Teach­ers: The Ones I Can’t Forget

  • Review
By – August 10, 2023

Many read­ers may remem­ber British reporter Mar­tin Fletch­er, who began broad­cast­ing from Israel for NBC in 1982 and who became bureau chief in 1996. His man­ner was always calm and con­fi­dent, assur­ing view­ers that his reports were accu­rate and that the sto­ries he told went beyond the headlines.

Fletch­er report­ed from hot spots around the world for forty years, win­ning five Emmy Awards and oth­er jour­nal­ism cita­tions. Now he has com­piled rec­ol­lec­tions of some of his most mem­o­rable report­ing expe­ri­ences, high­light­ing the peo­ple he met and the ones he can’t for­get. It’s a beau­ti­ful work, filled with hope and opti­mism even when it doc­u­ments tragedy. 

Although Fletch­er report­ed the big issues — the ones that made the news head­lines — it was the small sto­ries that cap­ti­vat­ed him, that left a scratch” on his soul. He has dis­tilled these moments into eleven sto­ries, which are enhanced by com­pos­ite pho­to images tak­en from his news reports.

The old­est sto­ry Fletch­er tells takes place in 1974 Cyprus, where he, two BBC col­leagues, and an Asso­ci­at­ed Press pho­tog­ra­ph­er stepped into a mine­field set up by the Turks to keep the Greeks out of the area. A minor news report became a blood­bath”: one reporter was killed, two were seri­ous­ly injured, and Fletch­er — just plain lucky” — man­aged to escape unscathed. Giv­en that this was ear­ly in Fletcher’s career, one won­ders why he con­tin­ued in a line of work that fre­quent­ly put his life in dan­ger. He offers no direct answer.

In the 1990s, Fletch­er report­ed from Koso­vo, Soma­lia, Rwan­da, and Jerusalem. Most of these sto­ries were trag­ic. But the one from Jerusalem was hope­ful: a blind, autis­tic Arab girl raised by Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies was taught to play piano by an Ortho­dox Israeli. Anoth­er sto­ry fea­tured a group of Israelis and Pales­tini­ans bring­ing Pales­tin­ian chil­dren on their first trip to Israel’s Mediter­ranean Coast to enjoy the beach. It is times such as these that, in Fletcher’s view, build bridges for peace.

Fletch­er, who is Jew­ish, also tells his own family’s sto­ry. His par­ents left Aus­tria for Eng­land before the war, but most of his rel­a­tives died in the Holo­caust. He was raised in a silent house­hold” in which the Holo­caust was nev­er men­tioned. He spec­u­lates that it is his own fam­i­ly his­to­ry, as he grad­u­al­ly came to know it, that led him to defend the weak in sit­u­a­tions of con­flict. He want­ed to tell the world about peo­ple who were beat­en down but rose again and some­how con­tin­ued their lives.

The only short­com­ing of Fletcher’s book is that it is too short. Read­ers may wish there were more sto­ries, with more details. Hope­ful­ly he will offer a fuller account of his life — a life that the jour­nal­ist Tom Brokaw describes as com­pas­sion­ate and curious.”

Gila Wertheimer is Asso­ciate Edi­tor of the Chica­go Jew­ish Star. She is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist who has been review­ing books for 35 years.

Discussion Questions