Legendary Jerusalem Post editor Ari Rath died on Friday in Vienna, Austria, just one week after celebrating his 92nd birthday. He will be buried on Monday at Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha.
Born Arnold Rath to a Jewish family in Vienna in 1925, Rath left the country of his birth in 1938, shortly after the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany. Accompanied by his elder brother, he immigrated to pre-state Palestine in the framework of the Youth Aliyah, an organization that resettled thousands of German Jewish teenagers in Palestine, on kibbutzim and at youth villages.
In Israel, Rath was one of the founders of Kibbutz Hamadia, in the Beit She'an valley, and served as secretary of the Meuhedet kibbutz movement. In 1946, he was sent to the United States as an emissary of the Habonim movement. While there, he participated, among other things, in the purchase of weapons for the state-in-the-making in Palestine.
He returned to Vienna for the first time in 1948, finding what he described as "a ghost town." It reminded him of an enormous cemetery.
Rath began his journalistic career at the Jerusalem Post in 1957. Eighteen years later, he was appointed the newspaper's editor and general manager, a post he held until 1989. After leaving the Jerusalem Post, he worked as a freelance journalist and lecturer.
Ari Rath was identified with the Labor Party throughout his life, counting many of the country's early leaders among his close friends and interviewees. Prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Sharett and Golda Meir were all in his little black book. Another close friend was iconic Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kolleck.
At the same time, he remained in touch with his European roots and maintained a wide circle of contacts in both Austria and Germany. Over the years, he was on first-name terms with Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, German Chancellor Willy Brandt and publisher Axel Springer.
As a journalist, Rath was a witness to several historic events, among them the meeting between Ben-Gurion and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in the U.S. in 1960. He was also an ardent proponent of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a line that the editorial policy of the Jerusalem Post upheld throughout the period that he was editor.
"He never missed an opportunity to relate that the Jerusalem Post was once a lot more liberal," wrote Alexandra Foderl-Schmid in an obituary published in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard on Friday. "Not only developments at his newspaper but also in his country concerned him."
Rath published his memoirs, "Ari Means Lion" ("Ari heißt Löwe," in German) in 2012 and his life was chronicled in the documentary film "A Life of Many Lives." He also participated, alongside Holocaust survivors, in an Austrian production "The Last Witnesses," which contributed to the understanding of Austrians regarding their own role in the Holocaust.
Several years ago, Rath had his Austrian citizenship, which he lost in 1938, returned to him. Already in his eighties, he received awards of honor from both Germany and Austria, where he spent much of the remainder of his life.
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