Appreciation: David Eppel - journalist and gentleman

David Eppel served two stints as director of Israel Radio's English News department.

eppel298.88 (photo credit: Steve Linde)
(photo credit: Steve Linde)
Ten days ago, on Thursday, March 30, David Eppel dressed as the British gentleman he always was. Approaching his 70th birthday, he wore an elegant jacket with a red pochette, his RAF tie, and even put a pipe that he hadn't smoked for decades in his pocket. It was a lovely Spring day. He and his wife, Betty, parked at the YMCA in Jerusalem, and walked to what was the Palace Hotel, where he was to take part in a reenactment of the first broadcast of the Palestine Broadcasting Service, Israel Radio's precursor, in Hebrew, Arabic and English. He had been invited to represent the English News, where he had spent most of the last four decades of his career before retiring five years ago. Eppel, as his colleagues called him, was clearly excited about participating in the historic event, which for him both acknowledged his contribution to broadcasting in Israel as well as represented a closing of his life's circle. He shook hands and chatted briefly with fellow Israel Radio veterans. and a Russian television reporter interviewed him about his career. It was obvious that he thoroughly enjoyed the moment, reminiscing about the good old days. At one point in the interview, he beamed and remarked what fun radio had always been for him, and that he had remained a radio addict to this day. Then, in a more serious tone, he decried the interference of commercials on the air waves of state broadcasts. It was classic Eppel: the bearded, balding bard with the ever-present twinkle in his spectacled eyes, holding his pipe in his right hand, and waxing poetic about his profession. In the studio again, he reread a news bulletin in English and the first announcement to the world about the inception of Kol Yerushalayim, the Voice of Jerusalem, in British Palestine. His calming BBC voice lilted with a Scottish accent was as clear and authoritative as ever: "This is Jerusalem calling." IT HAD been an extremely moving experience, but afterwards David told Betty that he wasn't feeling well. She summoned their children, Michal and Yaron, who was in Budapest. At Shaare Zedek Hospital on Friday morning, David waited for Yaron to return from abroad, exchanged a few parting words with him, and passed away. As Betty recalls, with tears in her eyes, he died like he lived: as a gentleman. He was buried later that day, March 31, on the Mount of Olives. David Eppel served two stints as director of Israel Radio's English News department, where he also worked as an editor, reporter and news presenter. He moved for several years to the Hebrew News to produce a cutting-edge science program called "A New World." His colleagues remember him as a tough but fair boss. He was also known as the best and fastest translator and typist in the whole radio station. David started as a newspaper delivery boy in his native Glasgow, where he also began his career in print journalism. After making aliya as a young man, he fell in love with and married Betty, a beautiful Holocaust survivor originally from France who still teaches French at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. He worked at Israel Radio in Jerusalem for most of his career, covering just about every major story. He reported on the country's wars and peace efforts, culminating in a flight to Washington for the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. He enjoyed interviewing politicians and people in the street, scientists and artists, rabbis and experts. And every story he covered infused him with adrenalin: he loved culture and music, science and nature, politics and diplomacy. He was a real Renaissance man. IN HIS profile on a Web site he and Betty created in recent years, David writes under interests: "Few things don't interest me." Under favorite books and authors: "All writers who tell a tale well." And under favorite music: "From Bach to Beethoven, with authentic folk music wherever possible." David had undergone dialysis over the last decade in Jerusalem after being diagnosed with a vascular disease that led to blockage of his renal arteries. On the web site, Life Options, he wrote the following inspirational piece to others, entitled "Don't forget your survival kit." "When I go to dialysis, I always take along my 'survival kit.' It is a big, black travel bag packed full of favorite 'odds and ends' to take me through the session with as much comfort and interest as possible. "Among other things, I have a selection of reading materials, a CD player with various musical disks, a radio, and a cassette recorder with audio books. Sometimes I take along my laptop computer. "The guiding principle that I've adopted is to create a series of options, so that I'm able to read or listen, as the mood strikes me. "I've found that having a lot of choices is essential, so I'm not limited to certain activities during dialysis. "For added comfort, I have mineral water face spray, aromatherapy scents, a flask of my favorite English tea, and an airline blindfold to shut out the unit when I feel like sleeping." David didn't allow his dialysis to interfere with his life. He and Betty continued their annual pilgrimage to Provence, where they enjoyed the food and wine, took in the beauty and romance, and he researched her life and the French couple who rescued her and other Jews in distress during the Holocaust. On their Web site (, David and Betty Eppel invite all those interested, especially their two children and five grandchildren, to learn more about the family heritage. David Eppel's legacy was nicely summed up by his family in the obituary they put in the newspaper: "Lover of life, idealist, journalist and Zionist."