Bamahane, The Israel Defense Forces weekly magazine, is to cease publication in its current format and become more of a PR product that will appear monthly under the aegis of the IDF Spokesman’s Office.
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Over the past few weeks, draft-age Israelis who were hoping to spend their mandatory service at the periodical were told that it was to be closed, though the spokesman’s unit won’t say when it will stop appearing in its current incarnation. Prospective recruits who had expected to serve there have been offered alternative journalism assignments, such as at the Israel Air Force magazine, the spokesman’s office said.
Bamahane (Hebrew for “in the camp”) has been in print since 1934, when it was launched by the Haganah pre-state underground Jewish militia. Its future in the internet age has been debated for some time; two months ago it was decided to reduce it from a weekly to a monthly publication, and responsibility for it was shifted from the Education Corps to the Personnel Directorate.
Now, however, it seems the magazine’s editorial staff will be disbanded and its soldiers reassigned to other army units, while a small number will serve in the IDF Spokesman’s Office to put out the new product.
“The IDF is working to update the format of Bamahane, including a transition to the internet and an improvement in interorganizational communications,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office said in a statement.
Also unclear is what will happen to subscribers, who pay 420 shekels ($109) annually for the magazine.
Yitzhak Tunik, a former commander of Bamahane, called the move a historic mistake.
“This newspaper has always brought benefit to the IDF,” he said. “Rather than closing it, they should be printing a few thousand more copies and distributing it to more soldiers. The popular notion that ‘print is dead’ and that everything is on the internet is not correct regarding a newspaper whose importance lies in the fact that soldiers in the field can hold it, physically.”
Tunik ran the paper in the late 1980s, when its writers and editors included the future Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid, lyricist Eli Mohar and author Eyal Megged. The paper then printed 80,000 copies and subscription was mandatory for officers in the regular army. Circulation is some 20,000 copies per issue, and subscriptions are voluntary.
Bamahane, Tunik said, dealt with issues “that there’s no chance civilian journalism would deal with, because it deals with the chronicles of the IDF, not with the headlines the army makes. That’s the value of such a newspaper.”
Yoni Shenfeld, who was in charge of the magazine between 2008 and 2013, said, “We again see that there are two armies ... because the air force magazine will continue to exist and they’re not threatening it with closure, while the soldiers in the field, who love the newspaper, won’t see it anymore.
“To see the enthusiasm when the newspaper came to the soldiers spending Shabbat in a Gaza refugee camp during Operation Cast Lead was something you can’t put a price on; it contributes to pride and fighting spirit,” Shenfeld said.