Haaretz’s 2021 Podcasts That Had Listeners on Edge

Iran's nuclear program, a new COVID variant, a war in Gaza and the Evangelicals who discovered Saudi Arabia. A roundup of Haaretz podcasts that captivated our readers and listeners in the year that's about to end

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Haaretz podcasts - your audio guide to Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish worldCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Weekly

A war between Israel and Hamas, a far-right Jew aiming to become France’s next president, and an evangelical Christian Israeli (yes) who met with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman – these were some of the stories Haaretz readers found most interesting to listen to in 2021. As this dramatic year comes to an end, here are some of the top episodes of the Haaretz Weekly and Weekend podcasts from the past 12 months.

“Former Mossad Chief’s Stark Warning About Israel and China”

This interview with former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s relations with the United States and the danger posed by China’s growing involvement in the Israeli economy was our most downloaded episode of the year. It starts with a fictional account of World War III and ends with a radical suggestion for Israel to launch direct talks with Hamas.

“This Reporter Entered Gaza After the War – and Saw the Full Might and Force of Israel’s Military”

In May, following the 11-day air war between Israel and Hamas, we hosted Mehul Srivastava, a Financial Times correspondent who visited Gaza immediately after the fighting. He shared his heartbreaking conversations with local residents and tried to answer questions like what impact did the war have on the coastal enclave, and who really won this round? Also in this episode, Haaretz’s Amir Tibon talked about life on the Gaza border from the Israeli side, and why people are moving to this rocket-plagued part of the country.

Palestinians sitting in Gaza City last week as a bulldozer removed debris left over from the fighting with Israel in May. Credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters

“How Israel Can Win and Hamas Can’t Lose”

In this episode recorded during the Gaza fighting, Haaretz’s national security analyst Amos Harel joined host Simon Spungin to answer the key questions: What did Israel achieve in its attacks on Hamas after one week of fighting? What would be considered a victory for the Israeli side? And was Israel actually playing into the Islamist organization’s hands?

Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepts missiles launched from GazaCredit: ANAS BABA / AFP

“‘Saudis Can Be Next’: Evangelical-Israeli Who Met MBS in His Palace Tells All”

Joel Rosenberg was raised Jewish in upstate New York. Today he’s an evangelical-Christian best-selling author who lives in Jerusalem and has Israeli citizenship. In this episode, he shared his incredible story of bringing over U.S. evangelical leaders to meet presidents, kings and princes in the Arab world. He tells us how he became the first Israeli citizen to be publicly hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

“The Sexual Abuse Scandal Blowing Up the Haredi World”

Chaim Walder was one of the most celebrated writers in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community. After a Haaretz investigation exposed multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, the Walder affair severely tested the authority of the country’s leading Haredi rabbis. Also in this episode, senior Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer discussed the shock waves generated by the scandal in the ultra-Orthodox world.

“Racist Jew Vies for French Presidency, Shocking and Splitting Jewish Voters”

Perhaps the largest Jewish political story in Europe this year has been the rise of Éric Zemmour, the far-rightist aiming to become France’s next president. Journalist Shirli Sitbon and Prof. Michel Wieviorka joined the podcast to explain the roots of Zemmour’s popularity, the outrageous ideas at the heart of his campaign, and why France’s chief rabbi called him an antisemite.

“Biden Has Only One Real Option on Iran. Israel Will Have to Live With It”

Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Iranian nuclear accord in 2018 was celebrated by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but now Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs consider it a disaster. In this episode, Danny Citrinowicz, the former head of the Iran branch of Military Intelligence’s Research and Analysis Division, explained the damage caused by Trump’s decision and the limited options America and Israel currently have on Iran.

The Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran.Credit: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, FILE

“‘It Never Occurred to Me to Boycott Israel. Until Arkansas Told Me I Couldn’t’”

Alan Leveritt, the publisher and owner of The Arkansas Times, had no intention to visit the front lines in the battle against legislation restricting the BDS movement. So how did a small monthly newspaper in Little Rock become a test case for legal action against states’ efforts to silence boycotts of Israel? Who’s behind the legislation and what role are evangelical Christians playing? Also in this episode, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy discussed his dinner with Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu.

“‘Biggest Change Since COVID Started’: What’s Omicron and How to Beat It, per This Israeli Expert”

This episode was recorded when just a handful of Israelis had been infected by the omicron variant. Today there are hundreds, if not thousands. Dr. Oren Kobiler discussed the fight between the new variant and the vaccines, and explained the importance of child vaccinations. Also in this episode, we heard from Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the country’s top public health official.

A nurse prepares to administer the fourth COVID vaccine to health care workers at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, on Tuesday.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

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