Despite their many differences, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Egypt’s newly elected President Mohamed Mursi have at least one thing in common – a dislike for flak jackets.

When Mursi addressed the masses last week, he made a point of showing off the fact that he was not wearing a flak jacket. Way back in June, 1999, when Netanyahu addressed a meeting of Likud supporters and MKs, he shrugged out of his flak jacket, to the consternation of his body guards, who remembered all too well that Yitzhak Rabin had disdained a flak jacket when attending the fateful peace rally in November, 1995, in the Tel Aviv Square that now bears his name.

Netanyahu came in for a lot of criticism for putting his safety at risk, but then, who would want to wear a flak jacket in the heat of an Israeli summer? ■ ALMOST HALF a century or even more had passed since many of the Yeshiva University High School for Boys of Brooklyn (originally Brooklyn Talmudical Academy or BTA) were teenagers. But when some 150 of them – now longtime Israelis – celebrated the 90th birthday of their unforgettable principal, Rabbi Avraham Zuroff, there was still a question to be answered: Who were the naughty ones who sent a subscription for Playboy magazine to the Zuroff home, the good rabbi asked the graying graduates.

The modern-Orthodox yeshiva day school had been housed in a succession of three different buildings from President Street in 1945 to Midwood in the early ’80s. Then it shut down – as did the Yeshiva University High School for Girls of Brooklyn, whose student population included Jerusalem Post health and science reporter Judy Siegel, who joined in the birthday celebration. The schools were closed down due to demographic changes that sent much of the modern- Orthodox population farther away, to be replaced largely by haredim.

Since then, the graduates raised families and achieved careers as distinguished professors, rabbis, educators, social workers, accountants and physicians, among other professions.

A few hundred of these graduates settled in Israel and did not forget Rabbi Zuroff, who as a YU administrator and principal for 30 years was responsible for the education of 2,000 students. He has lived in Israel with his wife Esther (who worked in the girls’ the high school and at YU’s Stern College for Women) for many years.

One of their two children, Ephraim Zuroff, who heads the Jerusalem branch of the Weisenthal Center and who has sought out surviving Nazi criminals most of his life –was able to attend the event, which took place only a few days before the Zuroffs’ 67th wedding anniversary. Meeting for brunch at YU’s Gruss Center in Jerusalem, the graduates expressed a gratitude to Rabbi Zuroff for his major contribution to their development at such a formative stage in their lives. Computerized presentations of old photos and yellowing printed class yearbooks contributed to the atmosphere of hilarity and nostalgia.

Among the more prominent graduates present were Efrat chief rabbi (and Jerusalem Post columnist) Shlomo Riskin and Bar-Ilan University chemistry Prof. Rabbi Aryeh Frimer.

Rabbi Zuroff’s question about Playboy lingered in the air. No one raised a hand to admit that he had sent it.

■ CINEMATHEQUE FOUNDER Lia Van Leer, 87, to whom current and future generations of cinema goers owe so much, has been both the recipient and donor of many awards.

Another one is due to come her way this evening during a symposium on Jerusalem’s cinema revolution, which will – naturally – be held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque with the participation of Mayor Nir Barkat, founder of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School Renen Schorr, Jerusalem Development Authority CEO Moti Hazan, Jerusalem Development Authority director of cinema and television initiatives Yoram Honig, an internationally acclaimed award-winning producer and director Avi Nesher and actor and comedian Uzi Hezekia.

The event is under the auspices of the Jerusalem Economic Forum, which wants to honor Van Leer for her enormous contribution over a long period of time to the development of Jerusalem’s film industry.

■ AS TIME passes and a new generation arises, history becomes forgotten as those who lived through it arrive at the twilight of their years and fade away. The enormous success of the restructured Israel Museum is correctly attributed to its director, James Snyder, who frequently refers to the vision of Jerusalem’s iconic mayor, the late Teddy Kollek, without whose mix of persuasive charm and bulldog tenacity Israel’s largest cultural institution might never have been built.

Kollek, who was born 101 years ago, served as mayor from 1965 to 1993 and one of his early decisions was to build a national museum in Jerusalem. Frequently referred to as a latter-day Herod because he did so much to change and enhance the face of Jerusalem, Kollek will be given his due at the premiere on July 10 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque of Gilad Tocatly’s production, Teddy, Tzarikh Lehakim Mozeon (Teddy, there’s a need to build a museum). The program blurb about the film states, “Almost half a century ago, on one of the hottest afternoons on record, hundreds of people gathered on a dry hilltop in west Jerusalem. They were witness to the realization of one of Teddy Kollek’s spectacular dreams: the inauguration of a museum that within just a few years would find its place among the leading cultural institutions in the world.

“With the help of dozens of interviews, archival footage and rare documents, Teddy’s museum unveils for the first time on screen the fascinating and unlikely story of the establishment of the Israel Museum: how Teddy Kollek managed to convince an extravagant New York billionaire to donate his private sculpture collection for the museum’s garden; how a 28-year-old tourist who arrived on a flight from Tehran became the director of the museum; how the Baron de Rothschild agreed to transfer his most precious family treasure to Jerusalem; and how, thanks to a gorgeous Hollywood actress, the donors’ banquet went well beyond expectations. With humor and affection, the curators, founders, and donors tell how they dared to establish, from scratch and at lightning speed, the holy temple of Israeli culture.”

While explanatory texts on the walls of the museum give visitors insight into works on display and the backgrounds of artists, there isn’t enough information about the history of the museum and its benefactors.

This documentary serves to shed some light on how the dream became a reality – because the dreamer did more than just dream.

Kollek started thinking about a museum even before his election, while he was still the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The tourist who became a museum director was then- 28-year-old Karl Katz, who had never managed anything bigger than a small golf course. The millionaire who donated his valuable sculpture collection was Billy Rose.

Kollek was known as a bulldozer who, once he set his mind to anything, got things done. Snyder, who has done wonders for the museum, is no less persistent but is more of a diplomat in his approach.

■ HISTADRUT LEADER Ofer Eini may learn at his own expense the truth in the old adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

While the Histadrut sided with the Israel Railways Workers Committee headed by the volatile and aggressive Gila Edery, there was an almost familial relationship between her and Eini. But once she suspected that the Histadrut was not doing all that it should be doing on behalf of the railway workers and was increasingly siding with management, Edery felt a sense of betrayal and began acting independently of the Histadrut. This did not sit well with Eini, who likes to call the shots, and he ordered Edery to be removed from her position as chair of the Israel Railways Workers Committee. He also ordered three of her most faithful stalwarts on the committee to be removed, and the rubber stamp on the order was affixed by a Histadrut disciplinary board last Sunday.

Almost immediately following the ruling by the disciplinary board, Edery found herself deprived of certain perks that are given to heads of workers’ committees and her way barred by security guards to certain sections of the railways.

But Edery has a lot of admirers who are not afraid to support her, and in the final analysis, Eini may find himself caught up in a battle he’ll wish he’d never started. Meanwhile, Edery and her people went to court on Tuesday to protest what they regard as an illegal action by the Histadrut.

■ RETIREMENT FROM public life is something completely alien to former MK and former diplomat Colette Avital, 72.

When circumstances take her out of one sphere of activity, she promptly enters another. A child Holocaust survivor who came to Israel from her native Romania when she was 10 years old, Avital is an able representative of female achievers who were born in Romania and came to Israel.

Lia Van Leer was also born in Romania and soon after the start of World War II was sent to Tel Aviv by her parents, whom she never saw again. Philanthropist and honorary president of World WIZO, Raya Jaglom, 93, was sent to Tel Aviv just before the war when there were severe outbreaks of anti-Semitism in Romania. Helena Glaser, who chairs the Zionist General Council, is another honorary president of World WIZO and was also born in Romania.

All four women are wonderful success stories and don’t allow anything to stop them from taking on new projects.

Avital, who as an MK was instrumental in creating a state company for the restitution of assets to Holocaust survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims, was last month unanimously elected chair of the central umbrella group for Holocaust survivors in Israel, replacing Moshe Zanbar, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor and a former Governor of the Bank of Israel, who had stepped in following the death last year of Noach Flug. Zanbar, who is considerably older than Avital, suffers from ill health, while she remains dynamic.

Avital entered politics after some three decades of service in the Foreign Ministry where, among other positions, she was ambassador to Portugal and consul general in New York. An extremely active MK, she had hoped to be the first woman president of Israel. She was pressured to drop out of the presidential race so as to ensure that Shimon Peres, who had previously lost to Moshe Katsav, would not be humiliated again. Initially Avital refused, but after the first round of voting, in which Peres received more votes than either Avital or MK Reuven Rivlin but not enough for the absolute majority set down in the election rules, both she and Rivlin dropped out. Rivlin makes no secret of the fact that he hopes to be the 10th president of Israel after Peres concludes his seven-year term in July, 2014.

Avital still has time to decide whether she wants to vie for the position again. Meanwhile she serves as Director General of the Berl Katznelson Foundation’s Ideological and Educational Center. Some of her other activities have included international secretary of the Israel Labor Party; chairperson of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; chairperson of the International Harp Contest and of the Zimrya (International Festival of Choirs); director at the Company for the Restitution of Assets of Victims of the Holocaust and member of the board of the Gesher Theater.

■ SOMEONE ELSE who has discovered that there is still life after leaving the limelight is former Israel Defense Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. (Res) Avi Benayahu, who at the conclusion of four years of service was last year named the Israel Public Relations Association’s Man of the Year. A journalist by profession, Benayahu’s previous positions had included being chief of Army Radio and communications advisor to Yitzhak Rabin.

These days, he’s his own man. He recently opened a strategic consultancy office in the Azrieli Towers and last Thursday held a huge reception to celebrate his new venture.

Naturals among the guests were former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former defense minister MK Amir Peretz. Also present were celebrity lawyer Zion Amir, public relations guru Ran Rahav, MKs Dalia Itzik and Isaac Herzog, Jerusalem Post owner Eli Azur, a large coterie of journalists along with former economics reporter and controversial economics analyst Shlomo Maoz, who has also recently entered into a new office. Maoz, who many years ago was the economics editor of The Jerusalem Post and later entered the world of finance, was the chief economist for the Excellence Nessuah brokerage firm, which dispensed with his services following a lecture that he gave at the Sapir Conference in Sderot in which he attacked the Ashkenazi establishment and pointed to the overwhelming gap in major institutions between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi people in executive positions. Excellence Nessuah dissociated itself from his remarks, but Maoz did not lose popularity and was invited to appear on numerous radio and television programs. Soon after, he was appointed chief economist of Alfa Platinum in the Forum Group and has launched Honline – a service for savings and investment management customized to households, which is the first in a series of new ventures. The name is a word play on hon, the Hebrew word for “capital.”

■ IT IS becoming customary for Australian trade delegations to Israel to not only meet with Israelis in the same fields of endeavor and learn about the country’s hi-tech, scientific, agricultural, economic and political achievements, but also to learn about the Jewish religion – particularly when the missions are led by haredi businessmen.

This is what happened last week with a relatively small but extremely wealthy and well-connected eightmember delegation led by brothers-in-law Moishe Gordon and Ruvi Herzog of Melbourne.

Gordon heads the Gordon Group, whose interests include manufacturing, hotels, aviation and security, while Herzog heads the Herzog Group, whose major focus is the motor car industry and the real estate sector as well as green energy.

Gordon and Herzog, who are both sons of Holocaust survivors, took the group, which was mainly Roman-Catholic, to Yad Vashem for what the non- Jews described as an overwhelming experience that gave them a much better understanding of Jewish history and the Jewish people.

They also experienced the welcoming of the Sabbath at the Western Wall and a proper Sabbath meal at the Mamilla hotel, which was delayed somewhat because the waiters did not understand that the blessing over the bread required two loaves. They had placed an enormous loaf of halla on the table a well as baskets of cut-up breads, and it baffled them that Gordon, Herzog and Paul Israel, the executive director of the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce, were all insisting on another loaf. Eventually there was a compromise. They provided a bread roll, which, despite its size, sufficed in terms of the requirements of tradition.

The meal was quite good, but not nearly as good as the political conversation that followed.

The atmosphere around the table was enhanced by the presence of Australian journalist John Lyons, who reports for the national newspaper The Australian from throughout the Middle East. Lyons had people on the edge of their seats as he talked about being arrested, blindfolded and tied with electric wire when covering the upheavals in Egypt. Fortunately he had not been alone, and a German journalist who had been taken prisoner but whose cell phone had not been turned off was traced by the German Embassy, which negotiated his release and that of the other journalists with him.

The Australian business people seemed to be wellinformed about the Middle East, even to the extent of knowing the names of opposing forces and personalities in various parts of the region.

What they couldn’t grasp was the inability of anyone to make meaningful forecasts. When Geoff Lord, managing director of the Belgravia Group, with a huge array of business interests that include clothing, property development and investment, public companies and financial services and management of health and leisure clubs, persistently tried to get Lyons to visualize the region in 10 years time, Lyons refused, saying he couldn’t even hazard a guess at what would happen in Syria within 48 hours let alone the whole region in 10 years.

One of the first-time participants admitted that his preconceptions of Israel were nothing like the reality, but said that he hadn’t really changed his mind about Jews, whom he still regarded as elitist. Later in private conversation, he took a leaf out of the book of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who both last year and this told Muslim radicals who have immigrated to Australia that if they want to live in Australia, they have to abide by Australian laws, espouse Australian values and speak the Australian language. Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law, she said, should get out of Australia. “If you aren’t happy here then leave. We didn’t force you to come here.

You asked to be here.”

The Australian businessman, who is Catholic and who admitted to years of anti-Jewish Church indoctrination, said that if he had to choose between Jews and Muslims living in Australia, he would choose Jews, “because they come to contribute and the Muslims come to take over.”

■ SPEAKING AT the Begin Center under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress Research Institute, noted American historian Rafael Medoff, who is the director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington, was careful to correct people who mispronounced his name so that it sounded like that of the notorious Ponzi scheme swindler. Medoff, who is a compelling writer, is an even better orator and kept his audience, most of whom were raised in the US, spellbound for the best part of an hour as he talked about Herbert Hoover and the Jews in times of war and genocide and in American politics.

The most frustrating thing for historians and political and military researchers is the amount of material that must remain classified for at least 30 years. While Hoover’s pro-Jewish stance throughout the Holocaust years was not entirely a secret, the audience was surprised by a lot of what Medoff said. He presented examples of how much Hoover did do for the Jews compared to lack of action or interest by Roosevelt. He also outlined the influence that Benzion Netanyahu, the late father of the prime minister, had on Hoover, to whom he explained how the British White Paper prevented Jews from migrating to their most logical haven. Netanyahu wanted the US to put pressure on the British not to extend the terms expressed in the White Paper. Medoff also put paid to what he termed “the myth” about what influenced President Harry S. Truman to support the creation of the State of Israel. According to the popular story, Truman was persuaded by his business partner, Eddie Jacobson. But according to Medoff, it was all politics designed to win the Jewish vote. Not too much has changed in this regard when it comes to American election campaigns.

Also on the program was attorney and amateur thespian Marc Zell, who described himself as “an anomaly in the American political landscape – a Jewish Republican.” Zell is the co-chairman of Republicans Abroad Israel.

■ UNDER ORDINARY circumstances Israel Prize laureate and veteran broadcaster Yaakov Ahimeir would not interview a member of his family, but on Saturday night when news broke of the death of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, Ahimeir had no option other than to interview his own brother, Yossi Ahimeir, who had served as Shamir’s bureau chief and had also worked with him when Shamir was foreign minister.

■ POPULAR STAGE, screen and radio singer, actor and current affairs commentator Yehoram Gaon is not afraid to spit in the well from which he drinks when he finds the water to be bitter. In his radio show on Reshet Bet last Friday, Gaon was highly critical of the nobodies who become instant celebrities for merely appearing on reality shows. But he was even more critical of an insurance company’s advertising campaign that is frequently aired on Reshet Bet and features raucous voiced men and women telling people who’ve suffered a misfortune that they’re going to evict them from their home or that their child will not be admitted to an extracurricular activity or that their hotel cancellation will not be accepted.

In a country with such an overwhelming tradition of volunteerism and goodwill, it is unconscionable to broadcast advertisements that send out such a heartless message, said Gaon, who stopped short of adding that it’s even more intolerable that commercials of this kind are broadcast on public radio. Whoever listens to Reshet Bet on a regular basis might also question the rules of censorship that apply to advertising texts, the frequency with which the same commercial can be aired in less than a 15- minute time span and whether the Voice of Israel has found a way to circumvent truth in advertising.

In its own advertising campaign, which claims that advertising on Israel Radio is far more effective than any other form of advertising and has actually gotten advertisers to confirm this, Israel Radio is ignoring the fact that, whereas advertisements in newspapers and magazines can referred to more than once and television commercials can be both seen and heard, radio listeners have no way of absorbing the information in a commercial because it goes by so fast and they have no chance to record it. It would seem that the Israel Broadcasting Authority is yet again shooting itself in the foot.

greerfc@gmail.com

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