Arrivals: A true professional

Walter Bingham reckons he is one of the top three radio programs on Arutz Sheva and he will travel anywhere in Israel for a good story.

By
June 3, 2011 16:44
4 minute read.
"I've got no time to learn Hebrew," Walter Bingham

walter bingham_521. (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)

Walter Bingham, 87
From London to Jerusalem, 2004

"I’m probably the oldest working journalist in Israel," says Walter Bingham, whose program, Walter’s World, is broadcast live every Sunday on Arutz Sheva. He’s interviewed a pantheon of famous people: Alan Dershowitz, British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Charles Krauthammer, John Bolton and Yaffa Yarkoni. Not bad for the 87-year-old Briton, born Wolfgang Billig in Germany, who made it to England in 1937 with the Kindertransport and made aliya in 2004.

LIFE BEFORE ISRAEL

In July 1939, the 15-year-old Wolfgang said good-bye to his mother in Karlsruhe and sailed for England. He was sent to a youth movement farm in preparation for being sent to Palestine, but was not able to get a permit. When he turned 18, he was drafted by the Polish army as he held a Polish passport, but was able to transfer to the British army and joined the RASC Pioneer Corps as a driver. By this time he had picked his new name.

“I did something you should never do in the army, I volunteered to be an ambulance driver,” he says. He took part in the Normandy landings of 1944 and was on the front line in the middle of the fighting. For his bravery under fire he received the Military Medal which he wears, and shows me the citation, signed by Gen. Bernard Montgomery himself.

After the war he begged the authorities to send him to Germany, where he felt he could be of use as he spoke fluent German.

“I spoke to [Nazi foreign minister Joachim von] Ribbentrop,” he recalls. “He was good looking and spoke excellent English. He had the cheek to say he knew nothing about the destruction of the Jews. He was the first to be hanged.”

Soon after the war ended he was reunited with his mother, who had left Germany for Copenhagen. “It was the most emotional moment of my life,” he says.

Back in England, he was approached by emissaries from the Jewish underground in Palestine who wanted him to join the battle for independence. “But I’d had enough of fighting,” he says.

He opened a factory specializing in baby wear, but his hobby was journalism and he always liked to write, especially for local Jewish newspapers. He also discovered he had acting and modeling talents and he has appeared in two of the Harry Potter movies and a host of others, been Santa Claus both at Selfridges and Harrods department stores, and once pretended to be an old beggar for a Daily Telegraph investigation. With his bushy white beard and pleasant personality, he actually made nearly £80 in the few hours he was playing the role. The beard has also stood him in good stead for Charles Darwin, Charlemagne and many other parts in television documentaries and on underground billboards.

Married with one daughter, and later widowed, he decided at the age of 80 to make aliya to be near his daughter in Jerusalem and a grandson who lives in Tel Aviv.

ARRIVAL

He arrived on August 1, 2004 and the first thing the clerk from the Interior Ministry asked him was whether he wanted to change his name.

“For that I need notice,” he told her. “It’s a bit sudden.” He decided he would stick with the name he’d chosen 64 years previously.

He got his immigrant certificate (teudat oleh) in 30 minutes, he says, and his aliya has been one of only good experiences.

With minimal Hebrew, people are very nice and helpful to him.

“I’ve got no time to learn Hebrew,” he says. “From the moment I arrived I’ve been doing Walter’s World on Arutz Sheva.”

LIFE SINCE ALIYA

His weekly program takes up a good part of the time as he likes to be prepared and do his homework on the person or institution he is broadcasting about. He reckons his spot is one of the top three programs on Arutz Sheva.

His work often requires him to cross the Green Line, so he carries a Smith and Wesson revolver. He once got arrested while covering a demonstration in the West Bank.

“I was standing with my microphone in my hand when a policewoman – she looked about 15 – said I was illegally there and pushed me into a police van. They only released me when I began to make a fuss about needing air because I was 84 at the time,” recalls Bingham.

A quick glance at Walter’s World on the Arutz Sheva website shows that he has covered an extraordinary range of topical and cultural subjects, and he is not averse to traveling the length and breadth of the country to get a good story.

A true professional.


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