Who Am I & What Have I Discovered About Israel?

Credit: Naava Swirsky

Commuting to work is something that many of us do. It’s just a fact of life.

For about two decades, I was doing it between my hometown of Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, where I worked at Israeli public radio, Kol Yisrael, covering Israeli diplomacy, politics, and other aspects of the history of the modern Jewish state.

During my daily bus ride, I would think about the day of news ahead. Would there be good news or bad news? Would our newscasts run smoothly or would there be breaking news and constant, impromptu live changes on the fly?

In 2014, however, my career and my commute were becoming more complicated.

The Israeli government began a process of closing my professional home: the Israel Broadcasting Authority, where I had started to work in 1981. It would eventually cease broadcasting in 2017, following much acrimony that, at one point, even included a threat leveled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to break up his government and call an early Knesset election unless an agreement could be reached on how to proceed.

At the same time, major road construction over a long period of time was making my commute considerably longer.

Pondering my workday ahead became less exciting and more perplexing, and because of the long commute, I was having far too much time to think about the working reality for me and my colleagues.

I was not happy about the world. I was upset with the world.

It would have been easy enough to put on earphones and absorb myself in my own world, while ignoring everything around me.

Instead, I did the opposite. I looked around. I wanted to see how people interacted on the bus. Was this a bad world? Was there too much frustration on the road through life or was there a light at the end of the tunnel?

To my delight, I found that people can be good to one another. These were the real people: not the politicians, not the criminals, not the terrorists who dominated our news cycle.

They were not the people who were throwing into question my life mission of reporting to the world, a mission with which I had fallen in love, which gave me the opportunity to cover historic events, interview seven Israeli prime ministers from Yitzhak Shamir to Benjamin Netanyahu, and in 2016, the chance to have a heart-to-heart conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama and a follow-up.

These people on the bus became the new subjects of my reporting: religious and secular, men and women, kids and adults, interacting in ways that were funny, touching, and surprising.

I then began exploring what was going on in the markets, the streets, synagogues, and every so often even at a bar. The stories took place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Beit Shemesh, often reflecting the different complexions of these cities.

This new series is aimed at bringing back as many of those experiences as possible and hopefully also adding new stories along the way.

I still report the news: world affairs and local issues alike. I’ll reflect on that, as well, in my articles.

Most of all, however, I want to introduce you to the real people who make the world go round.

I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

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Covering world leaders for years; now reporting on the real people of Israel, day-to-day life, doing good deeds for one another.