Israeli veteran broadcaster, historian Yitzhak Noy, dies at 80

Relatives and friends had planned an 80th birthday surprise party for him, but the severity of his illness forced a cancellation of the festivities.

 YITZHAK NOY (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/MAARIV)
YITZHAK NOY
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/MAARIV)

Historian, author, and broadcaster Yitzhak Noy passed away last week, almost a month after his 80th birthday. Fondly regarded by fellow broadcasters on Reshet Bet, he was diagnosed with brain cancer just a few weeks prior to his death, and last month he announced that he could no longer continue with his weekly radio programs, which followed each other early on Saturday mornings, and were subsequently rebroadcast for the benefit of Sabbath-observant listeners.

The first of the two programs was devoted to the anniversary of a major historical event, and was conducted by phone in the format of a panel discussion – usually with three fellow historians from different parts of the country and affiliated with different institutes of higher learning. 

Occasionally, at least one of them had actually been involved in the incident under discussion, or was a relative of one of the key players. The topics were mostly related to Jewish and Israeli history, but sometimes went further afield. 

Noy managed to keep the conversation at a non-academic level and managed to interest as wide an audience as possible – and he succeeded. He had faithful listeners from around the globe, who often sent him fan mail.

It was not only from adults that he received accolades. Noy was also a children’s author, and some of his books, which were translated into different languages, did not lose their appeal in translation.

 Yitzhak Noy (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Yitzhak Noy (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The second program that Noy hosted on Saturdays was Global Shabbat, in which he perused media from around the world and either translated a news item, or gave the gist of it, but listeners could always hear excitement, amazement or even disgust in his voice. Noy never bothered to hide his emotions under the mantle of objectivity, which was one of the reasons listeners found him so captivating.

Relatives and friends had planned an 80th birthday surprise party for him, but the severity of his illness forced a cancellation of the festivities.

Noy, whose original surname was Neustadt, was born on Moshav Neta’im on April 28, 1942 and it was his home for most of his life. Following his hospitalization last month, he insisted on returning home to die, and was buried there last week.

Noy’s broadcasting career began in 1965 as a news reader for Israel Radio. During the 1970s, broadcasting from Reshet Aleph, he hosted a program For the Mother and the Child, and subsequently transferred to Reshet Bet, where he began presenting The Global Hour, with the focus on international news.

Even though he officially retired in 2008 he continued to broadcast on a weekly basis, in addition to which he was in demand by various universities to lecture on history.

Fellow broadcaster Ya’akov Ahimeir said of Noy, who was a colleague at both the Israel Broadcasting Authority and at its successor, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, that while no one is irreplaceable, it will be very hard to find someone of Noy’s caliber to fill his shoes.

Ruth Almagor, the long-time language adviser at both the IBA and the IPBC, recalled having arguments with Noy over words and expressions that he coined. He remained stubborn and kept using them on air until they evolved into common usage. She, too, believes there was no one like him.

Similar sentiments were issued by various historians who recalled his voracious thirst for knowledge coupled with his keen analytical abilities, and described him as an academic of the highest order.

Noy was held in such esteem by his colleagues that when he issued the statement that he was unable to continue, recordings of some of his programs were rebroadcast on Saturday mornings throughout his illness and even on the Saturday after his death.

Various radio anchors paid special tribute to him and interviewed people who had worked with him on radio and in academia.

President mourns

“I, and many of my generation, grew up on his broadcasts, and we were transfixed by his love of radio.”

President Isaac Herzog

President Isaac Herzog tweeted his sadness at Noy’s passing, writing: “The passing of Dr. Yitzhak Noy is painful. A man of radio and literature with a prolific output, the elder of the tribe of public broadcasting. I, and many of my generation, grew up on his broadcasts, and we were transfixed by his love of radio. His deep radiophonic voice will be remembered in our hearts.”

Noy is survived by his wife, Nurit, and son, Ro’i.