■ IT’S NOT nice to make fun of other people’s misfortune, but that’s the bread and butter of satirical television programs such as Channel 2’s State of the Nation. After roasting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last month, the show’s iconoclastic quartet, for whom nothing is sacred, completed their seventh season this week by hosting Shas leader Arye Deri, the only representative of the haredi community who has ever agreed to come on the show.
When he said how lucky he was to be married to Yaffa Deri, with whom he has nine children, they were more inclined to believe him than Netanyahu, who had professed his love for his own wife in much stronger terms. Deri’s charming smile blunted all the digs at him, but he proved that he could give as good as he got. He told comedienne Orna Banai that she was the only Banai of her generation who had not yet turned to religion with the exception of Bob the Builder. (Banai is the Hebrew word for builder.) “He’s not related to us,” Banai shot back.
When they started ribbing Deri about the time he spent in prison, he took it very lightly and responded “I have an advantage over other politicians: I already have it [jail] behind me.” Presuming that former prime minister Ehud Olmert would be doing jail time, Guri Alfi painted a scenario in which Olmert and former president Moshe Katsav would be sitting in prison and Jonathan Pollard, having come to Israel following his release from prison, would go and visit them.
■ SPEAKING TO a group of students this week, Olmert’s lawyer Eli Zohar was sharply critical of the Israeli media for ignoring sub judice laws when it comes to celebrities and prominent personalities.
Something bad has happened to Israeli society, he said, such that it is unable to tolerate the success of achievers, and rather than wait for due legal process (when such people may have committed a crime) it prefers to tar and feather them and hang them in the public square.
■ ONE CAN well imagine the psychological torment of Jonathan Pollard at this time. When it finally looked as if he might be released, and perhaps even in time to celebrate Seder in Israel, where he could truly appreciate the festival of freedom, his hopes were dashed yet again.
But Rafi Eitan, the former senior Mossad official who was Pollard’s handler, told Channel 2 this week that Israel cannot give up on Pollard at this crucial time.
Eitan said that he had never imagined that Pollard would sit in jail for so long, and thought that at most he would spend ten years behind bars. “Israel must set clear conditions,” Eitan declared, that “if there is no Pollard, there is no deal.”
If Pollard is released, Eitan said, he would like to meet him and tell him a few things that he has been unable to tell him in the past. Eitan would not reveal what he would say to Pollard. That would be strictly between the two of them.
■ POLISH AUTHORITIES and Jews who live in Poland keep telling Israeli organizers of “roots trips” to Poland that there is more to see of the country and its Jewish renaissance than anyone who hasn’t been there might realize.
Going to the sites of concentration camps should not be the only reason that Jews go to Poland, they say.
Next week, on Thursday, April 10, Monika Krawczyk, director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, will be in Israel to discuss the process of reclaiming and restoring Jewish community property, the revival of Jewish life in Poland and how she sees the future. She will be speaking in English at the community center in Tzur Hadassah.
Krawczyk, a lawyer who was born and lives in Warsaw, is an example of the Jewish renaissance in that she is religiously observant and, within the framework of her job, mixes in Jewish circles in different parts of Poland. She is also involved with projects outside the parameters of her job, but within the framework of the Jewish community.
She occasionally helps out the Forum of Polish Jews, whose Polish-language portal covers Poland, Israel and the world.
Krawczyk has also worked in her professional capacity with the Polish-Jewish Literature Studies Center at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, in organizing and publicize a conference on “The Jewish Press in Poland: Yesterday and Today” that will take place in the beautifully restored synagogue of Zamosc on October 28-30. Another co-organizer of the conference is the Center for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews. Conference participants will discuss not only the content of Jewish periodicals, but also their role in documenting Jewish life and Jewish issues.
Someone who could tell them a lot about that is The Jerusalem Post’s most veteran employee, nonagenarian Alexander Zvielli, who has been with the paper since before the founding of the state and whose father owned one of the bestknown printing presses in the heart of Jewish Warsaw. Zvielli, who is still spry and alert and comes to work regularly, remembers the Jewish literary giants who used to proofread in his father’s press.
■ THERE ARE many cultural exchanges between Poland and Israel, some of which result in much better public diplomacy on Israel’s behalf by Poles who have been here than anything that might be dreamt up by Israeli PR experts. For instance, five senior lecturers from Jan Dlugosz University in Czestochowa who were recently in Israel, led by vice dean Przemyslaw Szmurkowski and Prof. Jerzy Mizgalski, took a lot of photos and have used them to create an exhibition that will open this coming Monday in the library of the university’s Faculty of History and Philology. If pictures are worth a thousand words, the academics are doing Israel a great service.
■ HISTORY BUFFS will be pleased to know that all the documents, letters, ledgers, minutes, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, botanical observations, sheet music, photo albums, hand colored prints, glass negatives and more produced by people who were part of Jerusalem’s American Colony have been kept and stored in buildings of the area’s hotel complex, as well as in the homes of colony members. Many books have been written about the pioneers of the American Colony and the development of the hotel. The subject has been a constant source of fascination to writers in many languages, but all of those books together do not tell as complete a story as the original documentation.
Rachel Lev, an art historian, curator and museum designer, was brought in close to the turn of the century to organize all this memorabilia, which was stored in cupboards, drawers, attics, lofts and elsewhere. Her services were called upon following a cooperative agreement the colony signed in 2006 with the Library of Congress in Washington, whereby some of the colony’s most delicate manuscripts were sent to Washington for preservation and scanning. When Lev came into the picture, many forgotten components of the history of the colony were rediscovered in the oddest of places.
In 2008, with the death of Valentine Vester, who had transformed the hotel and who for forty years had been the custodian of the American Colony’s historical records, it was decided to give the archives a central home.
The most logical place was in Vester’s apartment on the hotel premises, where the most important records had always been stored. Now that there was no longer anyone living there, there was more room in which to store and display the archives.
The collection is still evolving, and Lev, who is in charge of the archives, has performed a Herculean feat in sorting, scanning, listing and organizing.
The archives will be officially open to the public on April 9 at a ceremony which will be attended by US Consul General Michael Ratney and Swedish Consul General Alex Wernhoff, as well as the colony’s management and its board of directors chairman Paul Vester.
Also to attend are the Spafford Children’s Center board of directors, Rachel Lev, Library of Congress Manuscript Division historian Dr. Barbara Bair and Norwegian writer Odd Karsten Tveit, who wrote the book Anna’s House based on the early history of the American Colony.
■ AGAINST THE backdrop of the threatened closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, the IBA director-general presented the annual Ilan Roeh Prize to two Israel Radio journalists. The prize is named in memory of an Israel Radio reporter who was killed in Lebanon 15 years ago while traveling with an IDF convoy.
Although this was not the first time there was a female recipient, it was the first time that both recipients were women.
The first was veteran News Department director Hila Marinov and the second was health reporter Dikla Aharon, who was still a child when Roeh, a highly respected military affairs reporter, was killed at age 32.
IBA director-general Yoni Ben-Menachem said that the prize would remain in force for as long as the IBA remained in existence.
■ PRAYERS AND psalms that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich recited this week in the garden of the presidential compound referred to trees, homes and man: the latter from a verse in Deuteronomy that states that man is as a tree in the field. The verse appealed to President Shimon Peres, who said that the wood of the tree is cut to build a house, but man plants the seed from which the tree grows and then cuts the wood to build the house. Man too originates from a seed, he said, and grows like a tree. It is a Jewish tradition to bless the trees in the spring month of Nisan, Rabbi Yosef said, because that is when they blossom and give off beauty and a pleasant scent, after which it takes seven weeks for the fruit to appear after the flowers have fallen. This is an analogy to the blossoming of the nation with the Exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The Torah represents the fruit of Jewish life.
■ IT’S A little difficult to think of bubbly entertainer Tzipi Shavit, who still has the verve of a teenager, as someone who is now well and truly a senior citizen. She was an April Fool’s Day baby who was born in 1947, which means that this week she celebrated her 67th birthday.
That’s the age at which men become senior citizens. Women start earlier, but Shavit has the kind of effervescence that will keep her young even if she lives to be a hundred.
■ FANS OF Naomi Shemer who want to honor her memory on the 10th anniversary of her passing can hear a musical tribute to her at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv, which was previously known as the Mann Auditorium.
Shemer was both a composer and a lyricist, and many of her songs have come close to being national hymns, the most famous of them being “Yerushalayim shel zahav” (Jerusalem of gold). But Shemer, who had enormous sensitivity, combined with a great sense of patriotism and an unbelievable wealth of talent, wrote many other songs that reflected her love for and the beauty of the country. She also wrote about life in Israel, as reflected in “Anachnu shneinu me’oto hakfar” (We are both from the same village). Many of her songs were poignant. Some were uplifting, and others spoke to people’s individual emotions.
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, which does a lot more than plant trees, is sponsoring the concert, which will take place on the evening of Thursday, April 17. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will be directed by Rafi Kadishson and performers will include Etti Ankri, Guy Zoaretz, David D’Or, Assaf Amdursky, Harel Skaat, Miri Mesika, Nurit Galron, Roni Dalumi, Shlomo Gronich and Tamar Giladi.
■ FASHION HOUSES supposedly create for the young, but it is becoming increasingly trendy to have models who are technically past their prime as presenters.
Among the models who have gone the distance is Ronit Yudkovich, 48, a mother of three who is the presenter for Hagara, and who has been working for some thirty-plus years, but she will not be modeling for a while.
Yudkovich, who is also an actress, painter and sculptress, slipped on a wet floor, fracturing her thigh. She was hospitalized at Ichilov for several days, underwent surgery, and now that she’s home, she has someone steering her through physiotherapy.
Yudkovich remains cheerful and optimistic. She says she feels fine and believes that it won’t take too long before she’s able to walk again.