Grapevine: Plane talk
Is Israel getting its own Air Force One? According to 'Calcalist,' the financial tabloid, the answer is yes.
PM Netanyahu at Taglit-Birthright event. Photo: GPO
Is Israel getting its own Air Force One? According to Calcalist, the financial
tabloid that is part of the Yediot Aharonot group, the answer is yes, and the
plane, which will transport President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and their successors abroad, should become operational around May of
this year. The acquisition of the plane has been on the agenda for some years
now, and Calcalist reports that the Prime Minister’s Office has renewed its
contact with Golden Number Solution, a consultation agency whose members are
largely made up of former senior officers of the Israel Air Force.
need for a plane to serve the president and the prime minister has been a
pressing matter for more than two decades.
The last president to have a
plane at his disposal was Chaim Herzog, for whom an El Al plane was repainted,
but it was an old plane which was put out of commission after Herzog completed
his tenure. In those days, many more journalists travelled abroad with the
president and the PM than is presently the case because flights were much more
affordable than flights on commercial carriers. Both Peres and Netanyahu take
commercial flights abroad, and it is estimated that if a plane is purchased to
put at the disposal of the president and the PM, it will, over a relatively
short period, save the taxpayer some $12 million, taking into account the cost
of fares for the entourages of the two.
■ BIRTHRIGHT HAS changed the
Jewish future, Netanyahu told thousands attending the Taglit-Birthright Israel
Mega Event at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Monday evening.
The event coincided with Birthright’s celebration of its bar
Netanyahu recalled how the organization started 13 years ago,
during his first term as prime minister, with the “wild idea” of bringing young
Jews from the Diaspora on short visits to Israel. The PM welcomed two of its
visionaries, Michael and Judy Steinhardt.
“We’ve had, I believe, 330,000
young Jews from around the world come to Israel since then, and we’re getting
another 44,000 this year, with you represented,” Netanyahu said. “But my goal is
even more ambitious...
Our goal is that any young Jewish man or woman who
wants to come to Israel will be able to come to Israel... I believe it’s
important not only for us, but it’s also important for presenting our case to
■ THE LOUNGE at The Jerusalem Post was packed on Monday as
staff came to hear Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who has already been
dubbed “the surprise of these elections.”
Senior editor Lawrence Rifkin
even brought his son, Guy – who will be a first-time voter and is enlisting in
the IDF in March.
Bennett said that when he was growing up in Haifa, his
parents, who made aliya from San Francisco, used to send him every morning to
walk up to the street to get The Jerusalem Post.
“I see you perhaps as
the key trumpet to the world outside Israel,” he said. “I’m convinced that
forming a Palestinian state is suicide, and we’re going to have to change it. It
might take 30 years, but let’s start.
We’ve got to start somewhere in
reversing this terrible thing. You can agree with me or not. I feel like we are
in a car running towards a cliff, and we have to reverse it.
When I wake
up in the morning, that’s the sense that drives me.”
accompanied by Jeremy Gimpel, who made aliya from Atlanta, Georgia and is No.14
on the Bayit Yehudi list. He has represented Bayit Yehudi in the Jerusalem
Post/AACI Election 2013 debates.
■ UNICEF ISRAEL chairman Moriel Matalon,
who is a partner in a prestigious law firm, was among the many people who last
Thursday attended the 15th anniversary celebrations of New Family. Speaking from
the stage of Habima Theater, Matalon commended New Family founder and fellow
lawyer Irit Rosenblum, saying that he admired her both as a citizen of Israel
and as a member of the legal fraternity. At the present time, said Matalon,
burial societies will not inter couples who have not been married according to
Jewish law. Every day, the newspapers contain stories about people who for one
reason or another have been denied the right to live a happy private life
because they do not conform to rules established 3,000 years ago. It’s not that
Judaism has no creative solutions to difficult problems, he said, citing bigamy
and agunot (women anchored in marriage because their husbands have disappeared)
as examples of difficult problems for which solutions have been
Matalon questioned where Jewish enlightenment is today when almost
every issue that causes human misery comes to court. Neither society nor the
individual can progress when the nation is bound by religious restrictions, he
said. Among the more sensitive causes taken up by Rosenblum, he cited, was that
of a fallen soldier whose parents wanted to preserve the continuity of his line
by inseminating a surrogate mother with his semen. The state would not allow it,
but Rosenblum took the matter to court and won the case, and many soldiers going
into battle now leave semen specimens behind to be used in the event that they
are killed or injured to the extent that they can no longer sire
When she first started with New Family, said Rosenblum, no one
understood what she was trying to achieve, and she was rebuffed time and again.
“When you have a target, you mustn’t be diverted,” she said.
at the audience, which included a large representation of the LGBT community as
well as other people who, for various reasons, had been unable to marry under
Israeli law, Rosenblum declared: “I didn’t create a revolution. You did. I was
merely the vehicle.” It had always bothered her, she said, that people who
created nontraditional families were denied because of their sexual orientation
or other religious barriers to have families of their own.
should be able to create the kind of family they want, whether it’s a mixed
marriage, a kohen marrying a divorcee or a same-sex marriage,” she said. “Before
we came, these people were desolate and frustrated.”
There are some
800,00 couples in Israel who were not married in the traditional manner, she
revealed, and she was happy to report that as a result of legal action that she
had undertaken, several precedents were established to give full marital rights
to couples who were previously denied them.
■ MANY COUPLES opt for a
civil marriage ceremony simply because they are secular and want nothing to do
with the rabbinate.
Not so long ago, most of these couples would have
gone to Cyprus to get married, as have couples in which one of the partners is
not Jewish or is genetically “half Jewish” but does not fulfill halachic
But in recent years, celebrities have begun to perform
civil marriages. Yair Lapid used to do so before he entered politics, and may
continue to do so after he becomes a legislator. Meanwhile, popular
singer/guitarist Moshe Lahav has joined those celebs who perform civil
The added bonus in his case is that the couple will also
receive a musical serenade. Presumably, Lapid will attempt to have civil
marriages in Israel fully legalized.
■ APPROXIMATELY EVERY two years,
there is a quasi-reunion among certain past and present writers for The
Jerusalem Post who have added a feather to their respective caps by also writing
fiction. The initiative for this belongs to Shelley Goldman, who wrote a gossip
column for the weekly Metro supplement of the paper and later edited the
supplement’s second incarnation, which was published under the City Lights
banner. When Goldman embarked on a creative writing course at Bar-Ilan
University, she became acutely aware of the fact that there were numerous
talented fiction writers who were producing wonderful stories, novels and plays
but had nowhere to publish them “because an Israeli postmark is a kiss of death
in the publishing world.”
Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, Aharon Applefeld, David
Grossman and a few other Israeli writers might disagree with that assessment,
but then again they were already giants on the Israeli literary scene when
overseas publishers began to take an interest in them. Goldman decided to give
the English-language short story writers a platform and, together with Wendy and
Jeffrey Geri, founded Anglo-Lit Press, recalling that a certain Jewish writer
who chose to emigrate from Poland to America rather than to Israel, became a
Nobel Prize Literature laureate.
The first anthology, Jane Doe Buys a
Challah & Other Stories, included 33 stories. The second venture, Tel Aviv
Short Stories, published to coincide with the centenary celebrations of the city
that never sleeps, was somewhat larger and contained 52 stories by 37 writers.
Then came Israel Short Stories with 70 stories by more than 50
The latest offering, Love in Israel contains 65 love stories –
though not necessarily of a romantic nature.
Previous launches were at
Tel Aviv University.
This time, Goldman had the launch at her home in Tel
Aviv. Among the writers whose by-lines have appeared in The Jerusalem Post are
Goldman, Joanna Yehiel, Judith Colp Rubin, Wendy Blumfield, Hannah Brown, Helen
Schary Motro, Carol Novis, Michal Yudelman O’Dwyer and Carol Cook. Hundreds of
submissions for the book which were read by a selection committee of
approximately a dozen people.
Goldman was genuinely sorry that not all
the submissions could be published, but acknowledged that, whether published or
not, the response indicated that there is enormous, often untapped literary
creativity in the English language in Israel. She also paid tribute to the late
Dr. Shaindy Rudoff for pioneering creative writing in English in Israel and to
members of Writersbloc, a Tel Aviv-based creative writing group, who give each
other feedback and inspiration and some of whose writings are in the
An anthology of short stories is preferable to a novel in the times
in which we live, Goldman explained, because few people have time to sit down
and read a novel, and even if they find time, if the first few pages don’t grab
them, they won’t read the book.As yet, Goldman doesn’t have a theme for the
fifth book in the series, but it could very well have something to do with wine.
Her husband, businessman Itzhak Wolf, at the previous launch, was still
recovering from heart and kidney transplants which he had undergone in the
United States. Goldman had imagined that after such a stressful experience, he
would simply want to chill out. But no. He went off to the Negev to start a
winery which, under the Midbar Wines label, has become quite successful in a
very short span of time. He is convinced that the Negev has the potential for
producing wines just as good as those of California’s Napa
Goldman attributes this optimism to the stubborn streak that
characterizes Israel itself. Her husband has the same horoscope as the state,
she explained, having arrived on the last illegal immigrant ship and entering
the world only three hours prior to Ben-Gurion’s declaration of
■ ON THE subject of transplants, the year started well for
former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who is still convalescing after a liver
transplant that he underwent three months ago in Belarus because, at age 67, he
was unable to meet the criteria for liver transplants established by Israel and
most other countries. Dagan returned to Israel to recuperate at Ichilov Hospital
and was discharged on December 30. After he had been home for a couple of days,
he was visited by Rabbi Elimelech Firer, who had instrumental in facilitating
the transplant in Belarus. Dagan has lost a considerable amount of weight since
the transplant, but seems to be recovering well and is optimistic about
returning to an active lifestyle.
■ WHEN THE Israeli media carries daily
news items about labor disputes and mistreatment of workers, it’s a pleasant
surprise to find a company that truly values its workers and lets them know how
much they are appreciated. A case in point is Z.Landau Construction Contractors
and Engineering Ltd., whose president Zvi Landau, CEO Alon Natan and deputy CEO
Shai Givati and Landau’s sons, Dudi (director of finances and human resources)
and Zahi (director of construction and implementation), hosted 150 of the
company’s employees to review the past year’s activities and to talk about the
Twelve employees who have worked for the company for more
than a decade received citations in recognition of their dedication to the job,
and Battah Guad, who is in charge of on-site security, was presented with an
Outstanding Employee citation. Givati told the employees that without them, the
company could never have achieved its current level of success.
projects over 2012 were valued in excess of NIS 300 million and many more
initiatives are expected in the year ahead. Landau, 85, who continues to take an
active interest in the company, was particularly happy when his grandson, Omri,
the son of Zahi, showed up at the festivities bearing a matriculation
certificate which he had received only a few hours earlier.
■ WINTER WAS
slow in coming this year, and while it was pleasant to keep enjoying the warmth
of the sun at a fairly comfortable temperature, people who traditionally go
north in winter to ski on Mount Hermon have been frustrated by the long wait.
Ice skaters are more fortunate – at least for most of the month of
The Renanim Mall in Ra’anana this week opened a 110-sq.m. ice
skating rink, which will remain in place until January 30. The ice is synthetic,
so it’s not going to melt, but the skating experience will be the same as on the
real thing. The only catch is that the skating rink is available just to
children aged six and up. The price of an entry ticket is NIS 39. The
installation is part of the new retail culture, says Renanim Mall CEO David
Ben-Moshe, who explains that with increasing competition, mall owners have to
invest more in value-added temptations that will attract people to the
■ ELECTION CAMPAIGN notwithstanding, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz
makes time to spend with his family and recently went to dinner at the Italian
restaurant in the Old Jaffa Railway Station with his wife, Irit, and daughter,
Noa. But it wasn’t just a family affair. Noa wanted her Tel Aviv friends to meet
her dad because, in her conversations with them, she discovered that they did
not know much about him beyond the fact that he’d been a chief of staff and a
defense minister. Because she was tired of explaining the difference between her
father as a person and Shaul Mofaz as portrayed in the media, she decided to
invite her friends to find out for themselves and to form impressions based on
personal contact rather than what they read and heard about him. Mofaz talked to
them about the need to serve in the IDF, national security concerns and issues
related to the economy and social welfare. In the relaxed atmosphere of the
restaurant, it turned out to be a somewhat different kind of parlor meeting, but
if nothing else it illustrated the importance of family togetherness.
IT'S A known fact that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is a millionaire who has
donated quite a lot of his own money to educational projects. His wife, Beverly,
does not need to work unless she wants to. On a recent tour of the YVEL jewelry
manufacturing plant in Motza on the cusp of the highway leading to Jerusalem,
Barkat was impressed by what he saw and told proprietors Orna and Itzik Levy
that Beverly is a trained artist who also studied to be a
Itzik Levy pointed to an empty chair and said, “If she wants
a job, she’s got one.” The Levys are among those industrialists who believe in
Maimonides’s dictum of social welfare, which is that the best form of charity is
to give someone the opportunity to earn a living. Thus, many of their workers
come from the Ethiopian immigrant community. The Levys provided training for
them and then employed those who showed the best aptitude for the job.
IN HIS many travels around the country, President Shimon Peres encounters
extraordinary goodwill, which he often speaks about at events that he is
hosting. Last week, when hosting Akim, Peres said that although Israelis are not
particularly noted for being law-abiding and, in fact prefer, to break the rules
whenever possible, they are on the other hand the most generous of volunteers
and seldom refuse to do a good deed. He has found this trait among all strata
and age groups of Israeli society. There is an extraordinary characteristic of
giving both of oneself and of financial resources.
Not only that, but
many companies encourage their employees to give to the communities in which the
companies’ branches are located or to pick a specific cause and to pursue it
throughout the country, as did United Airlines.
You can’t give a bear hug
to every sick child, but you can give them each a teddy bear. And that’s what
United employees are doing. They are going from one children’s hospital to
another to distribute the bears and have joined a project called The Adventurous
Bear. Last week they distributed 72 bears at the Dana Douek Children’s Hospital
in Tel Aviv. Avi Friedman, who heads United Airlines operation in Israel, said
the company was delighted to be joining forces with an American cancer research
group that initiated The Adventurous Bear project to boost the morale of
Every year for several years, United has purchased
a huge quantity of toys from Gund, America’s leading manufacturer of soft toys,
and has distributed more than 35,000 such toys to children across
It is now happy to be doing something similar in
■ IT WAS like old home week when Knesset Central Elections
Committee chairman Elyakim Rubinstein and CEC spokesman Giora Pordes met at the
President’s Residence this week for the launch of the Facebook video clip that
aims to encourage young people to vote in the elections for the 19th Knesset.
Pordes was the military aide-de-camp to president Chaim Herzog.
retired from the IDF he became the spokesman for the Knesset, a position that he
held for 14 years.
Rubinstein said that when he looks at Peres, it seems
to him that the president gets younger all the time. Rubinstein recalled that
Peres had attended Rubinstein’s wedding 36 years ago and is no less energetic
today than he was then..
■ WINNERS OF The Mifal Hapayis 2012 Landau Prize
for Scientific Research in the exact sciences, social sciences and humanities
are Prof. Eli Zeldov of the Weizmann Institute for his research into
superconductivity; Prof. Omer Moav of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his
work in micro economics; Prof. Ruth Amos of Tel Aviv University for her literary
research and critiques; and Prof. Shmuel Einav of Tel Aviv University for
cardio-vascular biomedical engineering. The prizes range from NIS 50,000 to NIS
100,000. This is the 11th year in which the prize will be