My war hero likes to eat at Acre's famed Uri Burri restaurant. He thinks it's the best fish restaurant in the world, and told me as much yesterday from the porch of the central Gaza City office building from which he has broadcast every day for the past two weeks, noon and night, almost without rest.
My war hero is Ayman Mohyeldin, the young correspondent for Al Jazeera English and the only foreign correspondent broadcasting during these awful days in a Gaza Strip closed off to the media. Al Jazeera English is not what you might think. It offers balanced, professional reporting from correspondents both in Sderot and Gaza. And Mohyeldin is the cherry on top of this journalistic cream. I wouldn't have needed him or his broadcasts if not for the Israeli stations' blackout of the fighting. Since discovering this wunderkind from America (his mother is from the West Bank city of Tul Karm and his father from Egypt), I have stopped frantically changing TV stations.
Whoever recoils from the grotesque coverage by Channel 2's Roni Daniel is invited to tune in to this wise and considered broadcaster. Whoever recoils from our heroic tales, bias, whitewashed words, Rorschach images of bombing, IDF Spokesman-distributed photographs, propagandists' excuses, self-satisfied generals and half-truths is invited to tune in. Whoever wants to know what is really happening, not only of a postponed wedding in Sderot and a cat forgotten in Ashkelon. Watching is sometimes hard, bloodcurdlingly hard, but reality is no less hard right now.
I have followed him throughout the war. Sporting a helmet and protective vest, and sometimes a Lacoste jacket, he stands on the roof, broadcasting in the most restrained tones, never getting excited or using flowery adjectives to describe what we're inflicting on Gaza, even when planes fly over him and bomb a house in the distance. Sometimes he crouches during a blast, his eyes perpetually glazed from fatigue, his face sometimes betraying helplessness.
At age 29, he has already seen one war, in Iraq, but he says this war is more intense. He is frustrated that his broadcasts are carried virtually everywhere in the world except the United States, his own country, the place he thinks it is most important that these images from Gaza be seen.
"At the end of the day, if there is one country that can have influence, it's the United States. It's frustrating to know you're not reaching the viewers you would like to," he told me this week from the roof. On Friday he finally came down, for safety's sake, after the Israel Defense Forces bombed a neighboring media center.
Is he afraid? "I'd be lying if I said I don't feel fear, but my obligation is greater than the fear," he says.
Nor does he have a single bad word to say about Israel. He says he would gladly return to visit - after all, he's got friends here. We even set a dinner date at his favorite restaurant, for 6 P.M. after the war.
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