Zvi Dor-Ner, a 1977 Nieman Fellow and a longtime WGBH executive producer, died in Brookline, Massachusetts from pancreatic cancer on April 6. He was 75.
Dor-Ner spent three decades at WGBH, Boston’s PBS affiliate, where he produced several award-winning series and historical documentaries. He worked on more than a dozen films for “Nova,” “Frontline,” and “American Experience.”
It was in 1976 that I met fellow Nieman Fellows Zvi Dor-Ner of Jerusalem Televisión and Jamil Mroue of an Arabic daily newspaper in Beruit.
In discussions at Lippmann House, I supported Jamil’s pro-Palestinian theses on conflict in the Middle East. Naturally, Zvi, pro-Israeli, dissented. Thus began a unique weekly debate trio. Jim Thomson, the then-curator of the Nieman Foundation, sent the three of us to make public presentations, in venues such as the Boston World Council, about the conflicts in the Middle East and our three cultures. Thus was born our triple alliance, of Jews, Moors (Arabs), and Christians: a friendship that has grown and survived up to the last breath of our dear friend Zvi.
It was impossible to know Zvi and not love him. His resounding belly laughs accompanied even his most serious and profound arguments. I soon supported Zvi’s thesis about the need for the new pre-democratic Spain to officially recognize the State of Israel if Spain were to play a role in favor of peace in the region.
Ten years after meeting Zvi, in January 1986, Spain and Israel at last established diplomatic relations, which I had dreamed about with Zvi and Jamil in the bars of Cambridge. I got his help to broadcast the news on “Buenos Días,” the Spanish TV news program that I founded, produced, and anchored.
With Zvi’s help, the Jerusalem TV studio opened at 5 a.m. their time to connect via live satellite. I opened my program saying “Shalom Israel…” and, in response, a clear, strong voice was heard in Spanish homes watching the morning’s first news show: “Buenos días, Sepharad.”
After 500 years of intolerance, Spaniards at last invited the Sephardics—Spaniards long in exile— to come home. Thank you, my friend Zvi. Rest in peace.