William Morris , the Secretary General of the Next Century for Peace pays a personal tribute to his friend Ari Rath, former Editor and Managing Director of The Jerusalem Post who died this week. Ari Rath was also the former News Editor of Partners for Peace, the voice of the Copenhagen Group. In recognition of a lifetime of tireless work for rapprochement and peace, Ari was awarded a special lifetime achievement prize at the 2005 International Media Awards.
Ari Rath has died. Ari, former editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post before the Conrad Black days, when the Jerusalem Post was one of the greatest newspapers produced at that time. That Ari Rath. Ari Rath has died. I remember him, his pipe clenched between his teeth, leaning over the table, poring over the front-page layouts. One of the greatest editors of all time. One of the greatest men of all time. And now he is gone.
What makes a man great? I suppose his capacity for compassion. In my view, there is no other measure of a man. What makes a newspaperman great? I suppose a capacity for curiosity is a useful element. No man ever had a greater capacity for compassion and for curiosity than Ari Rath. He knew all of Israel’s secrets, all of Palestine’s too for that matter, and like all good Israelis he would share them over bowls of chicken soup and TLC in his Jerusalem flat.
There is no society in which gossip has greater currency than modern Israel. Israelis have made gossip an art form. And Ari, was the greatest exponent of that art. Ari would share the little secrets as he sliced the pickled cucumber, like the location of the spot where they killed Count Bernadotte, or the identity of Shimon Peres’ mistress. The big secrets he would share too, the tales of intrigue and conspiracy, later still over a glass of schnapps. Ari knew everything and everyone.
He came to his beloved Israel in the kinder transport and like most survivors of the era of the holocaust, Ari was careful about waste. He would waste nothing; every scrap of food was used. Every margarine tub was scraped out. He knew what it was to go hungry. Those who have had that experience never waste. And Ari loved all the world. There was no Jew or Gentile for Ari, no Israeli or Palestinian. They were all, all of them, his friends. He had a one room flat in Jerusalem but his door was always open. He would surrender his bed and sleep on the sofa but there was always room at Ari’s place regardless. The Next Century Foundation used to boast a Jerusalem office. What was it? That’s right it was Ari’s flat. We have a Jerusalem office no more.
Ari Rath, undoubtedly one of the greatest men who ever lived, is with us no more. What would Ari have liked? He would have liked to see peace between Israel and Palestine. More specifically he would like to have seen true concord, a world where we all live together. Not a mere truce. The details were less than important to Ari and those that share his mindset. What mattered was less which inch of land was surrendered or what concession made. What mattered was peace. I shall always pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I owe it to Ari. And one thing I know, when Ari, meets God, it will be God who gets made the chicken soup. Which is why we may see peace between Israel and Palestine sooner than any of us expect. Because how could God refuse Ari? Not after he’s tasted his chicken soup. He was a dear man.