During the past week we were exposed to repeated comments from employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority as to how professional they are. They criticized the government for its meddling in their domain, claiming that their record fully justifies the continuation of employment of all IBA employees. Any attempt at involuntary termination of IBA employees is met with forceful opposition. The Histadrut, in solidarity with the IBA employees, has already flexed its muscles, stopping work at the airport for two hours this past Sunday. Employees took over the Broadcasting House in Romema over Shabbat.
As our readers know well, we believe that the IBA is a sick organization which must be thoroughly revamped, and this has been our position since 1995. Not only is the management inadequate and wasteful – to the tune of billions – but the employees have not internalized that they are public servants and that the IBA should reflect Israeli society.
There is no better example of the narrow-mindedness of our public media’s shallowness, ignorance and lack of service than its relation to obituaries.
We all hope and believe that our life’s work will continue to be appreciated by later generations.
Especially when someone who has made her or his mark on life passes away, the sadness is not limited to family and friends but affects society at large. The legacy of the deceased may affect us all, and may also serve as a role model, especially for the younger generation. The reaction of the media to the death of such individuals is thus quite important. It provides an opportunity to consider those things in life which are dear to us all and which we would want to see passed on from generation to generation.
Rama Messinger was a highly decorated Israeli actress. Already in high school she had begun studying acting. Her army service was in the Southern Command Troupe.
She continued with her acting studies at the Beit Zvi College for the performing arts. She participated in many of the productions of the Habima theater and received awards for her performances. In 2012, for example, she received the Israeli Theater Prize for her performance as lead actress in the play Souvenir, performed by the Beersheba Theater.
She passed away on August 18, after a seven-year struggle with cancer, at the relatively young age of 47. Her untimely death was headlined in the news reports of the IBA for two days. Some of her recordings were re-broadcast, as a befitting eulogy for a respected actress.
Yossi Piamenta, a singer and musician, passed away on August 23 at the age of 64, also after a long bout with cancer. His army service was in the Artillery Forces Band, as a guitarist. In 1974, together with his brother Albert Piamenta he formed the Piamenta Troupe, which appeared in various Israeli clubs. In 1978 he left Israel for the United States, where he was considered one of the highly gifted guitarists of his generation. He returned to Israel in 2005. His death was not widely covered by the media.
Perhaps not surprisingly, his claim to fame, as reported in the Makor Rishon newspaper this past Friday, was Jewish music. He was one of the first to use the electric guitar within this context. At the same time, he was also a “ba’al tshuva” (Jew who returns to Orthodox Judaism) who joined and supported the Chabad movement.
Piamenta did not belong to the traditional Israeli performing elite.
The news editors did not rub shoulders with him, were not conversant with Jewish music, and so he simply did not exist.
We do not accuse the IBA or Galatz of purposely ignoring him because he was religious, but the fact that there was no obituary for him is a reflection of the narrow-mindedness and lack of professionalism of those who present us with the arts on in our electronic media.
Professor Jacob Bekenstein, a physicist, is a very different case.
Bekenstein, who was born in 1947 in Mexico, made aliya to Israel from the United States in 1974. At the age of 31 he was already a full professor at Ben-Gurion University. He then moved in 1990 to the Hebrew University.
He was elected to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1997. He was a recipient of almost any prize one could think of, including the Wolf Prize in Physics in 2012 and the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society in 2015.
His life’s work revolved around the thermodynamics of black holes.
His contributions are of the same caliber as those of Stephen Hawking.
He passed away suddenly in his hotel room attending a conference on August 16 at the relatively young age of 68.
Israel is a “startup country.” Education of our youth in the sciences is essential to upholding our advantage.
Professor Jacob Bekenstein was a role model. A modest and unassuming person, readily accessible to anyone who wanted to approach him, but a genius at the same time, who made deep contributions to society at large and to Israel’s excellent reputation and recognition in the sciences all over the world. His early death was simply not mentioned. Yes, he was also an Orthodox Jew, who did not hide his convictions, and this, too, was part of his personality; the model of “Torah with Derech Eretz.” Yet, our media ignored him.
Is this what the IBA people consider professional? Professor Robert Wistrich passed away suddenly on May 19 at the age of 70. He was a professor of European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University and head of its Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. Wistrich grew up in England and received his PhD from the University of London in 1974. He made aliya in 1982 and joined the Hebrew University as a full professor. He was one of the most important defenders of the Jewish People and the State of Israel of our time. He repeatedly warned that anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe. Wistrich was not politically correct. He did not kowtow to the historians and other academics who have made it a habit to pursue and vilify the State of Israel in the name of revisionist post-modern history. His untimely death was a loss to Israeli society. Yet it was hardly mentioned on our airwaves.
Space limits us from going into detail regarding other great people who have left their mark and passed away recently. One of them is Professor Benjamin Gross of Bar- Ilan University, who passed away at the age of 90 on August 3. Gross was French in origin and was considered one of spiritual leaders of French Jewry. One might have thought that at a time when French Jews are coming on aliya to Israel and under attack in France, Gross’ death would have some impact, but no, our professionals know better.
Is it any wonder that the IBA is now being eulogized?
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).