Jews burned books. Interested? Tough.

burntbooks3 The Associated Press wrote an interesting man-bites-dog story about religious conflict in Israel. According to the wire service, Orthodox Jews burned hundreds of copies of the New Testament:

Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon said missionaries recently entered a neighborhood in the predominantly religious town of 34,000 in central Israel, distributing hundreds of New Testaments and missionary material.

After receiving complaints, Aharon said, he got into a loudspeaker car last Thursday and drove through the neighborhood, urging people to turn over the material to Jewish religious students who went door to door to collect it.

"The books were dumped into a pile and set afire in a lot near a synagogue," he said.

I am no expert about Middle East politics; in fact, I am little more than an amateur on the subject. So should I be surprised that Orthodox Jews in Israel burn books?

Well, I was. The story struck me as counter-intuitive, to say the least. If the Jews are anything, they are a people of the Book. Their identity is bound up with the Talmud, scholarly learning, and the Old Testament. So for Orthodox Jews to burn books -- well, the only equivalent I can think of is Catholics burning crucifixes.

Yet the story is burdened with a cardinal journalistic sin: the story fails to answer the five W's.

The reporter does not identify the missionaries who distributed the books; explain whether book burning is illegal in Israel or the local jurisdiction; or mention that the New Testament seeks to convert all non-Christians, not just Jews.

Come on. Don't tease readers like this. If you got a good story, and this reporter had a fine story, please do the journalistic fundamentals.

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