Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Saying goodbye to Bret

Bret Stephens, outgoing editor of The Jerusalem Post, spoke at the HaNassi Synagogue in Jerusalem last night. The announcement of the talk had requested that people should be on time but even so, I was surprised to see that when we arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled start, the place was pretty much packed, mainly with senior citizens of North American origin. The culture of constant lateness in Israel is something which I can't abide; having been brought up believing in the importance of punctuality, I generally like to arrive on time (which in my book means 5 minutes before the stated time). This attitude frequently means that I have a long wait but I stick by it, struggling against my better half's effortless attempts to stymie me!

During his 2 1/2 year stewardship of the Post, Stephens has clearly gathered quite a following if last night's attendance was anything to go by. I recognised at least one person who had come through from Tel Aviv especially to hear him speak, and the assembled crowd made it perfectly clear that they wanted him to stay. I too, have been won over by him; the first thing that I turn to in my Friday paper is his column, which I will greatly miss. Happily, he expressed his willingness to continue to contribute to the Post if the incoming editor, David Horowitz asks him to.

Stephens will be heading back to the States, where he will be the youngest ever member of the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board. Having heard him speak on a number of occasions and read his columns over the years, Stephens' intellect, grasp of the situation and ability to communicate a clear message has been amply clear. He has proved to be an effective spokesman for Israel, being constantly on the message and I feel reassured by his presence in a position of influence on a journal of the stature of the WSJ.

My feeling about the Jerusalem Post is that it is a newspaper with a proud history and a strong name that had fallen on somewhat hard times. Stephens has taken steps in the right direction and I feel that the paper has undergone a manifold improvement whilst he has been at the helm. His replacement, David Horowitz, is filling big boots but I believe that he is capable of doing so and that he will continue to steer in the right direction.

Horowitz, currently the Editor of the excellent Jerusalem Report, is a pragmatist. Over the years that I have read the Report, I have seen him become disillusioned with the Palestinians and taken up a more central position in his writing which I feel reflects the move that much of Israeli society has also made. He is a superb speaker, a wonderful advocate for Israel, a great writer who's most recent book "Still life with bombers" is a must read for anyone interested in Israel - and he's not a bad footballer either!

Bret - I wish you good luck in your new position and will be adding the WSJ to my favourites list so that I can continue reading your thoughts. Thank you for all you've done for Israel and I hope that you continue to seek the truth behind the lies.


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