After an absence of almost a decade, Mr. Television, Israel Prize laureate Haim Yavin, once known as the Walter Cronkite of Israel, returned to Channel 1 this week, not as an anchor but as a guest on Politica, which on this occasion was far less raucous than usual.
In fact, the only person who really raised his voice and occasionally butted in on other speakers was Michael Biton, the wonder mayor of Yeroham. Actually, he was being more positive than negative, so he can be forgiven.
Yavin was invited by Politica anchor Oded Shahar to voice his opinion on the public broadcasting crisis. Yavin conceded that there had been a lot of things that needed changing at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, but that doesn’t mean that it should be closed down. Whatever was wrong could be changed and fixed, he said, but the IBA should not be destroyed in the process.
He had been against the creation of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation from the very start, he said, because he feared that its programs would be second-rate in comparison to those of the IBA, which had laid the foundations for quality broadcasting in Israel.
He was amazed that under conditions of duress, the IBA was still able to produce the excellent documentaries that it has screened over the past year or two. He was also full of praise for the upgrading of the studios and the quality of the HD broadcasts.
He was disdainful of some of the trashy programs that are shown on commercial television, and insisted that “rating isn’t everything.”
Even if Channel 1’s rating was only 5%, said Yavin, the challenge should be to produce quality programs that people will talk about the next day.
To do away with the IBA, he said, was a culture crime, because the IBA made history and had laid the foundations for broadcasting in Israel.
Shahar asked the cameramen to focus on the control room, which he said is the heart of every television program. He wanted to introduce viewers to the anonymous faces behind the scenes and to reacquaint Yavin with people with whom he used to work.
For Yavin it was an emotional experience – and it showed, especially when Shahar called out the names of the people, and one of them, Tziona Kedmi, who is now the assistant to the director, happened to have been Yavin’s secretary during the time that he was CEO of Channel 1. To see the expressions on the faces of the control room staff, as Shahar lauded each of them individually, was a humbling experience, in the realization of much untold happiness a little recognition can generate.
Shahar was puzzled over one glaring anomaly. On the one hand the journalists at the IBA were constantly labeled as leftists, yet at the same time they were accused of being the mouthpiece of the government. It was impossible for them to be both, and the perplexed Shahar asked Yavin to solve the problem.
Yavin commented that there are a lot of right-wing people in broadcasting and the print media. He isn’t sure if there is a balance between Right and Left, but stated that there are plenty of public bodies that could ensure that there be a balance.
■ IBA WORKERS were waiting for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence when he returned from China in the predawn hours. They were waving national flags and bearing placards on which was written: “Thank-you for saving the IBA, thankyou for saving a thousand families.” The question is: Will the prime minister stand by his promise? ■ GUESTS WHO attended the annual Baha’i New Year celebration, known as Naw-Ruz, at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem did not expect that it would prove to be a double farewell.
Guest of honor Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran will be stepping down from the bench at the beginning of August when he turns 70; and Barbara and Kern Wisman, the Baha’i representatives in Jerusalem, are returning to the United States in the summer after 20 years in Israel – 18 of them in Jerusalem. A Christian Arab, Haifa-born Joubran grew up in Acre and has spent most of his adult life in Haifa, living close to Baha’i shrines in both cities.
Among the guests representing different faiths, government ministries, academia, and the diplomatic corps was Armenian Ambassador Armen Melkonyan, who is stationed in Cairo but who came to Israel for the official ceremony celebrating the restoration of the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and came to the Baha’i reception with Armenia’s honorary consul, Jerusalem-born Tsolag Momjian.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian also came for the ceremony at the Holy Sepulchre, but unlike other visiting foreign ministers did not get to meet Netanyahu or President Reuven Rivlin, because both were out of the country.
Joshua Lincoln, secretary-general of the Baha’i International Community, in introducing Joubran, spoke of the importance of justice in the Baha’i faith, saying that its founder, Baha’u’llah, had mentioned it 2,000 times in his original writings, and that this was why the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, which provides guidance to Baha’i communities around the world, is known as the Universal House of Justice.
This was the 16th annual Naw-Ruz reception in Jerusalem, said Lincoln, crediting the Wismans for arranging all of them, including the beautiful gardens outside the ballroom of the hotel. He welcomed the couple’s successors, David and Tracy Freeman, who came to spend a week in Israel to get a sense of what they will be doing here.
This is a special year for Baha’i, whose followers will in October celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah. Lincoln said that Naw-Ruz is not only the New Year but a time to invigorate the power of the spirit and to reexamine the heart and the conscience to see how much each individual has contributed to the spiritual and physical welfare of others.
■ SIXTY YEARS after her grandfather Asher Weill first competed in the Maccabiah Games as a member of the British swimming team, Ashley Weill, a member of the Australian swimming team, will be competing in the upcoming Maccabiah Games, which open in Jerusalem in July.
Not everyone who knows him is aware that Asher Weill is a champion swimmer. In Israel, he has been associated more with cultural endeavors. He is both an editor and publisher who for 20 years edited Ariel: The Israel Review of Arts and Letters. He has also published the biographies and writings of many of Israel’s political leaders, was a founding director of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, the Israel Debating Society, and the Anglo-Israel Colloquium, and is frequently called upon to be an adjudicator in literature and journalism competitions.
One of his more recent editing assignments – more in the nature of a labor of love – was the book Lia: In Her Own Words, a tribute to Lia van Leer, who did so much for the development of Israel’s film industry and who died two years ago at the age of 90. The book published by Halban Publishers, which also published Suzy Eban’s memoir A Sense of Purpose, was conceived by a group of Van Leer’s friends, who include Dorothy Harman, Uri Mohilever, Naomi Kaplansky, Vivian Ostrovsky, Martin Peretz, David Pryce-Jones, Toby Talbot, Rien van Gendt and Miriam Zagiel, who all contributed to the book, but the bulk of the text is Van Leer’s own words, taken from an interview that she gave to Debora Bess Siegel within the context of a series of interviews commissioned by the Van Leer Group Foundation.
Aside from her love of film, Van Leer’s signature color was lavender. She was forever giving away sachets of lavender, and her attire, if not in lavender itself, always included a lavender-hued accessory. Thus the cover the book and its jacket are in different shades of lavender.
But to get back to the swimming. Weill competed in his first Maccabiah in 1957 at age 20. It was also the first time he’d been in a plane – an old Dakota that had to stop three times for refueling en route from London to Tel Aviv. He came in fourth in the 100 m.
backstroke, fell in love with Israel and came on aliya the following year.
Forty years after competing in the fifth Maccabiah, he decided to participate in the master’s category for people aged 60 and more. On that occasion, he won a gold medal. This year, he will once again compete – but this time for swimmers aged 80 and over. His granddaughter, still in her teens, will also compete in the 100 m. backstroke, but in the junior division as a member of the Australian team.
■ REPRESENTATIVES OF the Polish Embassy are usually present when Yad Vashem has a ceremony or a seminar or some other event that is related to Poland. But last week they were conspicuous by their absence from the symposium marking the publication by Yad Vashem of the book Such a Beautiful Sunny Day by eminent Polish historian Prof. Barbara Engelking, who is the founder and director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. The book sheds light on the threats and challenges faced by Jews who sought shelter in the Polish countryside during the German occupation of Poland.[email protected]