Believe it or not, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in
possession of a copy of the Kabbala, which is a compilation of the most esoteric
teachings of Judaism. He received it this week from Rabbi Yehuda Berg, son of
Rabbi Philip Berg, the founder of the Los Angeles-head-quartered International
Kabbalah Center. Yehuda Berg and his mother, Karen, were accompanied by
Israeli-born American fashion icon Elie Tahari, who migrated almost penniless to
the United States in the early 1970s and became a national celebrity. Tahari is
among many celebrities, including Madonna, who have become engrossed in Kabbalah
studies. Abbas promised the Bergs that he would visit the Kabbalah Center the
next time he is in the United States. Who knows? The Kabbala may yet pave the
path to peace.
■ THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week that Yair Shamir, who bears
an uncanny resemblance to his father, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir,
would be joining Yisrael Beytenu, preceded the bombshell announcement of a
national unity government that put Knesset elections on hold for another year.
Even before the entry of Kadima into the coalition became a hot news item, there
was talk that Yisrael Beytenu was also courting the grandson of Revisionist
leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
This led to several electronic media interviews
with Gil Samsonov, a second-generation right-wing political stalwart, a former
Likud campaign manager, a former chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority
and currently the owner of an advertising agency. The reason for the interviews:
Samsonov is completing his book, The Princes, based on a thesis he wrote at
university more than 30 years ago in which he noted that the offspring of Lehi
and Etzel activists, some of whom later became Knesset members, would follow in
the footsteps of their parents and would also be involved in shaping the destiny
of the nation.
Among the princes are Bennie Begin, the son of Menachem
Begin, Tzachi Hanegbi, the son of Geula Cohen, Uzi Landau, the son of Haim
Landau, Tzipi Livni, the daughter of Eitan Livni, Dan Meridor, the son of Eliahu
Meridor, and Ehud Olmert, the son of Mordechai Olmert. Had the proposal to call
the election for September 4 been accepted by a Knesset majority, Samsonov would
have had to postpone the publication of his book until after the election so
that it would not be construed as election propaganda. Now he can publish it
whenever he wants.
The political Left also has its fair share of examples
of parents and offspring, siblings, cousins and in-laws serving in the Knesset,
but none more so than the Dayan family and its extensions. So far the Dayans are
the only family to have had three generations of Knesset members, plus cousins
and in-laws. Collectively they consisted of Shmuel Dayan, his son Moshe Dayan
and Moshe Dayan’s daughter Yael Dayan. Moshe Dayan was a cousin to Igal Hurwitz
and Amos Hadar and a brother-in-law to Ezer Weizmann, while the children of Yael
Dayan and Yossi Sarid are married to each other.
Yael Dayan’s cousin Uzi
Dayan, who is currently chairman of Mifal Hapayis, the state lottery and is a
former head of national security, was unsuccessful in his bid to enter the
Knesset. Other famous members of the Dayan family include celebrated film maker
Assi Dayan, satirist, playwright, author and columnist Jonathan Geffen, who like
Uzi Dayan is a nephew of Moshe Dayan’s, and Geffen’s pop-star son Aviv
■ EVEN THE most seasoned political journalists can get it wrong.
Israel Radio’s Yoav Krakowski, who burst into Reshet Bet’s pre-dawn musical loop
during the wee morning hours to announce the coalition deal between Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, said that they had
hammered out the details at the PM’s residence at 1 Balfour
Although it sounds very fitting for the prime minister of Israel
to live in Balfour Street, it was not originally planned that way, and the front
door and entrance to the garage of the prime minister’s official residence are
at 9 Smolenskin Street, not 1 Balfour, where the side entrance is
The voice of news and current affairs anchor Arye Golan, who
usually comes on air at 5 a.m, was heard just after 4 a.m. as he, Krakowski and
political commentator Hanan Krystal discussed the implications of Israel’s new
political reality and whether it had anything to do with Israel’s future
strategy visa- vis Iran. Krystal recalled that Menachem Begin had joined the
national unity government in 1967 on the eve of the Six Day War.
the new coalition deal hit the Knesset like a bombshell, no one should have been
After all the vacillating Mofaz, who promptly joined Kadima
after pledging never to leave Likud, then took a leave of absence after Tzipi
Livni won the Likud leadership in 2008 only to quickly do an about-face, had all
but announced that he would join Netanyahu when he had vowed to unseat him.
While he may have reneged on his own policy, those Kadima MKs who would have
surely lost their seats in the next election are grateful for an extra year’s
grace and the handsome salary and other perks that go with it.
DIGNITARIES to Israel are often asked to participate in tree planting ceremonies
organized in coordination with the Jewish National Fund. But tree planting is a
custom practiced in other countries as well. During his state visit to Canada
this week, President Shimon Peres planted a tree in the grounds of Rideau Hall,
the official residence of the governor-general. The Israeli tree joins that of
leaders of other nations.
Most visiting dignitaries to Israel plant their
trees in the forest adjacent to Yad Vashem or in the Jerusalem Peace Forest,
which is a hop, skip and a jump away from the designated site of the US Embassy
if and when it ever moves to Jerusalem, but visitors do not plant trees at the
residence of the president.
The one exception was Pope Benedict XVI
during his visit three years ago. The pope and President Peres planted an olive
tree in the Peace Garden at the residence.
■ FOR MOST people in Israel,
Wednesday night heralded the traditional Lag B’Omer bonfires, but for European
diplomats stationed in Israel, it was Europe Day, which was celebrated in
various parts of the country including Mikveh Israel College in Holon where
French Ambassador Christophe Bigot and Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp were
among the guests of honor.
Acknowledging that there is often disagreement
within Europe, especially with regard to solutions to the economic crisis,
Veldkamp said that when it comes to Iran, “Europe is strikingly united, and
united with Israel or the US.” While Europe was united on the policy of heavy
sanctions being imposed on Iran, he said, there were some European countries
that were opposed to military intervention. Veldkamp was of the opinion that all
options must remain on the table.
“One cannot say on the one hand that
Iran under no circumstances can gets hands on a nuclear weapon, and on the other
hand take certain options, such as military options, off the table,” he said.
This was the Dutch position supported unanimously by the Dutch parliament, he
declared. Contrary to popular belief, he emphasized, Israel is not alone in its
concerns about Iran.
While celebrating Europe Day with joy, he added, “We
do not forget our friends. Israel is home to many – and a home should be
■ BRITISH AIRWAYS, whose inaugural flight from London to Tel Aviv
in 1932 took five days, celebrated the 80th anniversary of that flight with a
gala bash at the Ramat Gan residence of British Ambassador Matthew Gould. The
first international airline to fly to Tel Aviv, British Airways currently has 14
scheduled weekly flights between London and Tel Aviv – and what initially took
five days now takes less than five hours.
Aside from the contributions of
modern technology to the considerable reduction of flight time, the flights
these days are direct whereas the initial flight went from London via France,
Italy, Turkey and Cyprus, with landings for refueling along the way. It didn’t
actually land in Tel Aviv, but on the water of the Sea of Galilee. The
all-inclusive fare at the time was £64, which in those days was considered a
Passengers received not only meals served with wine but also
accommodation in good hotels at all the points of landing. Details of that
historic flight were revealed by Katja Selle, BA’s regional manager for Europe
and Africa who flew to Israel to join the celebrations co-hosted by the
ambassador and his wife, Celia, as BA’s general manager for Israel Yael
Hundreds of people milled about on the lawns of the residence,
among them many of the tens of thousands who have flown the Tel Aviv-London-Tel
Aviv route on BA and some who will be flying there soon for the London
Also present were representatives of other airline companies,
diplomats, Boeing Israel president David Ivry, entertainers Moshe Datz and Aviv
Gefen, hi-tech wizard Yossi Vardi who is a frequent guest at the residence,
former chairman of Bank Discount Arie Minkevich, International Olympic Committee
Member Alex Giladi, and former Strauss Group CEO Michael Strauss. Gefen brought
his young son, Dylan, who almost stole the show.
■ IT WOULD not be
entirely accurate to say that Israel Museum director James Snyder put Jerusalem
on the map. After all, it has been there for centuries – certainly before the
dawn of both Christianity and Islam.
But the suave Mr. Snyder has given
Israel’s capital much greater prominence on the map by turning the Israel Museum
into a far more spectacular national asset than it was before he came on board.
In recognition of what Snyder has done for the city, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
will officially make him an Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem at a festive ceremony
at City Hall on June 6.
■ GERMAN PRESIDENT Joachim Gauck, who came into
office just under two months ago, will pay a state visit to Israel from May 28
Gauck became president when his predecessor, Christian Wulff,
stepped down at the beginning of the year following revelations of corruption
during the period in which he had served as prime minister of Lower Saxony. In
the race for the presidency, Wulff had been pitted against Gauck and had emerged
victorious. But the presidential office was obviously intended for both of them.
A former Lutheran pastor, Gauck was renowned for his anti-communist activities
in East Germany prior to the reunification of his