(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Friends and colleagues were shocked on Thursday morning to learn that veteran broadcaster Daniel Pe’er had died.
Pe’er had been immediately hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center after suffering a stroke at the beginning of the week, but his condition continued to deteriorate.
A genial program host, news reader and boss, Pe’er was known for his gentle nature, graciousness and professionalism.
President Reuven Rivlin described him as “a professional of the first order,” and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said that Pe’er had been a symbol of Israeli broadcasting.
Numerous electronic media outlets, including the Eurovision Center, reported his death.
Born in Tel Aviv in January 1943, Pe’er launched his broadcasting career there at age 12, appearing on children’s shows.
He spent most of his adult life in Jerusalem, where he died.
In 1962, Pe’er applied for a permanent job with Israel Radio. Because of his perfect diction and correct use of Hebrew grammar he was taken on first as a news reader, then program presenter. Over the years he was also a field reporter, head of the foreign news desk, presenter and deputy editor of the Mabat news on television and the host of consumer programs and guest shows.
He was also in high demand as a moderator and presenter at organizational events.
In 1966 and 1967, Pe’er was in London working in the BBC’s Hebrew Broadcasting Department. Another veteran broadcaster, Yaakov Ahimeir, who worked at the BBC with Pe’er, found it difficult to speak about him in the past tense and all but broke down in an early morning radio interview in which he was asked to share some reminiscences. Ahimeir preferred not to list Pe’er’s professional attributes, but spoke of him as a decent human being who somehow remained unscathed in a savage profession of brutal competition and was able to maintain his genteel character.
“He could have taught politeness to the British,” said Ahimeir, who also noted Pe’er’s lack of ego. Unlike so many others in the profession, he was never a braggart, said Ahimeir.
Former broadcaster Dalia Mazur, who worked with Pe’er for almost 40 years, said that she could not imagine no longer hearing his mellifluous voice. In all the years they shared a studio, she said, she could not remember him ever bad-mouthing anyone, using vulgar language or complaining about anything. He was totally nonaggressive and always found a relaxed, diplomatic way of putting tough questions to politicians without arousing their ire.
Rafik Halabi, the mayor of Daliat al-Carmel and a prize-winning radio and television journalist, said he did not know how Pe’er was able to put up with hotheads such as he and others had been and still maintain his equilibrium.
“He was a man of understatement and a man of soft news,” said Halabi. “But what he was really good at was working with tough characters.”
Pe’er was the founder and first presenter of Kolbotek, the extremely popular consumer program that premiered in December in 1974 and was taken over by Rafi Ginat in 1979. Where Pe’er’s style was somewhat laid back but, nonetheless, got the point across, Ginat turned it into high drama.
In 1979, Pe’er co-hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem
together with singer Yardena Arazi, who on her Facebook account on Thursday depicted a broken heart and wrote that she had been privileged to work with a great partner – “a fabulous, generous and good hearted perfect gentleman.”
From time to time, Pe’er also hosted the pre-Eurovision competition to determine which song and singer would represent Israel.
In 1983, together with Mazor, he presented the first color broadcast of Mabat.
At one stage, Pe’er took a break from broadcasting to serve as the Jewish National Fund emissary in Canada.
He retired some eight years ago, but continued to make guest appearances on occasion.
Daniel Pe’er will be laid to rest Friday at 11 a.m. at the alternate cemetery at Kibbutz Brenner. He is survived by his wife, Aliza, their three children and their grandchildren.