Jerrold Kessel was the most passionate enthusiast. His enthusiasm was as eclectic as it was volatile. A book, a play, a film, a newspaper article, most of all an idea, would trigger a sudden explosion of superlatives. His lovely blue eyes would flash. His voice took on a hectoring, polemic tone and rose in strident decibels as he strove to defend the cause which he had instantly, passionately adopted.
Not all his causes were practical. But they were all suffused with the ideals by which he lived: the highest ideals of journalism, the highest ideals of humanism and of Zionism.
For to him, Zionism was humanism; not a narrow, tribal fetish but a noble destiny, albeit for one needy nation but with a timeless and universal significance.
His two loves, apart from his loved ones, were sport and journalism. The apotheosis of intellectual endeavor in his eyes - and he was a man of catholic reading and viewing taste and capacious memory - was sports journalism, the amalgam of two precious mettles.
But sport and journalism were never "just" sport and journalism. They, too, were to be integrated into his world of ideals. He was a man of ultimate integrity. His documentary film and book, "Goals for Galilee," ostensibly about Bnei Sakhnin soccer club but really about Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews, encapsulated his quest for integration and integrity.
At The Jerusalem Post, back in the late 1980s, Jerrold was a voluble, inspirational leader in our effort to bring those ideals of journalism and Zionism into play in the grinding daily coverage of the conflict.
At CNN in its heyday years in the 1990s, his white-blond frond of hair and beard became so much a face of Israel that he was contract-bound not to snip at them. His voice, his passion, and his clear-eyed political insights were televised journalism at its most effective.
His abandonment of apartheid South Africa when he came of age in the early 1960s shaped his life. Here, as soldier, student, and then journalist he lived the triumph of 1967 and the sorrow of 1973. For decades, he felt the occupation sucking Jewish Israel into the same alluring delusion that he had fled as a youngster.
Cancer is the great mocker of all our poor efforts and aspirations. Jerrold was a health and fitness freak long before those became popular fads. "Eating dead cow again," he would admonish the non-vegetarians among us.
On the cricket field (he was captain of Israel ) and on the tennis court, he moved with unlikely alacrity and fluid grace that belied his substantial bulk.
When it hit him first, he fought it and won. Then, when the relentless killer struck back, he padded up again, determined, as he said, to fight for a draw.
With astounding courage, clear-eyed to the very end, he busied himself with his by-invitation historical dream-team columns in this paper - his own appears, alas posthumously, today - and with writing a radio play. Ostensibly it is about his black nanny, far away and years ago. It is also about himself, and about us all.
His innings was not long enough for his family and friends. But he never took his eye off the ball.
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