Police appoint former crime reporter as first spokesman for haredi sector

Israel Police Headquarters this week appointed its first ever spokesman specifically for the ultra-Orthodox sector.

SHABTAY GARBARCHIK 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Shabtay Garbarchik)
(photo credit: Courtesy of Shabtay Garbarchik)
Israel Police Headquarters this week appointed its first ever spokesman specifically for the ultra-Orthodox sector, tapping veteran crime reporter and radio journalist Shabtay Garbarchik for the position.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday the position is meant to strengthen the police connection with the haredi community and help get its message across, especially in terms of larger events involving police and the haredim, including changes in military and national service for haredi men expected to take place soon.
Garbarchik, who worked for a decade at the religious radio station Kol Hai where he was the military reporter and later chief news editor before becoming the crime reporter for the Makor Rishon newspaper, said he will help police “translate” the police message to a sector that has traditionally been detached from and suspicious of it.
“This doesn’t mean translating it to Yiddish, I’ll be speaking to them in Hebrew, but they have a different way of speaking and different understandings and the position is meant to help establish a connection between police and the haredi public in order to help them understand events involving police,” he said.
The 53-year-old Jerusalem resident is not himself haredi, but says that he forged a deep connection and understanding of the community over his years with the radio station and in the years before. He has a strong familiarity with the burgeoning haredi online, print and radio news landscape, which has largely been detached from the police.
“It’s not a secret that not all but most of the reporters in the haredi press don’t have great connections with the police.
My connection with police has been on a daily basis and much more intense and our goal is to establish this daily connection with the haredi public and media as well as greater transparency and a greater transfer of information,” he said.
While he said that with only three days on the job he’s still not sure how this dialogue will be organized, he said that he plans to reach out to haredi journalists, rabbis and community leaders about police issues on the macro and micro level, while working under the head spokesmen of the different police districts. He added that he will remain a civilian and has not been drafted into the police force, and will not wear a uniform or carry a firearm.
Saying that just as the police have hired spokespeople for the Arabic and Russian speaking population, yet saw the need to reach out to the 20 percent of the public that is haredi, which though it does speak Hebrew, has a different sort of understanding.
When asked about phenomenons like haredi rioters calling police “Nazis” or throwing rocks at officers, he said he hopes that through outreach the haredi public will gain a greater understanding of the Israel Police as a “giant organization that is not just mounted cops and officers, and we’ll be able to do this the more we’re able to bring the two sides together.”
Garbarchik isn’t the first crime reporter to cross the thin blue line – in 2009 long-time Ma’ariv police reporter Ami Ben-David was appointed the spokesman of the Police Special Investigations Branch and was given the rank of chief superintendent.
When asked what it’s like to go from being a reporter covering police and internal security – a job that typically entails working to uncover stories of police wrongdoing to working as a spokesman, he said, “I don’t think it’s really a problem. As a reporter you know your boss is your editor and here I know my boss is the [police] public relations branch. We’re all grown ups and know what our red lines are.”
He said he took a year long “cooling-off period” before taking the job during which he worked in marketing for a number of publications, before adding “either way, if you look around in Israel most of the spokespersons used to be journalists.”