Careerwise, it does not always pay to aim for the top of the pyramid – as Yoni Ben-Menachem, former director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, has discovered.
Unlike other IBA employees whose future is in limbo – because they do not know whether they will be employed by the new public broadcasting entity, which has yet to be established – Ben-Menachem had no choice but to leave his position, once the Knesset voted in favor of the bill proposed by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan to dismantle the IBA. Ben-Menachem had no option but to hand over the reins per the contract the Finance Ministry forced him to sign; it stipulates that once he completes his term as director-general, he can no longer be employed at the IBA.
This is the general rule for CEOs and directors-general of government ministries and state-owned institutions, the logic being that a person who has cracked the whip cannot become part of the herd. Ben-Menachem, who hosted his own radio program on Middle East issues, held off signing the contract for as long as he could, but was threatened that if he did not sign, he would no longer receive the salary to which a director-general is entitled. His radio program, which brought Palestinians and Israelis together, was not broadcast last week nor this week.
Yona Wiesenthal, who this week took up his role as editor-in-chief of the IBA until such time as its replacement is up and running, was senior vice president at the YES satellite channel, where he worked for 15 years. In so doing, he has placed his healthy body in a sick bed. Wiesenthal could have stayed at YES indefinitely but many years ago, voiced a wish to one day head the IBA. As the messenger of the liquidator, he is in a sense the head of the IBA, but has not exactly realized his wish.
Even though he can’t be creative in his current capacity, given the circumstances, he is at least in a good position to be in the running for the top job in the new entity. He can also get to know the people who are being dismissed from the IBA, and formulate his own opinion as to who would be suitable for the replacement project.
But there’s a big problem which he may not have clarified for himself yet – that in Israel, nothing is more permanent than something labeled temporary. The new public broadcasting service is supposed to go into operation in March. Given all of Israel’s other problems and the strain on the economy, there’s a strong possibility that neither this deadline nor its three-month extension option will be met. Wiesenthal has to ask himself how long he wants to stick it out before he decides to go home.
Meanwhile, Mickey Miro, the general manager of Israel Radio, on Tuesday handed in his resignation to Wiesenthal, explaining that the brutal conditions of the law approving the closure of the IBA and the dismissal of the entire staff did not sit well with his sense of ethics, and he therefore could not reconcile himself to remaining part of the IBA’s management.
However, unlike Ben-Menachem, Miro will be permitted to continue broadcasting his two weekly radio programs – Social Hour and Nature’s Way – and will also edit and present news and current affairs programs.
At a private meeting with Wiesenthal, Miro said that he approaches his job with a sense of mission. He loves the radio, and as long as he continues to work, he said, he will do everything in his power to preserve its democratic integrity.
Without knowing the terms of their dismissal, and with so few options for future employment, several IBA employees are on the verge of nervous breakdowns, especially in such cases where both husband and wife derive their salaries from the IBA. To slightly ease the tension, the journalists unions have set up meetings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for those currently employed by the IBA, to advise them of their severance pay entitlements and other issues related to their dismissal and their pensions. Tel Aviv journalists will be meeting at Beit Sokolow on Sunday; Jerusalem journalists will be meeting outside the Nakdimon Rogel auditorium at the IBA’s Romema premises on Monday.
■ AS OF this past Wednesday, the nightmare of uncertainty for Shlomit Peretz and her four children is over. Peretz is the widow of Maj. Eliraz Peretz, deputy commander of the Golani Brigade’s 12th Battalion who was killed in 2010 in an exchange of fire with terrorists in Gaza; she is also the daughter-in-law of Miriam Peretz, who also lost another son, Lt. Uriel Peretz, in combat in Lebanon in 1998. Miriam Peretz, who was one of 14 women beacon-lighters at the opening of this year’s Independence Day ceremonies, has devoted her life to giving motivational talks to soldiers and high school students, and to comforting bereaved families of fallen IDF soldiers.
At the time Eliraz Peretz was killed, his home in the unauthorized Givat Hayovel outpost on the outskirts of the West Bank settlement of Eli was under threat of demolition via a legal procedure initiated by Peace Now, which argued that the houses in Givat Hayovel were illegal. Peace Now had taken its argument to the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, and a demolition order was indeed issued. When the matter did not proceed, Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice in September 2005, and the case simply dragged on without being resolved.
The issue received extensive publicity because Eliraz Peretz was not the only hero who had his home there. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Peretz’s neighbor, Maj. Roi Klein, sacrificed his life to save his men by throwing himself on top of a hand grenade. As a result, there was a slowdown in the legal proceedings; Peace Now persisted, while several right-wing legislators attempted to have the outposts legalized.
Following the death of Peretz, his widow was visited by Reuven Rivlin, then Knesset speaker. Rivlin later told reporters that he had come to beg and demand of then-defense minister Ehud Barak to reconsider the situation, and grant licenses to the Klein and Peretz families. Barak, who visited Shlomit Peretz, did in fact change his mind, and in the wake of popular public sentiment opposed to demolishing the homes of fallen soldiers, Peace Now indicated it might reconsider its petition.
In the final analysis, Peace Now withdrew the petition – though not in its entirety. However, the bulk of it was denied by the court, on the grounds it could not issue a ruling on homes built on territory that was not state land. The remaining houses, on state land, would not be demolished as per the instructions of the state lands custodian.
■ TEL AVIV celebrities are not too keen on getting out of bed very early in the morning, but those who want to see and be seen make a point of coming to the twice-yearly Castro runway shows, held at either the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds or the Tel Aviv Port’s Hangar 11.
The unveiling this week of Castro’s fall-winter collection for 2014-2015 at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds was no exception. Co-CEOs Eti and Gabi Rotter mingled with their guests at the pre-show breakfast reception, greeting not only stage and screen personalities but also a large representation of the business community.
This included, among others, Melisron CEO Avi Levy, Ofer Shopping Malls CEO Moshe Rosenblum, Ramat Aviv CEO Uri Abel, Azrieli Malls CEO Arnon Toren, co-proprietor of United King and Cinema City Pnina Edery, Keshet Deputy CEO Zvika Liblich, and many more. Also present was Leah Peretz, who heads the Azrieli fashion design department at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design; her own fashion shows are frequently sponsored by Castro – whose design team unfailingly includes Shenkar graduates.
Castro is now a four-generation enterprise. It started with Eti Rotter’s grandmother Anina Castro, who came from Greece and set up a fashion salon in the family’s small apartment in south Tel Aviv. Anina’s son Aharon, following his discharge from the army, opened a modest store in Tel Aviv. The business expanded in the course of time and Aharon ran it together with his wife, Lena.
Their daughter Eti grew up in the family business, and it was natural that she and her husband would one day take it over. Their son Ariel, who is married to actress and model Rotem Sela, is also involved in the enterprise that grew into an empire.
Whether their offspring will continue in the family tradition remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, there were three generations of the Castro family watching 60 male and female models parading the new Castro creations. Women with a sense of the romantic will be happy to see that the flowing, slightly ethnic-inspired garments and soft fabrics which dominated the spring-summer collection have also impacted on fall-winter. The spectacular show was directed by Motty Reif.
■ FORMER WINNER of MasterChef Avi Levy, who in 2011 brought glory to Jerusalem and subsequently opened his highly successful restaurant Hamotzi in an alleyway between Jaffa Road and Agrippas Street near Mahaneh Yehuda, is adding an extra pinch of flavor to his income. Food companies realize that well-known chefs are the best marketing tool for their products. Many chefs have their own, highly rated television programs, or columns in newspapers and magazines; when they also appear in food company commercials, the public is more inclined to believe in the quality of the product.
Levy is a popular figure not only because of his triumph in MasterChef and his well-patronized restaurant, but also due to the way he kicked a longtime drug habit. Now, after signing a contract with Osem to be a co-presenter for its Tzabar humous and salad products, he’s going to be a bigger household name than ever.
Levy will be appearing with actor Jacques Cohen, who has starred in Tzabar commercials for the past 14 years and is strongly identified with the product.
Levy is not the first professional chef to act as a presenter for Tzabar. He was preceded by Rafi Cohen, who also contributed to devising new recipes for Tzabar products, thereby increasing their share of the market.
Levy was selected to work with Cohen and eventually take over from him, because he is so dedicated to the simple Israeli food that fits the Tzabar image.
■ NOTWITHSTANDING THE constant stream of diners who find their way to his restaurant, Levy does not yet have the celebrity status of Tel Avivbased Jonathan Roshfeld, a former MasterChef judge. Roshfeld’s three Tel Aviv restaurants – Herbert Samuel, Tapas Ahad Ha’Am and Yavne Montefiore – were out of the bounds of kashrut-observant diners. But on the basis of his reputation, they flocked to the Ritz Carlton Herzliya when it opened less than a year ago – because at long last, Roshfeld had gone kosher. Moreover, he had to apply his culinary creativity to a greater extent, as he could no longer use cream and butter in meat dishes, yet wanted the kosher variety to taste as much as possible like his non-kosher creative cuisine.
The fact that people will travel from Jerusalem to Herzliya in order to sample from Roshfeld’s menu says it all.
Some diners actually travel from further afield, since Roshfeld has received rave reviews in international gourmet food and wine magazines.
While the world may be aware of Israel’s proficiency on the battlefield and in hi-tech, it is less familiar with what Israelis can do in the kitchen.
Jerusalemites who eat only kosher will soon not have to travel as far as Herzliya – because Roshfeld is opening a kosher Herbert Samuel rooftop restaurant in the Zion Hotel in the heart of town. One of the more veteran hotels in the capital, the building situated in Zion Square was purchased a year ago by the Orchard Hotel chain owned by brothers Joe, Rafi and Avi Nakash, who have renovated it beyond recognition.
■ STREETS NAMED after people seldom carry any information about the honoree. However, in Jerusalem at least, the current trend is to include at least a line or two to satisfy the curiosity of passersby.
This past Tuesday, a small group of relatives, friends and admirers of the late Moshe Sasson, Israel’s second ambassador to Egypt, braved the heat to attend a street-naming ceremony in his honor. In actuality, it is more of an alley than a street, located off Diskin, not far from the house at Ussishkin 44 to which he came as an infant from Damascus. Amikam Levy, who represented the Foreign Ministry at the ceremony and had been Sasson’s neighbor, reminisced about what it had been like to grow up one floor down from Sasson.
The Jerusalem Municipality is inundated with requests for streets, squares and public buildings to be named for deceased residents of the capital who have distinguished themselves in one way or another. Getting the committee responsible for naming streets and monuments to agree to a request is often an exercise in frustration. Yet in Sasson’s case, the issue was less problematic because he had been designated a Yakir Yerushalayim – a Distinguished Citizen of Jerusalem – indicating that the city’s powers-that-be had already recognized him in the past.
Sasson died in September 2006 at the age of 81. All in all, including current Ambassador Haim Koren, 12 Israeli diplomats have had the distinction of serving as ambassadors to Egypt. The first in 1980 was the late Eliyahu Ben-Elissar, followed by Sasson, then Shimon Shamir, Efraim Dubek, David Sultan, Zvi Mazel, Gideon Ben-Ami, Eli Shaked, Shalom Cohen, Yitzhak Levanon and Yaakov Amitai.
Of all of them, Sasson spent the longest period in Cairo, serving seven years before returning home, though some of his successors had served in other capacities in the Israel Embassy in Cairo before being appointed ambassadors themselves. Sasson was highly regarded for the work he did in Egypt and for his amazing, in-depth knowledge of the Arab world in general – not only in terms of the politics of the day, but also of centuries of history and culture, which he loved to discuss with people who were similarly informed.
At the ceremony, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat described Sasson as “a true son of Jerusalem and a man of vision.” Among the retired diplomats in attendance were Dubek and Mazel, who had each served with Sasson in Egypt.
Sasson’s son-in-law, lawyer Yigal Tamir, read a chapter from Sasson’s memoirs, Seven Years in the Land of the Egyptians, in which he wrote of his lonely years in Cairo, watching impotently as his beloved wife, Tova, sunk deeper and deeper into Alzheimer’s disease. Elsewhere in the book is a lengthy recollection of how close he was sitting to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat when the latter was assassinated. Without a Round Table, another book authored by Sasson, details the history of contacts between Israel and neighboring Arab states.
Prior to the establishment of the state, Sasson worked in the intelligence branch of the Hagana, where his commander was Yitzhak Navon – who was destined to become Israel’s fifth president. Coincidentally, Sasson was appointed ambassador to Egypt during Navon’s term as president, and it was Navon who signed his letter of credence, presented to Sadat.
■ VICTIMS OF debilitating illnesses often isolate themselves from society out of embarrassment at the radical changes in their appearance. This is almost in line with the now-obsolete practice of haredi families who used to hide a child born with severe physical and/or mental disabilities from the public eye, for fear that revelation of the child’s mental or physical problems would hurt the marriage prospects of the child’s siblings. Thankfully, society has become enlightened in its general acceptance of the other (with the unfortunate exception in some quarters of racial and religious bias), and the afflicted are increasingly inclusive of mainstream society.
Thus, former television host Meni Pe’er, once a handsome young man whose looks have been ravaged by cancer and chemotherapy, is not afraid of the cameras and has given candid interviews to the Hebrew media. At 6 p.m. today he will be the guest of Yigal Ravid on the popular Channel 1 nostalgia show The Way It Was, in which he will spend part of the time watching archival footage of how he used to look. The program is a tribute to his professionalism, and his ability to react with humor to the cards that life has dealt him; it may inspire viewers who are in a similar situation.
■ UKRAINIANS HAVEN’T had much to celebrate this year, but they cannot ignore their most important national day. However, because of the hostilities currently taking place in Ukraine, the embassy in Israel has delayed its celebration for a month. Ukrainian nationals living in Israel will have to wait until September 21 before they can join Ambassador Hennadiy Nadolenko and his wife, Julia, in celebrating what the Ukrainians call The Day of the National Flag. The celebration at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot will be within the framework of a Ukraine Cultural Festival, which is being held for the fourth consecutive year in Israel.