TEL AVIV — Five Israeli soldiers killed by Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. Two young hikers murdered, presumably by terrorists. Thirty homes destroyed and vast forest areas turned to ashes in Israel's worst fire disaster. Dozens of people lose their lives and many are injured in road accidents.
These were some of Israel's news headlines during the month of July. At least in most Israeli publications.
Not so, however, for Hadashotovot, or GoodNews, a new Israeli monthly paper.
Instead of dwelling on terrorism, protests, the ongoing fighting in Lebanon or political infighting, the Hebrew-language paper, as its name suggests, focuses solely on the happier side of life.
The July issue of GoodNews, for example, chose films for its central theme.
It ran several articles about Israeli filmmakers and films, included glowing reviews, sympathetic in-depth interviews, a portrait of two documentary filmmakers and their works — all uplifting and full of hope.
In addition, GoodNews included features about a promising young writer, a cable television channel's summertime safety campaign and a not-for-profit organization that sends advisers to Third World countries.
Not a single word of malice can be found in the paper's 32 pages.
Dvora Fishman, the paper's editor in chief, recently spoke about the publication during an interview at her spacious, yet slightly rundown office in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Her biggest fear upon launching the publication was the reaction of her colleagues in the journalism business.
"I had a real anxiety of becoming the target of their ridicule and scorn," Fishman recalled, noting that one media expert had predicted that she and her staff would succeed in putting out no more than five issues.
"We're currently working on No. 8," she added proudly.
Fishman said her two other major concerns were the challenge of starting something new and unprecedented, and her desire to prevent GoodNews from becoming an esoteric publication, filled with kitsch and shmaltz and mindless naiveté.
But once GoodNews started to appear, Fishman said, she was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of both media pundits and the public.
Initial skepticism was replaced by curiosity, which in turn was followed by growing interest.
A popular radio broadcaster dedicated an entire show to good news — with GoodNews supplying most of the features.
GoodNews' publisher, Sefi Kiriaty, swiftly graduated from defender of the publication on media-related television and radio programs to hot interviewee on primetime entertainment shows.
Following the publication's lead, the producer of an evening news program on television said he wanted to have one show made up entirely of good news.
With the kind of headlines the Israeli public faces daily, GoodNews' popularity is easy to understand.
But is GoodNews a mere passing curiosity? And can it survive, given the state of the newspaper industry in general? Two major Israeli dailies, Hadashot and Al Hamishmar, recently shut down, and the rising cost of paper threatens many in the publishing world.
Publisher Kiriaty is optimistic.
The 46-year-old architect and owner of a successful construction company is the paper's owner and sole sponsor.
"GoodNews' aim is to make people feel good," said Kiriaty, exuding the confidence that stems from deeply held convictions.
"Other newspapers utilize fear to increase sales, and fear provides excitement. They concentrate on a negative reality, and thus enhance it," Kiriaty said. "We have taken the opposite route."
Displaying his self-described New Age philosophy, he added, "As the absence of love creates fear, I believe that by providing good news and positive stories, and by doing it with love, we show that there is no need for fear."
Fishman, who has an extensive background in education and in journalism, does not subscribe to Kiriaty's New Age convictions, but agrees with his premise.
"GoodNews isn't escapism," she said. "We just depict another commonly neglected facet of reality."
"The content is definitely not esoteric," she said, adding that other media outlets often pick up their stories.
Kiriaty hopes that GoodNews will eventually turn profitable.
He said his target audience includes everyone — Jew and Arab, secular and religious, young and old, right and left, men, women and children.
Some 35,000 to 40,000 copies of the paper are published monthly, at a newsstand price of $1.60, he said.
The paper is produced and printed by the respected Israeli daily Ha'aretz as part of an arrangement that provides for 30,000 copies of GoodNews to be distributed free to Ha'aretz subscribers.
The remaining 10,000 copies go to GoodNews subscribers and selected bookstores.Kiriaty would not divulge how many people actually subscribe to GoodNews, but said the numbers are constantly growing.