Few people spent more time on the air with Robert Olinsky than Israel Radio host Avi Etgar, and he already misses him.
News of terror attacks or political developments in Israel naturally tend to overwhelm news about the weather here, says Etgar, and because much of the year the weather is rather static, "no one makes much out of it. Another hot day, another hamsinâ€¦"
When Etgar returned to Israel from the UK and started hosting what he calls "personal programs" on Reshet Bet and Reshet Gimmel, "I was very happy that there was a person you could gab with about the weather. Not just get a laconic, sterile forecast like the other forecasters. I understood you could talk to him, ask him things, and most importantly, laugh. Robert Olinsky has a fantastic sense of humor, and it generally came out when the weatherman had messed up a little.
That sense of humor, Etgar says, "changed his daily report to something that was fun to listen to. Forget the weather. You could talk to him about anythingâ€¦ It was always like that. He had the gift of gabâ€¦ We all have friends in a social circle who can talk about the same experience we had, but in a different way that makes everyone laugh, and he's that guy. I enjoyed every report of his."
Other coworkers are equally effusive when talking about Olinsky.
"Some people leave and you don't feel it," says former duty-forecaster partner Nahum Yudovich. "He's a special kind of person. If you worked with him on a shift, you felt certain it would go fineâ€¦ I'm replacing him, and it won't be easy to fill his shoes."
He adds, "I wrote him on the note that we gave him that when he would start speaking, you'd hear his accent, and there was no way he could hide it. But in his mentality, he tried so hard to behave like a sabra, you wouldn't believe it. He tried to use our language, our slang, and he was interested in what went on with us at home. You just felt that he was meant to be a sabra, to be just like any veteran Israeliâ€¦We all learned a lot from him. The accent was just the frame. It's the personality we already miss. I wrote to him: 'You've only just left, but you don't know how much we miss you.'"
His boss, Nir Stav, deputy head of Beit Dagan's Meteorological Service, says of Olinsky, "He came to work and wanted to be as professional as possible. He saw to it that things worked as they should, with no time to talk nonsense, to the point where he'd even eat lunch at his desk. He didn't come to rest, he came to work."
As an example, Stav cites the time Olinsky's timely on-air warnings one morning may have saved some lives in a flood in Nahal Qumran in which several people were killed.
"First and foremost, he was a human being - he would help anybody on a shift with him, and people were happy to be on a shift with him. He would even take some of my work, as boss, on, and never was afraid to work."
Stav believes that while Olinsky's accent "became his calling card" when he first came on the air, it's now become more than that: "I think it opened the door for forecasters who in the future will perhaps have Russian accents, or others, and that's just fine."