'Dateline Jerusalem' Offers a Look Back at the City's Most Important Milestones

New book features a collection of posthumous articles by journalist Eric Silver.

Whenever anyone asked British journalist Eric Silver what he was writing about, his response was always the same - "War and peace," his widow Bridget recalls.

Indeed, Silver - who was born in Leeds and who died three years ago from pancreatic cancer at the age of 73 - covered many of Israel's most important milestones, ranging from the aftermath of the Six-Day War to the Second Lebanon War.

Silver’s work as a foreign correspondent spans 40 years of Jerusalem history.Courtesy

It took Silver's widow two years to sift through all his records in order to compile a collection 114 articles written by her late husband, who covered the Middle East for nearly 40 years as a foreign correspondent for some of Britain's leading newspapers.

She told Anglo File she thought originally the project would take three months. "I remembered many stories he wrote and that I wanted to include, and also my daughter said, you must have such-and-such a piece in," Bridget Silver recalled this week in her cozy home on Jerusalem's Nevi'im Street. "But you couldn't do it like that. I read absolutely everything, right through from beginning to end, and I put stickers in pieces as I went along. There were far too many. When I got down to 800, I thought, oh, that's good. And then I had to get it down to 500. And then I had to get it down to 300, it was very hard."

The book, entitled "Dateline Jerusalem," was published in Britain a few weeks ago and is set to officially launch in Israel on Friday.

"Dateline Jerusalem" features numerous articles by Silver, beginning with a profile about Jerusalem from October 1966 and spanning more than 40 years through 2008, when Silver penned a column about the mood in Jerusalem after the terror attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva.

There are few straightforward news pieces in the book, which focuses instead on Silver's analyses and his profiles of prominent figures, such as Moshe Dayan, Ehud Barak and the Palestinian poet Mohammed Abu Shilbayih.

The book also offers glimpses into the life of Jerusalem residents, including an article by Silver about the historic courtyard of the 142-year-old Hunt House where he lived.

"One of the pleasures of the book for me is to go over those tremendous pieces that he wrote during the period when I wasn't taking so much interest in Israel," said Donald Macintyre, who became Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent in 2004, and who was mentored by Silver. "Eric's deep curiosity and enormous knowledge and understanding of the situation here, and particularly of the many variations and differences within Israel itself, obviously helped tremendously to inform me and my work," he said."

"When I first came here, I was very dependent on Eric," Macintyre continued. "I consulted him about pretty much everything. And he was always willing to give advice and to be generous with his knowledge."

Bridget laughs as she recalls her husband's early dreams of becoming a foreign correspondent.

"He said, 'It's a jungle out there, and I don't know whether I could ask you to share it.' So I said, 'Well, should I leave now?'" she recalls.

But Bridget followed her husband everywhere he went.

First they traveled to Manchester, where he worked as an editor for the Guardian, and where their three children were born. Later, when the newspaper moved to London, Silver covered labor relations and wrote a political gossip column.

Eventually, he was sent to Jerusalem, where he served as foreign correspondent for the Guardian and the Observer.

"Initially it was for two years, but we stayed for 11 years. He resisted being sent elsewhere," Bridget said.

Silver did report for fours years from India in the 1980s, but when his stint there ended he refused to return to London. He decided instead to settle down in Jerusalem, where he made his living as a freelance reporter.

"He always wanted to live here," his widow, a former schoolteacher, said. "He was a Zionist and he was in [the] Hashomer Hatzair [youth movement], but they threw him out because he went to Oxford and didn't make aliyah, so he joined Habonim. He was a Zionist but he had independent opinions."

Silver was under "constant fire from the Arab lobby, who argued that a Jew shouldn't be Jerusalem correspondent," Bridget said.

Silver's colleagues and friends also disagreed with him at times.

In his afterword in "Dateline Jerusalem," Martin Woollacott, who worked with Silver as a fellow Jerusalem correspondent for the Guardian, wrote, "Colleagues who were critical of Israel sometimes faulted him for bias. But, while his loyalty to Israel was plain, so was his concern about the movement away from the relative certainties of an earlier era to the more right-wing and fragmented condition of Israeli politics today, and his anxieties about the shrinking prospects of peace with the Palestinians."

Others felt that Silver's second citizenship improved his work.

"His reporting from Israel had that extra dimension of insight and understanding, which was the consequence of his making his home in Israel," said Geoffrey Paul, a former editor in chief of the London Jewish Chronicle. "There were people and developments in Israel which irritated, even angered him but he was able remarkably to retain that wider vision which enabled him to portray people and events in their context."

"Dateline Jerusalem" is set to launch on Friday at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem. Scheduled guest speakers include Uri Dromi, former director of the Government Press Office; and Jerusalem correspondents Donald Macintyre and Harriet Sherwood.

To RSVP to the "Dateline Jerusalem" book launch, e-mail info-mishkenot@mishkenot.org.il or call (02 ) 629-2215.