Uri Elitzur z"l, the legendary publisher of Makor Rishon and a veteran of the Israeli media, passed away on Thursday. Elitzur, 68, some of whose articles also featured on Arutz Sheva, succumbed after a long battle with cancer. His funeral is set for Thursday afternoon in his hometown of Ofra.
Yechiel Uriahu Elitzur was born in Jerusalem in 1946, son of Tanakh Professor Yehuda Elitzur and iconic author of Hebrew children's books Rivka Elitzur. He studied mathematics at Hebrew University, and studied at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where he became a close disciple of Yeshiva head Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. He fought for the IDF as a paratrooper during the 1967 Six Day War, and later in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, participating in several key battles.
Elitzur, an ardent nationalist, had a remarkable ability to express himself verbally and on paper, and became a leading spokesperson against the 1982 withdrawal from Sinai. Between 1977 and 1987, he was General Secretary of Amana, the housing arm of what would eventually become the Council of Judea and Samaria. He later led the Council itself, and vice-chairman of the National Religious Party.
Elitzur began his media career as a columnist for the long-defunct Hadashot daily newspaper, but left the paper in protest against what he considered its tendency to “yellow journalism.” Between 1998 and 2008, he was a regular weekly columnist for Yediot Achronot, while serving as editor of the monthly Nekuda, which represented the intellectual position of the settlement movement. At the same time, he was a major factor in the formation of Mekor Rishon, advocating the need for a daily newspaper that would reflect the right's point of view in an increasingly leftist Israeli media market.
Elitzur was also close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, helping him in his 1996 campaign, and took a leave of absence from his journalistic activities to work in the Prime Minister's Office, which he headed in 1998-99. He returned to editing Nekuda in 1999, and in 2004 joined Makor Rishon, starting as a deputy editor and eventually becoming chief editor,
As an influential figure, Elitzur was offered the opportunity to take on numerous positions of influence in Israeli society – but turned them all down, citing a desire to remain as private as possible. He was a harsh critic of the Oslo Accords, using a regular commentary on Arutz Sheva Radio to express his misgivings of the deal that created the Palestinian Authority.
In recent years, Elitzur was an advocate of the “One State Solution,” which entails offering Israeli citizenship to Palestinians who wish to accept it, and an annexation of all of Judea and Samaria. Elitzur publicized in numerous studies which showed that the plan would not set off a “demographic time bomb,” turning Israeli into a binational state. Elitzur was convinced that Israel would retain a Jewish majority, and a Jewish character.
The crowning achievement of Elitzur's journalistic career was his receipt of the prestigious Sokolov Prize for Journalism in 2008, in recognition of his life's work. The prize, the award committee said, was presented to Elitzur for his “clear writing and expression, his unique contributions to Israeli society, and his work as an editor.”
The Yisrael Hayom group, which recently purchased Makor Rishon, expressed its sadness over Elitzur's loss, and tributes poured in from all corners of the Israeli political spectrum.