For one day, Haaretz editor-in-chief Dov Alfon sent most of his staff reporters home and sent 31 of Israel’s finest authors and poets to cover the day’s news.
The idea behind the paper’s June 10 special edition was to honor Israel’s annual Hebrew Book Week, which opened the same day, by inviting Israeli authors to get away from their forthcoming novels and letting them bear witness to the events of the day. For this edition of the paper, nearly all the rules taught in journalism school were thrown out the window. Writers used the first person and showed up in nearly every photograph alongside their interview subjects, including the likes of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. Among those articles were gems like the stock market summary, by author Avri Herling. It went like this: “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points…. The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….” The TV review by Eshkol Nevo opened with these words: “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.” And the weather report was a poem by Roni Somek, titled “Summer Sonnet.” (“Summer is the pencil/that is least sharp/in the seasons’ pencil case.”) News junkies might call this a postmodern farce, but considering that the stock market won’t be soaring anytime soon, and that “hot” is really the only weather forecast there is during Israeli summers, who’s to say these articles aren’t factual?Alongside these cute reports were gripping journalistic accounts. David Grossman, one of Israel’s most famed novelists, spent a night at a children’s drug rehabilitation center in Jerusalem and wrote a cover page story about the tender exchanges between the patients, ending the article in the style of a celebrated author who’s treated like a prophet: “I lay in bed and thought wondrously how, amid the alienation and indifference of the harsh Israeli reality, such islands — stubborn little bubbles of care, tenderness and humanity — still exist.” Grossman’s pen transformed a run-of-the-mill feature into something epic.
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Image Source: Brian Negin