Eric Silver, gentleman journalist

Collection contains classic dispatches from late Jerusalem Report staff reporter.

Eric Silver (photo credit: Courtesy of Bridget Silver)
Eric Silver
(photo credit: Courtesy of Bridget Silver)
Eric Silver was never a man to wallow in nostalgia.
Reminiscence about past glory days, a failing to which journalists are too often prone, was not his way. Which would have made it easy to forget, had his wife, Bridget Silver, not brought together so much of his finest writing in “Dateline Jerusalem,” what a wonderful body of work he would leave behind him.
The pieces, with their political insight, their eye for the telling detail, their freshness and their humanity, fully justify the old maxim – often stated but much less often fulfilled – that the best journalism is the “first rough draft of history.”
And what a slice of history. The book runs from his first visit after the Six Day War, through his period as the “Guardian’s” full-time correspondent, from the Lod Airport massacre to the first Lebanon war and its aftermath, and then from the late 80s after his decision to live in Israel and his conspicuously successful reinvention of himself as a freelancer.
For a newly-arrived Jerusalem staff correspondent on the “Independent,” as I was in March 2004, Eric, by then the paper’s resident part-timer (though that hardly does justice to the depth and breadth of his role) was simply the ideal mentor/ workmate.
Never pushy, interfering or didactic; always available to give counsel, share telephone numbers from his unrivaled list of contacts, dispense Johnny Walker Black Label and sympathy. And, if he spotted you making a serious error, he told you – in private – in a firm but gentle way that ensured you would never do it again.
If you consulted him on matters historical, cultural, political, religious, in the hideously confusing maelstrom that engulfs the Jerusalem correspondent, Eric almost always knew the answers but, if occasionally he didn’t, he would know someone who did. “And you can mention my name, if you like,” he would say modestly.
And, of course, it helped if you did.
Right into his seventies, Eric wanted to add value to a story and to go out into the field if he could; a fine, if random, example is the “worst of Israel, best of Israel” piece written under massive time pressure (pressure which, as always with Eric, was never visible between the lines of his invariably elegant, unhurried prose) from the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem where the little Palestinian girl Maria Amin had been brilliantly treated after being crippled in an IDF air strike on Gaza.
A drink or a meal with Eric was always notable for what the Irish call the craic, the wit, and for the curiosity about the world, which had animated him throughout his career.
He was a gentleman in the best of senses, whether it was making sure that the “Independent’s” Palestinian fixer in Gaza was adequately paid for his time, or displaying his great hospitality as a host.
As Phil Reeves, the “Independent” correspondent from 2000-2003, wrote when Eric died in 2008 at the age of 73 after succumbing to pancreatic cancer: “Eric was a man of great decency and kindness, who never allowed our grubby business to compromise his dignity.”