Behind every great man, according to the old adage, is a great woman. Indeed, the wives of many prominent figures throughout history have proven to be extraordinary personalities in their own right, sometimes in the limelight and sometimes in the shadows, but almost always wielding extraordinary influence on their husbands regardless of whether they themselves held public positions.
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the prime minister, is reputed to have enormous influence on her husband – which is perhaps the reason why a formidable representation of the wives of 18 haredi notables sent her a letter asking that she influence her husband against the decision to make army or national service compulsory for all haredi young men. Eighteen is of course a very significant figure in Jewish tradition, and is the gematria for life.
However, it’s rather strange that signatories to the letter included women whose husbands did serve in the IDF, such as Yaffa Deri, the wife of Shas leader MK Arye Deri; Tzipi Yishai, the wife of former Shas leader MK Eli Yishai; Esther Attias, the wife of MK and former minister Ariel Attias; and Rachel Porush, the wife of MK Meir Porush.
This is despite the fact that in most cases, their husbands are currently opposed to criminalizing any young haredi who does not respond to a call-up notice.
Whatever influence she may have, it would seem that Sara Netanyahu is not exactly the person to approach on such a matter – given that she herself served in the IDF, her elder son Yair served in the IDF, and there was never a question of her younger son Avner avoiding IDF service. Admittedly, Yair Netanyahu did not follow his father and his uncles – Ido and the late Yoni Netanyahu, who was the hero of the Entebbe rescue operation – into combat units, and served instead in the IDF Spokesman’s office – but the fact of the matter is that he did serve, and shared the burden of serving the nation. If haredim don’t want to join the Zionist army, they certainly could be trained as paramedics and spend their service years in hospitals around the country.
After all, in Jewish law pikuach nefesh – the saving of life – transcends nearly all other considerations, including that of keeping Shabbat. Their reserve duty could also be in hospitals or in working with organizations such as United Hatzalah or ZAKA, whose permanent volunteers include a high ratio of haredim.
■ IT’S AMAZING the extent to which things can change in a period of less than a year. There isn’t too much love lost these days between Nochi Dankner, who used to be the controlling shareholder in IDB Group, and Argentinean real estate tycoon Eduardo Elsztain, who had come to Israel to inject a financial booster to the ailing IDB. In a June 2013 news conference in Israel, Elsztain, with Dankner standing alongside him, had very complimentary things to say about IDB despite its faltering finances, pledging that he and others were ready to invest $75 million in the group.
At that time, Dankner regarded Elsztain as the company’s savior, not realizing that Elsztain – to whom he had been introduced by Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto – was about to oust him. In fact it was Pinto, now under police investigation for major fiscal misdemeanors, who urged Elsztain to help Dankner.
And the rest is history. Globes reported this week that Elsztain, who together with Moti Ben-Moshe now has controlling interest of IDB, will take up temporary residence in Israel, dividing his time between a Jerusalem hotel and the home of his sister, Diana Dan-Elsztain, who lives on Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the Negev.
■ THERE IS a debate as to how much influence the Dreyfus trial had on the vision of Theodor Herzl to create a Jewish state. There are those who believe it was the blatant anti-Semitism that manifested itself at the trial which triggered the Jewish spirit in the assimilated Herzl, who as a journalist covered the trial.
Others believe it was the seething anti-Semitism in Austria, but the Dreyfus connection seems to have taken greater hold – to the extent that it can almost be said that without Alfred Dreyfus, there might not have been a Zionist Movement.
In any case, personal items belonging to the Dreyfus family will be on display for the first time in Israel at the new exhibition at Beit Hatfutsot, “Dreyfus: The Story of a Jewish French Family.”
The exhibition will include the prayer book that belonged to Lucie Dreyfus, the wife of Alfred Dreyfus; a carpet embroidered by a 10-year-old girl who was a member of the Dreyfus family; rare family photos; original press clippings and caricatures published during the trial; and the screening of an original 13-minute film about the affair directed by Georges Melies. Among those who are expected to attend the festive opening on Monday, March 10, are the great-granddaughter of Alfred Dreyfus, Yael Perl Ruiz, who loaned many items to the exhibition; the great-granddaughter of writer Emile Zola (who had a major role in the exoneration of Dreyfus), Martine Le Blond-Zola, a representative of the Sorbonne who will participate in a Tel Aviv University conference on the affair; Justice Minister Tzipi Livni; French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave; Beit Hatfutsot CEO Dan Tadmor; and National Library director Prof. Haggai Ben-Shammai.
The Dreyfus Affair, which was politically motivated, drove a sharp wedge through French society, and motivated French writer Zola to write his courageous work J’Accuse. As far as is known, there are no direct descendants of Herzl who would have been invited to attend, but there are relatives of Herzl living in Israel; one of them is former justice minister Yaakov Neeman. The exhibition will be open to the public from March 13 until the end of September.
■ JERUSALEM IS a capital city without an opera house, and surprisingly without a branch of IKEA, even though the city is home to the largest population in the country. What it does have, however, is a new, multiplex Cinema City, which is not only glamorous and colorful but one of the safest places in Israel, because only two of its eight floors are above ground.
Yet another triumphant achievement by the extraordinarily successful brothers Moshe and Leon Edery, its cinema bank of 19 auditoriums has a total of 3,000 seats, plus a lot of seating in public areas. One auditorium out of the 19 is also a fully equipped theater for plays, in addition to having a movie screen.
According to Yaacov Cohen, the longtime partner of the Edery brothers in their various cinema-related ventures, the intriguing Cinema City complex is designed and equipped for almost any kind of function. The proof of this was in the Cinema City opening gala on Tuesday night, when more than 1,000 people mingled in the huge lobby of the complex’s shopping and restaurant area. Even with such a mega-crowd milling around, there was plenty of room in which to move freely, something for which the waiters and waitresses carrying heavily laden trays of food and beverages were extremely grateful. It’s never easy carrying a tray of goodies in a crowd, but they had room in which to maneuver.
Moshe Edery, who was born with a perpetual smile on his face, had ample reason to smile; the place was buzzing and the mood was happy. In addition to hundreds of Jerusalemites there was a very good out-of-town representation, including a healthy sprinkling of clients of public relations superstar Rani Rahav, whose company is handling the PR for Cinema City and other Edery Brothers enterprises. At the forefront of these clients were Etti and Gabi Rotter, the co-managing directors of Castro – one of Rahav’s most veteran clients, dating back to the early days of his career. It comes as no surprise that there are two Castro stores in Cinema City; some of Rahav’s other clients are also represented in the commercial area.
One of several reasons that Moshe Edery was in such high spirits was the element of surprise. During the twoand- a-half years in which Cinema City was under construction, most people thought that no progress was being made because they saw very little being done above ground. In fact the six underground floors were completed several months ago, but no one outside of the project was aware of this.
Among the Jerusalemites attending the gala were Mayor Nir Barkat, cinematheque founder Lia Van Leer, former deputy mayor Yigal Amedi, Deputy Welfare and Social Services Minister and former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy, discount supermarket king Rami Levy, and investment broker Mati Davidovich. Guests from outside Jerusalem included Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Gazit Israel CEO Ronen Ashkenazi, Bank Leumi chairman David Brodet, who is also chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation and Hadassah Academic College, Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion Kenan, Isracard CEO Dov Kotler, former government minister Haim Ramon, almost-chief of general staff Yoav Galant, and political reporter, commentator and anchor for Channel 1 and Israel Radio Ayala Hasson.
There was also a large showing of people from the entertainment industry, among them Ariella and Ami Giniger, the owners of Herzliya Studios; singer Harel Skaat, whose fans were busy photographing him as he sang to the accompaniment of a rock band; film director Eytan Fox; actors Yehuda Barkan and Gabi Amrani; singer Avi Toledano; and singer and actor Shaike Levi, best-known as one of the trio of the former comedy team Hagashash Hahiver. Also present, albeit briefly, was Portuguese Ambassador Miguel de Almeidae Soussa, whose country also benefits from the far-ranging vision of the Edery brothers, as they have built a Cinema City in Portugal.
Moshe Edery, whose daughter Limor, a lawyer, is also head of acquisitions in the family business, credits his brother Leon with being both the visionary and the builder in the family. Both brothers have enormous personality, plus an abiding affection for each other that really shows. Needless to say, their wives and children showed up in force. Leon’s wife Solange and their offspring, Liron, Eyal and Avi, were there, and finally got to see the finished product of what had kept him away from home so often. Moshe has three daughters, Maya, Tali and Limor, and they were present with his wife Pnina.
Incidentally, Leon, who is the main spokesman for the family, is also a linguist, and in acknowledging the work of a long list of companies and individuals associated with the project, spoke in Hebrew, Spanish, French, Portuguese and even Chinese.
Israel Shapira, who heads the engineering company that was engaged in executing the design of Cinema City, said the key target of an engineer was to see the completion of a project. This one, he said, was complicated and unique. “It was a great challenge, and we met it.”
Summing up, Yaacov Cohen said: “We realized a dream for Jerusalem.”
■ ANOTHER DREAM for Jerusalem that is about to be realized is the projected opening of the Waldorf Astoria, which like Cinema City experienced a series of delays, but is now scheduled to open in April. The public relations for the gala opening will be handled on the local level by Marom Communications, headed by Tal Marom; and on the international level by Lone Star Communications, headed by Charley J. Levine – both of which are based in the capital.
Levine has assigned Rafi Fischer and Dina Wimpfheimer to head the launch team working on the hotel’s gala opening.
While the hotel will make use of external PR agencies, the final say on any publicity to do with hotels that are part of the Hilton chain rests with Motti Verses, the longtime in-house PR manager of Hilton Israel. The Waldorf Astoria, which is part of the Hilton chain, is managed by Guy Klaiman, who for more than 20 years has been managing Hilton hotels around the world.
Apropos Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria, in 1997 Alon Ben-Gurion, the grandson of founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, having worked at the Tel Aviv Hilton, was appointed general manager of the Waldorf Astoria in New York – where in March 1960, his grandfather stayed in the presidential suite and had an historic meeting with longterm ramifications with German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. That meeting was recalled this week by Ben-Gurion’s disciple President Shimon Peres, when he conferred the President’s Medal of Distinction on current German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
■ POPULAR CARTOONIST Yaakov Kirschen is celebrating his 76th birthday with an open-house book launch of his Dry Bones Passover Haggada, which carries the standard Haggada text with explanations from different sources, coupled with the dry wit of Kirschen’s cartoon characters. The open house is at his home in Herzliya Pituah on March 9.
The Dry Bones Haggada had a trial launch at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in November last year, and was snapped up like hotcakes. It’s going to be seen at Seder tables all over North America.