Former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Ari Rath dies at 92.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
If there is such a thing as an immortal journalist, Ari Rath gave the impression that he fitted into this category. Rath, who died on Friday in his native Vienna just a week after his 92nd birthday, was one of the few people who got the chance to start over where they left off.
After spending most of his life from age 13 to 82 in Israel, including 16 years on Kibbutz Hamadiya in the Beit She’an Valley and three decades at The Jerusalem Post, Rath continued his journalistic career writing for international publications.
He had influential connections in Austria, Germany, Slovakia and the United States, and traveled to all these countries, lecturing and teaching.
Rath got a second wind, after returning to live in Austria in 2007, writing constantly in German instead of English or Hebrew. He first returned to Vienna in 1948 and went to visit his old home at Porzelangasse 50. It was occupied by a woman whose own home had been bombed during the war, and she begged him to let her stay in at least one room. Rath allowed her to remain in the house for as long as she needed. He just wanted to see his old bedroom.
Rath was politically affiliated with Labor and counted Labor leaders such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin among his friends. Another close friend was legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.
On the international scene, his friends included Willy Brandt and Axel Springer, and he also met and interviewed Konrad Adenauer and Anwar Sadat, among other world leaders.
Parallel to his career in journalism, he was involved with peace movements and strongly believed in the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own.
Aside from that he was an avuncular figure to all the staff at the Post
, listening to their problems and trying to solve them, not only by lifting the phone to one of his contacts, but through personal involvement.
His birth name was Arnold Rath. It became Ari in Israel, and perhaps because he was such a powerful figure, he called his autobiography Ari Means Lion. It was published in 2012 and had its Jerusalem launch at the International Book Fair. The book was originally published in German and Rath had a great time giving interviews and public readings in Vienna coffee shops and other venues.
Always a man in a hurry in his youth, he was slowed down by heart trouble in his twilight years, and it was frustrating for him to have to walk with the aid of a cane.
Nonetheless, he came to Israel for special events, traveled to America to promote the book, and also appeared under the auspices of the Austrian Cultural Forum in different countries.
Rath was a person who was quick to anger, but equally quick to forgive and go on.
In November 2015, at the initiative of veteran Post
journalist Judy Siegel, who had been hired by Rath soon after making aliya, and at the invitation of then editor-in-chief Steve Linde, after an absence of many years, he visited the new offices of the Post
for the first time.
He spoke to the staff about subjects that would interest other journalists, and was touched by the fact that there were staffers who still remembered him.
For those who knew him, it would be difficult to forget him.
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