Gershon Ber Jacobson was a well-known journalist; according to some he was the journalist's journalist. He wrote for several major newspapers around the world, was fluent in many languages including French, English, Yiddish, Russian, Georgian and Hebrew, had a fluent, often stirring style, an eye for often uncomfortable detail and an unquenchable drive for often life-threatening scoops.
But in addition to all this, or perhaps we should say foremost, he was a totally observant Jew and a devoted Chassid (follower) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Rabbi Menachem.
And it saved his life at least once.
The scene was immediately after the Six-Day war. Israel had just defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and other Arab nations surrounding them and being that he at the time was the chief correspondent in New York for the biggest daily newspaper in Israel 'Yediot Achronot' the idea popped into his mind that the scoop of scoops would be to get into Egypt and get an interview with none other than the Prime Minister himself; Abdul Nasser!
He began to go about getting the necessary papers when he got a phone call from another important personage; 'Isar HarAil' the head of the Israeli Secret Service the 'Mosad'.
"Jacobson, are you planning on going to Egypt? Are you insane!?" he screamed, "Listen, we have information that if you go you'll never come back. Why, they'll arrest you as a spy and you'll never get out of jail! And we won't be in a position to help you! Do you understand? Don't go! And if you do go we accept no responsibility!"
Jacobson thanked HarAil, hung up the phone and called the headquarters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It wasn't long before he got a reply.
The Rebbe said he definitely should go but he should do the following things:
- Take several pairs of new Tefillin
- Take on new 'sh'chita' knife for slaughtering birds
- check into the best room in the most expensive hotel
- before leaving Israel write short letters to all your friends and important acquaintances telling them you are in Egypt and mail them as soon as you arrive there
- as soon as you enter the hotel call all the foreign ambassadors living in Egypt
- at the first opportunity visit the Jewish community there.
Gershon Ber remembered exactly what the Rebbe told him and in a week or two when he landed in Cairo he was ready. He told the driver to take him to the finest hotel and on the way he stopped at the post office bought stamps and mailed the letters he had written.
Then he checked in to his room and immediately set about calling all the foreign representatives in Egypt as the Rebbe said.
And the response was fantastic! In fact, one of the ambassadors was so impressed (he claimed that in the fifteen years he was in Egypt no one had ever called him) he insisted on coming to see him and when he arrived insisted on being Jacobson's personal driver!
"Very well!" Jacobson answered. "Then let's go visit the Jewish community here." With the ambassador (I heard it was from Canada) as his driver they pulled up at the home of the head of the Jewish community. Jacobson brought greetings from the Rebbe and began asking journalist questions; how was life in Egypt; was there anti-Semitism, was anything affected by the Six Day War? etc. etc.