‘Give peace a chance,” sang The Beatles. The message applies not only to relationships between nations but between people, not only on a group basis, but on one to one. The Hebrew calendar month of Elul in which we currently find ourselves is a month of reconciliation in which people who may have offended each other and severed friendships as a result, find a way to apologize and to renew their relationships.
Edna and Rafi Bashiri of Kfar Yona went one better, and set an example for many divorced couples. After 36 years of marriage, four adult children and eight grandchildren, the couple decided two years ago to go their separate ways. They got divorced according to an article in Yediot Aharonot, and began dating other people. But old habits and old loves die hard, and they began to miss each other. As a result, the two went out on a date together and one date led to another, to the great joy of their family. Nofar, 23, the youngest of their children, was the first to become aware of the rekindled romance and notified her siblings Yafit, Amos and Ron who are all in their thirties. Together, they decided to do something to get their parents to remarry, and after much planning, let their mother, a professional events organizer, in on the secret. As it happened, Rafi was celebrating his 61st birthday, and when he was told that there would be a celebration in the White Dream banquet hall in the Netanya industrial zone, he thought nothing of the fact that his family had also invited many friends who had all been primed not to let the cat out of the bag. Rafi had no idea about what was going on, and even when he saw so many people and a rabbi, the penny still didn’t drop until Edna left him momentarily and went into the powder room where she changed into a bridal outfit, and emerged looking radiant. Their second wedding went off without a hitch. Though visibly surprised, Rafi had no objection to marrying his first bride, second time around, and there was great joy among all those present. Most marriages hit a snag here or there. When that happens, it doesn’t hurt to stand back and remember all the reasons why the two people involved chose each other as life partners. If those reasons are still valid, it’s worth giving marriage another chance.
■ IT WOULD be interesting to find out how many wagers there were this week as to whether former prime minister Ehud Olmert would be permitted to remain out of prison until his appeal with regard to the Holyland case is heard. Now thanks to Judge Noam Sohlberg, Olmert will be able to celebrate his 69th birthday at the end of the month in the bosom of his family. Among Olmert’s former Knesset colleagues who have birthdays in the days ahead are Opposition leader Isaac Herzog who turns 54 on September 22, and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat who turns 64 on the same date. Out of the current crop of MKs born in September, Dov Lipman celebrated his 43rd birthday on September 9, Ruth Calderon will celebrate her 53rd birthday on September 25 and Gilad Erdan who turns 44 on September 30, shares a birthday with Olmert.
■ DEVOTEES OF the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach are already making preparations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death on the 16th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Heshvan. He touched so many people’s lives that almost everyone has a Carlebach story. Arguably the person with the greatest collection of Carlebach anecdotes and soul memorabilia is Emuna Witt Halevi who disseminates Carlebach’s teaching both orally and in writing and who collects other people’s memories of him and publishes them in book form in an annual anthology entitled Kol Chevra.
Carlebach is frequently heard on radio and seen in reruns of television programs. People often use the stories he told to illustrate a point that they themselves wish to make.
Thus this past Saturday, perhaps intending to teach the lesson that one should not judge before seeing the whole picture and that greatness and humility are two sides of the same coin, Rabbi Avigdor Burstein of the Hazvi Yisrael congregation in Jerusalem told of how Carlebach had come to a town in Europe and on the Sabbath had entered a synagogue where a man who was barely audible was leading the service. The man’s voice was cracked, and Carlebach, somewhat annoyed that someone with so poor a delivery had been given the task of singing the praises of the Almighty, went into another room to pray and returned to the main hall of the synagogue for the Torah reading. He saw the man who had displeased him clutching a Torah scroll while being carefully led to the bimah by two men who enveloped him with great tenderness. Carlebach wondered what the man had done to deserve such loving kindness, and thought that perhaps the man might be some great sage whom he had not recognized. When he asked, he was told that before the Second World War, the man had been the chief cantor of the Synagogue in Lemberg, and his reputation and that of the choir with which he sang had spread far and wide. His voice had been truly remarkable.
But then the war came and he and his whole family were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. He was the sole survivor. He came out of Auschwitz blind and no longer able to sing. He had almost completely lost his voice. The reason that he had been given the honor of leading the service was because this was the anniversary of the day when the Nazis had murdered his family. Carlebach, who was an extraordinarily sensitive individual didn’t know what to do with himself. He felt so humble in the presence of the blind cantor that he kissed his hand. The cantor asked who he was and Carlebach simply gave his name and no other details. But the blind cantor knew of him and told him how much he enjoyed his music. From then on, Carlebach made a point of telephoning the man every week. One week, when he telephoned, the call was answered by the man’s wife. When Carlebach asked to speak to him, the reply was “He can’t come to the phone. He’s busy.” Carlebach was surprised. “Busy? What’s he doing?” “He’s conducting the Lemberg synagogue choir. The Divine Creator finally called him to come home and sing.”
■ NOTHING STARTS on time in Israel – not even a funeral, so no-one should be surprised that it took three years for Channel One to finally follow through on its commitment to broadcast Latma, the highly popular, web-based, Hebrew language satirical newscast founded in 2009 by Caroline Glick, The Jerusalem Post’s senior contributing editor and columnist. Latma is Arabic for a slap in the face, which Latma did in most humorous fashion through its Tribal Update, which gained an enormous following with skits that became conversation pieces in countless households. The most famous of its parodies was “We Con the World” based on events surrounding the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara with its passenger load of Hamas supporters depicted in the Tribal Update as knife wielding terrorist hippies singing to the tune of “We are the World.” It received global publicity and more than six million hits. Which brings us to the present time. The Israel Broadcasting Authority this week announced that after many delays Latma is finally coming to the small screen and will do send-ups of society, politics and economics. It will be edited by Glick and Moshe Alfi. It is not the only satirical program that will be aired on Channel One. Another under the title of ‘The Jews are Coming” is based on Jewish history, myths, ethos, holy cows, et al from Biblical times to the present day. Among the performers in this 13-part series will be award-winning actor Moni Moushonov, who recently won rave reviews for a serious role in the acclaimed Bulgarian-Israeli coproduction Bulgarian Rhapsody, which is Bulgaria’s entry in the foreign film category for Hollywood’s Oscar awards. Both Latma and The Jews are Coming will be included in the Channel One line-up immediately after the holidays. Yona Wiesenthal, acting editor-in-chief of the IBA believes that the two satirical programs will contribute greatly toward boosting Channel One’s ratings.
■ JERUSALEMITES ARE notorious for being late for almost everything, and the opening of the much vaunted Jerusalem Arena, said to be the largest indoor sports and culture center in the Middle East with seating for 11,600 people, was no exception. President Reuven Rivlin arrived at the designated time, waited in his car for nearly half an hour, while organizers kept him at bay.
Members of his staff who went inside to see what was happening reported back that the stadium area was largely empty. Rivlin had other commitments and could not wait for the stadium to fill up, so left without participating in the festivities. Limor Livnat, the Minister for Sport and Culture, who according to fliers released around the city was supposed to be present – didn’t show.
Although the stadium began to fill up throughout the evening, at no stage was every seat occupied, and there were large areas of vacant seats. Moreover the noise level coming from the band was so loud that many of those who did come voted with their feet and left early. The entertainment line-up met with the enthusiastic approval of the mostly under-20 attendees, who swayed, clapped and sang along with Idan Amedi, HaDag Nahash Miri Mesika, Dudu Aharon, Natan Goshen and Liran Danino. Master of Ceremonies Eli Yatzpan was largely superfluous and crass, but Amedi was a perfect choice, not only because he’s a Jerusalemite and a great singer, but also because the evening was in tribute to soldiers of the IDF who had fought in Operation Protective Edge, and who were present in droves. Amedi is a commander in an IDF combat unit. Long before people took their seats, the event commenced with IDF chief rabbi Brig.- Gen. Rafi Peretz affixing a mezuza, followed by the unveiling of a plaque and the cutting of the ribbon by Mayor Nir Barkat and Mifal Hapayis (National Lottery) chairman Uzi Dayan, who though bare-headed recited the sheheheyanu blessing, which was in thanks for having lived to see the completion of the NIS 400 million project, which Dayan said was worth every agora.
Dayan who is a major-general in the reserve forces was also happy to dedicate the evening to the soldiers as was Libi Fund chairman Maj.-Gen. (res) Yoram Yair, better known by his nickname YaYa, who said that having fought side by side with Barkat in the First Lebanon War in 1982, he was not at all surprised that Barkat had decided to dedicate the opening event to the soldiers.
Barkat a major in the reserve forces, spent six years in the IDF, as a paratrooper and in 1980, while a company commander, leading soldiers into enemy territory, was shot and wounded. At the opening of the Arena, Barkat made a point of mentioning the soldiers who fell in battle in Operation Protective Edge, especially the eleven who are buried in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl.
Anyone who missed out on the opening, but is interested in touring the Arena and hearing about it can do so this coming Friday, September 19 at 9.a.m. The tour is to be led by Arthur Spector of the architectural firm that designed the stadium and Nir Parzelina, the project manager. One might have thought that if the city was intent on building a large, state of the art, multi purpose sport and culture facility at a cost of NIS 400 million, it could have asked for the design to incorporate an opera house. It is inexcusable that the City of David, the city of the king who wrote poetry and played the lyre, does not have such a venue. Jerusalem has no dearth of fine opera singers, but is sorely lacking in a permanent home for them.
Perhaps Barkat will persuade Dayan to have Mifal Hapayis initiate an opera house in the capital as its next multimillion-shekel project. Meanwhile the no-less state of the art but much larger Sammy Ofer sports stadium was officially inaugurated in Haifa this week. What both facilities unfortunately have in common is a public that does not respect its surroundings. Garbage was scattered in both places, and people stood on seats or climbed over them leaving marks from the soles of their shoes, a common factor also seen in public transport which indicates that something is seriously wrong with Israel’s education system.
■ NOTWITHSTANDING THE fact he has not been appointed as such, Nigeria’s Ambassador David Oladipo Obasa, has designated himself as Israel’s unofficial, unpaid ambassador in Nigeria. Obasa and his wife Olusola Olanrewaju Obasa combined the 54th anniversary of the national day of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with their farewell reception. They and other members of the Nigerian Embassy, attired in the glorious traditional costumes, received guests at the entrance to the spacious lawn in the ambassador’s residence in Kfar Shmaryahu. There were fewer guests than in previous years, not because anyone was shunning the Nigerians, but simply because there are too many overlapping events to which members and friends of the diplomatic community are invited. US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie Fisher, came by very briefly en route to a memorial event in Tel Aviv for Michael Sternberg, the senior Multinational Force and Observers representative in Israel, where many other invitees to the Nigerian event had already decided to go early in case of traffic congestion. MFO Director David M. Satterfield came to Israel specially for the occasion. Although the official date of Nigerian independence is October 1, the ambassador decided to bring the celebration forward so as not to intrude on Israel’s High Holy Days period. A devout Christian, Obasa thanked God and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who enabled him to spend this part of his career in a country with such a long history, and in which he feels so welcome.
It has been the most eventful of all his tenures, he said. Obasa expressed his heartfelt condolences to all those who lost loved ones in Operation Protective Edge and said that Nigeria shares in Israel’s collective grief.
He thanked Israel for its involvement in Nigeria’s socioeconomic development as well as in security and technology. He was happy to report that Israeli universities are increasingly opening up to Nigerian students.
Nigeria’s greatness, he said, is symmetric to its travails. He was grateful to Israel for helping Nigeria in its battle against terrorism.
While Nigeria is also battling Ebola, Obasa stressed that the diseases is not endemic to Nigeria. Social Services Minister Meir Cohen who represented the Government, lauded Obasa’s contribution to the strengthening of relations between Nigeria and Israel, noting that both countries face the challenge of radical Islamic terror.
Cohen also noted the significant increase in the number of Nigerian pilgrims coming to Israel and said that the figure was expected to peak this year at 40,000. Nigerians who come to Israel return home as goodwill ambassadors he said. Cohen also conveyed the appreciation of Israel’s government for the pro-Israel stand taken by Nigeria at the United Nations and in other public fora.
■ WHILE LITHUANIA’S new ambassador to Israel, Edminas Bagdonas was presenting his credentials to President Rivlin last Thursday, his immediate predecessor Darius Degutis and his wife Nida were welcoming Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to Lithuania.
Liberman attended the Lithuanian national day ceremony in Tel Aviv, which was also by way of farewell for Degutis, who was later given a goodbye luncheon in Jerusalem by Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Both Degutis and his wife are unofficial ambassadors for Israel in Lithuania and were thrilled when Liberman announced that Israel is set to open an embassy in Vilnius in January, 2015.
■ WHEN THE President of Israel receives the credentials of new ambassadors, the ceremony includes the introduction by the chief of protocol of the Foreign Ministry to members of a small receiving line that stands behind the president. This group includes the deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry who is responsible for relations with the country of the new ambassador, plus senior members of the president’s staff. When Rivlin received the credentials of four new envoys last Thursday, the receiving line for three of them included Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who has decided to attend as many of such events as his schedule permits, and Rivlin’s 38-year-old bureau chief Rivka Ravitz, who is haredi and mother of eleven children, though her trim figure belies this fact. The new ambassador usually shakes hands with everyone in the receiving line, but Ravitz stood on each occasion with her hands behind her back, because for religious reasons, she will not make physical contact of any kind with a man, other than her husband.
Over the next seven years, new ambassadors are going to learn something about Judaism of which they may not have been previously aware, and under ordinary circumstances, might never discover.
■ RIVLIN MADE a point of telling the ambassadors how important it was that Hanegbi was present and emphasized that he was a former justice minister with a great past, a great present and a great future in Israel. In welcoming Paata Kalandadze of Georgia, who had who previously served in other capacities in Israel from 1991 to 1994 and again from 1998 to 2001, Rivlin told him that for as long as he could remember he had been aware of Georgia, because from where his family lived in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, he could see the Valley of the Cross, where in the 13th century Georgia’s national poet, Shota Rustaveli, had written his epic work The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.
Rivlin also noted that Jews had lived in Georgia since the first exile from the Holy Land.
He, himself had visited Georgia. During his conversation with Ambassador Bagdonas, Rivlin dwelt on his own Lithuanian roots, and told Japanese Ambassador Shigeo Matsutomi about how impressed he was with Japan. The last of the four ambassadors was non-resident Ambassador of Swaziland Promise Msibi, to whom Rivlin voiced appreciation that Swaziland was one of only three African states that did not break off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973.
Rivlin told Msibi that he hoped the day would come when Swaziland would open an embassy not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem.
■ ONE OF the joys of watching reruns of old talk shows in the television midnight-todawn loop is that it reminds viewers of popular figures who have either faded into obscurity, or who have gone to the next world; and it also shows what some current personalities of advanced age looked like when they were young and beautiful. Among the recent reruns loop was talk show Closing the Week, which Amnon Levy used to host on Channel One. One of his guests was Ayala Hasson, who was recently appointed to head Channel One’s News Division. The program, filmed in 1997, soon after a barely recognizable Hasson had exposed the Deri-Bar-On affair, in which Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who was on trial, had persuaded then-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to appoint Roni Bar-On as attorney-general. The appointment was short-lived. Bar-On resigned the day after his appointment was announced, after the media began digging into his private life. Deri had hoped that Bar-On would offer him a plea bargain and had used the Hebron deployment issue as leverage, allegedly telling Netanyahu that Shas, which was a partner in the coalition, would not vote on the matter unless Bar-On was appointed. The program also included a skit by drag-quartet Bnot Pesia (Pesia Girls), in which they were all dressed and made up to look like Hasson. In actual fact they were all straight, and came make-up free and dressed in everyday attire to meet Levy and Hasson on camera. Hasson, who had wept when she saw the skit, explained the reason for her tears.
“I can’t be a private person any more because of them, I now belong to the public.”
She added that some people thought that she had been part of the quartet.
Elhai Levit, one of the members of Bnot Pesia, had served with Deri in the army and said he was a very good soldier. Power may not always corrupt, but it does affect people’s personalities. Hasson who used to have a very good relationship with another veteran television personality Geula Even got into such a heavy argument with her this week that Even stormed out and did not present her nightly current affairs program, which has been expanded and moved to a different time slot. Rumor has it that Even is peeved because she is being denied the right to interview Likud politicians, as her husband happens to be Interior Minister Gideon Saar, who is on the short list for future Likud prime ministers.
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN meets Lithuanian Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas.