Chinese has just been launched as a new language of publication for Times of Israel, this on-line maverick newspaper founded by editor David Horowitz. It joins English, the original language, French and Arabic.
It seems that the marketplace of ideas has just expanded exponentially. The World Population Statistics web site reports:
Based on the total number of births, total number of deaths, net migration rates, and the population of 2013, the current population of the People’s Republic of China is estimated to be about 1,390,510,630.
Math was never my strong suit, but them’s a lot of chopsticks — and potential revenue for a scrappy journalistic start-up like Times of Israel.
What about Hebrew? A pretty reasonable question for a newspaper reporting from Israel. Why is the editorial staff skirting the local population and leaving the, albeit over-crowded playing field to the bigger, more established guns like: HaAretz, floundering- on- the-brink- of bankruptcy Maariv, Yidiyot Ahronot (Ynet), and free daily Israel HaYom (Israel National News)?
By side stepping Hebrew, the Times of Israel places itself in a self-imposed ghetto, joining, for instance, the influential daily, The Jerusalem Post? Every follower of news in the Middle East will raise their eyebrows and be truly impressed with that as a writing credential, “wow, the Jerusalem Post! Pretty impressive…” is the typical response.
But no self-respecting Israeli will bother to even stifle a yawn. The fact that it is read in the White House, the Kremlin, at 10 Downing and everywhere else in the world could not faze them. Because absolutely nobody in Israel reads it (I mean, you know, the hevre) and it is outside the sphere of influence where it counts: at home.
The voters read Hebrew, the life of Israel is conducted in Hebrew, and like it or not, your newspaper should not sound like the written equivalent of a taxi driver struggling to make change with tourists, “you vant mehbe my brudder’s address in, ehh, Tshicago?” As bad as that sounds to you is what you sound like when you don’t know what the Hebrew pundits wrote that day. You are not in the game. Even if your mother’s canasta group reads your blog in TOI, you are not in the loop.
So, with a gazillion Chinese, Arabs, French and Anglos reading TOI, in Israel that adds up to zilch. TOI joins the ranks of that French newspaper –what’s it called? Oooh La La Land, that Russian immigrant sheet with letters no one can pronounce, an Amharit email list, and a Yiddish paper with almost no readership. Oy vey.
Side-stepping the Hebrew-speakers is the journalistic equivalent of choosing Abba Ebban as a role model. In his day, he was the most beloved Israeli politician in the world, with eloquent fully- modulated Oxfordian tones ringing out defending Israel well in the UN, only to be unceremoniously tossed out of his own party, unelectable and abandoned. He could be seen in his declining years hanging around the King David hotel lobby where, like the bar in the TV show, everyone knew his name.
By closing out the Hebrew speakers, David Horowitz is missing an opportunity to make a real difference. Some decisions are not economic, (Who knows that more than an immigrant from the West?). Its true that we Jews like Chinese food, but rolling out the Chinese edition, as cool as that is, today – on Jerusalem Day- is kind of missing the point of why we are here altogether.
Skipping over Hebrew is like saying, “You know what, Uganda is really nice this time of year, and hey, less traffic.”
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda got it. Does David Horowitz?
This is our land, this is our language.
אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי, וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי (Avot 1:14)
Look it up. And pass the eggrolls.