Life & Culture

'We have a love-hate relationship with Europe': What it's really like reporting for Israeli TV in the UK

Elad Simchayoff, European Correspondent for Channel 12 in Israel talks about relocating to London, antisemitism and hosting the #1 ranked Israeli podcast


Anyone who watches Israel’s popular Channel 12 news will recognise Elad Simchayoff. He reported on Europe and the UK through terror attacks, Brexit, multiple elections, and the death of The Queen. Through snow and 40C heatwaves, Simchayoff is there to bring the latest to Israeli viewers watching the primetime 8 o’clock broadcast.

“I tried to run away from news making like it was fire,” Simchayoff recalls the start of his career as an IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal) soldier in the documentary department. On the day of his release from mandatory service, and on the first day of the Second Lebanon War, he began working at Channel 12. Simchayoff started off by writing the numbers and captions for assistance at the bottom of the screen during wartime.

“Then it was 2013, I was at a crossroad professionally,” Simchayoff describes the early beginning of the relocation that would change his life. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, and my boss said what about moving to London?”

Even though Simchayoff was already on a path to his goal of becoming a presenter, he agreed to the post. “I moved with my wife. At first, we said okay, if we can make it a year that would be an amazing achievement on our hand, because we didn’t think we will make it a month even. And that was nine years ago.” The couple uprooted their lives and careers in Israel, moved to London and began a new chapter.

Since then, Simchayoff has covered the European continent as a solo reporter, bringing news that relate to Israeli audiences from the UK and beyond.

He collaborates with the Channel 12 Foreign Desk to “bridge the gaps”, otherwise he is the cameraman, producer, and journalist overseas. “Because I’m covering the whole of Europe, you have to keep finding your niche and the stories that are very European, but the Israeli viewers can relate to.

"And it’s not easy because Israel has some sort of a barrier when it comes to Europe, it’s like a love-hate relationship. And a lot of things that I think that if they would happen in the United States, the Israeli viewers would be more inclined to hear about, but when they are happening in Europe there’s some sort of a barrier there.

"So, it’s challenging. You need to negotiate the current affairs in Europe to viewers that are not necessarily open to hearing them, are not necessarily very interested in hearing them as they are, and have like a judgmental point of view,” he explains of the main difference between working in Israel and working in the UK as a European Correspondent.

Throughout his career, Simchayoff interviewed experts, celebrities, and fascinating individuals whilst conducting thought-provoking discussions.

In 2015, what was supposed to be Simchayoff’s report on the Charlie Hebdo attack in France became two, horrific stories to cover.

Whilst in Paris reporting on the Parisian Jewish community's reaction to the event, he found himself in the midst of another attack.

“All of a sudden, we saw people starting to run and scream. I started to run towards the place where people were running from. Literally before the police, before everyone. In hindsight I know that I was there maybe five minutes after the attacker went inside. I was there the whole day. Covering it from just outside the Supermarket.”

During the attack, a man named Rudy hid in the basement level of the Hypercacher. Simchayoff mentions being connected to him through the people he met in the Jewish community in Paris. “We had a talk, he was completely shocked, but he was very happy to cooperate, and we did an interview of him telling us exactly what happened.” Simchayoff also adds that at the time he had a feeling he was the only one who spoke to somebody who was there. “Eventually we find out, after it was aired, that indeed, it was a world exclusive,” he confirms. “It was broadcast all over the world and I remember that back then, it helped me get to a conclusion, because there’s constantly people who are asking me, why do we need a correspondent in Europe? Nowadays with technology you can report on anything that is happening everywhere in the world while you’re sitting in the studio in Israel."

Life as a reporter on the ground can expose you to various uncomfortable situations. But as an Israeli Jewish journalist reporting for the Israeli news, there are quite a few environments that can affect even the toughest of reporters.

Though Simchayoff puts his “journalistic barrier” to separate himself from what he is reporting on, there are still times when that is more difficult. “The only thing that still gets me is just having to see blunt antisemitism, especially when it’s addressed towards children.

"Every time I cover the big demonstrations against Israel, I always have this feeling in my stomach, this knot in my stomach. These are the only events that I actually go home and bring them with me, and it takes me a few days to get over them and relax and kind of shake them off."

Two years ago, when Israeli podcasting was just beginning, “Ehad Beyom” (“One a Day” in English) premiered with its first episode. The Channel 12 podcast, hosted by Simchayoff, covers and explores varying topics, five times a week in 20+ minute episodes.

What started off as an experiment according to Simchayoff, became the number-one ranked Israeli podcast.

“My managers from Keshet and the news company, especially Avi Nir who was the CEO of Keshet, really wanted to try and get into the podcast scene. Because he himself is an avid podcast listener. And they said let’s try and do something a little different, a daily news podcast, tackling news a bit differently. I was approached pretty early on when the idea just came about,” Simchayoff says.

Episodes range from topics such as “How does music affect our brain” to “Netanyahu’s Conflict of Interest”.

In a fast-paced media cycle when television channels and news sources don’t have the time to dive deep into the nitty gritty (in the interest of time), podcasts like Ehad Beyom fill you in with interviews and thorough explanations.

“I once gave the analogy of a train. I mean you know the station that you are at now, but you’re not exactly sure where the journey began and the different stations that it went through before.” Simchayoff continues, “that’s how I felt as a consumer. And we thought okay, so let’s take the opportunity and do something different. Let’s try and begin the journey from the start.”

This January, Ehad Beyom broke their all-time record of listeners, and now, the podcast team has grown to three producers full time, a sound editor, editor and will continue to expand in the future.

“As time passes and people talk about it, people break this barrier of okay, I don’t know what a podcast is, now I know what it is, now I know how to operate it, oh, it’s nice. And we can hear from even rivals and colleagues of other podcasts that say there is the Ehad Beyom effect, that the listenership has grown for everyone.”

Between hosting the popular podcast and working as Channel 12’s European Correspondent, Simchayoff is constantly busy. The Ehad Beyom team works every morning until 1 or 2AM, on average. “Think of the most hectic thing you can imagine and double it. That’s basically our daily routine in Ehad Beyom,” he says.

Sometimes interviewees for the podcast are Channel 12 correspondents and other times Simchayoff speaks to experts from the field of study or work or people who are familiar with the subject from experience. “We do the research, we do the interviews, and then the hardest part is the ‘post’. Where you have to sit, digest everything and think okay how do I want to tell this story? And again, it really depends, because sometimes we found ourselves dealing with the most controversial issues that are happening in Israel and you say okay, this is a very complex story that we want to tell. How do we do that and really bring the full picture of the whole story?"

When he is not reporting on European current events or recording an episode of Ehad Beyom, Simchayoff travels and explores the UK with his family (but still misses Israeli beaches).

“It’s so challenging that now looking at sitting in the studio, and again it has its challenges and it’s a very prestigious role, it just seems different. And I don’t know whether I’ll be able to come back to that. So, my perspective has changed and actually, that’s one of the biggest dilemmas that I have.

"One of the reasons why I’m still here is because I honestly don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m 38, time passes but this experience has really changed my life. So, you’re asking me what’s next, I honestly have no idea. Meanwhile I’m here and I’m having a good time.”

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