Top 10 most fascinating people I've met as a journalist in Israel

In my career as a journalist in Israel over the past three decades, I’ve been fortunate to interview some fascinating personalities.

 Interviewing Shimon Peres in Herzliya in 2013. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Interviewing Shimon Peres in Herzliya in 2013.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

In my career as a journalist in Israel over the past three decades, I’ve been fortunate to interview some fascinating personalities.

These are 10 of my favorites:

  1. Shimon Peres: I developed a good relationship with the late president during my tenure as editor of The Jerusalem Post between 2011 and 2016. In our first meeting, I asked Peres for his advice to me as a journalist, and he replied without hesitation: “Your job is to tell people what to think about, and not what to think.”
  2. Dalai Lama: I met the Tibetan spiritual leader for the second time when he visited the Western Wall in 1999, together with then-Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. He put a scarf around Lau’s neck, saying, “I want to give you this with my appreciation of Judaism making contributions for the betterment of humanity in the past, present and future.”
  3. Michael Douglas: I interviewed the famous American actor onstage at The Jerusalem Post’s New York conference in 2016. “I’m a secular Jew, I’m not formally religious, but I wanted to be a part of this tribe,” Douglas told me. “I love the values.”
  4. Ruth Westheimer. The last time I interviewed Dr. Ruth was also at the New York conference in 2016, when I stepped down as editor of the Post. “Do not retire; do rewire!” she urged me. I took her wise advice.
  5. Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk: Because I grew up in South Africa, it was particularly exciting to meet Nelson Mandela when he visited Israel in 1999, and F.W. de Klerk, when he came in 2014. After meeting then-foreign minister David Levy, Mandela said: “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing [from territory] if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.” De Klerk said after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa, “Leaders must have an open eye for windows of opportunity that allow them to take bold steps.”
  6. Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen: I met Lithuania’s parliamentary speaker, who is a chess grandmaster, when she visited Israel for the first time this year.  She said the main skill chess teaches “strangely enough, is an ability to lose, as you have to lose a lot of games in chess in order to become good.”
  7. Yisrael Aumann: I chatted with the 2005 Nobel Prize for Economics laureate in 2018 in his office at the Hebrew University for the cover of The Jerusalem Report. Discussing his favorite Latin motto, “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (If you want peace, prepare for war), Aumann said: “If you want peace, you have to demonstrate a certain amount of toughness. Otherwise, you are giving incentive to the other side to be aggressive.”
  8. Hannah Goslar Pick: I often visited Anne Frank’s childhood friend at her Jerusalem home, and in 2014 filmed an interview with her, together with intern Aviva Loeb. Reflecting on the Holocaust, Hannah said that whenever she spoke to young people, “The message I try to get across is that things like this should never happen again.”
  9. Elie Wiesel: When I spoke to the legendary writer in New York via Skype from his childhood home in Sighet in 2014, I asked whether he had ever tried to retrieve his grandfather’s gold watch, which he had hidden in 1944, on the night before his family was rounded up and sent to Nazi camps. “Twenty years later, when I came back to Sighet, I found where I buried my gold watch under a tree, and I put it back,” he replied. “I don’t want anyone to find it.” I wondered why. “Do you know why God made people?” Wiesel asked wryly. “Because He likes a good story.”