Uri Dan and the scoop he never gave me

Tribute: A Post reporter describes his relationship with the veteran war correspondent over time.

uri dan 88 298 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
uri dan 88 298
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
I first met Uri Dan when we were both covering former prime minister Ariel Sharon's state visit to Paris a year and a half ago. I was immediately impressed by his energy and zest for life and fascinated by the stories he told me about his five decades of journalism and his lifelong friendship with Sharon. He liked the fact that while the other journalists sat around doing nothing during the down time on the trip, I sat glued to the latest Harry Potter novel. Uri had not read any of the Potter books, but he knew that he was a wizard, and he told me that so was Sharon.
  • 'Post' columnist Uri Dan dies at 71
  • "People don't understand the magical powers of Arik Potter," Uri told me. From then on, Uri connected me with Harry Potter. He called me whenever he needed a favor, and I spoke to him when I needed information about Sharon that only he would know. He would always reply with great joy and at great length. I wrote a story about Uri's conflicting feelings when he disagreed with his mentor about Sharon's disengagement plan. It hurt him to see Sharon's shift from settlement builder to remover, but he also hoped it would be Sharon who would decide Israel's final borders. But the emotional pain I saw in Uri then was nothing compared to the physical pain I saw in him when I interviewed him two months ago about the book he wrote about Sharon. He apologized that his doctors told him not to shake hands and he begged me not to write in the story that he had been stricken with lung cancer. Uri didn't want anyone to pity him, but he lamented the cigarettes that he smoked even after it was clear to him that he was sick. He wrote the book very quickly because he wanted to make sure he would finish it and allow future generations to read about the experiences he had with his mentor. "This is the story of my life, of my friendship with a man I foresaw would play a major role in Israel's defense and future," Uri said at the time, admitting that the book was just as much an autobiography as it was a book about Sharon. Until his dying day, Uri believed that Sharon would recover from his illness, but perhaps it was fitting that shortly after Sharon stopped functioning, so would the man who I called his harried hagiographer. The last conversation I had with Uri was when I called him for a story about the anniversary of the founding of Kadima. He answered the phone in Washington, DC, early in the morning. I was shocked that he traveled with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to cover his meeting with US President George W. Bush, in spite of his condition. Uri sounded very weak but very happy and proud. He asked me to get into the newspaper the fact that he had succeeded in getting a copy of the book to Bush, fulfilling one of his goals in life, and he said we would get together soon in Jerusalem. I was looking forward to meeting with Uri, because a year ago, he promised me a scoop about Sharon's true feelings about Olmert. Uri said Sharon not only never declared Olmert his successor but also said harsh things about the man who succeeded him. Uri delayed telling me what Sharon said about Olmert, because he thought Sharon would wake up from his coma. But he promised me that as soon as he returned to Israel, he would come to my house to meet my daughter and give me the scoop. The next time I called Uri, his son answered his cell phone at his father's hospital bed. He told me that Uri was not well, but that his father had told him stories about the young reporter named Harry Potter. But the true wizard was Uri Dan, who accomplished so much in his life, who was loyal to his friend Sharon until his dying day and who always had a magical smile on his face. I never got the scoop but I am glad that I got to know a special journalist, whose wand was his pen, the wizard I will remember as Uri Potter.