Remember that song “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” in the musical Annie Get Your Gun? Well it seems that’s the theme song of former president Shimon Peres, who is repeatedly upstaging President Reuven Rivlin.
Last Thursday, Rivlin participated in an event jointly organized by Ethics in Sport and the Israel Football Association, in which Arab and Jewish youngsters put differences aside and got on with the game.
Several parents, including Arab mothers in traditional garb, were on hand to cheer on their offspring. Rivlin happily and literally kicked off the game, and looked as if he enjoyed every minute of his foray into the field.
Violence, racism and hatred, he said, were the greatest enemies of sport. His big dream was that sport would be clean of both physical and verbal violence, and from political violence in particular. Just as sport is blind to color, nationality and religion, sports fans should be equally blind, he said.
Aiming for utopian heights, Rivlin voiced the hope that the day would come when colored players would not be ridiculed, and Arab players would not be humiliated.
Just a few days later, this past Monday, Peres opened the annual Peace Soccer Schools program sponsored by the Peres Center for Peace. Some 80 Israeli and Palestinian youngsters from Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev, and Yatta in the West Bank, got together for a practice match at the Kibbutz Dorot soccer field in the jurisdiction of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Leading the practice session were Moshe Musfi from Kibbutz Nir Am, Issa Abu Hamid from Yatta and Meir Azran from Sderot.
Unlike Rivlin, Peres did not indulge in any fancy footwork, but instead opted to be the whistle-blower and get the session in motion.
While it is true the Peres Center for Peace has for several years been organizing and promoting such games in Israel and beyond, the timing this year could have been delayed by a few weeks in order to give Rivlin his 100 days of grace.
Peres told the young players: “You, children from southern Israel who play soccer with Palestinian children, symbolize the hope for peace and the hope for all of us to overcome any challenges. You have all had a very difficult summer and today you are opening a new year, which I hope will be a year of sport and dialogue. On this pitch there is a soccer school, which is also a school of peace for all peoples.”
Alon Shuster, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, also addressed the youngsters; noting they were children raised in a conflict situation, he said it was also possible to live differently. Abu Hamid voiced his excitement at being the coach of a joint team. Similar games are planned for children from other schools throughout the year.
On the same day the peace game was held at Kibbutz Dorot, Peres’s good friend and avid soccer fan Pope Francis gave his blessing to the interreligious match for peace that was held at Rome’s Olympic Stadium and featured some 50 international past and present star players of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths – including Israel’s Yossi Benayoun and Tomer Hemed. Needless to say, there was a good representation from Argentina, the pope’s native country – including Javier Zanetti, who initiated the game when he met with the pope a year ago, and Diego Maradona. The pope did not attend the match, but met with all the players beforehand.
■ IT HARDLY comes as a surprise that Efrat Duvdevani is replacing Ido Sharir as the director-general of the Peres Center for Peace. Duvdevani was the director-general of the President’s Office during Peres’s seven-year term as president, and before that was director-general of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry when it was headed by Peres. One of the permanent members of the Peres team regardless of what position he holds, she followed him from the ministry to the presidential mansion to the Peres Center for Peace.
Duvdevani previously worked with Yitzhak Rabin in the Prime Minister’s Office, and following his assassination stayed on to work with Peres; she has been a member of his team ever since. When Peres moves from one position to another and does not have a place in his new domain for any member of his team, he finds important jobs for them in institutions which in one way or another, have Peres’s fingerprints on them. The connection is never really broken, and his team is like an extended family.
Before his appointment as director-general of the Peres Center for Peace, Sharir, who is now taking up the role of director-general at the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, served as chief of staff (in the civilian sense) to president Peres, overseeing more than 40 global diplomatic missions, in addition to playing a key role in activating the president’s Middle East peace agenda and coordinating meetings in Israel and abroad with influential American, European and Arab leaders. Duvdevani was part of this team effort, which was continued when Peres moved from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and can easily take over where Sharir leaves off.
■ ADVANCED AGE has neither stopped nor slowed down Peres, who is planning to visit the Netherlands again this winter.
Peres – who visited the Netherlands last October and was one of the first official guests of King Willem-Alexander, who had only recently risen to the throne – shared plans for his forthcoming visit with Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp, when the latter visited the Peres Center for Peace last week. They also discussed the Peres Center’s future plans for the promotion of peace and development in the Middle East. Several of the center’s projects have in recent years been financially supported by the Netherlands.
According to Veldkamp, Peres, in his various positions throughout the years, has always maintained close relations with the Netherlands. Veldkamp expressed admiration for the former president’s ability to keep “pointing to a horizon of peace and prosperity,” even in the most dire situations.
■ WHILE MEMBERS of the judiciary were conspicuous in their absence at Israel Bar Association festivities to kick off the new legal year, Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis was the exception – showing up at the association’s Jerusalem branch in deference to the presence of President Rivlin, who was one of the keynote speakers.
Rivlin, who frequently speaks out against violence, baseless hatred and racism, warned that Israel is sitting on a volcano that is on the verge of erupting, because the political elite remains largely silent in the face of racism and politicians tend to use democratic principles as a tool for incitement.
Rivlin observed that everyone talks about these problems, but very few take responsibility for them. The court, he said, is the final station for treating this phenomenon, and marks the red line between observance and violation of culture, morals and values.
Rivlin deplored the increase in incitement and violent incidents throughout the country, and said graffiti calling for death to the Arabs was not something born overnight, but was uttered daily in a loud, clear voice, and must be stopped. The battle for Israel should not only be fought on its security front lines, he said, but also on the home front, to prevent further internecine strife.
Former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens, who like Rivlin is a former Likud MK and is also a former ambassador to the US, frequently writes and speaks out against racism and extremism. He says the Arab community, which has been integrated in fields such as medicine, pharmaceuticals and law, must become fully integrated in all sectors because it has an important role to play in the development of Israeli society, and is an integral part of the overall population.
■ IT’S A given that the number of invitees to an event – be it a Friday night dinner, communal gala or anything in between – never remains intact. Some of the invitees can’t make it; some drop out at the last minute; new names initially overlooked are added.
Indeed, when Dr. Gabriel Sivan and his wife, Viva, were putting together the guest list for his 80th birthday party, they never anticipated that so many of the invitees would respond favorably. As a result, they had to move the party from their Jerusalem home to a nearby synagogue hall. Viva Sivan, a lawyer and former member of the Jerusalem City Council, catered the whole affair, which was a British supper in the most generous and mouthwatering sense, with the most delicious scones this columnist has ever eaten.
Both husband and wife are natives of Liverpool.
There were several others from the Merseyside city in attendance, who happily swapped anecdotes and referred to the honoree by his original name of Godfrey Silverman. In fact, within the family circle and among old friends he is still called Godfrey – just as Chaim Herzog was called Vivian and Abba Eban, Aubrey.
The real event was at and around the head table, where festivities began with Sivan and his three sons, Pinhas, Aryeh and Bezalel, who all have excellent singing voices, demonstrating the true meaning of family harmony. The Sivan’s only daughter, Shira, remained seated with the guests.
Pinchas Sivan acted as master of ceremonies and called up various people who had interacted with his father at different stages of his rich and varied career.
It turned out to be a very ecumenical affair, with Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis among the speakers. Sivan’s younger brother, Vivian Silverman, the rabbi of Hove, spoke of their childhood and noted that the yeshiva they had attended was opposite Penny Lane – long before being made famous by The Beatles. Raymond Apple, also an Orthodox rabbi, had studied with Sivan at Jews College and had been very happy to renew their friendship after making aliya from Australia, where he had been chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney.
Reform Rabbi Walter Zanger, who had been a US Army chaplain in Vietnam and is currently a political analyst, spoke of the time he had worked with Sivan at Encyclopedia Judaica. Conservative Rabbi Joshua Adler worked with Sivan at the Jewish Bible Quarterly.
In the early 1950s Sivan had joined the Royal Air Force, where he learned Russian; he was also posted to Germany. Someone else who had been in the RAF during the same period was Moshe Kelman, a former dental health director at the Health Ministry.
Kelman, who is a natural stand-up comedian, gave a hilarious account of life in the RAF. Like Sivan, he had also studied Russian, and said at the conclusion of his anecdote that US President Barack Obama claimed no one (from the government) was listening in to anyone’s phone calls – a claim Kelman dismissed as poppycock.
“Godfrey and I spent all our time listening to shortwave communications by the Russians, Germans and Americans,” he said.
“Everyone listened to everyone.”
Donya Meijer, who had been at Oxford with Sivan and lost contact with him, renewed the friendship when they met by chance on a bus in Jerusalem. Troubadour David Herman wrote a poem in honor of Sivan. Pinchas Sivan spoke of the period the family had spent in South Africa, which for him as a young child was a quite different, exhilarating experience compared to that of his parents – who were adults, and who eventually opted to return to Israel because they found the apartheid and police methods appalling.
Dr. Kenneth Collins, who like Sivan is an author, essayist and cultural historian, knows Sivan from their common interest in the Israel branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England, of which Sivan is currently chairman. Collins said Sivan encapsulates the image of the Jewish king who should write a Torah scroll and study it, because he is a constant student of the process of Jewish history. Sivan has also been a community rabbi and a broadcaster in Hebrew and English, and has quite a few other strings to his bow.
Coincidentally, while Sivan was celebrating his 80th birthday, Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was celebrating the first anniversary of his installation into office.
The reason he is mentioned here is because the chief rabbi happens to be the brother of Lynette Silverman, who is the wife of Rabbi Vivian Silverman – who specially came to Israel to join the Sivan branch of the family in their celebration.
While some immigrant families have to commute because not all their children are in Israel, the Sivans are happy to report that not only are their four children and their spouses all living in Israel, but so are their 16 grandchildren and their single great-grandchild.
■ SPEAKING TO children in Sderot at the opening of the new school year on Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confessed that when he was in school, he much preferred the recess periods to studying in the classroom. It doesn’t seem to have done him any harm.
■ BRAZIL, CHILE and Peru, which recalled their ambassadors Henrique Da Silveira Sardenha Pinto, Jorge Montero and Jose Luis Salinas Montes respectively for consultation following the bombardment of Gaza by the Israel Air Force, approved the return of their envoys to Tel Aviv and Herzliya Pituah following the announcement of a cease-fire. Throughout Operation Protective Edge, Latin American countries came out strongly against Israel for what they said was a disproportionate use of military force; some heads of Latin American countries have uttered harsh statements against Netanyahu.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has gone so far as to say Netanyahu is possessed by the devil and needs Pope Francis to exorcise it. This is actually a double insult, given that Netanyahu is Jewish.
Even if he was possessed by a devil that needed to be exorcised, he would be more inclined to go to Netivot than Rome.
■ TODAY , WEDNESDAY , is Israel National Film Day, when movie theaters across the country will be screening Israeli films that were released this year – and the truly good news is that movie patrons will be charged only NIS 10 per ticket. The promotional effort for Israel’s film industry was initiated by the Culture and Sport Ministry in collaboration with brothers Leon and Moshe Edery, who are considered the biggest investors in Israel’s motion picture industry in terms of funding, production, distribution, film archive acquisitions and the construction of Cinema Cities.
Stars and other cast members as well as production people from this year’s crop of Israeli films got together at the flagship Cinema City at Glilot Junction on Monday with the Ederys and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, to celebrate their joint creativity and prepare for the launch.
Among those present were Sasson Gabai, Yael Abecassiss, Oshri Cohen, Dana Ivgi, Reshef Levy, Shlomo Baraba, Mali Levy, Menashe Noy, Michael Moshonov, Yehuda Levi, Romi Aboulafia, Ruby Porat Shoval, Zev Revah, Levana Finkelstein, Keren Mor and many others.
The Edery brothers have come a long way since their start in their hometown of Dimona, and have racked up numerous achievements over the years. The ever-smiling Moshe Edery, sporting a giant tub of popcorn, was asked if there was anything he still wanted to achieve, and the answer was: “Yes, an Oscar.”
While the Ederys have shared in several Ophir Awards, the Oscar has so far eluded them – though they have come close.
■ WHEN MEMBERS of big families marry into other big families, a family wedding becomes so large and unwieldy, the bride and groom and their parents have a tough time working out the limited number of friends for whom there may still be room in the wedding hall. That may happen when the newly engaged Sophie Taub and Hanan Kupietzky have to sit down and figure out the invitation list.
The bride, who is the daughter of Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub and his wife, Zehava, has several siblings, not to mention slightly more distant relatives including her maternal grandfather, Henry Goldblum, and her paternal grandparents, Esther and Brian Taub.
The groom comes from a huge mesh of families. His parents, Allison and Ari Kupietzky, have a sizable number of siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews between them. His paternal grandparents are Elke and Nachman Kupietzky, and his maternal grandparents are Rabbi Harris and Judi Guedalia. His great-grandmother is Els Bendheim, who last June traveled from Jerusalem to New York to celebrate the wedding of another great-grandson, Gilad Bendheim, to Tzippy Quint, and while in New York also celebrated her 90th birthday.
The extended Bendheim family is so big that Els Bendheim has a family celebration of some kind at least once a month, and frequently more often.
■ VETERAN NEWS reader Zvi Salton read his last news bulletin on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet on Friday, prior to his retirement.
Salton worked in radio for 40 years and his family was on-hand in the studio to hear his swan song, and join in the surprise farewell party organized by his colleagues.
Salton’s Facebook page was quickly revised for a past-tense listing of his place of employment.
Salton is also an actor who has appeared in films and stage productions, and is known as one of the best of Israel’s poetry readers. His initial career ambitions were in a different direction altogether. Born in Haifa, he studied physics at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1968; he went on to do nuclear research in Dimona, but felt his true calling was in radio. He later trained other broadcasters who came after him, and also conducted courses for stage and screen actors.
Several of his colleagues paid on-air tributes to him on Yoav Ginai’s What Will Be program on Friday, and on Sunday there were more tributes from Arye Golan and Nativ Robinson.
Golan voiced the hope that Salton’s voice would be heard on the airwaves again, either on Reshet Bet or the new public broadcasting entity that has yet to be established. It is not known at this stage whether Israel Broadcasting Authority retirees who currently anchor programs will be permitted to continue with the future public broadcasting network.
But whoever is in charge should bear in mind that listeners and viewers who have grown up with certain radio and television personalities, and are themselves moving into advanced age, will constitute a high percentage of future listeners and viewers – and will want to hear familiar voices and see familiar faces of their own generation.
Among the retirees currently hosting or contributing to IBA radio and television programs are Yitzhak Noy, Shmuel Shai, Moshe Timor, Yaakov Ahimeir and Sari Raz. There are several others on the cusp of retirement, among them some of the most popular voices on radio. There are also people who are not part of the regular staff, such as Yehoram Gaon, who presents a current affairs program on Fridays on Reshet Bet with which many listeners identify.
Gaon, a fixture on Israel’s cultural landscape, is 74 and still appearing regularly on stage and screen.
■ THE OUTPOURING of gifts and affection for soldiers fighting in Gaza went a little haywire on occasion, proving that some kind of national clearinghouse is needed to ensure nothing goes to waste, and people who want to contribute can do so in the most meaningful manner. Cooperation and coordination are the name of the game and indeed, it seems to be working with regard to a care package project that first and foremost includes a very special “thank you” T-shirt, plus underwear, socks and energy bars.
The project is a collaborative venture between Thank You IDF, a year-round campaign run primarily by Abba and Pamela Clayman of Jerusalem’s Old City, who together with friends and acquaintances provide an extraordinary range of services for IDF soldiers, including hosting them in their beautiful home on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The Claymans have all the necessary connections to the IDF, and working with them saved a lot of frustration and red tape.
Then there was David Kramer of the Nu Campaign, a nonprofit that promotes worthwhile concepts through T-shirts.
Laya Lurie, yet another Jerusalemite, who together with her family is involved in numerous social welfare projects for both the body and soul, came up with the idea of printing a special passage from the Psalms inside the T-shirt – so that it would be close to the soldier’s heart, and serve as a talisman in battle.
All three got together with a bunch of volunteers to print, pack and distribute the T-shirts, which are being sold at NIS 100 for three, thereby covering production and delivery costs, and enabling people who may not have much money to nonetheless make a contribution. They keep one T-shirt for themselves, and the other two go to a soldier.
Sonja Kent, who coordinated the packaging, says the response has been overwhelming and that almost 7,000 T-shirts have been distributed thus far, along with thank you letters and explanatory notes about the Psalm. The soldiers have been genuinely appreciative to see how many people care, she says.
The aim is to distribute such T-shirts not only in wartime but throughout the year, so that in the final analysis every IDF soldier will have one T-shirt containing a prayer for his or her safety – knowing that just as it is the duty of the IDF to defend the nation, it is the nation’s duty to care for each and every soldier.