Grapevine: Who will be mayor?

Eli Yishai may run in the J'lem mayoral election against Nir Barkat, given Uri Lupolianski announces that he’s not running.

June 6, 2013 20:40
Eli Yishai at the President's residence, January 31, 2013.

Eli Yishai at the President's residence 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

For a while it looked as if Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat might skate with ease into a second term, with only a symbolic show of competition. But now there are rumors that former Shas leader Eli Yishai will throw his hat in the ring, provided that former mayor Uri Lupolianski – who is on trial in the Holyland corruption case – announces that he’s not running.

Even then, Yishai has to be sure that Ashkenazi haredim will stand behind him, and form a formidable block with Sephardi haredim. A lot of secular Sephardim would also vote for Yishai, but it’s highly doubtful that secular Ashkenazim would vote for him.

It’s an interesting game of musical chairs that is being played in the Shas party. When Arye Deri, the original and current Shas leader, was contemplating a return to politics, it was widely rumored that he would be running for mayor of Jerusalem – but in Shas, man proposes and spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef disposes.

Things have not been going well for Yishai lately. Aside from losing his leadership position, he now faces criticism for legal violations and corruption in the Shas education network under his watch. It is not yet known whether he will be held responsible, and what this could do to his political career.

Meanwhile, according to Yediot Aharonot, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman have nominated Moshe Leon to run on their joint ticket against Barkat. Currently the chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority, Leon, an accountant by profession, served for two years as Netanyahu’s bureau chief during the latter’s initial term as prime minister.

He was also a member of the Likud Beytenu negotiating team following the last elections.

■ ONE CURRENT and one former journalist – both with Knesset connections – entered into the institution of matrimony last month. Television current affairs anchorwoman Geula Even married Interior Minister and Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, and Deputy Transportation Minister and Likud MKTzipi Hotovely married lawyer Or Alon.

For Even and Sa’ar, it was the second time around for both, and they had a relatively small wedding with fewer than 100 guests. The venue was a private home. For Hotovely and Alon, it was their first time under the bridal canopy – with Hotovely, at age 34, on her way to being an old maid by the standards of the Orthodox community. Her wedding was held at Ronit Farm in Rishpon and there were more than 2,500 guests, including most of the Knesset plenum.

At Even and Sa’ar’s wedding, paparazzi were not permitted to enter the house. At Hotovely and Alon’s wedding, photographers were invited to join all the other merrymakers. If there were leftovers from the Even- Sa’ar festivities, what happened to them has not been made public.

Hatovely and Alon made sure that all the leftovers from their reception were forwarded to the Rabbi Aryeh Levin Foundation, which distributes food to the poor. Even though Even and Sa’ar were married by the Western Wall rabbi, it’s doubtful that they had a Shabbat Hatan or that Even went to the mikve (ritual bath) before her marriage. Hotovely not only went to the mikve – she also went to the Temple Mount.

In Ashkenazi circles, the Shabbat Hatan – the Shabbat on which the bridegroom is called to the Torah – is usually on the Shabbat before the wedding. In non-Ashkenazi circles, it is on the Shabbat after the wedding.

Hotovely and Alon chose to do so at the Ein Gev Resort Village – long a favorite vacation spot for the Hotovely family, who are well-know to the staff and regulars. In fact, general manager Haim Statiahu, who welcomed them with open arms, had been a guest at the wedding. The main hall at Ein Gev was transformed into a synagogue for the occasion.

■ TIES BETWEEN Britain and Israel run deep, and there are still many reminders of the British presence in the Holy Land during the Mandate period. Not the least of these are the Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries, as well as other cemeteries dating back to the World War I under the aegis of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, but separate from the regular Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries. Haifa, for instance, has a British cemetery in Bat Galim and also has an Indian cemetery, where memorial services are conducted yearly under the auspices of the Indian Embassy.

Elbit Systems, the Haifa-headquartered international defense electronics company, has specific ties with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, generally with regard to the soldiers’ day-to-day combat operations in Afghanistan and their ongoing work on the “Watchkeeper” unmanned aerial vehicle program.

The Royal Artillery troops are the actual operators of the UAVs provided by Elbit Systems, with the mission of advance observation to enable the supply of visual real-time intelligence to UK forces. This week, at a British cemetery in Bat-Galim, Elbit Systems closed a circle that was opened close to a century ago.

Together with representatives of the British Embassy and Israel Police, it participated in a ceremony honoring nine Royal Artillery soldiers who were posted in the Holy Land after World War I and lost their lives attempting to ford the Jordan River. Elbit contributed to the restoration and renovation of the monument erected in memory of these soldiers.

■ LAST WEEK, British Ambassador Matthew Gould, a staunch supporter of Holocaust survivors, opened the fifth Café Briannia Holocaust Survivors’ Club. Gould has personally worked to raise money for these clubs. The newest is located in Migdal Ha’emek and serves a community of 80 survivors, who attend twice a week. The club has actually been operating since October 2012, and is part of a nationwide network that will eventually include 18 such facilities.

Eighteen is an important figure in gematria (the traditional Jewish system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase), and is equal to chai or life, and the whole purpose of the Café Britannia Clubs – which are funded by the Jewish community of the UK – is to improve the quality of life for survivors. The club is located in a Russian-speaking neighborhood and the majority of its members are refugees from the former Soviet Union, who either suffered oppression under the Nazis or who fought in the Red Army. The club offers its members a variety of activities, including lectures and day trips – all conducted in Russian.

Addressing the members in Hebrew, Gould said the project was extremely important to him, because “Holocaust survivors have the right to live in comfort and dignity.” When he and his wife, Celia, came to Israel, they wanted to do something for survivors, he said, and the clubs are the result of that wish. Also present were Avi Dichter, a former minister and chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors, which operates the clubs, and Migdal Ha’emek Mayor Eli Barda.

■ WHEN HE travels to Poland next week, Netanyahu will be accompanied not only by five government ministers and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, but also by a delegation from Yad Vashem that will include the chairman of its directorate, Avner Shalev, and the chairman of its council, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. They will join the prime minister and government members at the opening of the new permanent exhibition “Shoah,” in Block 27 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Among the others attending will be Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski; museum director Piotr Cywinski; Israeli and Polish officials; and Holocaust survivors. The new permanent exhibition was curated, designed and built by Yad Vashem, in coordination with the museum.

The previous exhibition, dating to the 1960s Communist era, had become outdated in both its content and display, and most visitors to the camp chose not to view it. In 2005, Yad Vashem was mandated by the State of Israel to undertake the renewal of the exhibition, including the preservation of the original barracks.

The new exhibition, which is funded by the state with assistance from the Claims Conference, combines powerful visual displays with short texts, which will provide a profound experience for the some 1.5 million annual visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Curators, historians, philosophers, artists and designers, including Chanan de Lange, Michal Rovner, David Grossman, Niv Ben-David, Noemi Schory and Hagit Shimoni, contributed to the exhibition plan.

■ FAMOUS ENTERTAINERS who lend their names to organizations, institutions and projects often take a hands-on interest in what they are doing – especially when children are involved. Thus, Chaim Topol, chairman of the Jordan River Village, and Gila Almagor, who is a member of its board of directors, decided to spend time interacting with some of the youngsters with life-threatening illnesses who come to the village in the Galilee to have therapeutic fun.

Some of the youngsters stay for a few days, some stay for a whole week – but all feel a lot better for the experience.

■ RECIPIENTS THIS week of the inaugural Champion of Jewish Values International Awards at a gala dinner at New York’s Marriott Marquis were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Prof.

Elie Wiesel and Dr. Mehmet Oz, who were recognized for their exemplary dedication to the worldwide promotion of universal Jewish values. The dinner, in support of the Jewish Values Network and Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, was hosted by Kevin Bermeister, founder of the Jerusalem Development Fund and governor of This World: The Jewish Values Network, as well as David Sterling, chairman of Sterling & Sterling, Inc. and treasurer of American Friends of Rambam.

The event opened with a Jewish Values Network Torah dedicated by Matthew Bronfman, in honor of his father, Edgar Miles Bronfman, and his grandparents. During the presentation to Oz, it was revealed that he had performed circumcisions for the Turkish military to complete his service.

Prior to the conclusion of the gala evening, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who is executive director of the The Jewish Values Network, presented Miriam Adelson with a special award in recognition of the fact that no matter where she is in the world, she never forgets to light Shabbat candles.

While they give generously to many causes, the Adelsons are among the world’s leading funders of medical research, with specific focus on addiction and rehabilitation – the particular field of expertise of Miriam Adelson, who is a doctor.

■ IT’S A pity that so few people showed up at the Jerusalem Press Club to listen to the riveting address and Q&A exchange between prizewinning reporter Judith Miller, formerly of The New York Times and currently with Fox News, and senior Bloomberg News in Israel correspondent Calev Ben-David, who is a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, was arts editor of The Jerusalem Report and was the founding director of the Jerusalem office of the Israel Project. Highly critical of the Obama administration’s infringement on civil liberties, especially the right of journalists to protect their sources, Miller charged the administration with being hypocritical – in that at press briefings, it often insists that correspondents’ reports omit the names of speakers, and merely describe them as senior White House sources, even when the issue is not one of national security.

Miller is also angry with her former employers at The New York Times, who after cooperating with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and publishing his disclosures, left him in the lurch and even attacked him. That’s not all that she has against the Times, and more about that will appear in her forthcoming book. Although she prefers to name her sources wherever possible, Miller declared: “You can’t do investigative work without anonymous sources, who are the heart of investigative reporting.”

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