife, Betty, and their two sons, Oren and Dan.

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