ehud barak face298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
IT'S ALMOST exactly a month since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened a meeting at the Knesset, with northern and southern confrontation line mayors and local council chairmen, telling them how much he regretted not being able to be in the field to get a personal feeling of the plight and needs of the population. As a former mayor himself, Olmert said he was fully aware that no one knew the situation better than the mayors in front of him.
"Few people realize how important you are. You mayors are not only the citizens' representatives, but you are our representatives to them."
What that means is that in the weeks and months ahead, the mayors will get all the flack for the government's failure to restore the economic conditions under which people were leaving prior to the conflict. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has pursued a policy of instantly repairing damage created by Katyusha rockets so as not to give the enemy the satisfaction of seeing pictures of Haifa in ruins, but not everyone has the manpower, the money and the determination to do this.
Notwithstanding reports about funds that it was releasing to relieve human suffering, the government actually abrogated its social responsibility and allowed philanthropists Arkady Gaydamak and Dudu Zilbershlag to become unofficial ministers of social welfare. When the government, on the eve of the cease-fire, finally emulated Gaydamak's tent city, one of the organizers was quoted on television as saying that they didn't make Gaydamak's mistakes. In conducting a survey, they learned that what people objected to most at the tent city at Nitzanim was the lack of privacy. They had, therefore, hung up curtains to afford people some degree of privacy in the new pavilion city they created at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. The fact that the government was a Johnny-come-lately and that Gaydamak had instantly responded to basic human needs seemed irrelevant to this official.
Zilbershlag, who with his wife created Meir Panim in memory of their son Meir, is now the chairman of Israel B'Yahad a coalition of community service organizations providing food, clothing, toys and essential services all year round for the poor and the needy, but much more so as part of the war effort. These expanded needs will not go away in the immediate aftermath of the cease-fire - and since the cease-fire is fragile, at best, the lull in the noise may be temporary.
There is no lull in economic deprivation and the psychological impact of the rocket attacks. Former MK Shlomo Buhbut, the mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshisha and chairman of the forum of confrontation line communities has lambasted the government for its failure to make provision for civilian emergencies.
When it finally did make an effort to get its act together - it was yet another case of too little too late.
MEANWHILE, FORMER prime minister Ehud Barak is on a major fundraising campaign in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta to help speed up the pace of the UJC's emergency campaign - the initial target of which was $300 million. Aside from money contributed to this campaign, all solidarity missions have come with cash in hand in the many tens of thousands of dollars, which adds up to a significant amount, aside from which individual mission members, moved by various things they have seen up close, have been giving spontaneously to individuals and institutions. Several years ago, MK Yossi Beilin created a furor when he suggested that it was time for Israel to stop schnorring from Jewish communities abroad and to start standing on its own feet. Apparently he spoke too soon.
ASIDE FROM the numerous solidarity missions that have and will continue to come, Israeli expatriates with clout and affluence have come home for the duration. Among them is former beauty queen and fashion model Ilana Shoshan-Diament who lives in Los Angeles with her husband Moshe and is active in Hollywood social circles. Shoshan-Diament has been personally distributing toys and games in hospitals, community centers, bomb shelters and to local regional councils throughout the North. She organized a deal with ToyStore.co.il, the online store that stocks educational toys and games, and urged her American friends to order gift certificates for whatever amount they wanted to donate. ToyStore is giving a 30 percent discount on wholesale prices, which means that donations go a lot further than they ordinarily would. So far, more than $40,000 worth of toys and games have been distributed to some 24 towns and villages in the North, including those inhabited by Israel's minority communities. In addition, Shoshan-Diament has been delivering ice coffee, lemonade and huge quantities of cake to firefighters in the North.
SOCIAL AWARENESS concept company Comme-il-Faut, which is Israel's equivalent to Benetton, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale, is launching its new division this week, and is opening its first footwear store at the Old Tel Aviv Port. Founded in 1988 by Carol Godin and Sybil Goldfeinner, Comme-il-Faut is opposed to trendy dictates, especially when they may be detrimental to health, as in the case of narrow, pointed toe, high heeled stilettos, which according to Goldfeinner are uncomfortable, cause ankle swelling, strain the muscles and upset balance. "We want to offer another alternative to the Israeli footwear market," says Goldfeinner who plans to open a chain of footwear and accessory stores throughout the country. "Shoes don't have to be uncomfortable to be smart," she says. Comme-il-Faut is importing elegant, mostly European, shoes ranging from super casual to super chic and featuring brand names such as Moma, which is a female take on manly styles, and dressier options created by Japanese designer Chie Mhara. Accessories will include purses, wallets and bags for men and women, jackets, cardigans, coats and scarves.
AMONG THE approximately 100 fashion designers who will be participating in the Designers Fashion Market at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds from August 17-19 will be Galit Leibowitz, 35, who though she started a little later than some of her colleagues and rivals, has fulfilled a lifelong dream to design under own label - LIF. The end of season Designers Fashion Market has become a popular tradition beneficial to designers and consumers alike. Featuring everything from basic, through classic to trendy and avant garde, the market, which offers discounts ranging from 30 - 70 percent, is a vehicle for introducing new designers to the public as well as a means of enhancing one's closet at minimal cost. Some of the proceeds are also siphoned off for charity.