NBC’s Martin Fletcher walks, talks Israel

Interview with Martin Fletcher, October 2010

By Masada Siegel, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

Martin Fletcher

Martin Fletcher, NBC’s Tel Aviv Bureau chief since 1990, observes that the majority of books about Israel focus on the conflict.

“I was also a victim of looking at Israel through the conflict,” he says, “because that is what one does as a network correspondent. Mostly it is about the conflict.”

In Fletcher’s new book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, he writes about his journey walking the 100-mile coast of Israel from Lebanon to Gaza. On the walk, he discovers hidden treasures in both people and places.

Fletcher will discuss Walking Israel on Oct. 28 as part of the DJCC’s Cultural Arts and Book Festival. The program is co-sponsored by the Washington-
Centerville Public Library.

The recipient of five Emmys, Fletcher says his book shows the unspoken Israel; a mosaic of people, places and personalities through his eyes.

He shows the people of Israel, Arabs and Jews, and gives them a face, a voice, and shares their stories in a human way.

“I wanted to write books and being in Israel so long, I had to write about Israel,” he says during a Skype interview while on assignment in London. “It’s not about the wars with Arabs, but about the Israel people don’t know so well. Israel has been good to me. I love the place, and I wanted to do a book that reflected that.”

A native of London, Fletcher joined NBC News as a cameraman in 1977 and was assigned to its Tel Aviv Bureau in 1982.

Two years ago, he wrote his first book, his memoir, Breaking News: A Stunning and Memorable Account of Reporting from Some of the Most Dangerous Places in the World.

In addition to reporting on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Fletcher has also covered the war in Bosnia, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Iranian Revolution and American hostage taking, and the Yom Kippur War.

Fletcher, who has reported about daily disasters, ranging from terrorist activities to wars, had a different experience when he discussed Israel from his vantage point.

“Writing the book was different than my career as a television correspondent,” he says.

“Walking Israel was very personal, and it’s more interesting that way; to write a good book you have to give a lot of yourself. I have been in Israel 28 years, but through writing the book I saw things from a different perspective. I learned a lot during the walk down the coast. It was new for me too, not completely, as my wife and children are Israeli, but I looked at Israel through their perspective, rather then through my American editor’s eyes.”

One of the stories Fletcher relates is about Smadar Haran, a woman who survived a 1979 terrorist attack in her apartment building which left her husband and 4-year-old daughter dead.

During the attack, she hid in a crawl space above a door in her apartment building and to keep her 2-year-old daughter from making a sound, unwittingly smothered her to death.

It was a tragedy of epic proportions. The entire country of Israel mourned.

Fletcher surprises readers with Haran’s view on life today. It is one of many chapters which evoke tears and thought.

“Truth is,” Fletcher says, “I am affected by what I see, sometimes to the point I feel tears coming, but I am a bloke. I suppress it. I shrug it off and keep going.”

NBC News Tel Aviv Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher will discuss Walking Israel on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Boonshoft CJCE, 525 Versailles Dr., Centerville. The program is co-sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library. Admission is $5 in advance, $8 at the door. Call 853-0372 or go to www.daytonjewishcommunitycenter.org.

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