When he undergoes surgery today to receive a kidney transplant from his son and a stranger with a matching kidney, presidential candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer will not be the first MK to do so. The late Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, who for many years chaired Degel Hatorah, received a kidney in November 2000 from his eldest son, Moshe.
All 12 of his children had vied with each other to be the one to donate the kidney. When Ravitz died in January 2009 following a 20-year career in the Knesset, it had nothing to do with his kidney, but with his heart. He had suffered for years from a severe heart condition. Just as a matter of interest, Ravitz – though haredi – served in both the Stern Group and the IDF.
If all works out well for Ben-Eliezer, he will be performing a tremendous service for the proponents of kidney donations – more so if he becomes president. One can imagine future calls for donations to begin with the words, “You too could donate a kidney to a head of state…”
■ BEN-ELIEZER, who says that his kidney transplant will be a simple procedure and that he will be perfectly fit to complete his run in the presidential race, will have a hard act to follow if he succeeds President Shimon Peres, whose physical and mental stamina is beyond belief.
After a week in which he attended Holocaust Remembrance Day events; gave numerous Independence Day interviews and attended event rehearsals; met with visiting dignitaries; wrote speeches; presented prizes to soldiers of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit; joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz in laying the foundation stone of the Mount Herzl Memorial Hall, to commemorate the fallen in Israel’s wars; braved the cold Jerusalem night air at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Western Wall; then spent most of this past Tuesday at Independence Day events from early morning till late at night, culminating with the Israel Prize ceremony, Peres will tonight present the cup to the champion team in the football final match at the Ramat Gan stadium, between Hapoel Kiryat Shmona and Maccabi Netanya. Then, early Thursday morning, he will receive a report on rehabilitation of at-risk youth.
Fortunately for him, Peres does not have to attend any of tomorrow’s VE Day ceremonies commemorating the end of World War II.
That’s usually the province of Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, who addresses bemedalled and beribboned veterans of the Red Army in Russian. Next week, beginning May 12, Peres will pay a two-day visit to Norway at the invitation of King Harald V.
This is typical of a Peres schedule and does not include all of his official duties within a short time frame.
After returning from China just before Passover, he went to the Golan Heights to be briefed on the situation on the northern borders, and to toast the soldiers who are serving there.
Incidentally, Peres and Netanyahu will be out of the country at the same time. Netanyahu will be in Japan when Peres is in Norway.
■ MEANWHILE, PREPARATIONS are going ahead for the papal visit on May 24. According to Father Angelo Beda Ison, who represents the Vatican Embassy at diplomatic events, there have been so many requests in relation to the visit by Pope Francis that it is impossible to cope with them all. Ison, who works out of St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa, said he doubted whether he himself would get a glimpse of the pope, much less meet him face to face.
■ TWO OF the three prizewinners of the annual B’nai B’rith World Center competition, for journalists for excellence in reporting on Diaspora relations with Israel, write for the Anglo media, and both have backgrounds at The Jerusalem Post.
Judy Maltz, who was the key winner of the current competition, wrote extensively on Diaspora communities in 2013. She is currently a reporter for the English-language edition of Haaretz, though several of her articles were also published in Hebrew. Early in her journalistic career in Israel, long before marriage and motherhood, she worked as an economics reporter for the Post.
David Horowitz, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, also worked for the Post in his early years in Israel, and later worked for The Jerusalem Report, which subsequently became the Post’s sister publication. He was later promoted to editor of the Report.
Horowitz, who is the founding editor of The Times of Israel, returned to the Post in October 2004 as editor in chief, and held the position for a little over seven years. He had previously worked for the Post from 1983 to 1990.
The third prizewinner is Matan Chodorov, the economic correspondent for Channel 10, and here too there is an indirect connection with the Post – in that the Channel 10 news division and the Post are housed in the same building.
■ CONSIDERING THAT it was launched less than a year ago, the Jerusalem Press Club is doing very nicely in regard to its membership, event attendance and the number and variety of events. Last week, it had a real feather in its cap when it hosted the annual assembly of the European Federation of Press Clubs.
JPC director-general Uri Dromi, who participated in last year’s annual assembly in Brussels, asked to join the federation and was accepted.
At a dinner hosted by the Foreign Ministry at JPC’s in-house restaurant Touro, to which members of the local and foreign press as well as present and former diplomats and Jerusalem Foundation representatives were invited to mingle with the EPC people, Maria Laura Franciosi, founding chair of the Brussels Press Club, commented laughingly that when the JPC asked to be admitted to the EPC, several people responded, “Jerusalem? Europe?” However, anyone coming to Jerusalem could see that it’s more European than Europe, she said, noting that there are so many Europeans in Israel.
In actual fact, not only European press clubs were represented. There was also someone from India, along with Sonya Fry, executive director of the New York-headquartered Overseas Press Club of America.
Among others present were Dr. Astrid Zimmermann, secretary- general of the Concordia Press Club in Vienna; Martyn Bond, press correspondent for the United Kingdom at the Council of Europe; Ryszard Bankowicz, chairman of the Polish Club of International Columnists; and Jaroslaw Wlodarczyk, president of the Press Club Polska. In addition, there were representatives of press clubs from Switzerland, Paris, Lille, Montpelier and Milan.
Foreign press representatives included newly elected chairman of the Foreign Press Association Samer Shalabi, the first Palestinian to be elected to this position; his predecessor Crispian Balmer, the Reuters News bureau chief; Gwen Ackerman, the Bloomberg News bureau chief; and Clemens Wortmann, Middle East correspondent for German media and for Agence France Presse. The most prominent of the local journalists was Channel 1 foreign news editor Oren Nahari.
The JPC also invited Israel Press Council president Dalia Dorner, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor and Yaakov Levy, Mark Sofer and Danny Scheck, who all had served as ambassadors in the countries represented by the EPC.
Sofer is currently president of the Jerusalem Foundation and came with some of his colleagues. The foundation is responsible for the development and maintenance of Mishkenot Sha’ananim and for some other parts of Yemin Moshe, including the JPC premises.
■ WHEN THE formalities of the evening were over, Wlodarczyk, in private conversation, talked about the upcoming 25th anniversary celebrations of Poland’s first democratic parliamentary elections. US President Barack Obama will visit Poland for the June 4 festivities. Polish President Bronisław Komorowski would like to see other heads of state in attendance, particularly those from Central and Eastern European countries that took their lead from Poland, which even before the fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for democracy in Soviet bloc countries.
Wlodarczyk could not say whether Israel will be represented at the June 4 gathering.
Within the framework of the anniversary celebrations, Poland’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has established a Solidarity Prize of 1 million euros, which will be awarded to a person who has contributed to promoting democracy in line with the principles of solidarity.
BECAUSE SO many of the local supporters of Beit Hatfutsot usually attend the Independence Day party hosted by Yossi Maiman in the garden of his sumptuous premises in Herzliya Pituah, the Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot last year decided to preempt the Independence Day festivities by having its own event a few days earlier. They did so again this year.
Thus, last Thursday, popular singer Einat Saruf belted out many of Israel’s all-time favorites, joined by: Irina Nevzlin Kogan, chairwoman of Beit Hatfutsot’s board of directors, and her husband Michael; Dan Tadmor, museum CEO; Reuven Adler, the new chairman of Israel Friends, and his wife Ronit; Irit Admoni Perlman, director of Israel friends; Leonid Nevzlin, without whose generosity Beit Hatfutsot might have closed down several years ago; Nava Barak and her husband Shalom Zinger; Tal and Ilan Birenfeld; Anat and Shmuel Frenkel; Zalman and Kena Shoval; Gad and Ettie Propper; Lisika and Ami Sagi; Eyal Homsky; former minister Haim Ramon and his wife Vered Rivlin; Hila and Rani Rahav; Dana and Tom Franz; Yael and Rami Unger; Gadi Unger; Motty Reif; Orna Datz; Ido Tadmor; and many others who congregated in the spacious lobby of Beit Hatfutsot, which was adorned with blue and white balloons. Altogether, there were some 200 people, who dined on traditional Israeli fare that naturally included humous and felafel.
“We are so happy to continue the tradition we started last year, to celebrate Independence Day at Beit Hatfutsot,” said Admoni Perlman, who organized the event together with Adler. “It is obvious that we should mark the independence of the State of Israel in a place that tells the ongoing story of the Jewish people.”
Proceeds from the event, which was sponsored by Kaya Motors and the Nadav Foundation, will go towards hosting IDF soldiers and officers as well as at-risk children, who will benefit from guided tours, special programs and educational workshops at Beit Hatfutsot.
■ SPEECHES AT National Day events hosted by heads of diplomatic missions in Israel are usually couched in the most diplomatic of terms, with mutual compliments by the ambassador to the host country, and the minister representing the host country to the country whose national day is being celebrated. At the 20th anniversary of South African Freedom Day, hosted by South African Ambassador Sisa Ngombane and his wife Thatanyana at their residence in Ramat Gan, the tones were extremely cordial, but the atmosphere was politically charged.
The ambassador’s address was somewhat longer than is usually the case on such occasions, and he skipped certain passages out of consideration for his guests, but he nonetheless made certain comments which sent a deep flush of anger across the face of Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, who represented the government.
The Post has obtained a copy of the full speech. Understandably, the ambassador spoke of how much late president Nelson Mandela is and will be missed, and what South Africa has achieved since its first Freedom Day. He also noted that the first born-free generation was eligible to vote in this year’s national elections. But then, towards the tail end of his address, he turned to bilateral relations between South Africa and Israel.
“South Africa remains preoccupied by the events in the Middle East, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The reasons are simple,” he said.
“a) South Africa was one of the countries that voted in the League of Nations for the resolution that created the Jewish state in Palestine.
“b) South Africa has a significant Jewish minority, estimated at no less than 70,000 living in South Africa and about 25,000 who have made aliya.
“c) South Africa is also home to a significant Muslim community, which feels close to what the Palestinian population is experiencing here.
“d) South Africa, coming from a liberation background, supports the quest for self-determination of the Palestinians.
“The South African mission in Israel, like any other, follows developments and the ongoing debates and actions here in Israel. One has been struck by how varied the opinions are on the question of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
Some of these opinions, which are also widely shared by most South Africans, include that of Prof. Yehuda Bauer, a Holocaust survivor who wrote in Haaretz in February 2013, ‘A democratic state within the [pre-]1967 boundaries, with certain territorial exchanges, will be a Zionist Jewish state that is obliged not only to make peace with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, but offers the possibility for national-cultural development and full equal rights to the Arab minority living in the State of Israel. The settlement policy is working against us and endangering us. We have to remove the majority of the settlers from the territories, which are actually areas of the state of Palestine.’” Ngombane quoted several sources on the need to implement the twostate solution, as well as late president Ezer Weizman, who wrote in his book The Battle for Peace, based on Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt: “Peace can be concluded only with the enemy.”
South Africa remains convinced that serious negotiations are the only way to advance the peace process, said Ngombane. “If the current process collapses and increased settlement construction continues unabated, we can all expect increases in violence, which will be unfortunate.”
Ngombane noted that South Africans were part of the international Mahal volunteer group that fought to defend the newly born state of Israel. He again quoted Weizman, who in his book recounted how four pilots set out to defend the Ashdod bridge from the Egyptian force, and how Eddie Cohen, a South African and his No. 2, flew his first and last mission for the Israel Air Force. The ambassador said he had also met a few young South Africans who currently serve in the IDF.
But what got Landau’s dander up was Ngombane’s candid admission that South Africa has to deal with the issue of whether Israel is an apartheid state. “South Africa’s views are sought on this matter, in an attempt to justify this and condemn that position,” he said. “My almost 15 months’ experience in Israel is that this is not the case yet.
But the system that exists in the occupied West Bank and occupied territories, with military administration that decides the fate of ordinary Palestinians, amounts to apartheid.”
Landau, who is opposed to the two-state solution, said in carefully controlled tones that from 1947- 1967, the Palestinians did not claim Jerusalem as their capital and did not establish a state. Referring to the peace treaty with Egypt, Landau said, “We signed peace with an enemy who wanted peace. We are waiting for a Palestinian [leader like Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat.”
In more diplomatic terms, he said that South Africa, as the biggest and richest country on the African continent, serves as a pivotal force and a model of democracy. Israel takes great pride in the Jews of South Africa who played a role in the country’s historic struggle for freedom, he said, adding that Israel hopes South African Jewry will also play a future role in building bridges between the two great nations.
South Africa is Israel’s largest African trade partner and there is also cooperation between the two countries in the areas of agriculture, economics, energy, education, hi-tech and research and development.
Nonetheless, he added, there is potential to upgrade and diversify bilateral cooperation for the mutual benefit of both nations.
Landau also underscored the need to upgrade the quality and quantity of high-level visits between the governments of the two countries. “If we set aside some of our differences in the name of greater cooperation, we would be very much in the spirit of Mandela,” he said.
■ ONE OF the most enduring adages with regard to politics, business and sport is that timing is everything.
But the timing of the presentation to the cabinet of the bill to close down the Israel Broadcasting Authority and replace it with a new, more efficient entity could not have been more insensitive and ill-timed.
Set for presentation this past Sunday, the bill drafted by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan means that everyone currently working for the IBA will lose their job, including Carmela Menashe, who was one of the beacon lighters at this year’s Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl. All of the women who were chosen to be torch lighters were selected on the basis of their service to the state, and were personally approved by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who initiated the concept that this year’s Independence Day would recognize contributions women have made to the state. What a bittersweet week it must have been for Menashe, who on the one hand could bask in the honor that was given to her, and on the other could be torn with anxiety about her future.
Aside from that, the bill was flawed in its proposal that a minister be responsible for senior appointments, which would defeat the purpose of the exercise – which is to remove all political influence from public broadcasting. No one denies that the IBA needs to be drastically reformed in order to be economically viable and improve its ratings, but to take so drastic a step as that which Erdan has been determined to do since his first day in office, destroys every vestige of hope in job security and is also unfair to the public.
To destroy is easy. To build confidence and quality is much harder.
■ THERE IS no more suitable venue than Mishkenot Sha’ananim for the conferring of the Yehuda Amichai Lifetime Achievement Award. Amichai, who died in September 2000, was Israel’s poet laureate and the recipient of many Israeli and international awards, including the Israel Prize. He lived and worked in Yemin Moshe, of which Mishkenot Sha’ananim is an integral part, and some of his poetry was focused on various aspects of his beloved Yemin Moshe. His poetry was so powerful that when late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin received the Nobel Prize for Peace, he invited Amichai to come and read from his works at the ceremony.
This year, the recipient of the Yehuda Amichai award is blind poet Erez Biton. Amichai was born in Germany, Biton in Morocco, but their common denominators were Israel and a gift for writing poetry.
The award ceremony organized by the Culture and Sport Ministry will take place tomorrow, Thursday, May 8 at 5 p.m., with the participation of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, ministry director-general Orly Froman, Amichai’s widow Chana, and author Eli Amir.
■ CONFERENCES ON specific subjects that are reflected in government concerns usually have at least one minister – namely the one whose portfolio incorporates the subject of the conference – among the speakers. Conspicuous in its absence from the list of speakers at tomorrow’s Safed Conference on professions in the realm of health is the name of Health Minister Yael German.