Tuesday, December 26, 2006

RIP, Uri Dan

A great reporter and friend of Israel has passed away. Longtime readers of the New York Post surely were familiar with the work of Uri Dan. See here for details. As linked in the title, Eric Fettmann eulogizes Dan.
Uri Dan was, quite simply, the greatest journalist I've ever seen - and almost certainly ever will.

Uri's byline was well known on these pages; for a quarter-century, he covered the Middle East - and much of the rest of the world - for The Post. His death early Sunday at 71 ended a close personal friendship of nearly 30 years.

It's not just that, in the course of a journalism career that spanned 55 years, he broke hundreds of exclusive stories. He was an old-fashioned reporter - a whirlwind of energy, a perpetual motion machine who was constantly digging, questioning and probing until he got the story he was after.

He was fearless: He was in West Berlin when the Soviet wall dividing the city was built. He managed to slip across to the communist sector, bribed a Russian soldier to lend him his uniform and paraded around the streets, taking photos, before slipping back to safety.

Uri, it seemed, never slept. He would be up every night till dawn, working the phones and writing his stories and columns in longhand (he never even used a typewriter, let alone a computer). That was one secret of his success. The other was that Uri was genuinely interested in people - famous or not - and what they had to say. Uri was a listener as well as a questioner; people instinctively trusted him and confided in him. He had friends everywhere, in the most far-flung places.

He was a teenage prodigy who first began writing in the early '50s for Haolam Hazeh, a muckraking magazine that was Israel's only outlet at the time for investigative reporting. It was there that he picked up the pen name Uri Dan (his real name was Shlomo Uri - the name was the only thing about Uri that wasn't genuine). When he left to go into the army, the magazine's editor, Uri Avnery, confidently predicted that Uri Dan would become a journalistic legend.

It was in the army that he first met a young officer named Ariel Sharon, and there was an instant bond between them that lasted a lifetime. It was more than a friendship; some likened them to the biblical David and Jonathan, so close was the connection between them.

Uri was at Sharon's side when they jumped together into the Mitla Pass during the 1956 war, and when Sharon crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt in 1973. He was there, as friend and advisor, during the war in Lebanon, during each station of Sharon's career and through every struggle and personal tragedy.

Read the rest.

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