David Jablinowitz, known as David Ze’ev, made aliyah from New York in February 1981, right out of Queen’s College when he was 21. A few months later, he was already working as an English journalist and broadcaster for Kol Yisrael. He worked there until 2018, when the broadcasting authority was closed and reopened under another brand.
His radiophonic voice soon became recognizable both in Israel and around the world. For many people who listened to his broadcasts he became the English voice of Israel; the voice calling them home.
In his words:
I’m walking in Beit Shemesh and come across an acquaintance from the neighborhood. We exchange pleasantries and speak of how challenging Yom Kippur was. That’s it.
But sitting nearby on a bench is a gentleman who apparently heard our conversation.
Speaking with a Russian accent, he says, “Don’t talk to me about difficult Yom Kippurs. I spent Yom Kippur in prison.”
The truth is that if we weren’t in the midst of Covid-19, I would have sat down to hear his story. Instead, I simply told him that I am honored to live with him in the same city in the Jewish State.
And then he says, “Wait, what’s your name?”
This is not the first time this has happened to me, but it’s emotional every time.
“David Jablinowitz,” I reply.
“No, that’s not it,” he says.
I realized where we were going with this, so I give him my professional name: “David Ze’ev?”
“Yes, that’s it!” he exclaims.
He then proceeded to name some of my former colleagues at Kol Yisrael – English radio station.
“I fell in love with you and your colleagues, listening on shortwave radio from the Soviet Union. Over the radio, I fell in love with the State of Israel,” he said.
Darn Corona. I wanted to hug him.
After 35 years being immersed in the news, and a bit disconsolate after having left his long-time radio career, Ze’ev made a decision to look for the positive things in life and share them. His Facebook page features daily posts of the miracles and ordinarily extraordinary things he witnesses on Israeli buses and streets; the things that make Israel like no other country. In fact, his posts, which he stared in 2014, have encouraged many people to make aliyah.
“I get a phone call from someone at Nefesh B’Nefesh who says that during an informal chat, someone making aliyah was asked what first inspired her to actually make aliyah, and she replied: ‘You know, those stories by David Jablinowitz.’”
Traffic was slow at the entrance to Jerusalem this morning. High school student is fretting. She’s going to be late.
Driver senses the girl’s anxiety. “Let me call your teacher to say it’s not your fault.”
The driver tells the girl to make a video call to the teacher. We’re at a red light so he’s able to get up from his seat for a moment to give the teacher perspective. He shows that he is really the driver, and sticks the phone out the window to show the traffic.
This was a kind act on the part of the driver, the teacher was willing to accept that it wasn’t her student’s fault that she was a bit late. So, this would be a great story in its own right.
Except… we’re not finished. All of a sudden, as the light turns green, the driver realizes that he recognizes the teacher.
“Michal?!” he shouts.
They arrange to speak to each other later. I was not satisfied. As I’m getting off the bus, I ask him: “You know that girl’s teacher?”
Driver: “Know her?! I almost married her. We were best friends in university! I haven’t seen her in 15 years!”
In the early days of the Obama administration, a presidential aide got in touch with Ze’ev which led to a camaraderie between Obama and Ze’ev. One time Obama shared with Ze’ev a peace plan he was hoping to present. The plan would have been very bad for Israel, Ze’ev thought, and he was successful in talking the president out of proposing it, explaining how it wouldn’t work. Ze’ev had less contact with the White House during the Trump years but that was because Trump was a great friend to Israel and there was no need. Apparently, though, Ze’ev left a positive impression on the White House and when Biden took office, he called Ze’ev to offer condolences on Israel’s Memorial Day.
The incredible stories Ze’ev writes happen in Israel every day but seem, on the whole, to happen to him. He says it’s because he’s sensitive and has made it his mission, his passion, even his obsession to highlight the wonderful everyday magic of living in Israel. One of the ways he manages to get close to the people is by observing and not interfering (too much).
I was near the information counter at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. A man in his 70s is asking about bus schedules.
It turns out that he had to go all the way back to his home in Nahariya.
Person behind the counter is trying to help. “Next time you want to make such a long trip, try to set out earlier,” he says.
“I wanted to,” says the would-be passenger, “but I was delayed at the Western Wall. I served in the Six-Day War and a bunch of us got together to mark the June 7 anniversary of liberating the Temple Mount. It was just too hard to break up our gathering so I’m going home later than I had planned.”
The guy behind the counter is in awe. Comes out from his booth, puts on a mask, and hugs the veteran.
Then he gets on the phone and calls his daughter.
“Sarit, don’t you have a friend driving up to Haifa tonight?” he asks.
What happens next is a bit complicated. I’ll spare you all the details. Here are the main points.
Sarit’s friend was indeed driving from Jerusalem to Haifa. Sarit’s friend was just released from the army. Sarit’s friend is so excited to hear that she’s being asked to drive a veteran of the Six-Day War that she offers to drive him all the way to Nahariya if he tells her all about his IDF service.
But… Sarit’s friend can’t get over to the Central Bus Station just yet.
No problem – the guy from the information desk calls downstairs to one of the restaurants and arranges a free meal for our war hero.
The veteran is a little overwhelmed by all the attention.
I really wanted to take this story further. I asked the veteran for his phone number so I could call him later. I explained about my bus stories. But he felt uncomfortable giving out his number.
I asked the guy at the counter if somehow I could get Sarit’s friend’s number, but I could see that he thought the request was strange, even after I showed him my Facebook account, so I backed off.
But while this was all happening, I missed my bus, so I managed to be around for Sarit’s friend arriving to pick up the Six-Day War veteran from the restaurant.
He took the rest of his food with him, not wanting to delay his chauffeur, and the two of them went on their way for an evening of 1967 war stories.
“You want to know why I get into great situations? It’s because I get myself involved.”
Walking tonight, there’s an outdoor Sheva Brachot party taking place. They were almost finished. They were saying the Sheva Brachot.
I don’t just pass by or answer quietly. I shout out: “Amen! Mazal Tov!” as I’m passing by.
So they invite me in to the yard. I wasn’t interested in the food. But they had a very touching story. The bride and groom were married last week down south. They cut down the number of guests. There was a siren in the middle of the wedding.
The parents of the bride and groom paid for a week-long stay for the couple at a Jerusalem hotel so that they would be out of the rocket zone. They did not have Sheva Brachot most days of the past week, but they did tonight in Beit Shemesh, at the home of cousins to the bride.
Tomorrow, they return down south to the apartment they have rented to begin their married life.
May their married life be full of much joy and much tranquility. Mazal Tov!
Admittedly, Ze’ev isn’t the only one who gets involved.
Woman sitting on sidewalk bench, speaking on the phone and has the speaker activated, so we can all hear both sides of the conversation.
She’s trying to direct a friend who is walking nearby how to meet up with her at a cafe on the street.
A passerby hears the conversation and says to the woman: “Let me try,” but a few moments into the conversation says: “Forget it; the streets here are complicated. Your friend will never figure it out. You have a car?”
Guy: “Fine. I’ll get your friend.”
The guy gets into his car. I stuck around. In about 4, 5 minutes, the guy returned with the woman’s friend.
The two women are now ordering their lunch. The guy parked his car and is now probably looking to do another good deed.
These days Ze’ev works for the Jerusalem Post as a writer and editor. He lives with wife, Shari, and their four children in Beit Shemesh. And there’s a little bit more sunshine there because of him.
I encourage you to friend David Jablinowitz on Facebook to be uplifted and inspired by his amazing stories of life in Israel. Or come live here and he will find you.