Journalist Sivan Rahav-Meir, 37, is one of the most influential and easily identifiable people in the Israeli media and on social media. A popular TV and radio presenter as well as a columnist for Yediot Aharonot, her image stands out as one of the few Orthodox Jewish women in the mainstream media.
Rahav-Meir, the mother of five, is now probably more easily recognized than her journalist husband, Yedidya Meir, with whom she co-hosts a show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio) on Friday afternoons. In a divided society, her wisdom and style have enabled her to gain a huge following among both religious and secular in Israel and a growing base of fans in the Diaspora.
Rahav-Meir’s best-selling book Hastatus Hayehudi was recently translated into English as #Parasha: Weekly Insights From a Leading Israeli Journalist (Menorah). It grew from her popular free weekly Torah study sessions in Jerusalem (and previously in Tel Aviv), which are followed live via Facebook by tens of thousands of people worldwide. Her daily insights into the Torah portion shared via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter also reach tens of thousands of people every day.
Rahav-Meir was born and brought up in a secular home and started her career in journalism at a young age, writing for youth newspapers and magazines and hosting youth programs on Educational Television. At 17, she published her first book: A Guide for the Young Journalist. Participating in a special program for gifted students, she attained a BA by the age of 18.
She became religious as a teenager and did her military service at Army Radio.
After her army service, as a reporter on Channel 2 News, Rahav-Meir covered the Supreme Court, the Knesset and religious affairs, among other fields. Although she has not given up her interest in politics and current affairs, much of her time is devoted to connecting it to the weekly Torah portion, reinforcing the relevance of Torah in today’s world and bringing it to an audience that might otherwise not be exposed to this sort of Jewish learning.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov last year, Rahav-Meir said, “In the news, we start out by saying ‘Good evening,’ and then we spend an hour telling you what’s bad....
“That’s not the right way to look at reality. It’s bad and good. I think people are looking for balance, because our media is not balanced.... Reality is complex.
“People love Judaism. The media treat Judaism like a problem, and I think it’s a solution... people love their traditions. They want to see a balanced picture.”
Rahav-Meir is a popular speaker who has addressed communities in North America and Europe.
“I think we have a lot to learn from the communities abroad,” she told Harkov. “As Israelis, we think we know everything, but I saw great things. I think we can learn how to build a community and have a shul not just be a place to pray, but so many other things, an empire of activities.” However, she also expressed concern at the high rate of assimilation and non-affiliation among young Jews in the Diaspora.
She is helping fight this on a daily basis, sending the word out from Jerusalem one Torah insight, Tweet, Facebook post and WhatsApp message at a time. Rahav-Meir has grown from being an influential journalist to become one of the most important thinkers in the world of social media.