AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR Kurt Hengl has been a little under the weather lately and confined to bed, which was why he had not kept up with all the news. He was pleasantly surprised when informed by The Jerusalem Post that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has a fondness for Mozart and that Mozart music was being played in his room to stimulate his responses. Hengl, who is celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, decided that if Mozart could help Sharon regain his health, then he would send the prime minister a Viennese care package of Mozart CDs. The premier's love of music has been one of many Sharon-related topics preoccupying the media. Israel Radio's Amikam Rotman told listeners of a meeting he had last week with Baruch Askarov, who several years ago ran a musical radio program in which he invited guests to bring their favorite recordings to the studio. One such guest - in September, 1995 - was Sharon, who came with recordings of Bloch, Grieg, Mozart and Dvorak. In the course of the interview, Sharon was asked to name his favorite Israeli singers. The ones he talked about were Arik Einstein, Arik Lavie and Rami Kleinstein. Rotman replayed segments of the interview to give listeners additional insight into the prime minister.
WELL-KNOWN mystic Rabbi David Batzri has been doing a lot of extra praying lately. The eminent kabbalist was brought to the bedside of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose hand he held as he recited prayers on his behalf. This week, Batzri prayed at the bedside of Israel's oldest and best-known kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri, 106, who was hospitalized with pneumonia. But Batzri has been praying longer for the recovery of his nine-year-old granddaughter, Shoshana Batzri, who was severely injured in a traffic accident three months ago, and whose life hung in the balance for several weeks as doctors fought to save her. Shoshana was released from the hospital this week.
WHEN YOU own a hotel chain, the problems of celebrating family events are greatly reduced. Thus, when Liat and Marc Applbaum of Tel Aviv produced their first son, Yonatan Applbaum, after having previously produced two girls, the infant's maternal grandparents, Rami and Sue Ela, proprietors of the Caesar chain of hotels, decided that the circumcision ceremony warranted more than the customary buffet breakfast. For their first grandson, it had to be a multi-course sit-down dinner with all the trimmings. The venue was the Caesar Jerusalem, where guests - including paternal grandparents Joseph and Rhea Applbaum of Rehovot, and scores of other relatives from many parts of the country - filled the banquet hall. To aid in the family's celebration, chefs from all the hotels in the Caesar chain prepared their number one specialties and put together a menu fit for a king.
THERE USED to be a time when well-educated new immigrants coming to Israel sort of fell into journalism because they couldn't find jobs in their own fields. But in recent years the situation has reversed, and many highly qualified graduates of both prestigious and not-so-prestigious journalism schools are coming to Israel believing they will easily find employment, only to discover that the market is saturated. Some return to their countries of origin because they lack training for any other kind of work and are reluctant to become typists or secretaries. Some embark on much more lucrative telemarketing jobs while they wait for a chance to find jobs in their chosen field. Jerusalem-based Diana Dubrow, who came to Israel 13 months ago with a BA in journalism from Brooklyn College, went one better, and decided to form a speakers' bureau called "Let My People Know."
Dubrow has put together a panel of lecturers - comprised of researchers, journalists, professors and experts in various fields - who are able to offer in-depth perspectives of events in Israel and the Middle East today. Within the context of Dubrow's enterprise, two of the speakers, Steve Rodan and Michael Widlanski, who currently write and speak for a variety of outlets, produce a weekly online publication, Inside the Palestinian Authority, which is updated every Tuesday. The two seasoned journalists, together with two Palestinian colleagues, monitor the panoply of the Palestinian media. The aim of the publication is to provide material that is not always published by the Israeli mainstream media. Aside from journalism, Dubrow has a passion for hip-hop music and poetry. She often raps at open mic venues, and participates in a monthly hip-hop showcase in the capital called Neviim B'Pina (corner prophets), initiated by fellow New Yorker Dan Sieradski. Perhaps the success of Dubrow's integration as a new immigrant can be attributed to her enthusiasm, her sense of adventure and, most important, her initiative and refusal to be defeated by circumstances beyond her control.
ALTHOUGH HE'S been a public figure for more than half his lifetime, the correct pronunciation of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's name has remained an enigma in both political and media circles. In the course of an interview with Justice and Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni two days prior to her additional appointment as interim Foreign Minister, Channel 2's Dana Weiss asked Livni whether it was Olmert or Ulmert. Livni confessed that she didn't know, but said she would ask him. The Post always got it right, due to phonetic pronunciation. Now Ma'ariv readers will get it right, too, because an item published after the broadcast included Olmert's name in Latin characters, thus leaving no doubt about the way it should be pronounced. Anyone relying solely on the Hebrew can still make a mistake.
THERE WAS a huge turnout for the first Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association luncheon for 2006. This was partly in deference to the organization's popular new head, Brenda Katten, who also wears the hat of chairperson of WIZO's Public Affairs and NGO Department, but more for the rare opportunity of hearing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer speak in English. Since his arrival in Israel some nine months ago, Fischer has steadfastly insisted on speaking Hebrew. Recalling his inauguration last May, Fischer, who was raised in Rhodesia, said that after hearing himself later on television, he had written to his three sons in the US telling them that the grammar was fine but the accent was terrible. One of his sons wrote back: "That's been the case for the last 35 years."
Fischer said that in trying to figure out what makes him feel comfortable in a Commonwealth group, he had come to the conclusion that it related to breakfasts and things that one grows up with. "If you were not introduced to Marmite at age two, there's no way you'll eat it," he said, referring to an earthy vegetable spread widely used in Commonwealth countries. Fischer still eats Marmite, as do many of the people who were in his audience.
As it turned out, Katten was truant from the opening of WIZO's 85th anniversary celebrations. This is because she had to chair the IBCA luncheon - the first time she'd chaired an IBCA event. But she will have the chance to hear Fischer again this evening, when he addresses the WIZO plenary. Since English is the most common language of World WIZO, there is a strong likelihood that Fischer will once again be speaking in English.
YIDDISH AFICIONADOS congregated at ZOA House in Tel Aviv at noon last Friday, not only to see the Yiddishpiel premiere of "How to be a Jewish Mother in Ten Easy Lessons," but also to honor supporters and exponents of Yiddish culture. A special tribute-to-Yiddish medal, produced by the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corporation and designed by Aharon Shabo, was presented to: Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who speaks a heart-warming Yiddish; Shlomo Lahat, who, as mayor of Tel Aviv, was a vital force in encouraging the establishment of Yiddishpiel, and who is a wonderful raconteur of Yiddish jokes; poet Rivka Basman, who received the medal on behalf of the late Avraham Sutzkever, the doyen of Yiddish poetry; nonagenarian Mordechai Tsanin, who was the founding editor of Letzte Najes; and former police commissioner Gabi Last, chairman of the Yiddishpiel Council. The Shmulik Segal Memorial Prize - donated by industrialist and philanthropist Bruno Landsberg, in tribute to beloved actor Shmulik Segal, who, inter alia, appeared with the late Shmuel Rodensky and with Yiddishpiel founder and director Shmuel Atzmon in a Yiddish comedy routine called "The Three Shmuliks" - was awarded to Atzmon's daughter, actress Anat Atzmon, who has appeared in numerous Yiddishpiel productions, including "How to be a Jewish Mother."
Carol Markovitch, who began his Yiddish acting career in his native Romania, where Yiddish Theater was born - a member of the Yiddishpiel ensemble since 1997 - received the Israel Pollak prize in memory of Polgat founder Israel Pollak, another of the Yiddishpiel founders. Yiddishpiel can claim some of the credit for the growing number of Yiddish choirs, drama groups, reading circles and cultural organizations that are springing up all over the country. Another vital factor in the resurgence of Yiddish was the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Even though they had not been practicing their religion, many were using the common language of Yiddish, and now their grandchildren are keen to learn it. A very large segment of regular Yiddishpiel patrons originates from the FSU.
WHEN HE was mayor of Ra'anana, Zeev Bielski was a keen supporter of Beit Izzy Shapiro, which does near miraculous work with developmentally disabled children. Bielski's wife, Caron, continues to be intensely involved in Beit Izzy Shapiro's ongoing success story. Although his current position as chairman of the Jewish Agency keeps Bielski even busier than he was as mayor, Bielski took time out this week to accompany his successor, Nachum Hofri, to meet a delegation from Miami which has for years been contributing to Beit Izzy Shapiro projects. The arrival of the delegation - that included many of Miami's Jewish communal leaders - was coordinated with the Jewish Agency. The most prominent Miami contributors are members of the Trump family, who not only have a humanitarian connection with Beit Izzy Shapiro, but also a bloodline tie.
HONOREES AT this year's annual Emunah Banquet in Jerusalem were Netta Pollak and her daughter and son-in-law, Renee and Laurence Becker - all originally from England. Both mother and daughter have been Emunah stalwarts for years, and Pollak at age 90 still comes to the Emunah office in Jerusalem every Sunday to report for work. Renee Becker, though employed by World Emunah's public relations and global liaison department, also works as a volunteer for Emunah Jerusalem, and her husband, Laurence, in addition to working as a lawyer, also works as what is affectionately referred to as an "Emunah schlepper."
A most visible sign of the family's popularity, aside from the large number of people who attended the event, was the dinner book, which was the thickest in Emunah's history, with literally dozens of greetings from well-wishers - and all the proceeds directed towards Emunah projects. The highlight of the evening was a spirited performance by the Ramatayim choir with the participation of Laurence Becker. Whereas the choir usually sings three or four melodies on such occasions, this time it performed more than double that number, to the delight of the guests who enthusiastically joined in. The songs were interspersed with jokes best appreciated by people with a British sense of humor - and there was certainly no shortage of British expats. Renee Becker is on the verge of retiring from her professional association from Emunah, but as her long-time friend and colleague, Myrna Cohen (also from England), remarked: "Good. That will leave you more time for volunteer activities."
PROVOCATIVE BROADCASTER Gaby Gazit noted this week that leaders of other countries get interviewed abroad in their native tongues, while Israelis make great efforts to speak English. There is no need for Israelis to speak English, argued Gazit, and no need for anyone to ridicule Amir Peretz's inadequate command of English. "Hebrew is a beautiful and ancient language. It's the language of the Bible, and we should be proud of it," declared Gazit. "There's no reason for Israeli leaders to speak another language."
Not everyone would agree - but there is something to be said for pride in one's heritage.
WHILE MOST women live from diet to diet, trying to lose unwanted kilograms, there are some who believe that big is beautiful. One such woman is Esterika Nagid, Beersheba's slightly eccentric, ever-outrageous impresario, who, for the 10th consecutive year, organized the "Big is Beautiful Beauty Contest" for women weighing in at 80-100 kgs. This year's winner was decidedly buxom Rinat Avinoam, 24, who only a few months back was evacuated from her home in Nissanit. Winning the beauty contest was some form of consolation for the trauma she experienced. In addition to the title, Avinoam received a diamond ring and the promise of a trip abroad.
TRIVIA QUIZ: Aged between 59 and 60, the following people have known each other since their school days in Tel Aviv: Yigal Shulkis, Tuvia Kozlowski, Dudu Goldenberg and Meni Bauer. All made it into the public eye, albeit under different surnames. Who are they? If you're abreast of who's who in the entertainment industry, you will have easily spotted them as Yigal Shilon, Tuvia Tzafir, Dudu Topaz and Meni Pe'er.