I have been overwhelmed by good wishes, encouraging messages, words of wisdom and unadulterated affection since the announcement last month that I would be taking over as editor-in-chief in place of my exceptional predecessor, David Horovitz.
But while it has been a flattering ego boost, I soon realized that the outpouring of love was not really for me personally, it was for my new position at The Jerusalem Post.
As the most popular Jewish publication in the world, it’s a paper people here in Israel and all over the globe have grown to love. Our subscribers like to wake up in the morning and find it delivered to their doorstep.
Others, including many tourists, prefer to buy it at a local kiosk and read it with their coffee and croissant at a nearby cafe.
Then there are the millions who read us regularly on our website – Jpost.com
– many of whom have it as their home page.
How far we have come since Gershon Agron established the tiny but
important paper, then called The Palestine Post
, in 1932! As we approach
our 80th birthday next year, the newspaper has transmuted into a myriad
of publications bunched together to form The Jerusalem Post
Archivist Alexander Zvielli, who at 90 is our most veteran employee (he
will be marking his 66th anniversary at the Post
in December), believes
Agron would like what we produce today.
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“I think Agron would be positively impressed by the paper,” Zvielli
says. “Of course, politically, he may have been a bit to the left of
where it is today – as you know, he was a member of the Labor Party and
the Histadrut – but he would approve of the balanced coverage and all
the products we offer.”
Besides the daily English language paper and the website, we have The
magazine, a daily Hebrew edition (Israel Post
weekly to improve Israelis’ English (The Jerusalem Post Lite
selection of youth magazines, an easy Hebrew monthly with English and
French translations (The Jerusalem Post Ivrit
), a weekly French edition,
a weekly international edition and a monthly Christian edition.
Perhaps the most interesting item of furniture in my new office in
Romema is a chair on which the legendary Agron sat as editor from
December 1, 1932, until 1955, when he won the race for mayor of
Jerusalem. He served in that position until his death four years later.
There is also a painting of Agron on the wall.
“Agron sat on that chair every day, even before we moved from downtown
to Romema,” says Zvielli. “He had a lot of energy. He would walk to
work, go over every word in the paper, and hardly sleep. And on Friday
afternoons, he used to throw parties at his house.”
Agron also had a sense of humor essential for the job.
“My pregnant wife and I once went to one of his parties,” Zvielli recalls, smiling.
“And Agron asked her, ‘Who did this to you?!” David Horovitz tells me
that his oldest son, by some extraordinary coincidence, has just spent
his pre-army mechina year with Agron’s great-grandson.
In the first edition of the Post
, the Ukrainian-born,
Philadelphia-raised Agron published a mission statement in which he
noted that the paper was being “published in Jerusalem in the interests
of the entire population of the country.”
“Its reports will be as objective as is humanly possible, and its
criticism informed, legitimate and helpful,” he wrote. “In criticism and
in reports, the studied purpose will be the present and future welfare
of the country and of its people...”
Toward the end of the mission statement, Agron invited readers to
cooperate in the attempt to make it “the type of newspaper they would
like to see produced in this country.”
“All suggestions and assistance will be gratefully received and carefully considered,” he added.
I fully endorse Agron’s mission statement and his personal appeal to
readers. I am all too aware that what’s on the minds of many readers is
not necessarily the latest flotilla to Gaza or the Palestinian bid for
statehood at the UN, but far more mundane matters – the daily crossword
puzzle, for example (“Why is it so small?”), and the pop-up ads on our
website (“Please nix the annoying pop-ups. It’s so 20th century...”).
Both David Horovitz and I have received an enormous number of e-mails
and letters wishing us success – and in my case, advice – for the
I particularly liked one written by Anna in Canada in a talkback on our
website: “The great Canadian journalist Peter Newman once said that
‘good writing is clear thinking made visible.’ I have always appreciated
Horovitz’s clear thinking and will miss it. Looking forward to what comes next...”
I was touched by the flood of messages of goodwill that I received from near and far.
There have been calls and emails from government ministries, diplomats,
Diaspora Jewish leaders, friends, family – and complete strangers! Issy
Fisher, my brilliant Hebrew teacher at Carmel College day school in
Durban, South Africa, wrote: “We were delighted to hear of your
appointment as editor of The Jerusalem Post
and wish you a very hearty
mazel tov. We are truly proud of you and remember you with much
Issy and his wife, Judy, led me and 50 other Jewish South African
15-year-olds on a four month ulpan experience based at Jerusalem’s Kiryat
Moriah in 1975, which cemented my love of Israel forever.
David Kaplan, the editor of the Telfed
(South African Zionist
Federation) magazine, wrote: “Kol hakavod and wish you the very best in
this challenging position. Good to have a former South African at the
helm there... you may be the first.”
Hirsh Goodman, the South African immigrant who was founding editor of
the Report and a former vice president of the Post
, called to wish me
well and offer his support whenever I needed it.
Eliot Zimelman, who taught me my first job as night editor at the Post
14 years ago, wrote: “Congratulations on your new appointment. Who would
have thunk it 14 years ago when you sat in the night editor’s office
with me on that first night of training as the ’copter crash unfolded
before our eyes?” (On my first shift as night editor, on February 4,
1997, we received the tragic news that 73 soldiers had been killed in
the collision of two helicopters over She’ar Yashuv.) Asher Schapiro,
the charismatic chairman of the board of The Jerusalem Great Synagogue,
paid a special visit to the Post
on Sunday to bid David farewell and
welcome me to my new position. It felt like he was giving us both his
“I look forward to continuing the close relationship of the past... as both organizations grow,” he later told me in an e-mail.
David Geffen, a frequent contributor to the Post
, gave me an oil lamp
dug up from Second Temple ruins, “to light your way as editor as each
day gives you a new challenge,” and a dreidel cast by his late
grandfather in the US in the 1920s.
“All of the luck of the dreidel should be yours,” he wrote in a note left on my desk.
Paddy Monaghan, the secretary of the Irish Christian Friends of Israel,
sent me the following message: “Congratulations on your appointment as
editor. We think the JP is super. May the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob abundantly bless you and make you a blessing in your new post.”
Danny Handler, whose father, Arieh – the last survivor of those present
at the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 – passed away in May
at the age of 95, wrote from the UK: “You may recall that we met at my
late father’s flat in Kiryat Moshe. Please accept my congratulations and
sincerest best wishes on this appointment to head this well-known
publication which is widely circulated and read in the English-speaking
Jewish and non-Jewish world.”
Khaled Abu Toameh, our heroic Palestinian affairs reporter, wrote:
“Wishing you good luck and a lot of energy and patience in the new job.
It’s a tough job, but I’m sure you will be successful.”
“You’re the top dog now,” PR guru Charley Levine told me. “You now have instant credibility, instant authority.
Anyone in Israel will answer your phone calls. Now what are you going to
do with that power?” Psychologist Batya Ludman, a frequent columnist in
’s Magazine, wrote: “Wow, what wonderful news. We are thrilled
for you. Are you crazy?! Just kidding. Anytime you need any free
psychological counseling, just let me know!” So how do I see my “crazy”
new job as editor of the Post
? Well, I intend to continue in Horovitz’s
path and make every effort to ensure that our coverage of Israel, the
Middle East, the Jewish world and the world at large is broad, balanced
“We are still fighting the same wars as we were in the early days of the
paper, and the issues are more or less the same,” says the wise
Zvielli, who started his career in the printing press. “The main thing
is to keep covering the news and keep printing the newspaper every day.”
Our website is currently the most popular English-language news site in
Israel, and we are devoting much time and thought to improving it with
new technology, including videos and photographs from reporters’
But the devil is in the details, and I’ll be spending most of my time
ensuring that we are a top website and paper of record, containing as
few errors as possible.
If we do, unfortunately, make mistakes, we will be sure to publish a correction, and when necessary, an apology.
Finally, a note to our readers: Please do not hesitate to e-mail me with
your suggestions and comments. I am, from now on, your editor.
And as any good Jewish editor will tell you, if you don’t say anything, how will it ever get better?
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