IF IT is indeed true that Shimon Peres will today announce his defection from the Labor Party, it will not only signify that he is turning his back on the party he helped to shape and to which he was committed for most of his life; it also means that if he decides not to run for the Knesset with any party he would give up a chance to hold the record for the world's longest serving parliamentarian, leaving the stage open for Cuba's Fidel Castro. In 1959, the year that Castro took up his uninterrupted leadership of Cuba, Peres entered the Knesset. Even though he enjoyed less popularity at home than he does abroad, political analysts agree that he carried out his various roles of influence efficiently and effectively. Until now, he also demonstrated a brand of nobility in the face of an election loss. But even Shimon Peres cannot keep saying that it's raining when someone spits in his face. In ancient traditions, including the Jewish tradition, the elders of the tribe were the holders of wisdom and the leaders of the people. In Labor, the wisdom and experience accumulated by Peres in more than 60 years of service to the state in the making and the state itself were overlooked in the effort to put the old man out to pasture - even though he could run circles around most of the younger people in the party. Why should anyone be surprised that a man who believes he still has so much to give would turn in the direction where his contribution would be most appreciated? Although Labor's new leader, Amir Peretz, has called on Peres to stay in the party and MK Isaac Herzog has said that if Peres quits, his decision will send the wrong educational message to the nation's youth, an honest look at the current situation against Peres' history of losing elections would demonstrate that he's not leaving because he's a sore loser, but because he was stabbed in the back by someone whose path back into the party he paved. In leaving, he is putting out an educational message: No matter how much confidence you have in anyone, remember the old Hebrew adage - respect but suspect.
AMONG THE less conservative and more outspoken of Israel's judges is Supreme Court Justice Mishael Cheshin, who, when addressing the Public Law Association, left no doubt about his thoughts on political corruption. According to Yediot Aharonot, Cheshin declared that people in Israel have lost all shame. "In the past when a minister was suspected of corruption, he shot himself in the head," he said, alluding to housing minister Avraham Ofer, who in 1975 committed suicide without having been charged, simply because he could not bear the slur of suspicion on his reputation. Norms have changed, observed Cheshin. Today, a minister who has been charged with a crime has no problem sitting in the government, he said. The unspoken indictment in his words was that a nation gets the government it deserves.
NOBEL PRIZE laureate Prof. Robert J. Aumann, a founding member of the Hebrew University's Center for the Study of Rationality, held a press briefing this week to give Israelis a sense of what he will say when he attends the Nobel Prize presentation ceremony in Stockholm on December 10. His subject will be "War and Peace." Although he will not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on that occasion, he intends to talk about trying to understand the root causes of conflict. War, which has been with us for thousands of years, has to be studied, he said, "like you study illnesses, like you study cancer. Once you understand the causes of it, you can begin to try to cure it."
According to Aumann, a professor of mathematics and an expert in the field of game theory that deals with the complexities and strategies of decision-making, it's a mistake to say that war is irrational. "It is rational. One has to study the psychological and motivational elements that come into play in decisions to go to war."
Aumann plans to take 35 members of his immediate family to Stockholm, in addition to members of his "scientific family." Special preparations that have gone into getting ready for the trip include kosher food and provisions for Shabbat. Aumann, who is Orthodox, disclosed problems encountered with assuring that the formal white tie and tails outfit which all male attendees at the event are required to wear, were free of shatnes, the mixture of wool and linen that is forbidden by the Torah. When a sample suit was flown to Israel and tested in a laboratory, the result showed that the outfit did indeed include shatnes. Fortunately, a source was found in Stockholm to have the clothes altered so as to remove the forbidden element in time, said Aumann.
NAME-CALLING at election time is par for the course. The question is: Are there any limits? Case in point is the example set by Knesset Law Committee chairman Michael Eitan who has dubbed former Likud and current Kadima MK Omri Sharon "The Champion of Corruption."
WITH ALL the bad news circulating around the country, there is also some heart-warming news imparted by Yaakov Pinsky, director of Chaiyanu, the Israel branch of Chai Lifeline. The Park Hotel in Netanya, which in 2002 suffered so much damage and loss of life during a Seder night terrorist attack, invited Chaiyanu to use its restored facilities for 15 children with cancer plus one sibling for each child. The Thursday to Saturday night retreat for 50 people including staff is being hosted free of charge by the hotel's owners and management. Even though we may have an overdose of corruption in Israel, we also have many good and caring people.
CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to Noam Rozenman, who in 1997, when he was in his mid-teens, was severely injured in a bomb explosion on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Mall. After months of therapy in Hadassah Hospital's Burn Unit in Ein Kerem - and subsequently in the Rehabilitation Center on Mount Scopus - Noam was able to get on with his life. A contributing factor was the home in which he was raised. His parents, Elana and Zvi Rozenman, are strong believers in love and reconciliation and passed this on to their three children. Noam, who has been involved in a lot of public speaking to and on behalf of child victims of terror, has just announced his engagement to a beautiful young lady who goes by the name of Chaya Libby Pessya. They plan to marry early in the new year. His parents, who married off their daughter Shira earlier this year, are obviously delighted, as are the many people around the world who joined in silent prayer vigils while Noam was in the difficult stages of recovery.
WOMEN WHO had been injured in terrorist attacks during their service in the IDF were hosted by Gila Katsav, the wife of the president, at an emotionally moving reception at Beit Hanassi. Noting that women had served in the army since the inception of the state and that some had paid a heavy price, she said that all Israelis had known days of great joy and days of pain and sorrow. Yet despite the downside, Israel has an amazing strength and ability to rise above adversity. Katsav was full of praise for those who had pushed to have the status of disabled women placed on the national agenda, and she was particularly pleased that where necessary, the IDF finances fertility treatments for disabled women who were victims of terror while serving in the IDF.
UNBEKNOWNST TO her husband, the president's wife has been personally involved in helping victims of terror. Aviva Tessler, one of the founders of Operation Embrace, an American-headquartered organization that helps victims of terror, told President Katsav this week about a young woman who had lost both her legs in an explosion. Operation Embrace had bought her a laptop, but after the woman returned home from the hospital, her apartment was burglarized and the laptop was among the items stolen. Tessler was able to get together some money from the insurance, but not enough to pay for a new laptop. Gila Katsav supplied the missing amount from a discretionary fund at her disposal. The president had been completely unaware of this and was pleasantly surprised.
JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Jan Yokota sent out a large number of invitations to the opening of an exhibition called "Discover Japan in Israel," featuring portraits of Japanese artists here. The event was to celebrate the opening of the embassy premises in the impressive new Museum Tower in Tel Aviv. Some of the guests actually arrived early - almost a miracle in the Jewish State. Many of the ambassador's diplomatic colleagues also showed up. People stood around admiring the library and sampling the sushi, but the ambassador didn't show. He and his wife had an unexpected engagement elsewhere, and the stand-in host was Ryuta Mizuuchi, the second in charge. Aside from the many Israeli business people who have an interest in promoting bilateral relations, bilateral relations of the romantic kind were also in evidence with several couples in which one partner was Japanese and the other Israeli. In most cases they brought the fruits of their unions with them - their beautiful children.
SOME OF the guests at the Japanese Embassy went on to the Ramat Gan residence of British Ambassador Simon McDonald, who was hosting the culmination of British month in Israel with a disco, B-B-Q and Top Shop fashion show. The disco was fine. The B-B-Q came in for praise from those who are not restricted by observance of Jewish dietary laws, but the fashion show was a no-no, and certainly not the "cutting edge of fashion" that McDonald claimed it to be. Among the guests were jeweler Nurit Jaglom, Foreign Ministry head of information Gideon Meir, Inbal Hotel general manager Rodney Sanders and Gad Proper, whose Osem edibles are exported in large quantities to the United Kingdom.
POLITICAL UPHEAVALS notwithstanding, heads of state and lesser dignitaries continue to visit Israel as if nothing was amiss. Some are even thrilled to be here at such exciting times, according to members of the European Parliament. Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Patrik Manning and Paraguayan Vice President Castiglioni Luis were in Israel last week. Marshall Islands President Kassai H. Note was in Israel this week. Due to arrive on a private visit some time in December is Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, and on official visits in coming weeks the prime ministers of Macedonia, the Czech Republic and Japan, Vlado Buckovski, Jiri Paroubek and Junichiro Koizumi, who became famous outside of Japan when a photograph of him dancing with Richard Gere appeared in publications around the world. This is only a short list. There have also been numerous senior government ministers and military top brass from several countries. "Everyone knows what's going on but they keep coming," said Foreign Ministry Chief of Protocol Yitzhak Eldan.
WHILE IT is unlikely that Eldan, who is one of the candidates to be Israel's ambassador to France, will learn his fate one way or the other before the March elections, he has at least received some recognition from France. Gerard Araud, France's Ambassador to Israel, has informed him that the French government has named him an Officer in Academic Palms in recognition of his contribution to French culture. Eldan was stationed in France when he was Israel's ambassador to UNESCO.
ON THE premise that it pays to advertise, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, a contender for the Likud leadership, sought to feature campaign commercials on Channel 2. But, according to an announcement made on air in the name of management, Channel 2 regulations preclude the acceptance of election campaign advertising of this kind. However, Shalom was compensated in a back-handed manner by being invited to Meet the Press. For the first 10 minutes he never got to say a word. Meet the Press anchor Sheli Yachimovich who either runs the interviews alone or with one partner, this time chose to bring in not only Rina Matzliah, who is Channel 2's own political maven, but also Haaretz political correspondent Mazal Mualem. The three women spent a lot of time discussing Amir PeretzJun Yokota and Kazakhstan Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov are going to have a tough time shuttling between the two events which take place not only on the same date but at the same hour. One is at the residence of the Japanese ambassador and the other in a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv. While this might not pose too much of a problem ordinarily, both events happen to be taking place on a Thursday, which is the worst day for traffic congestion between Tel Aviv and Herzliya Pituah. So either they'll give one of the events a miss, put in a five minute appearance at one and then go to the other, or simply risk being late to whichever event is their second choice.
YOU CAN take the man out of politics, but you can't quite take politics out of the man. A familiar figure in Revisionist circles prior to his election to the presidency, Moshe Katsav accepted the invitation to be the guest speaker at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the founding of The Jabotinsky Order of Israel and the 125th anniversary of the birth of Zeev Jabotinsky, the father of the Revisionist Movement. When the assembly rose to sing the Revisionist anthem, Katsav sang as lustily as anyone else in the auditorium. Among those present was Yehuda Kaplan, the sole survivor of the seven founders of the Jabotinsky Order. At 91, he is still spry and dapper and had no problem walking unaided up and down the stairs from the auditorium to the stage and back.
SOME OF the people invited to the Givatayim Theater to the opening of an LG-sponsored art exhibition of works by Hyun Jin Park, mistakenly believed that the invitation was from the wife of the Korean ambassador. The wife of Ambassador Kyungtark Park is an excellent artist whose works have been exhibited in different countries - but she was not the artist in question. What the two women have in common is that they are both Korean. The difference is that Hyun Jin Park also speaks fluent Hebrew, is an expert on the Bible and in love with Israel and Judaism. She learned Hebrew while still in Korea and came to Israel to study for her master's degree in art at Bezalel in Jerusalem, The idea was learn more about Judaism through Jewish ritual art.
"DON'T BANG the door so hard," said Jerusalem taxi driver Yitzhak Shitrit to a passenger who had hurriedly gotten into his cab. The passenger apologized and Shitrit relaxed slightly, explaining that just before Succot, someone had banged his door so hard that he could not close it. The damage was extensive and would have cost well over NIS1,000 to repair. Under the circumstances, he would have gladly paid such a sum rather than leave his car open. But no Jewish mechanic was prepared to touch it before the holiday. Shitrit had no option. He turned to the Palestinians and got himself a new door. "First they steal our cars and then they sell us the spare parts," he commented.
PHILIPPINES AMBASSADOR Antonio Modena is angry that there is no visible evidence at Yad Vashem of the role played by the Philippines in rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. Modena, who has voiced his complaint at different forums, did so again on Tuesday at a reception hosted in Haifa by Millie and Paul Rosenblatt for their daughter, Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of the Center for Holocaust Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College Cincinnati, who was honored by the Philippines government for her work in bringing the story to light. The Rosenblatts were unable to attend the award ceremony in the US, so they took advantage of their daughter's visit to Haifa, where she used to live and reach, to celebrate the recognition of her work. "My goal was to educate the public," said Weiman. "I have the privilege of being the midwife of the story."