From scrolling to scrolls, Sivan Rahav-Meir melds journalism and Torah

From scrolling to scrolls, Sivan Rahav-Meir melds journalism and Torah

Media personality and author of “#Parasha” discusses her life and livelihood at a Times of Israel Presents event

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Sivan Rahav-Meir (left) and Amanda Borschel-Dan discuss how Rahav-Meir uses social media to disseminate her thoughts and writings about Torah (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Sivan Rahav-Meir (left) and Amanda Borschel-Dan discuss how Rahav-Meir uses social media to disseminate her thoughts and writings about Torah (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Sivan Rahav-Meir is a familiar face and voice to Israeli audiences as a primetime anchor on Hadashot News, a columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth and a host on Army Radio.

But she’s also well known for her Torah lectures and writings, shared on social media and at weekly addresses in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and now compiled in her new English book, “#Parasha: Weekly Insights from a Leading Israeli Journalist.”

“Journalism and Torah, they’re two of the loves of my life,” said Rahav-Meir, speaking with The Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor Amanda Borschel-Dan Sunday night at a Times of Israel Presents event at Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai.

Rahav-Meir, 36, spoke about her emergence as a journalist at age 6, when she learned to read and write and almost immediately began interviewing people (after first trying out poetry, she noted).

“I’ve been interviewing people for 30 years, since I’m six or seven,” she said.

The cover of media personality Sivan Rahav-Meir’s new book, ‘#Parasha (Courtesy Koren Publishers)

By the time she was in her teens, Rahav-Meir had already interviewed Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, was working on television and radio, paving the way for her military service at Army Radio and later in the Knesset, when she was a 21-year-old reporter for Channel 2.

It was while she still in her teens that Rahav-Meir, raised in a secular family in Herzliya that “sometimes did kiddush” on Friday nights, discovered Shabbat, and as a “teen workaholic” thought the 25-hour weekend was a miracle.

“It balanced my life in a way,” she said.

Her transition to a religious lifestyle began when she “discovered” the Torah, and loved its “words,” she said.

“You discovered ‘The Word,'” quipped Borschel-Dan.

Rahav-Meir said that her mother often jokes that she had finished interviewing all the secular people so she moved on to religious people.

A number of years later, a journalist friend inadvertently introduced Rahav-Meir to media personality Yedidya Meir. The two are now married with five children, and live in Jerusalem.

Media personality Sivan Rahav-Meir (left) when she was in her teens, with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (Nachoom Assis/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The news, however, is still one of Rahav-Meir’s passions. Discussing with Borschel-Dan which people and events make the headlines, Rahav-Meir said she believes that many conflicts covered widely in the Israeli news are primarily driven by personal interests and not necessarily because of their innate importance.

She included the current ultra-Orthodox protests over the army draft and the ongoing battles of Women of the Wall among the issues that she believes are driven more for headlines than for actual content.

“If there’s one day without conflict, there’s something wrong,” said Rahav- Meir. “There’s Channel 2” — and their way of seeing things — “and the Shulchan Aruch,” referring to the Code of Jewish Law.

That said, on a more personal level, Rahav-Meir’s own content is driven by Torah study, and she has brought her writings to Facebook and Twitter, where she has more than 150,000 followers.

“Rashi and Rambam were not on Facebook,” she said, referring to medieval Jewish scholars.

She figured out that the best way to access the twenty-something soldier population and teenagers was through WhatsApp, a messaging app that is tremendously popular in Israel.

“For them, news and radio is for grandma; they’re on WhatsApp,” she said.

Amanda Borschel-Dan (left) and Sivan Rahav-Meir spoke about journalism, Judaism and motherhood at the Times of Israel Presents event on Sunday, January 21, 2018 at Beit Avi Chai (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Rahav-Meir now sends out messages twice daily, at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., to 30,000 WhatsApp followers, who then send it on to countless others.

“It’s new methods to promote our values,” she said.

As for Rahav-Meir’s own values, she said she is inspired by her parents, by the Torah scholar Nechama Leibowitz, whose Torah commentary sent her on this path, and by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, even though she’s not “100% Lubavitcher.”

If you want to hear more, she gives weekly classes for some 700 people at Jerusalem’s Heichal Shlomo, and writes on Facebook and Twitter.

Upcoming Times of Israel Presents events include:

Michael Eisenberg and Benny Lau

One of the leading figures in Israel’s high-tech revolution, Michael Eisenberg is a partner at Aleph venture capital fund whose $300 million of investments include WeWork and Freightos. At Benchmark Capital, Eisenberg’s portfolio included Wix and Seeking Alpha. He also pens a popular blog that gives an insider’s view of Israel’s startup nation.
Eisenberg will discuss his book “The Vanishing Jew: A Wake-Up Call from the Book of Esther” and talk about startups, risk and the message of Purim with Rabbi Benny Lau.

8:00 p.m., Sunday, February 18
Beit Avi Chai, King George 44, Jerusalem
Tickets NIS 40 HERE

Azriel Bermant & Elliot Jager

Author Elliot Jager (Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917. Soon after, Britain backtracked on its commitment to foster a national home for the Jewish people. Even under Margaret Thatcher, an avowed friend of Israel, British ambivalence continued. Why?
Book launch and discussion with Azriel Bermant, author of “Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East,” and Elliot Jager, author of “The Balfour Declaration: Sixty-Seven Words – 100 Years of Conflict.”

7:30 p.m., Tuesday February 27
Mishkenot Sha’ananim
Tickets NIS 40 HERE

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