■ Although it was President Reuven Rivlin’s 75th birthday on Tuesday, he chose to downplay it because according to his spokeswoman Naomi Toledano Kandel, he celebrates his birthday in accordance with the Hebrew date.
However, he did congratulate someone else on his 36th birthday this week. Rivlin, who has been visiting wounded soldiers, telephoned Lt.-Col. Shai Siman Tov, commander of the Golani Brigade’s 12th “Barak" Battalion, who was seriously wounded in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. Siman Tov hovered between life and death for several days and is hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer; he is confined to a wheelchair but determined to walk again.
Rivlin told him how proud the nation was of his courage, adding he hoped and prayed that at this time next year, they would be able to dance together in celebration of Siman Tov’s 37th birthday. Siman Tov told Rivlin he was surrounded by his officers and friends, who had come to Tel Hashomer to celebrate with him.
In accordance with Jewish tradition, Siman Tov has everything going in his favor. His first name means “gift,” and his surname means a “good omen.” Thirty-six in gematria (Jewish numerology) is double chai, or twice life – and Siman Tov has indeed been given a second chance during the significant Hebrew month of Elul.
While Rivlin struggled to become president, it has cost him the freedom of walking in the Jerusalem hills near his private home in Yefeh Nof. It has been Rivlin’s practice for years to take a daily constitutional in the fresh air. When neighbors noticed he was still doing so, they were somewhat surprised, in view of the stringent security to which the president is subjected.
Rivlin’s bodyguards indeed told him he could no longer take a regular route, and according to his spokeswoman, it was suggested that if he wanted to continue walking, he could do so via various routes through the Rehavia neighborhood near the presidential mansion.
Rivlin, who grew up in Rehavia, declined – because he couldn’t bring himself to walk through the streets of his childhood with a bodyguard and security car trailing behind.
■ This morning, Rivlin will meet with Bank of Israel Gov. Karnit Flug, who will present him with the new NIS 50 bank note that bears the portrait of poet Shaul Tchernichovsky.
September is actually a good month in which to honor Tchernichovsky, who was born in August 1875 and died in October 1943. Though recognized as one of the great Hebrew poets, he was a medical doctor by profession and served as a physician for various schools in Tel Aviv.
It will take some time before users become accustomed to the green background, which is the same as that of a NIS 20 bank note; the background of the previous NIS 50 bank note was purple. The logic seems to follow that of changing the numbers of bus routes, and simply confusing the public.
■ The latest scandal surrounding the Israel Broadcasting Authority involves celebrity news presenter Yaakov Eilon, who according to reports in the Hebrew media has been approached by the IBA’s temporary editor-in-chief Yona Wiesenthal to become the new Haim Yavin. Known by the sobriquet of Mr. Television, Yavin, an Israel Prize laureate who today celebrates his 82nd birthday, was for four decades the chief news anchor at Channel 1 and is still regarded as Israel’s Walter Cronkite.
Eilon has a somewhat more intimate style of presenting the news, leaning forward into the camera as if to make direct contact with the viewer. He also has an impressive career record, having been the founding male news anchor on both Channels 2 and 10. If the deal with Channel 1 comes to fruition, Eilon will have the distinction of being the only key news anchor to work for all three channels.
After seven years with Channel 2, Eilon moved to Channel 10 where he remained for almost a decade, resigning in early 2012. A few months later he joined Mako, the digital arm of Keshet Broadcasting, where he headed the news department. Nowadays, he has many irons in the broadcasting fire.
According to his online profile, he is currently anchorman and director of news programs, special reports and the online news division at Keshet Broadcasting Network, through which he hosts The World Tonight on Channel 2; and is the founder and CEO of All News TV Worldwide.
In addition, he also broadcasts in English on i24, and hosts an economics program in Hebrew on Channel 9. In other words, he has really great credentials.
But there are a few problems attached to his joining Channel 1, not least of which is the fact that his agent is Shai Nesher, who happens to be married to Ayala Hasson-Nesher – whom Wiesenthal recently appointed head of Channel 1’s news division. Nesher has told everyone who asked that he stayed out of the picture with regard to anything related to the IBA. That may well be, but he has a long relationship with Wiesenthal, and he sleeps with Hasson. As Shakespeare might say, “Something is rotten in the state of....”
Then there’s the reported salary Eilon will receive. Of course, it won’t be anywhere near what he earned at Channel 10, where salaries used to be over the top until the recent introduction of pay cuts – which may still be too little to late to save Channel 10 from itself – but he is likely to receive somewhere between NIS 50,000 and NIS 60,000 per month. This is certainly nothing to sneeze at, even if it is a financial comedown. The question is: Why would an enterprise that is shutting down with a huge deficit want to increase that deficit by upping payroll? Moreover, when the bill for dismantling the IBA and the creation of a new public broadcasting service was passed by the Knesset, journalists were given to understand that the liquidator and his agent were not permitted to hire or fire during the dismantling process. Taking on Eilon, regardless of how good he may be, is surely going against the spirit and the letter of the bill.
And then there’s also the question of what will happen to current news anchors Amir Ivgi and Merav Miller.
Ivgi has already been dealt a cruel blow, being removed from the roster of presenters on Israel Radio’s It’s All Talk. He was actually quite good on radio, but the excuse for ousting him was that he was a television broadcaster.
So is Hasson, for that matter, and so are Oded Shahar and Yaakov Ahimeir – but all three regularly broadcast on radio as well.
Collegial respect aside, Hasson – who is such a stickler for military ethics, almost to the point of obsession in the Harpaz Affair – should remember that just as justice should not only be done but should also appear to be done, so conflict of interest, even if it does not exist but appears to exist, should be a guideline for what not to do.
■ Meanwhile, the threat of closure continues to loom over Channel 10, and there is a strong likelihood that the second commercial channel will cease to function at the end of the year – which will leave a number of other bright television stars available for the new public broadcasting service, should it ever become a reality. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who set the ball rolling for the revolution in Israel’s broadcasting industry, may succeed Ron Prosor as Israel’s next permanent representative at the UN.
■ While it is true that former politician Dan Meridor was several times a member of the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee, and even chaired it at one stage, none of his ministerial roles included that of foreign minister, nor did he ever serve in any other capacity in the Foreign Ministry.
The late Dave Kimche, who was the founding president of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, was a director-general of the Foreign Ministry and throughout his career, had a number of diplomatic postings in Africa, Asia and Europe. Kimche’s successor, Avi Primor, was a longtime career diplomat and crowned his diplomatic achievements with outstanding service as ambassador to the EU and to Germany, before switching to academia.
While there is little doubt that Meridor, who was this week appointed the ICFR’s third president, will do a good job, it is somewhat insulting to the many retired diplomats who are loyal members of the ICFR to be overlooked in favor of someone who was not really part of their international clique.
■ He may be out of office, but there are still many who respect the opinions of former president Shimon Peres, who opened the 14th annual conference of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Peres made the point that terror must be fought on two parallel tracks, military and political. The current ceasefire, he observed, provides an opportunity for seeing that alongside the camp of terror, there is also a camp of peace under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. Peres also related to the scourge of terrorism that is pervading the world, saying it must be fought on religious, military, political and economic fronts.
■ Within the framework of the 10th Portugal Film Week, Portuguese Ambassador Miguel de Almeida e Soussa will host a reception this evening with the participation of celebrated Portuguese film director Jose Fonsecca e Costa.
The festival opened at the beginning of the week at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa Cinematheques, and the films selected highlight Lisbon.
■ Speculation continues to surface as to whether the government coalition will crumble, and whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will call for early elections.
But even if the coalition falls apart, the wives of two of the ministers are going ahead with their preparations for a joint lifestyle television program.
When it was first disclosed that Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, the wife of Likud Minister Silvan Shalom, and Lihi Lapid, the wife of Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, were co-hosting a reality show to be produced by Reshet, Ometz, the watchdog organization that promotes clean government, protested on the grounds there would be a conflict of interest on political issues – especially in matters concerning the husbands of the two presenters. Reshet countered that the program was intended for the category of lifestyle rather than current affairs, and that anything which might be considered political would be peripheral.
Both women have built up media careers in their own right, and should not be penalized for the careers their husbands have chosen.
Geula Even, who is married to Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, has already proven she can separate her profession from her marriage, and in her nightly news-oriented television program, has no qualms about asking hard-hitting questions of Likud ministers and MKs.
■ The list of credits for the Cameri Theater’s stage production of Ephraim Kishon’s hilarious sendup of bureaucracy, Blaumilch Canal, the film version of which starred the late Bomba Tzur, does not include the name of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. But Huldai, a great fan of both the Cameri and Kishon, showed up at the rehearsals, and one thing led to another – with the result that at the premiere this week, attended by the offspring of both Kishon and Tzur as well as members of the Society for the Cameri Theater, Huldai was on stage playing himself, the mayor.
The production is directed by Guri Alfi and Eli Bizaui, and Alfi is also a member of the on-stage cast.
The story is about an escapee from a mental asylum who has a digging fixation. After stealing a jackhammer, he begins digging up Allenby Street, one of Tel Aviv’s major traffic arteries – which was, in fact, the main artery when Kishon wrote the script some half a century ago.
Everyone in authority thinks Blaumilch is working under orders from city hall, and thus cooperate with him as much as possible. But what he’s doing is causing terrible traffic congestion and ever-increasing noise levels that provoke numerous complaints from area residents.
To speed up the work and reduce the tension, the city sends teams of construction workers with heavy equipment to help Blaumilch with his digging. Only one minor city official seems to realize what is really going on, but his protests are ignored. By the time officials realize the truth, it is too late – because Allenby Street has become a canal connected to the Mediterranean, and at a gala launch of the canal, the mayor declares Tel Aviv to be the Venice of the Middle East.
Apropos Huldai, who last month celebrated his 70th birthday, some of his admirers are urging him to run in Knesset elections, and see him as a viable option to Netanyahu.
Even if Huldai, a veteran member of the Labor Party, shows any inclination towards the premiership, he still has to contend with opposition leader Herzog – unless, as has been rumored, he sets up a new Center-Left party with former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin. Of course, anything can happen between now and the next elections, and timing and circumstance are everything.
Meanwhile, Huldai is welcoming progress to his city and on his Facebook page, expressed hope that the move by the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to a new building will be much more than a change of address, but also the entry into a new era. So far it’s been a technological leap, but Huldai and people in the bourse are confident it will be much more than that.
■ Taking advantage of a comparatively quiet day in the North, industrialist Stef Wertheimer invited Gen. Yair Golan, head of Northern Command, and UN Interim Force in Lebanon Commander Maj.-Gen. Luciano Portolano, as well as some of the soldiers under their command and local industrialists, to tour the Tel Hai industrial park and museum, and raise a toast to the upcoming Jewish New Year. Wertheimer also made sure they tasted honey, which symbolizes that the year ahead will be a sweet one.
Wertheimer told his guests that if more money and effort were invested in building industrial zones, with more jobs provided as a result, there would be less need to focus on military requirements – because people would be less inclined to fight each other, if they were busy making a living.
■ Being a fashion model is not all glam. Gala Kogan, presenter for the Third Eye chain of fashion boutiques, had to model winter woolies and fur caps for the new season’s catalogue, and the location chosen was the beach – on a day when temperatures soared to 35 degrees.
Kogan was willing to put up with the heat, but was unwilling to pose without a musical background.
In the studio, music is never a problem, but on a deserted beach, it is a different story. The solution was for someone from the film crew to hold up Kogan’s mobile phone, which also has a music app, and put it on full volume.
■ Known more for his culinary skills than for his pedigree, Gil Hovav, a celebrity food writer and television personality, will tomorrow, September 11, lead a tour of Limmud FSU Belarus participants to Luzhky, Belarus. This was the hometown of his great-grandfather Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reviver of Hebrew as a spoken language.
During the tour, a memorial plaque at the site of Ben-Yehuda’s childhood home will be unveiled.
Hovav generally focuses on his Yemenite roots from the other side of his family, although he has written a book about Ben-Yehuda. His father was Moshe Hovav, of the most eminent Israeli radio broadcasters.
Some 600 Jews with roots in the former Soviet Union have converged on Belarus – with some 70,000 Jews currently living in the country – for yet another Limmud festival of Jewish learning. It will be held in Vitebsk, the hometown of renowned Jewish artist Marc Chagall; among the speakers is Israel’s Ambassador to Belarus Yosef Shagal.
The extraordinarily comprehensive program is packed with numerous aspects of Jewish history, culture, tradition and religion.
In addition to lectures, workshops, roundtable discussions, music and drama, there is also a wide range of cultural events.
Participants who remain in the country after the conclusion of Limmud FSU Belarus on Sunday, will on Monday, September 15, be able to visit a special memorial photo exhibition honoring late prime minister Ariel Sharon at the National History Museum in the capital city of Minsk, from where Sharon’s parents emigrated to the Land of Israel. The memorial will be held in collaboration with the Belarusan government, the Israel Embassy and the local Jewish community.
Gilad Sharon, who wrote a book about his father, will be participating as will Israel Maimon, who served as cabinet secretary under Sharon; along with Marit Danon, who was executive secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office during the Sharon administration.
■ No one knows as of yet which film will represent Israel at the Academy Awards. The Farewell Party got a tremendous response at both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem has also received excellent reviews in Cannes and elsewhere, and has sold extremely well abroad; Zero Motivation is also doing well.
The picture nominated for best film at the Ophir Awards is usually the one that represents Israel in the best foreign film category at the Oscars. However, what would be really ironic is if Israel’s nominated film misses out again, and the Oscar is awarded to Bulgaria – whose submission Bulgarian Rhapsody has received rave reviews and stars two Israeli actors of Bulgarian background: Moni Moshonov and Alex Ansky. The film is about the rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews during World War II.
■ The Masorti Movement has appointed its first openly gay rabbi, according to an article in Haaretz by prize-winning journalist Judy Maltz. He is British-born Mikie Goldstein, who has been accepted to lead the Adat Shalom Emanuel congregation in Rehovot.
Goldstein has been in a relationship for the past 20 years with Isi Yanouka, Israel’s ambassador to the Ivory Coast. The Foreign Ministry has for many years accepted same-sex relationships, and no eyebrows were raised when Goldstein accompanied Yanouka on diplomatic assignments abroad.
Goldstein told Maltz that from his point of view, gender identity is not an issue. What is important for his congregation, he said, is a rabbi who could teach and do outreach, and that was the reason he was chosen.
Goldstein, who was born in Liverpool, was an active member of Bnei Akiva before settling in Israel in 1989. While the Conservative Movement in America has only recently begun to accept gay and lesbian rabbis, the Reform Movement has taken a much more liberal approach.
■ Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, goes the old adage dating back to the 17th century.
And indeed, proof of this can be seen to the present day, and in the most titillating manner – in a revealing book by Valerie Trierweiler, a Paris Match journalist who was the significant other of French President François Hollande for nine years.
French presidents and prime ministers are notorious for their amorous affairs, and Hollande is no exception. When Hollande came to Israel last November, he brought Trierweiler with him. The French, who can hardly be described as conservative in matters of male-female relationships, were quite complacent about Hollande bringing Trierweiler with him to live as first lady at the Élysée Palace.
What was not public knowledge at the time was that he was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet, and his relationship with Trierweiler came to an end when he was photographed leaving Gayet’s home. In the interim, according to Trierweiler, he tried to win her back; according to French gossip columnists, he was supposed to marry Gayet on his birthday last month.
Well, he didn’t win back his old flame and didn’t marry his new one, in addition to which his political fortunes are also on the decline.