Eric Silver, journalist, author, dies at 73

During his long career, Silver reported from Israel for some of the world's leading newspapers.

eric silver 224 88 (photo credit: David Rubinger/Yediot Aharonot)
eric silver 224 88
(photo credit: David Rubinger/Yediot Aharonot)
Eric Silver, one of Israel's leading English-language journalists, author of a critically acclaimed biography of Menachem Begin and a vibrant presence on the Anglo-Israeli social scene, has died at age 73. Silver passed away early Wednesday at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem while undergoing treatment for cancer. During his long career, Silver reported from Israel for some of the world's leading newspapers and periodicals, including the Guardian, Observer, Independent and Time, as well as writing for the Jewish Chronicle, The Jerusalem Report and occasionally for The Jerusalem Post. "Eric was a journalist's journalist," said the Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz, "an 'old-fashioned reporter' in the best sense of the term, who relished going out on stories, seeing things for himself, meeting sources face-to-face. His journalistic curiosity never waned. He was also a man of principle and fairness, and a good friend." Silver was born in Leeds in 1935. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, and afterwards worked as a reporter for local British papers. In 1960 he was hired by the Guardian, and moved up from copy editor to reporter, covering industry and sports. In 1967 he was sent to Israel to report on the aftermath of the Six Day War, and five years later was assigned to Jerusalem as staff correspondent for both the Guardian and the Observer, spending the next 12 years covering the Yom Kippur War, the First Lebanon War and Israel's tumultuous domestic political scene. Widely respected by his colleagues for his professionalism, Silver was chosen as chairman of the Israel Foreign Press Association in 1975. Speaking to the Post in 1983, Silver said that "while I didn't let my Jewish background influence my work, it undoubtedly helped me get deeper into this country than would normally be the case for many foreign correspondents." In 1984 his book Begin: The Haunted Prophet, the first full-scale biography of Menachem Begin, was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson to critical praise, with The New York Times hailing it as "an admirably well-balanced view of one of modern history's most controversial figures." That same year he was assigned as the Guardian's correspondent in India. In 1987, rather than accept reassignment elsewhere for the paper, Silver decided to settle in Jerusalem, where he and his wife, Bridget, had raised their daughters Rachel, Sharon and Dinah, and where most of their 10 grandchildren live. "We always used to joke that my parents were part of the aliya from India, because they came here straight after he finished up his assignment there for the Guardian," said his daughter, Rachel Silver. Silver continued to maintain a strong connection to India even after leaving it, contributing regularly to the Calcutta daily The Statesman and serving as chairman of the Israel-India Friendship Society. Although Silver's return to Israel had entailed professional sacrifice - "I had a career, now I have a business," he once said about the move - he continued to work steadily for a number of journalistic outlets until the end of his life, as well as doing stints as the Jewish World editor of The Jerusalem Report, the Israel correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle and in recent years as a contributing reporter for The Independent. In 1992 he published another full-length work, The Book of the Just: The Unsung Heroes Who Saved Jews From Hitler's Death Camps, and was also a contributing author to Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, written by the staff of The Jerusalem Report. Silver was particularly attached to his and Bridget's charming, memento-filled home, located in a historic building on Jerusalem's Rehov Hanevi'im, originally built and inhabited by the 19th century pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt - even after a terrorist inadvertently detonated his explosives belt outside the front door, blowing out the windows of their bedroom and, as Silver would note to visitors, sending the terrorist's head flying into an adjacent courtyard. The Silvers were among the most gracious hosts (and guests) in Jerusalem's Anglo-Israel social community, especially in the dinners and parties they enjoyed throwing in the apartment's garden courtyard, whose frequent cross-section of guests, Israeli-Jewish and otherwise, testified to their wide range of interests and social contacts. "My father was very much a man defined by his work and his family," his daughter Rachel said. "He wrote right until the very end, and had a major feature in the Jewish Chronicle just three weeks ago. "He wrote such elegant prose; when he advised me about my own writing, he always used to tell me you have to give readers something extra in terms of language - and he did." The funeral will take place today at 9:30 a.m. in Jerusalem's Har Hamenuhot Cemetery, Beit Hahesped, Har Tamir.