NOTWITHSTANDING THE ructions in his party, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu will temporarily put politics on the back burner on January 23 to take on the role of father of the bride. It won't be the glitzy kind of five-star hotel affair that Netanyahu is reputed to favor; instead, it will be a Chabad-style wedding in keeping with the way of life of Noa, the eldest of Netanyahu's three children and the product of the first of his three marriages.
Only a tiny tot when her parents were divorced, Noa grew up in the care of her mother Miki and her mother's second husband, Doron Haran, but was in frequent contact with her biological father. She was also extremely close to her paternal grandmother, the late Cela Netanyahu.
And the bride's father isn't the only one in the spotlight. Miki Haran is the director-general of the Ministry of the Environment.
Noa Netanyahu, a very private person, asked from an early age not to be included in her parents' public lives. Raised in a generally secular family, Noa, now 27, created a furor of her own some two years ago when she decided to follow a religiously observant path. Her resolve in this direction was strengthened by her relationship with Jerusalem hi-tech businessman Daniel Roth, 32, formerly of Los Angeles, whom she met when both were students at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
She now works in an executive capacity for the JOINT Distribution Committee, where she has earned an admirable number of Brownie points.
The setting for the wedding is Kibbutz Ramat Rahel - and the guest list, according to reports, has been kept relatively modest with around 300 invitees. What will be interesting to see is whether Netanyahu dons his former finance minister cap when it comes to negotiating the bridal contract just before the wedding ceremony.
ALTHOUGH THE secular media made a big splash of the racist-inspired brawl that cast a shadow last week on the wedding festivities of Ayala Amar and Barak Ben-Nissan, the haredi press barely mentioned it. That could be because the mostly weekly haredi publications have earlier deadlines than their secular counterparts, but more likely than not it was out of deference for the father of the bride, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who has already been severely embarrassed by matters relating to his children.
Last year, the bride's mother Mazal discovered that her daughter was having an Internet and cell phone flirtation with a young yeshiva student - and Mazal was determined to break it up.
Mazal called her son Meir and told him to do what had to be done. Meir took a couple of his cronies, forced Ayala to lure her boyfriend into a car and the poor young man not only suffered a painful beating, but worse still had his forelocks shorn. Police questioned various members of the family and a deal was done with Mazal so she wouldn't have to do time in jail; Meir was eventually sentenced to 32 months and was not at the wedding. The 24-year-old groom is a graduate of the prestigious Slobodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Given the circumstances - a very fine catch.
FORMER MK Shmuel Flatto-Sharon is an ex-convict and a likable rogue. Despite his major league embezzlement in France and his vote buying in the 1977 elections in Israel, both the media and the public have forgiven him simply because Flatto-Sharon is a proud Israeli patriot and a generous benefactor to worthy causes. After 30 years in the country his Hebrew is still minimal and delivered in a heavy French accent. He is best remembered for his political slogan, when he asked in French-accented Hebrew: "What have you done for the country?"
He did quite a lot, including securing the release of several Israeli prisoners-of-war in exchange for Palestinian terrorists captured by Israel. He also has supported and continues to support several social welfare projects; perhaps this is why everyone was so ready to let bygones be bygones.
A shrewd businessman, Flatto-Sharon once sought to open a luxury resort replete with a casino in Elei Sinai, the Jewish settlement in northern Gaza whose residents were forced to evacuate last year.
An easygoing guy who enjoys a good laugh - even at his own expense - Flatto-Sharon has been a popular guest on radio and television shows for years. Now, at age 70-plus, he's on the verge of a new career as a movie actor. Flatto-Sharon will appear in Menachem Golan's new film Dangerous Dance, which is due to go into production within the next month or two. Starring roles have been given to Michal Amdurski and Sami Huri along with Eliana Bakyar, the statuesque dancer from television's Dancing with the Stars. Also appearing in the movie is businesswoman Galia Albin, who has been taking drama lessons in the US. Albin is a board member of the Israeli Foundation for Cinema and Television and has previously scripted, starred in and produced her own movie.
As for Flatto-Sharon, even though he served in the Knesset for two years prior to his suspension in 1979, his name does not appear on the Knesset lists. Presumably there's someone who hasn't forgiven him.
YOU DON'T have to be a post-army backpacker to see the world. You can have just as much fun, plus a little more stability, when you're a little older and willing to volunteer for a worthwhile cause. That's what happened to three Australian women who came from the Blue Mountains area in New South Wales to volunteer at Akim Jerusalem, which provides a range of services for more than 1,000 people with mental disabilities and development disorders.
Aged between 45 and 55, Iris Marian, Joy Hunt-Smith and Cathy Star have committed themselves to spend at least a year volunteering in Israel. Marian was a math teacher for many years, but decided she would rather help the disabled and embarked on relevant training courses. Hunt-Smith is a trained nurse who has volunteered in India and Star is a former secretary, described by her friends as "a high-flying company lady" who has never previously worked with the disabled and is finding the experience enormously rewarding.
Marian spent a nine-month stint as an Akim volunteer three years ago and was so enthusiastic that her friends were happy to join her this time around. Their work week leaves them plenty of time to spend mornings in ulpan classes and to do a little exploring. Living in the capital's Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood, Marian works in one of the three Akim hostels and Hunt-Smith and Star work in the group home apartments where people with mental disabilities can live and enjoy maximum independence. The three look forward to more volunteering opportunities during their stay in Israel; in particular, the three long-time friends would like to teach the basics of life-saving techniques.
ALTHOUGH SHE certainly doesn't look the part, Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, the wife of recently-resigned foreign minister Silvan Shalom, is about to become a great aunt to twins. The thought of twins might be exciting in someone else's family, but since JSNM and her husband have a set of their own, it's just par for the course. JSNM's niece Hadas, who is married to Yaron Lichtenstein, the son of hairdressing gurus Jacqueline and Avigdor Lichtenstein, is expecting twins. If they happen to be girls, they'll never have to worry about their hair.
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