THE THINGS ingrained in childhood are frequently the things that stay with
Because he was raised in a religiously observant home, radio, screen
and stage personality Yehoram Gaon often quotes from the weekly Torah portion in
his Friday current affairs program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, and also ushers
in Shabbat with appropriate songs sung by studio guests.
Because it was
just before Tisha Be’Av, the essential lesson of which is the avoidance of
baseless hatred (sinat hinam), Gaon told the story of two sworn enemies who
became friends – the country’s founding prime minister David Ben- Gurion and
Yehoshua Cohen, a leading member of the Stern Group who is believed to have
assassinated UN envoy Folke Bernadotte in September 1948.
became one of the founders of Sde Boker in the Negev, where Ben-Gurion went to
live after leaving the government. Despite their political differences, the two
became close friends, and Cohen served as Ben- Gurion’s unofficial bodyguard.
Among the many honors that Ben-Gurion continued to receive from various
institutions was a pictorial anthology of his life. Naturally he gave an
inscribed copy to Cohen, who on thumbing through it found a photograph of the
Altalena, the Irgun ship that was carrying weapons, fighters and Holocaust
survivors to the nascent state, and which Ben-Gurion ordered fired upon. The
incident remained an open wound in relations between the Right and
“You can’t expect me to accept a book that contains this
photograph,” said Cohen. Ben-Gurion instructed the publishers to publish a
second edition and to omit the photograph of the Altalena. He then presented the
second edition to Cohen, who happily accepted it.
■ YAD VASHEM last
Thursday commemorated the 69th anniversary of the deportation of Janusz Korczak
from Warsaw to Treblinka. The Polish-Jewish educator, whose real name was Henry
Goldszmit, ran an enlightened orphanage and had a chance to save himself from
the Nazis, but refused to abandon the children in his care – most of whom were
murdered together with him. One of the survivors of the orphanage, and one of
the last people alive who actually knew Korczak, is artist Yitzhak Belfer, 88,
who shared some of his memories and laid a wreath in Yad Vashem’s Janusz Korczak
Belfer was seven years old when he came to the orphanage, where
he spent what he described as “the eight most important years of my life.”
Korczak gave his children a great deal of love and made life in the orphanage
fun. He also created learning incentives by rewarding the youngsters with gifts
for good answers or good grades.
■ Readers of the syndicated column
written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in The Jerusalem Post know he doesn’t pull any
punches. Boteach, who is in Israel with a Birthright group, addressed members of
Jerusalem’s Hazvi Yisrael congregation on Saturday evening and proved to be an
even more riveting speaker than he is a writer. Because it was still Shabbat, he
could not use a microphone, but his voice rang out clearly throughout the
The main theme of his address was that in Jewish tradition,
there is nothing redemptive in suffering. Jews celebrate life rather than
sacrifice it, and those who try to explain away the deaths of innocents by
saying they were punished for the collective sins of those who desecrate Shabbat
or eat pork or are in some other way in violation of Jewish law, are wrong,
regardless of how learned or pious they may be, he said. In Christian tradition,
he went on, God is always exonerated and humanity is indicted, whereas in Jewish
tradition, God is indicted and humanity is exonerated. By way of example, he
cited two biblical instances of Abraham and Moses arguing with God for the sake
■ APROPOS BIRTHRIGHT, mega philanthropist and international
casino king Sheldon Adelson and his sabra wife Miriam recently announced a new
$5 million 2011 challenge gift to Birthright Israel as part of their ongoing
commitment to fund the free, 10-day educational trips for Jewish young adults.
In all, the Adelson Family Foundation has contributed over $100m. to Birthright
“We continue to be amazed by the profound impact the trip has
on thousands and thousands of young people,” Dr. Miriam Adelson said. “It is
changing an entire generation.”
Sheldon Adelson has consistently stated
that he doesn’t think there has been a better Jewish program in his lifetime,
and hasn’t talked to a young adult who returned from a Birthright trip and
didn’t say, “It changed my life.” The latest gift is designed to encourage new
donors or spur existing donors to increase their contributions, which the
foundation will match. The aim is to increase the number of Birthright
participants from 30,000 a year to more than 50,000 by 2013.
In May, at a
reception for Birthright’s most generous donors in New York City, Adelson, whose
family was so poor that he had to deliver newspapers to make some pocket money,
told how his parents had always dreamed of traveling to Israel, but could not
afford it. Eventually, when he was able to cover the cost of their trip, they
were old and frail and unable to travel. They passed away without ever visiting
Israel, prompting him to make the promise that he would do everything he could
to help any young person who wanted to visit the country do so. It’s a promise
that he’s been keeping for several years now.
■ THERE IS an uncanny
physical resemblance between Avinadav Begin and his famous grandfather Menachem
Begin, the first Israeli prime minister to sign a peace agreement with an Arab
country. The younger Begin, 37, his wife Liraz and their four children live in a
four-room rented apartment in Jerusalem’s Yefei Nof neighborhood. Begin
identifies with the struggle of demonstrators protesting the high cost of
housing. The Jerusalem weekly tabloid Yediot Yerushalayim found the fact that a
former prime minister’s grandson was involved with the protest, in any way, was
worth a cover story.
In terms of housing, though, he’s not all that
different from his grandfather, who lived in a small, modest apartment in Tel
Aviv before becoming prime minister. Early in his premiership, he also
introduced Project Renewal, which facilitated the renovation and expansion of
apartments in the poorest neighborhoods.
■ SOME MEMBERS of the Knesset do
not always serve as a good example of behavior. But then comes a heartwarming
story like the one published at the beginning of this week in Yediot Aharonot,
about the Knesset project to employ people with disabilities. One such person is
26- year-old spastic Nadav Halperin, who has been employed in various capacities
at the Knesset since the project was initiated during Dalia Itzik’s term as
Knesset speaker. It has been expanded under present Knesset Speaker Reuven
Halperin’s great wish was to be able to move around the plenum
when the Knesset was in session. Last week, just before the parliament went into
recess, chief steward Avigdor Raphaeli informed Halperin that he had been
assigned to work with the ushers in the plenum. On his first day in his new
role, Halperin, appropriately attired in suit and tie, was asked by adviser
Perach Lerner to deliver a note to the prime minister. Usually this is just a
routine task, but in Halperin’s case, Binyamin Netanyahu stood up, shook his
hand and spent a few moments in conversation with him. It was an exciting
experience, said Halperin, who added that he hadn’t allowed himself to get
carried away, because after all, he was on duty.
■ IT WAS too much to
expect Jennifer Hudson to sing “Happy Birthday” in Tel Aviv as she did at the
Chicago party honoring US President Barack Obama, but Joanne Yaron, chairwoman
of Democrats Abroad – Israel, did sing the song to the president at a Tel Aviv
celebration of his 50th birthday that took place at Mike’s Place on the
boardwalk last Thursday night. As Yaron noted, “like Marilyn Monroe, who sang at
President [John F.] Kennedy’s birthday in Madison Square Garden,” she, too, is a
Newly arrived American Ambassador Dan Shapiro received an
invitation to the party, which took place just a few minutes’ walk from the
American Embassy, noted DA – Israel vice chairman Hillel Schenker, “but
apparently the ambassador was still too busy unpacking.”
The members of
DA – Israel were joined in the celebration by many American tourists who raised
a glass of beer to wish the president well.
■ CURRENTLY IN the country
for the local launch of her best-selling novel Please Look After Mom, which has
been translated into Hebrew, is Korean writer Shin Kyung-sook, who is being
feted both by the Korean Embassy and Steimatzky. On Monday she had two launches
– one at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, and the second at the residence of
Korean Ambassador Young-Sam Ma in Rishpon.
On Wednesday evening, she will
be signing books at the Steimatzky Gan Ha’ir store in Tel Aviv.
the most popular and widely read novelists in Korea, she has won many literary
prizes both in her homeland and abroad. Amazon has listed the book among the top
10 so far for 2011. The book was released in Israel last month, and in a short
period has reached third place on the local market.
■ ANOTHER BOOK coming
up on the local scene is authored by none other than former police commissioner
Moshe Karadi, who is now on the payroll of Yitzhak Tshuva as CEO of Delek Pi
Glilot, a fuel storage and distribution company. The book is not exactly an
autobiography, but will contain revelations of an in-depth nature that only
Karadi could know.
■ WHILE KARADI is writing his book, Karnit Goldwasser,
who touched so many hearts in her three-year battle to bring home her late
husband Ehud after he and fellow reservist Eldad Regev were kidnapped by
Hezbolla in 2006, has almost completed her book, which will be published by
Yediot Aharonot. It seems that Hollywood is also interested in the story, and
negotiations are under way with several companies for the book to be translated
into English, after which a decision will be taken on whether it should be made
into a feature film or a television series.
■ GOVERNMENT MINISTERS get to
all kinds of places.
Some have been seen talking to demonstrators in tent
cities, while others have been seen in fancy restaurants and night clubs.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar occasionally sheds his ministerial image to take
over as a DJ in various Tel Aviv night clubs, and Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, accompanied by Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, was recently seen at
Gonky, the popular south Tel Aviv hangout where the star entertainer is singer
Einat Sarouf. Gonky also attracts people like journalist and potential
politician Yair Lapid and business tycoons like Shari Arison.
loves to pull celebrities, dignitaries and other luminaries on stage and get
them to sing with her. Lieberman initially resisted, but finally gave in and
sang a duet with her – “Oseh Shalom Bimromav” (He Makes Peace in His Heights).
Later in the evening, she dedicated the popular song “Ata Totach” (You’re a Big
Gun) to Lieberman.
Sarouf will have a dramatic change of venue this
coming Sunday, with a Tu Be’Av concert at the Tower of David Museum in
■ SITUATIONS ARE not always what they seem. Anyone seeing
Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit enter the opulent Hayarkon penthouse, part of one of the
latest luxury residential projects of the FAIRE (First American Israeli Real
Estate) Fund at 96 Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv, may have been under the
impression that he and his wife Ruth, who is the owner of a leading public
relations and advertising company, had decided to move to the city that never
stops since so much of her business life and both their social lives are
But no, they have no intention of moving from Yavne, where they
have lived for the whole of their married lives and where Sheetrit was once a
very young mayor. The reason for his visit was to meet with Shlomo Grofman, who
established FAIRE together with former ambassador to the US and former MK Zalman
Shoval. Grofman is one of the country’s leading real estate authorities; in
addition to FAIRE, he is involved at the executive and ownership levels with
other real estate concerns.
Before launching out as his own man, he spent
18 years as managing director and CEO of Africa Israel, during which time he
initiated and supervised the construction of numerous prestige residential,
industrial and commercial projects, including shopping centers and
Sheetrit and Grofman are old friends, and the former was
interested in hearing the latter’s views on possible solutions for the current
housing crisis, which has generated mass demonstrations around the
Perhaps it wasn’t the best place to discuss that kind of
situation, given the cost of apartments in the building. In fact, Grofman took
the opportunity to give Sheetrit a personal guided tour of the penthouse, for
which the price tag is a mere NIS 120 million.
■ EXTREME SPORTS
enthusiasts Yifrah Artzi and Daniel Peretz, the proprietors of the Kramim
Restaurant in Moshav Segula, have temporarily put the kitchen and the dining
room into other hands while trekking with a group of friends through Africa.
Their aim: to reach the top of Mount Kilamanjaro. The mountain hike alone is
expected to take six days.
■ BIRTHDAYS ARE in the air. President Shimon
Peres turned 88 a week ago Tuesday, and Silvan Shalom, his successor as minister
for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, turned 53 on August 4, but
celebrated his birthday a couple of days earlier at the swanky Raphael
Restaurant in Tel Aviv.
Cinema tycoon Moshe Edery, who celebrated his
60th birthday last week, had a somewhat larger affair on the same day at the Tel
Aviv Port, where his wife Pnina threw a surprise party to mark his milestone
celebration. Businesspeople and entertainment personalities happily rubbed
shoulders at the event. Guests included the honoree’s brother and business
partner Leon Edery; singers Gali Atari, Sarouf and Harel Skaat; Culture and
Sport Minister Limor Livnat and her significant other Mickey Yerushalmi;
Mizrahi-Tefahot chairman Jacob Perry and his wife Osnat; Leumi CEO Galia Maor
and her husband Yehoshua; Cellcom CEO Amos Shapira; actor and comedian Shaike
Levy; and a host of other well-known faces.
■ HEADS OF rabbinic
dynasties, as well as other leading rabbis whose counsel is sought by the
masses, are extremely worried about how to conduct their affairs since the
recent murder of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira.
Some have said they will no
longer conduct one-on-one meetings with people seeking their advice, but will
have an aide or a bodyguard present to at least quell if not prevent any future
outbreaks of violence.
In addition to the thousands of people who flocked
to Beersheba and Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives for Abuhatzeira’s funeral, a large
number of dignitaries, including Peres, visited his home during the week of
shiva to offer their condolences to his family. A memorial event last Wednesday
night to mark the end of the shiva period was attended by some 10,000 people,
including chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, as well as prominent
figures from Shas and the Lithuanian haredi community. Referring not only to the
killing of Abuhatzeira, but to the general violence that has erupted throughout
the country, Amar called for a clampdown by law enforcement officials. Metzger
addressed another form of “murder” – character assassination, which he said was
ruining the lives of untold numbers of people.[email protected]