Grapevine: Where age is not an impediment

It is somewhat ironic that outgoing BoI Gov. Stanley Fischer, two years ago at age 67, was considered too old to be candidate for director of the IMF.

June 25, 2013 22:28
Jacob Frenkel

Jacob Frenkel370 USE THIS ONE. (photo credit: Courtesy TAU)

It is somewhat ironic that outgoing Bank of Israel Gov. Stanley Fischer, two years ago at age 67, was considered too old to be a candidate for director of the International Monetary Fund – whereas age has been no impediment for Jacob Frenkel, the new-old incoming governor of the BOI.

Frenkel will be taking up his position at an age when judges – who have a longer lease on their careers than other public servants – are forced to retire. Moreover, according to media reports, the 70-year-old Frenkel will be earning in excess of NIS 60,000 per month, a salary higher than that of either the president or the prime minister.

The first time that Frenkel was appointed BOI governor more than 20 years ago, his wife said in a television interview that he had wanted to come home for years, but there was no position available for someone with his qualifications. This, of course, poses the question as to how many other highly qualified Israelis in any number of fields are utilizing their talents abroad, since there is no suitable job for them at home. Perhaps instead of giving Yuval Steinitz the newly created International Relations portfolio – which so antagonizes the people at the Foreign Ministry, and wastes so much money – Netanyahu should have established a ministry for reversal of the brain drain. There, Steinitz, a former senior lecturer at the University of Haifa’s philosophy department, could have been at the forefront of restoring Israel’s lost brain power.

Meanwhile, with the departure of Frenkel – who in addition to his many commercial and economic roles, is also a professor who 45 years ago began his academic career on the faculty of Tel Aviv University’s Berglas School of Economics – the university will have to look for a new chairman for its board of governors.

Frenkel was appointed to the position only a few months ago, but will have to step down in light of his new BOI role.

■ IT’S GOING to be tough to put on a bigger and better opening extravaganza for next year’s Presidential Facing Tomorrow Conference than this year’s spectacular variety show, but there’s little doubt that Israel Maimon, who has been chairman of the conference’s steering committee since its inception, will rise to the challenge. The conference, which was initiated by Peres, is traditionally held in June, and June 2014 will be his last month in office at the conclusion of a sevenyear term. It’s in the cards that the loyal Maimon will want Peres to go out with a bang.

Not that Peres will disappear from the public eye. At the ceremony at which he conferred the Presidential Medal of Distinction on former US president Bill Clinton, Peres noted Clinton’s achievements through his foundation, and said that Clinton was tempting him into retirement.

Peres, however, does not need to establish a foundation. He already has the extremely active Peres Center for Peace, which is doing similar work to Clinton’s Foundation – though not on as broad an international scale. The honorary president of the board of directors is Uri Savir, who was director-general of the Foreign Ministry when Peres was foreign minister, and who served as Peres’s right-hand man for many years. Chairman of the board of directors is Chemi Peres, the president’s son, and the other 11 members are all people with considerable national and international influence. Ido Sharir, the director- general of the Peres Center, has been on the job for 18 months, after having previously served as chief of staff of the President’s Office.

The international board of governors of the Peres Center reads like a Who’s Who of who was and who still is, and includes inter alia former heads of state, former heads of government, and leading figures from the world of finance and academia. There are branches of International Friends of the Peres Center in different countries; the Peres Center is also a member of a network of a number of international forums and foundations, including the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum. So, providing he’s still up to it at age 91 and beyond, Peres still has a lot of travel ahead of him – to spread his message and possibly that of Israel.

The immediate challenge to Maimon with regard to next year’s bash will be including a couple of Arab leaders among the world leaders videotaping greetings to Peres. Sadly lacking this year were King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Perhaps next year, even Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi will have a positive parting word for Peres.

■ IN MAY of this year, Ma’ariv published a very handsome glossy magazine in which it listed the 100 most influential Jews, with photographs and thumbnail biographies of the 25-member panel that selected them and some very interesting essays about some of the people who made the list. The Hebrew edition of the magazine was distributed with a weekend edition of Ma’ariv as well as Makor Rishon, which is owned by the same publisher – Shlomo Ben-Zvi. The English edition, which was published this month, was distributed at the Presidential Facing Tomorrow Conference. It’s one of several lists complied annually by Jewish publications in Israel and the Diaspora.

Other journalists have already noted that such lists invariably include names that many readers have never heard of, and inexplicably omit names whose inclusion should be a given. A glaring example of this is the omission on the Ma’ariv list of World Jewish Congress president Ron Lauder, who over the years has: held various executive posts at the Estee Lauder cosmetics company created by his parents; served in the Pentagon and as an American diplomat; is influential in New York politics; has one of the world’s largest private art collections; established the Neue Galerie for Austrian and German Art in Manhattan; is a former chairman of the Museum of Modern Art; has established Lauder institutes at higher education facilities in the US and Israel; is chairman of the Jewish National Fund-USA’s board and of Central European Media Enterprises; owns Jerusalem Capital Studios; is a major shareholder in Israel’s Channel 10; is the founder and chairman of RWL Water Group; and has cultural and philanthropic interests in many parts of the world. Through the Ronald S.

Lauder Foundation, he revived Jewish communities throughout Central and Eastern Europe, sending in teachers, building schools and community centers, and turning people who were once afraid to admit their Jewish identities into proud Jews anxious to reclaim their heritage. A good percentage of these “born-again Jews” have since relocated to Israel. Lauder has also been instrumental in the greening of the Negev, and has acted as a liaison between the State of Israel and Syria.

And this is only a partial list of the influence he wields and has wielded. Strangely, not only did Ma’ariv overlook him, but so has the committee that determines the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Distinction.

■ YEDIOT AHARONOT ran a cute item about actor and restaurateur Robert De Niro, who was among the celebrities participating in Facing Tomorrow. De Niro was in a cab on the way back to his hotel, when he asked the driver to stop at a kiosk so that he could purchase some gum and a bottle of water. The proprietor of the kiosk recognized him and refused to take payment, but De Niro insisted, giving him a NIS 50 bill and getting back in the cab. It was certainly the most profitable deal the kiosk proprietor had enjoyed in a long time.

■ ON JUNE 19, when the Presidential Conference with its celebrity attendance was the main focus of the media, not too many people remembered that it was also the 60th anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiracy to transfer classified military data to the Soviet Union. It subsequently transpired that Ethel Rosenberg – though aware of her husband’s activities – was not a co-conspirator, but she had already gone to the electric chair. Exonerating her therefore didn’t serve much purpose, other than it might have offered some degree of comfort to her orphaned sons.

There is now a theory in some Jewish circles that convicted Israeli agentJonathan Pollard is paying the residual price for Julius Rosenberg’s treason. It will be interesting to see if the Americans succeed in extraditing National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, whether his sentence will be lighter than that of Pollard.

■ AS THE general public does not know what Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s metaphorical Ricki Cohen looks like, it was impossible to tell if she was one of the people crowded into the VIP section of Bloomfield Stadium last Thursday night, prior to Barbra Streisand’s dazzling performance. (People who follow Lapid on Facebook were introduced to Cohen in March; She is a 37-year-old high school teacher from Hadera, who with her husband who works in hi-tech has a monthly income slightly in excess of NIS 20,000 – but has no hope of buying an apartment for any of their three children.) VIP ticketholders to the Streisand concert were given plastic bracelets and VIP identity tags before entering a special section in which they were free to sample a variety of dishes from a buffet prepared by celebrity chef Haim Cohen. The fish cakes were indeed excellent, but one would have thought that VIPs with tickets that cost NIS 3,400 each would not have to eat from disposable plates and use plastic flatware.

Looking around, there were hardly any recognizable faces of Israeli tycoons or celebrities.

The attire and behavior of most of the people indicated that they were not in the upper income bracket. Like the writer of this column, they may have been the guests of people who are not only affluent but generous.

In fact, Jeanne Pratt and her daughter, Heloise Waislitz, of the Australian-headquartered Pratt Foundation that is one of the largest private philanthropies on the island continent, hosted two busloads of guests – who included inter alia Chaim Topol and his wife, Galia; and Mariuma Ben-Yosef, the founder of the Shanti House Association for runaway and abandoned youth. With characteristic Australian modesty, Pratt thanked their guests for coming, after having provided them with tickets in the second row. As if that were not enough, the mother-daughter team also provided minibus transportation for their Jerusalem guests to and from Tel Aviv, and hosted a party after the show on the roof of the Alma Boutique Hotel.

The hotel, it turns out, is owned by siblings Adi and Irit Strauss, whose big sister Ofra Strauss was also among the guests at the party. Dressed in jeans and a casual blouse, she certainly didn’t look like one of the most powerful business women in the world, nor did the trim-figured Strauss look anywhere near her almost 53 summers. (Her birthday is on August 22.) Although reviewers of Streisand’s performance were almost unanimously ecstatic about her rendition of People, the real theme of the show was obviously The Way We Were. There was a video of Streisand from babyhood to recent times, including her film roles, and to her credit, she included shots that were not exactly flattering. The audience got to see the many faces, hairstyles, hair colors and fashion fads of Streisand, not only in that video but in another prepared for her 70th birthday by her son, Jason. The strong bond between mother and son from the moment he was born to the present day was apparent, and a shining example of the stereotyped Jewish mother.

There was speculation among some members of the audience as to whether the third outfit that Streisand wore during the show was a sentimental keepsake from the days in which square-shaped, padded shoulders were fashionable. The brilliant red gown was also in sharp contrast to the two black outfits she had worn earlier. But more importantly, the low neckline and the cut-out under the bust were not in line with what a 71-year-old woman would usually choose to wear, and thus revealed too much of a sagging bosom.

But everyone was willing to forgive a few flaws – including her mispronunciations in Hebrew – because overall, she put on a night of magic.

Both Streisand and her half-sister, Rosalyn Kind, paid tribute to their mother, Diana Rosen, who had been accepted to the New York Metropolitan Choir and from whom they inherited their voices. It actually goes back further than that: Their maternal grandfather was a cantor.

Streisand has a passion for museums and mentioned during the show that she had visited a few during her time in Israel. In Tel Aviv she stayed at the Dan Hotel, whose pastry chefs produced a beautifully frosted cake in honor of her 100th performance, with a congratulatory message on one side and Streisand’s likeness on the other. It was one of three 100th-performance cakes produced for the occasion.

In other news related to the Dan chain, the company is expanding not only in terms of new acquisitions, but also in upgrading existing properties. The Dan Carmel in Haifa, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, has just been given a NIS 70 million facelift, in which 227 rooms and suites have been completely reconstructed to meet the standards of international luxury hotels.

When it was opened in 1963, the Dan Carmel was the largest and most beautiful hotel in the North. With the development of the hotel industry, larger, attractive hotels were constructed and the Dan Carmel faced serious competition. The reconstructed super-deluxe Dan Carmel has now been restored to its former glory, Dan Hotels CEO Ami Hirschstein said proudly, noting that the choice of restaurants; the business lounge; the guestrooms equipped with 42- inch LED TVs, with multimedia connections to laptops, tablets and smartphones; plus many other amenities has once more given the Dan Carmel pride of place in the North’s capital.

■ THERE IS a Herzl Street in every city in Israel, and there is a Herzl Museum in Jerusalem as well as Mount Herzl, where the Zionist visionary, leaders of the nation who expanded on his vision and soldiers who lost their lives defending Israel are buried. Yet, all too many Israelis are ignorant of Theodor Herzl’s history.

The realization of this ignorance prompted the Knesset to pass the Herzl Law in June 2004. This year, more than in previous years, the Herzl Public Council has mounted an intensive advertising campaign for the annual Herzl Day commemoration. It will be held at his graveside tomorrow, Thursday, with the participation of the president and prime minister.

Next year’s commemoration will have greater significance, because it will mark the 110th anniversary of Herzl’s premature death. He was only two months past his 44th birthday when he died. There is a sense of history mocking itself in the fact that Herzl Day is being held only a few days after the commemoration of the sinking of the Altalena in 1948.

■ THE SINKING of the Altalena is not the only item on the memorial agenda of people on the political Right. The upcoming centennial of the birth of Menachem Begin, who refused to allow the attack on the Altalena to become a cause for civil war, is also at top of mind.

Begin disciples have been furious over a publicity gimmick suggesting that the former prime minister would have divided Jerusalem, and tore down most of the posters that were plastered around the capital over the past couple of weeks. The posters show two three-quarter face portraits of Begin, on either side of a vertical divide. The text reads: “Begin is dividing Jerusalem -Residents against Highway 4 in Beit Safafa.”

Though visually effective, the poster protesting the construction of an eight-lane continuation of the Begin Highway, which will bisect Beit Safafa, was offensive to those people who still hold Begin on pedestal.

■ YOU CAN take the woman out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the woman. Moderating the signing ceremony for the cooperative agreements on water research between Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Chicago, Faye Bittker, director of the department of publications and media relations at BGU, made a Freudian slip when mentioning Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – referring to him as the mayor of New York. Emanuel was quick to correct her and a chagrined Bittker apologized for showing her roots.

Emanuel, who last week participated in the Presidential Conference, brought his daughter, Leah, as a bat mitzva treat, and told Peres that she had been named for the late Leah Rabin. Peres gave Leah Emanuel a book as a birthday gift.

■ BELARUSIAN-BORN Israel chess champion Boris Gelfand gave himself a meaningful 45th birthday present at the beginning of this week, when he won the eighth Mikhail Tal Memorial Championship in Moscow. He will be bringing home not only a gold trophy but also 30,000 euros, of which Israel’s income tax authorities will no doubt take a cut.

The championship has been held annually in Moscow since 2006. The Latvian-born Tal, who was regarded as one of the creative geniuses of the game, suffered from ill health and died in Moscow in June 1992. Tal was only 23 when he defeated world chess champion Mikhail Botvinik. Both Tal and Botvinik were Jewish, as were many other chess champions.

Just as the number of Jewish Nobel Prize laureates is disproportionate to the percentage of Jews in the world population, so too is the ratio of Jewish chess champions.

■ DESPITE THE many negative reports about the Israel Broadcasting Authority that have appeared in the Hebrew media, the IBA currently has something to smile about – as one of its journalists is this year’s recipient of the prestigious JDC/Smolar Award. The winner of the $2,500 prize, to encourage reporting on the Jewish world with particular focus on Israel-Diaspora relations, is Oren Nahari, who heads the foreign affairs news desk at Channel 1 and is foreign news editor on Israel Radio.

The award is in memory of Boris Smolar, who was a prominent figure in American Jewish journalism for some six decades and was the longtime editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Nahari, who is arguably one of the IBA’s key intellectuals, is extraordinarily knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. Like his colleague David Witzthum, with whom he shares a weekly discussion program on television, he is a graduate of the famed Hebrew Reali School of Haifa – which judging by these particular alumni, must have taught its students good manners in addition to the “Three Rs.” Both are unfailingly polite, and Nahari always makes a point of thanking interviewees and other reporters for their contributions to the program.

Nahari also has to his credit the authorship of the World History Atlas, a chronology of the human race which is believed to be the first Israeli book of its kind, and summarizes the history of humanity from its beginnings to the present time. Nahari joined the IBA in 1986, initially working as a sports reporter and then moving into other journalistic areas. He has been covering foreign news since 2006, and has initiated, edited and presented programs on: the history of the Jews of Poland; the new anti-Semitism; the uniqueness of the Holocaust in relation to other forms of genocide over the past 100 years; Jewish cinema; Jewish humor; Jewish religious ideology in comparison to other faiths; and a broad range of other subjects of both Jewish and general interest. He has also interviewed numerous Jewish personalities from many spheres who have been at the forefront of their respective professions.

■ MORE THAN $1 million was raised toward the funding of artwork displays in Israeli hospitals and the Beit Halochem Rehabilitation Centers for disabled soldiers, at an art auction held by the Dignity Foundation at the old Jaffa train station. The event was hosted by Tammy Riklis, chairwoman of the Dignity Foundation, which was initiated by her husband, Meshulam Riklis – who donated an original Modigliani from his personal collection.

Members of Israel business community, artists, art collectors and socialites were among the many people who congregated at the auction, which was held in conjunction with Matsart Galleries – whose proprietor, Lucien Krief, was also on hand.

Matsart handles the works of leading Israeli and overseas artists, and also specializes in Judaic art. Meir Kotler, who is one of the more prominent agents for Israeli artists, paid $2,000 for a work by Ruth Shalom almost immediately after arriving at the auction.

Other faces spotted in the crowd belonged to former Teva CEO Israel Makov and his companion, Bella Lustig; former model Sigal Papoushado, who came with her father Shlomo Gross; Maya Kadishman, the daughter of artist Menashe Kadishman; Tali Omer, the daughter of beloved writer Devora Omer, who died recently; eminent divorce lawyer Benny Don-Yihye; and Prof. Eliezer Rachmilewitz, former chief of the hematology unit at Hadassah University Medical Center.

■ TIMING IS everything. It’s interesting that police, who have had their eye on Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger for quite some time, should decide to question him on allegations of misappropriation of funds, money laundering, bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and then have him placed under house arrest – just when the controversy over the election of a new chief rabbi is at its height, with Zionist candidate Rabbi David Stav being hailed in some quarters and reviled in others.

Although Metzger did not come to office on the Zionist ticket, he is in fact the product of a national-religious home, and served in the IDF and fought in the 7th Armored Brigade, discharged with the rank of captain.

The youngest chief rabbi in Israel’s history, he will celebrate his 60th birthday in August – but the way things are going, it’s unlikely to be a festive affair.

Similarly, the police had been investigating MK Avigdor Liberman for well over a decade without finding anything with which to charge him – but finally found cause to have him indicted just a few weeks before the Knesset elections.

■ SYRIAN PRESIDENT Bashar Assad has come under attack from many quarters for his brutality against the Syrian population.

Joining the chorus of critics is blind Israeli poet Erez Biton, who reminds the world that Assad, who by training is an eye doctor, has betrayed the ethics of his profession.

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