Grapevine: The plane truth

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August 22, 2017 20:58

El Al will not be the first airline to have a Dreamliner land on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion.




El Al CEO David Maimon

El Al CEO David Maimon in a new Dreamliner 787 aircraft. (photo credit:SIVAN FARAG)

Let’s be honest. Inasmuch as Israelis and Jews around the world choose to fly El Al for patriotic reasons or because, compared to other airlines, El Al has a very good safety and security record, it has seldom been the most economical way to go abroad, especially in view of the fact that El Al has been running a tired old fleet. But all that is changing.

Almost exactly two years ago, El Al entered into talks to purchase the Boeing Dreamliner in a bid to overhaul and update its fleet. El Al President and CEO David Maimon subsequently announced the acquisition of 16 new Dreamliner aircraft at an investment of more than $1.25 billion. Meanwhile, there has been talk of increasing the Dreamliner fleet to 18 aircraft.

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The Dreamliner is the state of the art in air travel, and will most definitely give a boost to El Al’s revenues. It will enable El Al to add to its destinations, and as Israel enters into diplomatic relations with more countries, El Al will also play an important role in the increase in foreign tourism to Israel. The first Dreamliner plelane is due to land at Ben-Gurion Airport early Wednesday, and Maimon and most of the El Al staff can hardly wait to see it.

El Al will not be the first airline to have a Dreamliner land on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion. That honor belongs to Air Canada, which in July 2013 introduced nonstop, sevendays- a-week Dreamliner flights between Toronto and Ben-Gurion Airport. But it’s better to be late than never, and as of this week, El Al passengers flying to Europe can enjoy the Dreamliner amenities, and at the end of October, the Dreamliner will be gradually integrated into El Al’s long-haul destinations in America and the Far East. There has been some talk about flights from Israel to Australia.

During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia in February, he and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the first treaty-level air services framework between Australia and Israel. For the foreseeable future, this will have to be on a code share arrangement, unless a route that excludes Indonesia and any other Muslim country with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties can be mapped out. When Netanyahu flew from Singapore to Australia, he had to take a two-hour detour so that his plane, which was actually an El Al plane, would not fly in Indonesian airspace – this despite the fact that Indonesian tourists visit Israel, and that there is cooperation between Indonesia and Israel in the fight against terrorism.

According to Darren Chester, Australia’s infrastructure and transport minister, 12,600 residents of Israel visited Australia in 2016, and 22,000 Australians visited Israel in the same time frame. Immediately following the signing of the MoU, Qantas Airways and El Al announced code sharing for flights between their two countries via Asia and Africa.

Turnbull is due to come to Israel at the end of October for the centenary celebrations of the Battle of Beersheba, the victory of which can be largely accredited to the Australian and New Zealand Light Horse. In the course of the visit, he and Netanyahu, together with Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, will inaugurate the Anzac Museum, which has been largely funded by the Jewish National Fund of Australia. At the Battle of Beersheba commemoration ceremony in 2014, Danilovich announced the intention to build an Anzac museum, and the project came to fruition remarkably quickly.

■ FEW THINGS are more pluralistic, multiethnic or multicultural than fashion. If any proof of this was needed, it came to light at the launch this week of the Golf & Co fall/winter collection in the sweltering heat of a Tel Aviv summer. Fortunately, the air-conditioning was turned on full blast at Beit Hasmachot, an events center in the southern part of the city. The collection ran the gamut from decadent to conservative, offering more eclectic choices rather than dictating style.

The models were from three ethnic groups: Caucasian, Asian and African. There was nothing particularly unusual about that. What was unusual was that, contrary to the time-honored practice, the spectators and not the models paraded around the large room, which was arranged parlor style with several armchairs and sofas. The models sat or stood around as people do at any social occasion, the difference being that their faces were blank – devoid of expression. It’s very hard to keep that look for a long time – but they succeeded admirably.

In addition to the usual drab colors of winter, there were soft pastels, mainly in shades of pink and terra- cotta. Flounces are in for skirts, tunics and dresses as well as facings for coats – more so even than was the case in summer. At the opposite extreme to the short skirts of summer are the maxi skirts of winter. Pants are mostly close-fitting stovepipes – frequently cuffed. Catsuits, off the shoulder sweaters and blouson tops are in vogue – but so is just about everything else.

As fashion writers, bloggers, stylists and photographers wove their way in, out and around the “set,” which is pretty much what it looked like, it was difficult to discern the difference between the collection and some of garb chosen by the onlookers. There were several women wearing what appeared to be corselets, but are in a fact part of the revival of underwear masquerading as outerwear. There were women in floor-sweeping long skirts – tiered, flounced and layered, and there was an amusing episode of two identically dressed women wearing button- through black dresses with fineline, white, crazy-pavement print. What could they do other than congratulate each other on their good taste? They couldn’t even pretend that their garments had come from some high-end store, because there were too many people present who were also wearing inexpensive Chinese manufactured copycat outfits – the originals of which were on couture designers’ drawing boards.

No wonder that Golf CEO Raviv Bruckman announced that the company was confident that the collection would be a sellout. In an era in which men and women can dress as they please and not have to blindly follow trends, the more versatility a fashion company can offer, the more likely it is to succeed. Among the many people walking the floor were Golf’s current season presenters Yael Goldman, Tsahi Halevi and Maya Dagan, who were not part of the display.

■ WHILE IT’S true that some people actually live in hotels – even in highclass, five-star and beyond hotels, which may put somewhat of a strain on the bank account of such a guest, it’s still relatively rare. The Tel Aviv Hilton this week said lehitraot to its longest-staying guest, 93-year-old Lea Richman from Sydney. Her luxury room on the 16th floor has been constantly occupied for the past eight years. Room 1616 was without doubt her home away from home. But this week, members of the hotel’s management team had to say goodbye to her, as she and her family are returning to the island continent.

At a small party in her honor just before she checked out of the hotel, she was presented with a Tel Aviv Hilton bathrobe embroidered with her name and room number. “It was 2009 when I came to the hotel to book a room, as my granddaughter Tami came to Israel to study and I wanted to be by her side,” said Richman. Years passed and Tami fell in love, got married and delivered a baby daughter, making Richman the great-grandmother of a little Sabra, who in all probability will grow up in Sydney. But Richman will at least have the bathrobe that will help her to reflect on her eight years in Israel, the start of which was quite an undertaking for an 85-year-old woman.

■ SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS are involved in the arrangements for the Balfour Dinner at the Tel Aviv Hilton, which in November will mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. At best, the Hilton Ballroom can hold 900 people sitting around tables, which makes things very crowded, and will undoubtedly necessitate large video screens to ensure that everyone can see as well as hear.

It’s rather sad that David Samuel, who died in October 2014, will not be on hand to be among those greeting Lord Rothschild. Samuel was the only native Israeli to have a seat in Britain’s House of Lords. He was the grandson of Herbert Samuel, the 1st Viscount Samuel who in 1920 was appointed high commissioner of Palestine, serving in the position till 1925. He was the first Jew to govern the Land of Israel after a 2,000- year hiatus from Jewish rule. He had met Chaim Weizmann in London and was greatly influenced by him, and many years later, Viscount David Samuel, who had been a captain in the British Army during World War II, became one of the founding fathers of the Faculty of Chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

■ THURSDAY MARKS the 30th day since the death of popular entertainer and outspoken advocate for Israel’s gay community, of which he was a member, Amir Fryszer Guttman.

After winning a battle with misdiagnosed cancer, Guttman was celebrating a year of his return to a normal life, when he sacrificed his own life to save his niece from drowning.

To honor his memory, Kan Gimmel radio will on Thursday broadcast an interview that he gave in 2007 to Haim Ador following the release of Guttman’s solo album Honey in the Beehive. Initially broadcast on Israel Radio, the interview will be rebroadcast on Kan Gimmel at 9 p.m.

■ HOW CAN the public be asked to respect and maintain law and order when members of the police break the law, with no reason for doing so? One can understand that police would drive through a red light when pursuing a criminal or trying to prevent a crime from taking place. But when a policeman merely has to catch a bus that has not yet come anywhere near the bus stop, there is no need for him to jay walk and cross the road on a red light. However, that’s what a policeman in Jerusalem’s Talbiyeh neighborhood did this week, and to add insult to injury, he was wearing a kippa. The jaywalking was not his only violation, but it was the most obvious.

■ AMONG THE well-known personalities recently arrested on suspicion of white-collar crimes is Tal Silberstein, a prominent international political consultant, strategist, lobbyist and businessman, who has advised well over a dozen heads of state in different countries. In 1999 he helped Ehud Barak win election. He has worked on national and local political campaigns and has been strategic adviser to clients in Austria, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bolivia and Italy.

Since his arrest, Austria has cut all ties with him, and Kan 11 central news presenter Geula Even-Sa’ar has been very circumspect where he is concerned – not only because Silberstein worked with her husband, former minister Gideon Sa’ar, but also because it was in Silberstein’s home in north Tel Aviv in May 2013 that she and Sa’ar were married by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall.

■ INDIA LAST week celebrated the 70th anniversary of its independence from British rule, and the Indian Embassy in Israel continued to celebrate the 25th anniversary of India-Israel diplomatic relations. Indian Ambassador Pavan Kapoor and his wife, Aradhana Sharma, hosted two Independence Day receptions at the Indian residence in Herzliya Pituah. The first was for Indian expatriates living in Israel, and the second was for members of the diplomatic corps and Israelis.

At the first event, the ambassador read out a message from President Ram Nath Kovind to the nation and members of the Indian Jewish community in Israel, Indian students in Israel, and Indians from other walks of life, including a parliamentary delegation led by Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, and a group of Indian journalists, which had been invited to Israel by the American Jewish Committee. There were Indian cultural programs at both events. To ensure that guests could move freely in the grounds, the swimming pool at the residence was covered by a carpeted low stage.

Indian culinary delicacies were provided by Indian restaurateur Reena Pushkarna and her team, who have had this role with every Indian ambassador for the past quarter of a century. Pushkarna was also invited to prepare the meal that was hosted by Netanyahu in honor of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Israel in the first week of July.

At the second reception, at which the government of Israel was represented by Economy Minister Eli Cohen, Kapoor said that Modi’s visit to Israel signified an upgrading in the strategic partnership between the two countries. He also said that he was glad that Cohen will play a key role in advancing economic relations. Kapoor spoke extensively on India’s successes in launching satellites, noting that in June, India successfully launched 31 satellites in a single flight, after having launched a South Asia communications satellite in May. In this context he referred to India’s cooperation with the Israel Space Agency.

Kapoor also mentioned that India is opening a cultural institute in Israel, and remarked on the popularity of yoga in Israel. Acknowledging that many Israelis visit India each year, Kapoor said that India wants to encourage Israelis to appreciate more of what the country has to offer. He also commented that the 85,000 Indian expatriates living in Israel are a human bridge between the two countries.

Cohen hailed Modi as the leader of the world’s largest democracy, and spoke in glowing terms of the constantly increasing economic ties between India and Israel. Bilateral trade between the two countries 25 years ago was in the realm of $200 million. It has now exceeded $4b., he said, and the target for sometime within the next decade is $20b.

In speaking of the multilevel partnership between the two countries, Cohen raised a laugh when he said: “Together we are 1.3 billion people.” He emphasized that it is vital for both countries to have government support for priority businesses, and encouragement from the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministries for dialogue to be held between the business leaders of both countries.

US Ambassador David Friedman, whose residence is five houses away from that of Kapoor, missed out on the formalities. He and his wife, Tammy, accompanied by a security guard, were seen walking along Techelet Street in the direction of the Indian residence at 8:25 p.m., which was just under an hour and a half after the time listed on the Indian invitation.

■ UNWRA IS not always Israel’s favorite cup of tea, but where children are concerned, it’s great, regardless of their backgrounds, to be able to give them a treat, which is what Scott Anderson, the director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank, was able to do this week for some 100 children from Gaza and their escorts, who came to Jerusalem and the West Bank to meet with their Palestinian peers.

They were also taken to al-Aksa Mosque, which most doubted that they would ever see beyond a computer or television screen or perhaps a photograph. A photograph sent by Anderson shows just how delighted they were to be there – just like happy kids anywhere else in the world.

■ AMERICAN LATE-NIGHT TV host Conan O’Brien, who is not always kind to members of America’s first family, and occasionally pokes fun at the State of Israel as well, is due to make his first visit to Israel some time within the next two to three weeks. O’Brien doesn’t have a very high opinion of the diplomatic abilities of Jared Kushner, and in announcing his trip to this part of the world tweeted that, as they are likely to be in Israel at more or less the same time, he’s happy to help Kushner out in trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

■ THERE ARE two-legged parades and four-legged parades, and of course now that society has become more aware of the rights of people with disabilities, there are also wheelchair parades. What is believed to be the largest combined two- and four-legged parade in Israel’s history will take place in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, September 9, when animal rights organizations, including vegans and vegetarians, will get together to advocate for the protection of fourlegged creatures – and not just cats and dogs. The event will be moderated by former television personality Miki Haimovich, with entertainment provided by Arkadi Duchin, Alma Zohar and Geva Alon.

■ ISRAELIS ARE executive members of a number of global Jewish organizations, but rarely do they get to occupy one of the top three slots, unless the organization is headquartered in Israel. Among the exception to the rule is Avi Ganon, national director of World ORT Kadima Mada in Israel, who has been elevated to the position of director-general and chief executive officer of World ORT, which is one of the most veteran of Jewish educational organizations.

Founded in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1880, by Prof. Nikolai Bakst, it has been active at different times in its history in a total of some 100 countries, providing scientific and technological education programs and promoting economic independence with the aim of reducing socioeconomic gaps. Though legally constituted in Switzerland, World ORT operates out of London.

Ganon will assume his new post on September 1, and will be the 13th person to hold the top professional position in what is believed to be the world’s largest Jewish education NGO. Ganon’s appointment follows his success in a long line of World ORT positions and public sector roles in Israel. Ganon, who has been serving since 2011 as the CEO and national director of Kadima Mada, World ORT’s Israeli extension, has led the organization to unprecedented achievements.

In the past, he served as national director of World ORT in the former Soviet Union and headed the educational operation in the Prime Minister’s Office, where he was responsible for all the educational activities in the post-Soviet states. In addition, he served as first secretary at the Israel Embassy in Moscow, as well as head of the Israeli Cultural Center in Moscow.

Following a 53-year absence during Communist rule, ORT returned to Russia in 1991. The ORT Technology School in Moscow, inaugurated in 1995, gave impetus to other educational institutions in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Odessa, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Kazan, Kiev and Dnipropetrovsk, with a network that includes some of the finest educational establishments in the region. Last year, Ganon was nominated World ORT’s outstanding national director.

■ CHAMPION ISRAELI soccer player Eran Zahavi, who is captain of the Israeli National Team and who also plays for Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Premier League, is on a home visit, during which he will head an event aimed at promoting peace. Together with youngsters from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, he will join in an exhibition match at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation on Thursday, August 24. The youngsters are all members of the Peres Peace Team.

The game will be held in the presence of Chinese Ambassador Zhan Yongxin and Peres Center chairman of the board Chemi Peres. Zahavi will hold a press conference on the importance of sport as a vehicle for peace.

Last year, at approximately this time, Shimon Peres, who had no inkling of the extent to which his days were numbered, hosted Zahavi at the Peres Center and conferred on him the title of “ambassador for peace in sport,” in recognition of the important work that the soccer star has done to promote peace and tolerance through soccer in Israel and around the world.

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