A report by Yediot Aharonot’s Itamar Eichner makes it very
clear why Paraguay has decided to reopen its embassy in Israel after an
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin visited Latin
America last week and met with newly installed President Horacio Cartes, who
told him how much he appreciated Israel and that he wanted to strengthen
bilateral relations. The extent of that appreciation was revealed by Eichner,
who wrote that Cartes owes his success in no small measure to an Israeli
campaign strategist by the name of Yechiel Leiter – who happened to have been a
senior adviser to Ariel Sharon when he was an MK and bureau chief, and senior
adviser to Netanyahu when he was finance minister.
Leiter, who is an ardent Likudnik, has in fact held an incredible number of
senior positions, the most recent being chairman of the Ports and Railways
Authority. He has also found time to earn several academic degrees in a variety
of subjects, publish several books and father eight children.
(res.) Meir Khalifi, for his part, was Netanyahu’s military aide-de-campe and is
the Paraguayan president’s adviser on security matters – and it goes without
saying that Cartes’s bodyguards are Israeli.
Paraguay, which closed its
Israel Embassy for budgetary reasons, has maintained a cordial relationship with
Israel throughout the years.
For the same political reasons that other
embassies are not located in Jerusalem – whereas in most other countries
embassies are located in the capital, Paraguay in the past settled upon an
Rather than move to Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan or
Herzliya Pituah, the country had its embassy in Mevaseret Zion – which is
technically outside of Jerusalem, but still within the 02 telephone area
■ GIVEN THE number of times that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
has met with or read about President Shimon Peres, one would think that he knows
that he’s dealing with an Israeli – and not with someone of Iberian or Latin
Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde, who is an avid
photographer, joined the large media turnout when Ban met with Peres last Friday
morning, and photographed Ban’s inscription in the presidential guestbook –
where he spelled the president’s name with a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s.’ This is
actually a common mistake.
It’s amazing how many foreign dignitaries,
when addressing the president, call him “Perez” instead of “Peres” and lay
stress on the second vowel.
■ AS A politician, Ehud Barak was a
manipulative personality whose popularity waned within his own ranks as well as
among the wider public. His popularity rating took a downward spiral after the
2009 elections, when despite having said that he would not join the Likudled
government, he reneged on his promise. His hostile relationship with chief of
general staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, who at the time was an
extremely popular figure in the eyes of the general public, contributed to
Barak’s negative image, as did letting his wife become the fall guy when the
couple employed an illegal foreign worker in their home.
leadership of the Labor Party was threatened, Barak formed a breakaway party –
Independence – which enabled him to remain in the government. However, he then
realized he had little hope of gaining more than a half-dozen Knesset seats, if
that, in any future election – and in November 2012 announced his retirement
Early last week, his mother, Esther Godin-Brog, died at
the age of 100, having celebrated her triple-digit birthday only a few weeks
She had been of sound mind until the very end. Because Barak had
been abroad at the time, the funeral at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon was delayed
until Thursday. Usually, when a close relative of a public figure dies, there
are masses of condolence notices in the newspapers for two or three days in a
row. In this case, the paucity of such notices was palpable. One of Barak’s
three brothers, Avinoam Brog, a well-known political pollster and market
researcher, received a condolence notice from his company.
Of the other
two brothers, Muli and Reuvi, only one received a notice in the
Kibbutzniks and personal friends attended the funeral. With the
exception of Shalom Simhon, past and present members of the government who had
served together with Barak – the most highly decorated soldier in Israel, a
former prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister – were conspicuous
in their absence, as were army top brass. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who
succeeded Barak, was not there, nor was Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny
Gantz. In view of the animosity between them, Ashkenazi could hardly be expected
to attend, but Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, who had been Barak’s choice for the
20th chief of general staff – and whose appointment had been approved, then
rescinded following allegations he had usurped public lands to build a home –
So did Barak’s former wife, Nava, with her present husband. Her
own mother, Rachel Cohen, died this week and was buried at the old Tiberias
If Barak were still in office, threequarters of the Knesset
would have shown up at his mother’s funeral.
One MK who did come was
current Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, who had been one of the most vocal
critics of Barak when he led the party.
■ PERHAPS THE cold shoulder
accorded to Barak is yet another sign that this is the season in which the
mighty are falling. Motti Zisser, once an extraordinarily generous
philanthropist who spread his largesse to Jewish causes abroad as well as in
Israel, is currently in debt over his head and may have to lose his palatial
home in Petah Tikva.
Lev Leviev, another generous philanthropist on an
international level, recently suffered a substantial jewelry heist, and is also
trying to take care of debt problems.
Nochi Dankner, who not so long ago
was the golden boy of the formerly flourishing IDB, is in the process of being
ousted – but at least in his case, there is some cause for happiness. His son,
Omer, will be marrying Lee Grebenau on September 1.
It won’t be one of
those massive, glittering affairs with a thousand guests. Some 150 people have
been invited to the wedding ceremony, which will be held in the Dankner family
home in Herzliya Pituah. As the Dankner family is quite large, a considerable
proportion of the guests will be relatives. A more informal celebration will be
held at Nitzanim Beach two days later for friends of the couple.
REFRAIN of one of the many songs by prolific composer and lyricist Naomi Shemer
is “Anashim tovim b’emtza haderech – anashim tovim meod,” which translates as,
“There are good people in the middle of the road – very good people.”
violence and corruption so frequently reported in the Israeli media sometimes
makes us forget how many really good people in this country are doing wonderful,
selfless work on behalf of others.
One such person is Rosh Hanikra
businessman Gadi Shabtai, who was a prominent activist in the campaign for the
release of Gilad Schalit, and who subsequently became a leading Western Galilee
figure in the fight for social justice.
More recently, Shabtai became
aware of the tragedy which had struck the Karnat-Kalchuk family of Kfar Baruch
in the Jezreel Valley.
Close to two months ago, Yamit Karnat-Kalchuk, a
mother of five young children aged two to 12, was diagnosed with cancer and
immediately hospitalized for intensive chemotherapy at Haifa’s Rambam Medical
Center. Her husband, Ofer, has constantly been at her bedside to give her
support and comfort. As such, the eldest of their children, Daniella, has been
left to look after her younger siblings.
That would not have been so
terrible, as the family lives with other close relatives. But two weeks ago,
their house caught fire and Dudi Kalchuk, Daniella’s uncle, was badly burned
when rescuing his daughters and his mother from the blaze. Before her mother had
been diagnosed with cancer, the family had been planning a celebration for
Daniella’s bat mitzva, but with her mother in hospital, the festivities were
canceled. Daniella understood and didn’t complain.
But news of the
family’s triple tragedy traveled throughout the Galilee, and came to Shabtai’s
attention. He thought it wasn’t fair for a little girl who suddenly had so much
responsibility thrust upon her, to miss out on her bat mitzva – especially in
view of the recent tragedies she had experienced.
Shabtai decided to
launch a Facebook and personal campaign to give her a celebration she would
always remember, and many people willingly contributed money. Someone paid for
the reception hall. MK Yitzhak Vaknin arranged for a donation of more than 100
gourmet meals, as well as the equipment to transfer and heat them. Someone
offered to photograph the party, another person donated a cake and decorations.
When a friend of Daniella’s mother took her shopping for a dress for the special
occasion, the shopkeeper gave it to her as a gift. Moreover, Daniel Fahima, who
was seriously injured in last year’s terrorist attack against a busload of
Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, came to the party last Thursday and acted
Shabtai was very touched by the speed and volume of the response
to his request, which gave a little girl a ray of sunshine during a dark period
in her life. As Shemer put it so well: There are good people, many good people,
in the middle of the road.
■ AS HAS been noted in several previous
Grapevine columns, the members of Israel’s entertainment industry have really
big hearts when it comes to supporting philanthropic causes – especially those
related to health and to children.
Thus it comes as no surprise to learn
that singer David D’Or is providing his talents gratis to the Israel Cancer
Society, for its annual fundraiser at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on August
Among those who have already said they will be attending are
philanthropist and social activist Raya Strauss; lawyer Ori Slonim, whose name
is usually linked with Variety, the organization that supports mentally and
physically challenged children; and MK Meir Sheetrit and his wife, Ruthie, a
communications and strategy executive. The Sheetrits have been involved in
numerous cancer-related projects over the past 20 years or so, since their
daughter, Miri, was diagnosed with cancer and died in her midteens.
attending will be Gabi and Esti Rotter, co-CEOs of Castro; former deputy defense
minister Dalia Rabin; former Israeli ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval;
socialite, businesswoman and TV star Nicole Raidman; and many other wellknown
It’s not certain whether D’Or will sing the national
anthem, which he was prevented from singing at Bloomfield Stadium during the
brief Barca peace visit, for fear of trampling on the sensitivities of local
Arab children who were present.
But no one is going to get upset if he
sings “Hatikva” at the Rabin Center. On the contrary – it’s a very appropriate
venue for the airing of the national anthem.
D’Or, who is currently
celebrating his 25th anniversary as a professional performer, is frequently
invited to sing at state dinners at the President’s Residence and at other
events in which Peres has a key role. He had invited Peres to attend his
performance this past Sunday at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, but was
not certain until the last minute whether the president would show up. Peres
entered the auditorium just as the lights went down and took the opportunity to
tell the audience about his long-held admiration for D’Or, saying he was happy,
at long last, to listen to more than one or two songs from D’Or’s extensive
The president’s praise was not the only kudos that D’Or, who
frequently appears in Asian countries, received that night. Korean Ambassador
Kim Il-soo conferred honorary South Korean citizenship on him.
is a visual artist as well as a performing artist, launched an exhibition of his
paintings after the show, as well as a new CD of his most popular
■ TOMORROW, THURSDAY, August 22, the International Christian
Embassy in Jerusalem, in partnership with Haifa-based Yad Ezer L’Haver, will
co-sponsor the second annual Miss Holocaust Survivor – with an anticipated
audience of more than 5,000 people at Haifa’s Romema Sport Arena.
Miss Holocaust Survivor beauty pageant in Israel aims to bring joy into the
lives of the aging Holocaust survivors who participate.
their stories of courage and resolve, and raises awareness of the needs of
survivors in Israel.
The 18 finalists include several who came from
abroad to take part.
Eighteen is a very significant number in Jewish
tradition, having the gematria (Jewish system of assigning numerical value) of
life. Judging will be based more on inner beauty and poise, with the panel of
judges including cosmetics queen and former model Pnina Rosenblum, and media
personality Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes. Several cabinet ministers, 15 Knesset
members, 70 foreign diplomats – many of them ambassadors – and numerous
Holocaust survivors from across Israel, as well 200 IDF soldiers, have indicated
that they will attend.
■ EARLY THIS month, Defense Minister Ya’alon and
Chief of General Staff Gantz made up for a 54-year delay, by awarding a medal
for outstanding service to Avraham Goldenberg, 75. Goldenberg had been unable to
attend the 1959 ceremony in which his buddies in Southern Command had given the
award, because he was busy escorting prime minister David Ben-Gurion to Sde
This seems to be the month, or at least the year, in which the IDF
is making up for previous lapses. Last week, Gantz, with the endorsement of
Ya’alon, who is himself a former chief of general staff, decided to end the long
battle of Yitzhak Pundak, and notified him that he would finally receive the
rank promised to him 60 years ago.
In 1954, Pundak was told that he was
being promoted to the rank of general. He waited and waited, but the promotion
never came. In 1959, which is coincidentally the year in which Gantz was born,
Pundak, then 46, was informed by chief of general staff Haim Laskov that the
promotion would not be forthcoming. An angry Pundak quit the IDF, but continued
to wage a battle for what was due to him. In 1971, he rejoined the IDF, serving
for two years with the rank of brigadier-general. During that period, he served
as governor of Gaza. Throughout the years he continued to fight for the broken
promise to be honored, and was denied time after time. In June of this year,
still fighting for his honor, Pundak turned 100. This time, his request did not
go unheeded. After all, who could deny the birthday wish of a 100-year-old man?
Some of the officers in the IDF’s personnel department warned Gantz that he was
setting a dangerous precedent, but he doubted there was any risk of too many
centenarians claiming an elevation in rank any time in the future. This will be
the first time in the history of the IDF that a retired officer will be promoted
Pundak commanded the 53rd Battalion of the Givati Brigade in
the War of Independence, and subsequently headed the nascent Armored Corps.
While in the IDF, he had several clashes with Ariel Sharon, who he considered to
be cruel and brutal in the manner in which he fought and dealt with
Palestinians. Pundak spoke out on a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza following
the first intifada, but was rebuffed at the time, and it took several years
before Sharon adopted the plan as his own.
In civilian life, Pundak, who
was born in Krakow, Poland, was the first head of the Arad Municipal Council and
later served as Israel’s ambassador to Tanzania. After that, he headed the
Jewish Agency’s delegation to Argentina. Following his retirement from public
life, Pundak, who still has all of his faculties, continues to regularly lecture
to soldiers about the history of the Hagana, of which he was a member, and that
of the IDF.
■ THE APPLES don’t fall far from the tree in the Leibler
family. Matriarch Rachel Leibler – who is 100-plus (one must never ask a lady’s
true age), and had another great-greatgrandchild last week – started Emunah, the
religious women’s Zionist organization in Australia. She got her daughter-
in-law, Naomi, interested to the point where she served as copresident of Emunah
Aviv in Melbourne, then world president after she came to live in
Naomi is now honorary world president, and her
daughter-in-law, Rose Leibler, is one of the founders of Emunah B’Simcha – which
operates under the auspices of Emunah Jerusalem, and provides starter kits for
about-to-be-married young couples with severely limited financial resources. The
kits consist of some of the essentials required to build a new
Among the close friends of the Leibler family is bestselling
author, powerful orator and retired diplomat Yehuda Avner, whose internationally
acclaimed book, The Prime Ministers, was seized upon soon after publication by
both documentary and feature filmmakers. Emunah B’Simcha succeeded in getting
part I of the documentary, which focuses on Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir – and
will be screening it at the Begin Center during Hol Hamoed Succot on Monday,
September 23. Avner will be present at the event, which is being sponsored by
Beit Hanatziv, and will share reminiscences of working with some of Israel’s
The starting price for tickets is NIS 150 each.
WHETHER IT is on Yom Kippur or the Gregorian calendar date of October 6,
Israelis will soon be commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur
The Gregorian calendar date also marks the 32nd anniversary of the
assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who had been the first Arab
leader to visit Israel in November 1977 and the first to sign a peace treaty
with Israel in March 1979. One of his brothers, Atef Sadat, who was a pilot in
the Egyptian Air Force, was killed in the Yom Kippur War, which the Egyptians
refer to as the October War.
Notwithstanding the passage of time, people
who were in that war still carry the memories as if the horror of it all took
place only yesterday.
When Israeli nurse Maureen Ben-Nun, who works in
the intensive care unit at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center, went to Amman
recently to participate in a groundbreaking conference of Middle Eastern Nurses
Uniting in Human Caring – a first-of-its-kind gathering convened by Dr. Jean
Watson and her Watson Caring Science Institute – she did not expect to meet a
nurse who had four decades earlier treated wounded Israeli prisoners of
The nurse, a Jordanian, had faithfully fulfilled her professional
duties, putting restoration of health as a priority over any concerns she might
have had about caring for the well-being of the enemy – and had been carrying
the memories with her for the best part of four decades. She was so pleased to
learn there was a nurse from Israel with whom she could share some of those
It was purely by chance that Ben- Nun came under the category
of an Israeli nurse. Thirty years ago, while living in England, she was thinking
of a vacation in Greece, when her travel agent suggested that it might be more
interesting for her to go to Israel. Following the agent’s recommendation, she
came to Israel and fell in love with the country – and with an Israeli who was
destined to become her husband. She went through a conversion process, got
married and raised a family. Ben- Nun has been working at KMC for almost as long
as she’s been in Israel, nursing critically ill patients back to
Amman will again be the venue of the Middle East Critical Care
Assembly, which is scheduled to be held at the King Hussein Cancer Center on
November 7, 2013, with the participation of physicians, nurses, pharmacists,
physiotherapists and other allied healthcare professionals who are devoted to
the promotion of intensive care email@example.com