Remembering a visionary raconteur

Former 'Jerusalem Post' staffer Robert Rosenberg dies at 54.

October 27, 2006 01:31
4 minute read.
Remembering a visionary raconteur

robert rosenberg. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Sometime in the late '70s I met a wild, ex-pat poet/journalist at a party in Tel Aviv. He was bursting with life and delivering a stream of psychobabble that hovered between brilliant and totally incomprehensible. He had that quality of hybrid vigor that ex-pat American writers in pre-war Paris like Hemingway must have had. He was Robert Rosenberg. In 1978 Robert left United Press International to join The Jerusalem Post, where he became a vital part of the paper. In turn, he covered the police beat, was national affairs reporter, a designer of innovative supplements like the Post's In Jerusalem and Metro - Tel Aviv, and wrote a popular and influential avant-garde column of politics, ideas, and observations called "Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv." As the Post's police reporter, Robert followed their investigations close-up. These experiences later led to his venturing into detective fiction, writing a string of mystery novels. In 1991, Simon & Schuster published Crimes of the City, the first in the Avram Cohen series. Then came The Cutting Room (1993), House of Guilt (1996), and An Accidental Murder (1999), the last Inspector Cohen novel. (Crimes of the City can be read on-line at: In 1996 he co-authored Secret Soldier: The True Life Story of Israel's Greatest Commando. Back in 1980, Robert married Silvia Cherbakoff, a talented painter. The two became a classic Tel Aviv caf society duo - he, tall, dashing and wild; she, slim, elegant and lovely - soul-mates who were clearly very much in love, always. Sometime in the late eighties, I moved from Jerusalem to an apartment across the street from the historic Caf Tamar in Tel Aviv's bohemian Sheinkin Street neighborhood. There I met Robert and Silvia in their proper environment. He and a group of other "Sheinkinite" writers, journalists and artists sat for hours at the caf drinking coffee, waging arguments, and speculating on the future. Robert had a vision of the centrality of Israel's position in the world of hi-tech and, in 1991, founded and became a managing editor of LINK, Israel's first international business and hi-tech magazine in the English language. His futurist vision went much further than the easily grasped. He would go on for hours about the "data sphere." It was going to be a universe of data and connections and it was being born as he spoke. We all put it down to Robert's poetic and insane rambling. These days, with Google building a data-based empire on the World Wide Web, Robert's vision of the data sphere is perfectly clear. Long ago, Robert began an innovative, updating Web site of information, opinion and interesting writing. We didn't know enough, back then, to call it a blog. Robert named it Ariga, Hebrew for "weave," as in how one makes a web. Check it out at Robert then went on to help found DataSphere Ltd., developer of the on-line Koldoon technology wizard. At the caf , Robert and I argued politics. His peacenik views seemed na ve to me, his post-Zionism infuriated me, his opinions either obscure or silly. And I told him so, often and forcefully. But throughout the years of our friendship I never once managed to insult or rattle him. Rosenberg would just flash a toothy smile and continue to spin whatever rap he was constructing. Robert told me about his education. I knew that he was born in 1951 and was from Newton, Mass. But Robert never told me he was in the first graduating class of the first public alternative school in the US. Robert never told me that he had a BA from Tel Aviv University, nor that he had a Master's degree in education from Harvard. No. What Robert told me about his education was this: When he was a kid, he dove into an unfortunately shallow body of water and had broken his neck. Through some bizarre trick of fate, he was neither paralyzed nor killed. What Robert had learned was that for him, every day of life was a gift. And Robert made the most of that gift. He lived every day. He'd written poetry and novels, he wrote for The Jerusalem Post and, in later years, was a staffer at the English-language edition of Haaretz. He wrote for TIME/LIFE, US News & World Report, and had been published in international magazines, including Playboy, Penthouse and Reader's Digest. Robert spoke his mind, wrote his poems, spun his fantasy of the data sphere that came true during his lifetime and his dreams of an Israeli-Palestinian peace that he did not live to see. Robert Rosenberg is now part of Israeli history. He has a comfortable place there. Robert is survived by his wife Silvia, their daughter Amber, his mother Dolly, sister Amy and brother Peter. Condolence visits from noon onwards at 86 Rehov Shlomo Hamelech, Apt. 2, in Tel Aviv. An evening minyan and study session will be held at his mother's home at Rehov Rav Ashi 5/41, in Neveh Avivim (Tel: 03-643-1616).

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