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Israeli Media: Ha-Modi'a



HA-MODI'A (Heb. הַמּוֹדִיע), daily newspaper published in Jerusalem by the *Agudat Israel Party. Established in 1949 by Yitzhak Meir Levin, son-in-law of the Gur Rebbe, and edited by his son Yehudah Leib Levin, Ha-Modi'a ("The Herald") represented three streams in the *ḥaredi world. In addition to the Gur Rebbe's own ḥasidic or "central" stream, there was the so-called "young" Agudat Yisrael identified with the Lithuanian (or "Litvak") stream, and the Shomrei Emunim (Guardians of the Faith) or Jerusalem stream.

When Yehudah Leib Levin died in 1981 he was replaced by a troika of three editors, Ḥayyim Knopf, Moshe Akiva Druck, and Yisroel Spiegel, representing the ḥasidic, ShomreiEmunim, and Lithuanian streams, respectively. In practice, while Knopf formally had the title of editor he handled the newspaper's business side, the editing being done by Druck and Spiegel on a rotation basis.

During the Levin period, the newspaper included four pages daily and six–eight pages on Sabbath and holiday eves. Content comprised mostly political news, including the full texts of speeches by its Knesset representatives, as well as news about the ḥaredi community. Supplements occasionally appeared such as to mark the death of a famous sage. Under the "troika," news coverage expanded to include national, financial, and foreign news.

The Lithuanian stream withdrew to form its own paper, *Yated Ne'eman, in 1985 after Rabbi Eliezer *Shach resigned from the Council of Torah Sages over the question of the construction of a hotel in Tiberias on the site of Jewish graves. Shach was affronted by the newspaper's preference in 1982 for the Gur Rebbe's lenient ruling in the face of Shach's more stringent one in the matter. Ha-Modi'a subsequenlty became identified publicly with the ḥasidic stream of ḥaredim.

On Druck's death in 1992, he was replaced by Itzhak Tennenbaum. By 2000, Yisroel Schneider (of the ḥasidic or "central" stream) had become Knopf's right-hand man as acting editor. News coverage was expanded with special correspondents covering politics in addition to the Knesset, the military, economics, Jerusalem, and Bene Berak. A weekly economics supplement was introduced.

In addition to party journalism, Ha-Modi'a acts as an educational instrument in both an active and passive or filtering sense. The newspaper is controlled by a spiritual committee, whose censors examine the contents – editorial and advertisements – of each issue prior to publication. Sex-related matters and pictures of women are not printed in order to comply with ḥaredi strictures about modesty (ẓeniyyut). The names of women journalists on the newspaper are abbreviated. Crime is barely covered, entertainment and sport not at all. In aspiring to build the model Jewish society, the ḥaredi newspaper is also a channel for conditioning readers in the historical haredi view of Zionism as premature vis-à-vis the arrival of the Messiah, and for attacking state institutions like the Knesset and the Supreme Court for making decisions regarded as running counter to Torah values.

In the face of competition from a commercial ḥaredi press in the 1980s and 1990s the newspaper expanded. On Sabbath eve the newspaper has two supplements: one for general news features and a religious section containing articles by rabbis on the week's Bible reading, halakhic issues, and Jewish history. The separate religious section allows the ḥaredi Jew to avoid reading about non-religious matters on the Sabbath. Also added was a 16-page children's supplement. Ha-Modi'a's layout was conservative, with small print and headlines, though it added color.

In 2005, 25% of ḥaredim saw Ha-Modi'a daily and 26% on weekends. A 1995 survey found that 65% of Ha-Modi'a readers were ḥasidim, 31% were "uncommitted" ḥaredim (only 9% of Lithuanian ḥaredim saw the paper). Its influence was particularly wide given the fact that ḥaredim are not exposed to television or to secular newspapers. Economically,Ha-Modi'a was strapped financially, but the demographic trend toward large families in the ḥaredi community suggested that the newspaper's long-term chances for success were good.

Ha-Modi'a introduced three English-language daily and weekly editions, in Israel, the U.S., and Britain. The estimated circulation of the U.S. edition was 40,000. In accordance with the ḥaredi rabbinical ban on Internet, the newspaper does not maintain a website.


M. Micholson, "Haredi Newspapers in Israel," in: Kesher, 8 (1990); Y. Cohen, "Mass Media in the Jewish Tradition," in: D. Stout and J Buddenbaum, Religion and Popular Culture (2001); idem, "Religion News in Israel," in: Journal of Media and Religion, 3 (2005); Israel Advertisers Association, Seker Ḥasifah le-Emẓa'ei Tikshoret: Ḥaredim(1995).

[Yoel Cohen (2nd ed.)]



Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.