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On Top of Walter’s World

Binyamin Rose

At 91, Walter Bingham is the oldest working field journalist in Israel, but his own life’s story is far more riveting than most things he’s covered. Bullied as a schoolboy in Germany and eyewitness to the local synagogue burning down on Kristallnacht, Walter fled to England on a Kindertransport, rebuilt his life in London, and has never stopped reinventing himself.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

On a good day, I feel like I’m 40. On a bad day I feel like I’m 50,” saysWalterBingham, as he motions me to take a seat opposite him on a leather sofa in the living room of his high-rise central Jerusalem apartment. When I suggest he open the blinds on this radiant, sunny morning,Walter walks me to the picture window to show how his once panoramic view has increasingly become obstructed by new construction aimed at buyers with million-dollar budgets. But whenWalter, 91, says he feels like a million dollars, he means it. “My daughter sometimes tells me I’m arrogant because I think I’m immortal. The only time I feel old is when someone around my age passes away.”Walter’s presence and his effervescence at news conferences for the foreign press in Jerusalem are distinctive. Always arriving early and wearing his trademark navy blue cap, he sits up close to the interview subject. While most reporters record these interviews on ultrathin smartphones or miniature MP3s,Walter still records his on a Marantz digital recorder that at first glance looks like a relic from a bygone era, but is actually a sophisticated piece of equipment. “It plugs right into my computer,”Walter says, as he escorts me into his library that doubles as his studio. This is where he edits and digitally remastersWalter’s World, which airs weekly on Arutz 7’s radio lineup.Walter’s World premiered in 2004 when Arutz 7 asked the then-octogenarian to do a ten-minute radio program centered on his aliyah preparations. The show took on a life of its own onceWalter settled in Israel, and reached a milestone 550th weekly broadcast right before Succos.Walter charms his colleagues and disarms his sources with the same combination of self-confidence and candor. “He’s good, look at that,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy afterWalter pointedly asked him at a Jerusalem news conference to reveal which candidate he favored among this year’s bumper crop of Republican presidential hopefuls.McCarthy naturally declined, but over the years,Walter has tweaked many a politician, including Prime MinisterEhudOlmert over his broken pledge not to compromise in negotiations over Jerusalem, andAfifSafieh, the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s London headquarters. That was an interviewWalter labeled his toughest ever. “He was virulently anti-Israel. At one point, I said to him, ‘It seems to me that you hate Israel.’ He threatened to sue me if I said that again, so I said, ‘Be my guest,’ ”Walter relates, reveling in the repartee decades later. “If I don’t like someone, I try to make them nervous. I try to get them upset and that makes a good interview. If you have somebody who is antagonistic, then you have to rile them and then you’ll see how they lose their cool.”

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