HaTzofeh, Israel’s 3rd-oldest newspaper and the long-time mouthpiece of the religious Mizrachi movement, is closing down. Its Dec. 26th issue will be its last.

Of the paper’s remaining 15 employees, 12 have been laid off outright, including the editor and senior correspondents, and three others have been transferred to Makor Rishon, another newspaper owned by the same management.

A newly-unemployed long-time correspondent on military and Judea/Samaria affairs told IsraelNationalNews, “My chances of finding another job in media, especially at my age, are not good.  Maariv just fired 100 workers, and newspapers in general are not doing very well.”

In 2005, the paper added an orange ribbon to its front-page logo, in support of the “orange” anti-expulsion camp.

HaTzofeh owner Hirsh Media Ltd., established by Ronald Lauder and Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, was termed less than a year ago a “rapidly developing Israeli media conglomerate.”  It still owns Makor Rishon and the Nekudah monthly Judea and Samaria magazine, but its Techelet TV station on Judaism, bi-weekly BusinessWeek Israel magazine, daily freebie Yisraeli newspaper, and now HaTzofeh have all been forced to close for financial reasons.

In a recent letter to the employees, Ben-Tzvi wrote, “The company’s situation demands that we undergo an immediate recovery program in order to help us meet the world credit crisis and the recession that is expected to hit sharply the advertising world in general and the print-newspaper advertising market in particular.”

HaTzofeh was founded in 1937 as the daily mouthpiece of the religious Mizrachi movement. Though its circulation was not high, its influence within religious-Zionist circles was significant. In 2003, Lauder and Ben-Tzvi bought an 80% controlling share, and in 2007, they merged it as a weekly with the Makor Rishon daily.

"Racist Agreement" Headlined

Several months before the Disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Shomron, the paper added an orange ribbon to its front-page logo, in support of the “orange” anti-expulsion camp.  The headline on the day the expulsion ended read, "Racist Transfer Agreement is Completed".

Famous scoops of HaTzofeh include the revelation of Ehud Barak’s campaign funding scandal, and led the public campaign to have Shabak agent-provocateur Avishai Raviv put on trial for his role in inciting right-wing unrest and encouraging Yigal Amir prior to Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination.

The country’s remaining religious papers are Hamodia, started in 1950; Yated Ne’eman (1985), and the weekly B’Sheva (2002).

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