More than just a newspaper | German-Jewish cultural heritage in Israel | DW | 29.11.2012
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More than just a newspaper

The world's only Hebrew-German newspaper is printed in Tel Aviv. The editor-in-chief is a proud Israeli. In his youth, he didn't want to know anything about Germany. But then he discovered his own family history.

"We didn't want to hear any stories about Germany back then. We wanted to be proud Israelis; we wanted to demonstrate our significance," Micha Limor says.

By "we" he means the children of the "Jeckes," German-Jewish émigrés who fled National Socialist Germany to Israel. Today, the majority of those children have reached retirement age.

Just like Micha Limor, who was born in 1938. After a top career as a TV journalist, Limor could have enjoyed a much more relaxing retirement.

But Limor, who as young man didn't want to hear anything about Germany, opted to start a second career. Since 2004, he's been the editor-in-chief of the world's only Hebrew-German newspaper.

Under the title Mitteilungsblatt ("Newsletter"), the first edition was printed over 80 years ago. It was produced to help new immigrants who had fled the Third Reich to Palestine to orientate themselves.

One of the early editions of MB Yakinton

One of the early editions of MB Yakinton

The paper included tips for the new start, shipping route information and advertisements from businesses, those "formerly in Berlin" now suddenly based in Tel Aviv. There were also movie-theater billings, for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," for example.

It was an intriguing, if not shocking mix. But the newspaper quickly became an intellectual organ with high-ranking authors like Arnold Zweig, Max Brod and Schalom Ben-Chorin.

Pulled from the niche

The daily editorial conference at the MB Yakinton offices in Tel Aviv

The daily editorial conference at MB Yakinton's offices in Tel Aviv

Over the decades, the readers of the first generation passed away. The newspaper became virtually meaningless and teetered on the brink of closure.

Even Micha Limor, a journalist and Jecke, only found out about the existence of Mitteilungsblatt when his mother moved into a retirement home where copies of the newspaper were strewn across the floor.

"There were about 10 pages, eight in German, two in Ivrit [Modern Hebrew], no pictures, they had to save money," he recalls. "Really closely printed, a high academic level. I just thought, the people who read that are the ones who wrote it and maybe 10 more people. And that was it."

Micha Limor pulled the newspaper out from its émigré niche with an important shift in focus. "I wanted it to have a Hebrew name, that it be an Israeli magazine, not German. And that it would be mainly written in Ivrit, without losing the German section."

The first two initials of the new title, MB Yakinton, are a nod to the old title, Meinungsblatt. "Yakinton" is the Hebrew word for hyacinth. Limor explains that the start of the word is reminiscent of "Jeckes," whereas "iton" means newspaper in Hebrew.

A selection of recent editions of MB Yakinton

Today MB Yakinton is a bilingual magazine for culture, society and politics

'I never interviewed my father'

Today, the newspaper is a bilingual magazine for culture, society and politics with 4,500 subscribers, 500 of which, mostly academic institutions, are based in Germany. The authors - professors, journalists, writers - work on a voluntary basis.

The issues they cover don't just cater to Jeckes: Social injustice in Israel and the related protests are given as much coverage as Günter Grass and his controversial poem on Israel. There are also critical pieces on Israeli settlement politics. Journalistic independence and a diversity of opinion are inviolable principles for Limor.

It is a very personal story that brought Micha Limor to the Herbrew-German project.

"I was a journalist for 45 years and I interviewed nearly everyone, from presidents to ordinary people. But I never interviewed my father or my mother. I never asked them how it felt to be an immigrant in this country. I was never interested in what happened in Germany," he explains.

When his father died, Limor found a copy of the German news magazine Der Spiegel on his bed. The connection with the country that forced him into exile and the one he never returned to was deep - despite the Holocaust.

Language of the perpetrators

Micha Limor

Micha Limor is the son of German-Jewish émigrés who fled Nazi Germany

But Limor himself first became close to Germany when he worked for Bayerisches Fernsehen in Munich. He went on trips to trace his father's past and even met a few of his old friends.

"A German, a Christian. The man looked at me and said, 'Adolf, what are you doing here?' Adolf was my father's name. That's the first time that I felt that it was a part of me," recalled Limor.

It wasn't easy to take in - as an Israeli, as the son of a German Jew who was forced to leave his country. And for exiled émigrés in Israel to then cling to being German.

The question of identity never left him. "I'm an Israeli, I was born here. And yet I have such roots," he says. "That is my history, but it belongs to almost a quarter of a million people, who had similar experiences."

The memory of childhood is at the center: "Only we had this childhood. The language is obviously the most important parameter in a culture. So, we have something of German culture in the blood."

'I feel good in Germany'

Past editions of MB Yakinton stored in the archives

Historical editions of MB Yakinton are cultural treasures of a by-gone era

So the Hebrew-German newspaper was a personal passion for Limor that also touched his relationship with Germany. He is compelled to talk about it.

"More Jeckes of the second generation like me have traveled to Germany," he says. "The author Ruvik Rosenthal wrote afterwards, 'Sorry, I have something to say: I feel good in Germany.' I said to him, You know what, me too!"

That was hardly imaginable in the 1950s and 70s. "Back then, if you met a German who was 60 years old, you didn't know if he was a perpetrator, a Nazi. Today, new relationships between the later second and third generations and younger Germans have developed. Today they are part of the cultural experience of this society."

For Micha Limor, friendships, business, and academic cooperations belong to that. "We are researching Germany, not only the Holocaust, but also German society of today," he says. "It is no longer the country of our German parents."

And the MB Yakinton is no longer a newspaper for German émigrés. How much longer will Limor continue as editor in chief? He used to think he'd only be there for five years, but that was eight years ago now.

Those who hear his story get the feeling that MB Yakinton and Micha Limor will be connected for some length of time. "Today everyone in Israel knows the newspaper," says Limor. "It has grown and we're really proud of it."

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