Marty Fine, who died Thursday at 86, played a positive role in many of our lives — not just those who lived in Miami and not just with movers, shakers and big shots. He was equally comfortable with ordinary folk.
I saw this firsthand in Israel in 1998 when I produced a documentary about Israel’s 50th anniversary, featuring a large group from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. They traveled to the Holy Land to celebrate the birth of the Jewish state. Among them were Marty and and his wife, Pat, two of the most friendly, accommodating people I have known. The film was proceeding as planned, except for one crucial element: I couldn’t convince any of the Miamians to visit the colorful and ancient Palestinian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. Some were afraid. Others wanted nothing to do with “those terrorists.”
Having been a journalist covering stories in Israel for many years, I failed to convince them that they had little to fear. Marty was disgusted. “That’s just stupid,” he told me. “That’s part of Israel’s heritage, too. I’ve got many Palestinian friends here. Pat and I are visiting them this afternoon. Want to join us?”
As we traversed the cobblestoned passageways filled with merchants hawking their wares, Marty and Pat were greeted by their Palestinian friends who burst out of their shops when they spotted them.
There were hugs, kisses and the ultimate compliment — an invitation to sit down for tea. This seemed to happen every few feet as Marty, Pat and their old friends laughed, joked and optimistically, but realistically, spoke of their hopes for peace between Arab and Jew.
“This is the result of modern, global politics,” Marty told me. “For generations people in this old quarter were at peace and cooperated with each other. We’ve come a long way from that. It must change, on both sides.”
Shalom and Salaam, my old friend.
Ike Seamans, Miami