■ NOTHING CAN be more frustrating to a cartoonist than having a pen or a pencil that doesn’t write. The compensatory factor may be that the pencil is a gold one that has been awarded in recognition of the cartoonist’s work.

That’s what happened last week to Yaakov Kirschen at the Israeli Museum of Caricature and Comics in Holon. Despite the inclement weather, there was a huge turnout – though to be honest, not everyone was there for Kirschen. Some had also come to see who won the Happy Women’s Day Cartoon Contest in memory of Friedl Stern, the country’s first woman cartoonist.

The winner was illustrator and designer Noam Nadav, a lecturer at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy, whose depiction of the modern family showed the bespectacled female spouse in superwoman costume going off to work with her briefcase, while her husband, dressed as a wrestler, was feeding a baby ensconced in a high chair.

“You could have at least left me your eyeglasses,” complains the frustrated husband to his smiling wife as she exits.

Had Kirschen been aware of the contest, he might have entered it and had a good chance of winning, having the added advantage of having been born on March 8, which is International Women’s Day.

Kirschen, whose signature Dry Bones cartoon was initially published in The Jerusalem Post and has been syndicated around the world for many years, received his gold pencil from Holon Mayor Motti Sasson, who is turning his city into the country’s museum capital.

Kirschen’s greater reward will be in April, when the Museum of Caricatures and Comics publishes a catalogue of his work. The catalogue will be circulated as a traveling exhibition and will be accompanied by discussions on the cartoons’ subject matter and on hidden anti-Semitism in cartoons – a sphere of knowledge in which Kirschen specializes and has lectured extensively abroad. In his acceptance speech after receiving the Golden Pencil Award, Kirschen said that although he was defined in Hebrew as a caricaturist, he didn’t really do caricatures of people.

When he came to Israel in 1971, he continued, he received an ID card, which he could not read for some years. Besides the usual details of name, place and date of birth, the card also listed his profession.

It was only after he learned to read Hebrew, he said, that he discovered why he had been unable to get a job. The clerk who had issued him the card was obviously unfamiliar with caricaturists and had written the word “tractorist.”

Kirschen didn’t know how to drive a tractor and had never applied for such a position. In December 1972, he was hired by the late Ted Lurie, then-editor of the Post, against Lurie’s better judgment. Lurie told him that he didn’t like or understand his cartoons, but that he had been advised that he should try them out on the paper’s readers. Kirschen wanted to start work immediately, but Lurie preferred to wait a week, so that the first cartoon would appear on January 1, 1973.

If it turned out not to be popular, Lurie explained, it would be dropped after a month, but if it was popular, Kirschen would always be able to remember when the first cartoon was published and would unhesitatingly be able to supply the answer to anyone who asked. At the time, Kirschen thought this reasoning was stupid, but over the years he has come to appreciate Lurie’s wisdom.

In January 2013, he will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Dry Bones. Meanwhile, he is working on a new cartoon project targeting a Chinese audience, with the aim of getting them to understand not only what Jews, Judaism and Israel are about, but also their own ancient culture. In addition, he has been invited to participate in the Vienna Jewish Museum’s exhibit on Jewish humor, and to take part in a panel discussion as an addendum to the exhibition. The moderator, he is told, will be former Post editor Ari Rath, a native of Vienna who came to Israel in his youth and who is now once more living in the city of waltzes.

■ LESS THAN two months after mending fences with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, to whom he had not spoken for around 30 years, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau also cleared the air with Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri. Lau had distanced himself from Deri when the latter competed against him for the Tel Aviv chief rabbi position, which Lau had previously held prior to his 10-year tenure as Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel.

In the first instance, Metzger initiated the reconciliation by paying a condolence call on Lau when he was in mourning for his brother; in the second, it was Deri who made the first move, congratulating Lau on the marriage of his grandson Yediya, who last week wed Shirel Fink at The Avenue banquet hall. The groom is the son of Modi’in Chief Rabbi David Lau, who invited several of his colleagues to join in the festivities. Among them was Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, as well as his predecessor Rabbi Bakshi Doron.

Among the other guests were Rabbi Yosef Efrati, Rabbi Aryeh Deri, Vice Premier Eli Yishai, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank chairman of the board and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Jacob Perry.

■ ANOTHER PROMINENT member of the Lau family, Rabbi Benny Lau, the spiritual leader of the Ramban Congregation in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood, incurred the wrath of leading Torah authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv’s followers. Lau wrote in his Facebook that Eliashiv, who has lived modestly all his life and has devoted himself to the preservation of the Jewish people through his dedication to the Torah, will find peace and quiet and will shortly escape all the pains of his body. The 101-year-old sage, who has been ill for some time, was recently hospitalized in serious condition at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. His followers did not take kindly to Lau’s sentiments, and Lau was forced to clarify his comments and apologize.

■ IN A strategic move, Triwaks Public Relations, one of the most veteran PR firms in the country, has decided to expand and has taken Elad Sasi and Oren Aharoni as partners in the firm. The move reflects recent changes in the field of public relations, where higher professional standards in television and broadcasting, reputation protection and crisis management are in strong demand. With its staff of 11 communications consultants, the firm will now be rebranded under the name of: Triwaks + Sasi + Aharoni. The new logo was designed in the spirit of the rebranding, created by Hill + Knowlton Strategies, one of the world’s leading public relations firms, which has maintained an exclusive affiliation agreement with Triwaks for more than 30 years.

“This change will propel us into a new era in public relations services in Israel,” said Daphna Triwaks, the company CEO and the daughter of Moshe Triwaks, who founded the firm 50 years ago and who is equally enthusiastic about the new development. Who says the world belongs to the young?

■ TEL AVIV Mayor Ron Huldai was in the news this week in connection with the Tel Aviv Marathon and the municipality’s decision to permit public transportation to operate on Shabbat. No less newsworthy was his participation in the opening of the new Bloomberg office on Rothschild Boulevard, in the heart of the city’s financial district. Huldai, who had been invited to cut the ribbon, announced that Tel Aviv was not only Israel’s financial center, but also its hi-tech center, and that he was giving serious consideration to turning it into the country’s Silicon Valley. Tel Aviv, he said, is home to 600 start-ups, as well as the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and other financial institutions. The opening of Bloomberg’s new Tel Aviv office “is an important milestone in our journey,” he said.

The mayor added that the founding fathers of Tel Aviv had hoped to make the city the New York of the Middle East. The skyline certainly bears an increasing resemblance to that of Manhattan, and from the 15th-floor window of the prestigious Bloomberg premises, in which the elegant white furniture is offset by backgrounds of marine blue and magenta, one sees that the new towers are rising ever taller.

On hand for the launch were Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer and the head of Bloomberg News, Matt Winkler, who flew in from New York for the occasion and also managed to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer before the launch ceremony. According to Winkler, Bloomberg started reporting news from Jerusalem around 20 years ago and shared an office with Time Magazine. Lisa Marantz, the company’s first reporter in Jerusalem, now works in the New York office.

Bloomberg’s R&D team started in Tel Aviv in the 1990s, said Winkler, who noted that of all the developed countries in the world over the last 10 years, Israel had the least volatility with the greatest return. Bloomberg had published this on Monday, and the Post ran it on Tuesday. It was brought to Netanyahu’s attention when Grauer and Winkler met with him, and he subsequently quoted it at a meeting in the Knesset. It was also published on the government website.

At the Tel Aviv ceremony, Grauer noted that the opening of the new office was another way of saying that Bloomberg saw the importance of Israel, with its environment of innovative ideas. He said he had personally sold 1,000 copies of Start-Up Nation, a book he said everyone should read. As far as start-ups go, he reminisced that Bloomberg had been a fourperson start-up that had blossomed into a global community of 14,000 employees. Israel is a very important country within Bloomberg’s global framework, and has experienced a growth rate of 30 percent in the past two years, said Grauer. The Tel Aviv office is five times the size of the previous office, he added, and the company has expanded its Hebrew-language news service.

■ TEL AVIV’S Cameri Theater will host at least as many entertainers in the audience as it will on stage this coming Friday morning. The occasion will be a tribute to singer Yaffa Yarkoni, who died almost two months ago. The event – which the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality Department of Performances has organized in collaboration with the theater itself, IUPA – Israeli Union of Performing Artists, and Eshkolot – will feature David D’Or, Ahinoam Nini, Liraz Charhi, Dikla, Zvika Pick, Shlomit Aharon, Shula Chen, Roni Daloumi, Izhar Cohen, Meir Suissa, Ishai Suissa, Miki Kam, Israel Gurion, Rama Messinger, Hani Nahmias, Israel Itzhaki, Shai Gabso, Edna Goren, Dorit Reuveni, Eli Yatzpan, Anton Lapidus and others, who will sing some of Yarkoni’s most popular songs. Moderating the event, which is being produced and directed by Avi Gez, will be Natan Datner. Avi Koren has researched the material that will be used in the texts, and the musical arrangements are by Uzi and Chaim Asner.

■ TRAVELERS TO Austria now have an additional option. NIKI, which belongs to the Air Berlin Group, introduced its new Vienna-Tel Aviv-Vienna flights this week.

The flights depart Vienna on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8:15 a.m. and land in Tel Aviv at 12:30 p.m. They leave Israel on the same days at 1:35 p.m. and land in Vienna at 3:30 p.m. A new summertime flight schedule will be introduced on March 28, when flights will leave Vienna at 10:05 p.m. and land in Tel Aviv at 2:20 a.m. the following day. Flights from Israel to Austria will be on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 4:50 a.m., arriving at 7:05 a.m.

On hand for the arrival of the first flight this week were NIKI CEO Christian Lesjak, NIKI Vice President of Sales Ines Hoepffner, Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar-Nir and Moni Barr, chairman of Holiday Travel.

■ WHILE THE power of the press may not always be effective, it certainly worked quickly this week when Yediot Aharonot reported that Menachem Begin’s legendary bureau chief Yehiel Kadishai, along with Eli Shitrit and Zalman Samsonov, former Etzel fighters and founders of Likud precursor Herut, had been ousted by deal makers from the Likud’s Central Committee. It had not escaped the prime minister’s attention, but seeing it in print put the matter into sharper focus. Netanyahu, who has a keen respect for history, reacted instantly and told the Likud faction in the Knesset that veterans of the party were not to be treated in this fashion and that he would do his utmost to restore them to their rightful places.

“They are the founders – flesh of our flesh,” he said. “We cannot leave them outside the central committee.”

Michael Eitan, the minister for the improvement of government services, proposed that the party’s founders be automatically accorded places in the central committee, even if they fail to be elected.

■ THE OLD Likud stalwarts are not the only ones who have been stripped of power and influence. Former president Moshe Katsav, currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for sexual offenses, was also a prominent Likud member and had planned to return to the political arena after completing his term as president. Now, to add to his fall from grace, the guard booth that had been erected alongside his home in Kiryat Malachi has been dismantled, and the former president has also been deprived of several other perks.

■ AFTER A long battle to stay out of prison, Russian-Israeli tycoon, philanthropist and failed wouldbe politician Arkady Gaydamak was finally able to express his faith in Israel’s justice system. In 2009, he was indicted on several charges that included, inter alia, money laundering and aggravated fraud. The money-laundering charge, which allegedly involved NIS 650 million, was described as the worst case of money laundering in Israel. Police questioned Gaydamak so many times and for such long periods that the fraud squad headquarters almost became his home away from home. He claimed that he was being unjustly persecuted by the police, and on several occasions when he was supposed to appear in court, he failed to do so, pleading ill health. For a large part of these ill-health periods, he was in Russia. But things finally came to a head last week when the Tel Aviv District Attorney dropped the money laundering charges in exchange for Gaydamak signing a plea bargain whereby he will plead guilty to obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception and will pay a NIS 3m. fine. He may go to prison for a relatively short term, but given the turn of events, he will probably be sentenced to community service instead.

■ AMONG THE people who are delighted that former Miss World Linor Abergil is six months pregnant by her second husband Oron Halfon is right-wing political activist Baruch Marzel, who had tried to dissuade the former beauty queen from marrying non-Jewish Lithuanian NBA player Sarunas Jasikevicius. Known by his nickname of Sharas, Jasikevicius – whom Abergil met when he was playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv – became a local celebrity and captured her heart. When the couple announced their engagement almost exactly six years ago, Marzel wrote to Abergil, urging her not to marry a non-Jew and divorce herself from the Jewish people. He warned her of the problems that children of mixed marriages encounter, and offered to be of help to her at any time.

Abergil chose to go ahead with the wedding, and afterward posed with her new husband for underwear advertisements. As it happened, the marriage was shortlived, and after the divorce, she went in the opposite direction and became religiously observant, to the extent of wearing long skirts and long-sleeved, highnecked blouses. Needless to say, her second husband is Jewish. As a married woman, Abergil, who celebrated her 32nd birthday last Friday, also covers her hair and wears a head scarf. In her new image, she enrolled at Netanya Academic College, where she earned a law degree and is about to embark on her articles at the Central District Attorney’s Office.

Abergil, who was raped by her travel agent shortly before the Miss World contest, had the courage to bring charges against him. Ever since that traumatic episode, she has encouraged victims of sexual offenses to speak up and speak out, and she recently raised the issue in an address to the Bat Yam Religious Council.

For the past three-and-a-half years, she has been preparing a documentary based on interviews that she has had with women who have been raped. She is not quite sure how many more interviews she will conduct or what she will do with the finished product, but she feels that what she is doing is important. Her options may become clearer once she starts working as a lawyer.

greerfc@gmail.com

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