Award-winning journalist, advocate for tolerance dies

Bambi Sheleg, founder of the magazine Eretz Acheret: An Israeli Dialogue, succumbs to long illness at 58

Bambi Sheleg (Facebook)
Bambi Sheleg (Facebook)

Bambi Sheleg, founder and editor-in-chief of the Eretz Acheret magazine, died Monday after a long illness.

Sheleg wrote about conflicts within the Israeli-Jewish world and strove to build bridges of tolerance between its various groups. An Orthodox woman, she reached out to all segments of Judaism and both to the right and left of the Israeli political system.

Born in Chile, Sheleg moved to Israel with her family at the age of 12. She worked as a journalist for many years, and was a regular columnist for the Maariv newspaper. In 2000, in response to the social divides in the country after the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, she founded Eretz Acheret.

According to its website, Eretz Acheret is “an independent magazine motivated by a broad sense of responsibility for the future of Israeli society.” The periodical is also published online in both English and Hebrew.

Sheleg wrote many articles in the journal, including a report about the death of the ideology behind the religious Zionist camp. “Sadness overwhelms me. Sadness for years lost in bitter struggles between sectors of the Israeli population. Sadness over the immense neglect of complete areas of life: education, health, welfare, higher education, housing for all, employment, human and workers’ rights, culture. Sadness over the endless struggle not just between us and the Arabs, but also among ourselves,” she wrote.

Politicians from the right and the left mourned Sheleg’s death.

President Reuven Rivlin tweeted, “Bambi, a woman of spirit and action, worked tirelessly to promote discussion and partnership between diverse groups within Israeli society. Her premature death is a painful loss to us all.”

“Bambi Sheleg reflected the depths and complexities of Judaism and the honest and deep discussion of the need to change the fiery and superficial discourse. One could agree or disagree with her, but everyone within Israeli discourse will miss her,” said MK Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union opposition party.

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog tweeted his condolences. “It is very sad. We will miss her sane, interesting and colorful voice.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) wrote, “Bambi Sheleg, who passed away this morning, was, and will remain, a unique personality in Israeli discourse. Bambi, a broad-minded and pleasant-speaking woman, was much more than a journalist or a publicist. She had a deep influence on the discourse between the different factions and opinions among us… Her moderate, balanced and connected voice, as a religious Zionist woman who continually worked to build bridges to all groups within society, will be greatly missed.”

MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) wrote, “This is a true loss of a intellectual and complex voice, someone who participated in true dialogue with the wider public. Very few people in Israel are prepared to do this today.”

The Women of the Wall, an activist group advocating for egalitarian access to the Western Wall, tweeted their grief. “Women of the Wall mourn Bambi Sheleg, Israeli visionary, feminist & intellectual dead at 58. A great loss.”

Sheleg won the 2011 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage.

She is survived by her husband Yair and their three children. The funeral is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. and will proceed from Sanhedria funeral home to the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem.

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