ANYONE WHO follows Hebrew media reports about the goings-on in the Israel Broadcasting Authority cannot help but be aware of the intrigue, the back-stabbing and, in some cases, the outright malice. But this week, malice, intrigue and back-stabbing were put on the back burner and replaced by grace and goodwill as scores of past and present IBA employees, primarily those connected with Israel Radio, converged on Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in Jerusalem to congratulate veteran broadcasters Benny Dudkevich and Benny Teitelbaum, who are this year’s recipients of the IBA director general’s prize in memory of Ilan Ro’eh, an Israel Radio reporter who, together with Brig.-Gen. Erez Gerstein and two other Israeli military personnel, was killed in Lebanon in February 1999 when a bomb exploded on the roadside as they were traveling by in an IDF convoy. Ro’eh, 32 at the time of his death, had been covering Lebanon for five years.
Immediately following the tragedy, the IBA established a memorial prize in his name, which was initially given to young broadcasters who had distinguished themselves professionally but which in recent years has also been given to veteran broadcasters in recognition of their contribution to public broadcasting. Ro’eh’s mother, Olga, has become part of the IBA’s extended family and always will be, said IBA director general, Yoni Ben-Menachem, who himself was one of the early recipients of the prize, which he said was part of Ilan Ro’eh’s legacy in that it was a tribute to his professionalism as a journalist and his decency and integrity as a human being.
The great surprise of the evening was a videotaped congratulatory message from President Shimon Peres for both recipients, but mainly for Dudkevich, who reports on the president’s activities and recently accompanied him in Paris and Strasbourg.
Dudkevitch is an expert on pop and rock music and has persuaded some of the most celebrated performers in the world, such as Paul McCartney, Elton John and Eric Clapton, to say “Shalom Reshet Gimmel” and later, when he switched to stations, ”Shalom Reshet Bet.”
Several years ago, Michael Miro, who was then the head of the radio news department and is now the head of Israel Radio, suggested that Dudkevich add a string to his bow and start reporting on the activities of the president of the state. Though hesitant at first, Dudkevich quickly applied himself with energy and enthusiasm. In wishing him well, Peres said that he certainly deserved the prize and noted that Dudkevich’s reports carried a certain rhythm “because when you report, you’re listening to your inner music.”
Dudkevich started his radio career almost by accident, on a now defunct program called “Close to my heart,” to which he brought his own collection of Beatles recordings and spoke about the music in such an informed and engaging manner that one of the powers-that-be on Reshet Gimmel offered him a job.
Teitelbaum began working as a researcher on Channel One’s “Second Look” program in 1994 and then switched to radio. He remembers Ilan Ro’eh, who came to lecture at a course for radio reporters. He also knew him when he was in the army.
As a radio reporter, Teitelbaum, where he covered social welfare, law, police, politics and the Knesset. Now his main focus is the Jewish World and the Israeli media, which he says does not pay sufficient attention to the Jewish World. He’s also an editor and presenter. Dudkevich did not know Ro’eh, but his wife Margot did and, like Ro;eh, was a military reporter. She is a former staff member of The Jerusalem Post. In fact the Dudkevich family is very media oriented.
Son Yoav , a professional press photographer, was on hand to capture the occasion for posterity. Benny Dudkevich met Margot at Israel Radio and it was love at first sight.
Today they’re proud grandparents, which he attributes to Israel Radio.
■ NOTWITHSTANDING THE fact that loquaciousness is one of the Irish character traits, it’s been a longheld tradition – at least among Irish ambassadors to Israel – that there are no speeches at St. Patrick’s Day receptions.
There’s a lot of Guinness and a lot of Irish folk music, but speeches tend to interfere with the generally informal atmosphere. Up until last week, Irish Ambassador to Israel Breifne O’Reilly stayed true to form, but he couldn’t do so this year when the guest of honor was Irish Minister of Justice, Equality and Defense Alan Shatter, who was on an official visit to Israel and enjoying the opportunity to catch up with former Dubliners he had known when they’d still lived on the Emerald Isle. O’Reilly greeted his guests in Hebrew, concluding his brief remarks with “Hag Yom St. Patrick sameah.”
The event was the swan song for outgoing Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who was representing the government for the last time. MK Isaac Herzog announced that Neeman was returning to his law firm, a firm that Herzog said that he knew very well in that it was founded by Neeman “together with a good Irishman by the name of Chaim Herzog,” the MKs father. A third founder was the late Michael Fox. Before entering politics, Isaac Herzog was also a partner in the firm. As the fourth and last speaker at the St. Patrick’s Day ceremony, where, because of his family’s connections with Ireland, he is always a guest, he took advantage of the opportunity to publicly tell Shatter that Ireland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, must show an example in placing Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations. He also made a point of commending O’Reilly for his exceptional efforts to foster goodwill between Ireland and Israel.
At the beginning of the evening, the friendly and outgoing Shatter was button-holed by his former tennis partner, Zvi Gabay, who was Israel’s first resident ambassador to Dublin and who has maintained his relationship with Ireland via the Israel Ireland Friendship League, whose chairman, Malcolm Gafson, has known Shatter since their student days when both were in the Dublin Jewish Student Union. In fact, earlier in the week, Gafson and his wife, Leah, hosted Shatter and a large gathering of Irish expats at their home in Ra’anana to mark the 45th anniversary of IIFL. There was live Irish music throughout the evening, as there was at the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituah. Gafson presented Shatter with a beautifully illustrated book on Israel and Shatter, in turn, presented Gafson with a special Irish Government tribute in appreciation of the league’s longstanding endeavors to foster friendship between the people of Israel and Ireland.
Among the guests were Ambassador O’Reilly and his wife, Eaven Doyle, Ra’anana Deputy Mayor Ilan Cohen and a municipal delegation that was delighted to welcome Shatter to the city. At his own reception, O’Reilly welcomed Herzog as “a staunch friend of Ireland” and spoke of Shatter as “a household name in Ireland” because so much of the legislation that he has introduced will have a positive impact on individuals and on business. Shatter, who was in high spirits, said that there had not yet been an Irish minister in Israel “for the well known yom tov of St. Patrick’s Day,” which he said had expanded into St Patrick’s week, and he hoped that his presence signified the beginning of what might become an annual tradition.
Ireland’s tourism promotions include the turning of major buildings and monuments in different countries green on St Patrick’s Day.
Among what he called “the green houses” this year, said Shatter, were the pyramids of Egypt, which, despite political instability, were totally illuminated in a green light.
He was wondering what building in Israel could go green next year.
The main objective of his visit to Israel, he said, was to deepen and broaden the relationship between the two countries and to expand the agenda of their interaction as friends.
Toward this end, he had held breakfast meetings to encourage investment by Israeli companies in Ireland.
There are currently four major Israeli companies operating in Ireland, he said, but he was hopeful that more would use Ireland as a gateway to Europe. He also attended the launch at Tel Aviv University of the Israel Ireland Business Network, which had been operating on a pilot basis but is now official He also spoke of the cooperation between Ireland and Israel in the effort to introduce joint initiatives that will reduce fatalities on the road.
Shatter also took advantage of the microphone to invite Dublin expatriates to a gathering of Irish Jews that will take place in Dublin in July.
Some 400 people living outside of Ireland but who were once members of the Dublin Jewish community have already registered, he said.
He compared Israel and Ireland as small countries that had to fight for their independence and whose economies were initially based on agriculture and are now based on technology. Relations between the two countries have known their ups and downs, he said. “There were periods when Ireland was perceived as a leading critic of Israel within Europe.” But over the last two years relations have improved, with cooperation, reciprocal visits and positive statements by political leaders.
Several of the guests opted to wear something green in honor of the holiday.
Many men sported green ties, and women green scarves or green blouses. One man even wore a green kippa.
YOU WON’T see him on Master Chef or any of the other television shows devoted to culinary skills, but you will see him leading teams of Israeli chefs to international competitions and you will also see him preparing gourmet meals for heads of state and even for royalty. Shalom Kadosh, the executive chef for the Leonardo chain of hotels, has been preparing meals for US presidents since the days of Jimmy Carter and was, of course, selected to prepare tonight’s meal for President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, which will be served at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The menu will include ravioli filled with confit of Jerusalem artichokes and filet of red mullet tossed with green soybeans for the first course, followed by pink grapefruit and pomegranate sorbet to refresh the palate. The main course will be roast fillet of beef in aromatic spices and a selection of spring vegetables, and dessert will comprise apple crumble mixed with red fruits and Gewurztraminer zabaglione with citrus honey. The petit fours to be served at the end of the meal with coffee or tea will be made with figs. dates and caramelized green almonds.
MEMBERS OF Israel’s non-Ashkenazi community cannot complain about suffering discrimination during the Obama visit. Shalom Kadosh is of Moroccan background, David D’Or, who will sing “Amazing Grace” at the State Dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres tomorrow evening, is of Libyan background and Rita, who will sing “Jerusalem of Gold,” was born in Iran. And let’s not forget that guests will include the most frequent guest at presidential banquets and ceremonies, Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, who is of Moroccan background, as well as Miss Israel, Yityish Titi Aynaw, who was born in Ethiopia. Another non-Ashkenazi guest is Sderot Mayor David Buskila. D’Or and Rita have each performed several times at presidential events. In fact, Rita has known Peres since before she married her former husband, singer, composer and keyboard instrumentalist Rami Kleinstein, whose parents lived in the same Tel Aviv apartment building as Peres. Kleinstein and their elder daughter, Meshi, have also performed separately on more than one occasion at the President’s Residence.
THERE COULD not have been a more opportune moment for Peres to congratulate Pope Francis I on his election than to do so in the presence of a 14-member delegation of Polish bishops headed by Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who is Vice President of the Polish Bishops Conference.
The delegation, which was winding up a week-long visit of spiritual renewal during the Catholic Year of Faith, met with Peres last Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after the announcement that there was a new pontiff.
They could not have been in a more appropriate place than Jerusalem to hear the good news of the pope’s election, Gadecki, who knows the pope personally, told Peres. Gadecki said that he had been in Buenos Aires for a conference of Christians and Jews and had seen for himself the esteem in which then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was held by the Jewish community.
Gadecki was certain that the dialogue between Catholics and Jews that was initiated by Pope John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI will be given even greater impetus by Francis I.
The election of a new Pope, said Peres, was a great day not only for Catholics but for humanity. “The Pope represents meaningful leadership for all of us and not just the Catholic community,” he said, adding that the Pope also represents devotion, the love of God, the love of peace, a holy modesty and a new continent which is now awakening.”
Peres noted that Pope Benedict, whom he called “a dear friend and a profound thinker,” had contributed greatly to improved relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people and expressed confidence that Pope Francis would do likewise.
Peres saw in Pope Francis a personification of God’s love for the poor – not just the mighty – and a call for peace, not hatred. He emphasized that spiritual leadership is more needed now than political leadership.
“Where political leaders may divide, spiritual leaders may unite,” he said.
Peres urged Pope Francis to come visit the Holy Land at the earliest opportunity, declaring him to be “a man of inspiration who can attempt to bring peace to a stormy area.” In wishing the Pope success, he assured him that he would be a very welcome guest in Israel and who would be recognized by people of all faiths.
Peres, who as foreign minister was instrumental in writing the beginning of a new chapter in Israel’s relations with the Vatican, said that relations between the Vatican and the Jewish people are the best that they have been in the last 2,000 years.
From their individual perspectives, Peres and Gadecki reviewed the histories of Poland and the Jewish people and the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, each noting that Jews have lived in Poland for more than 1,000 years. Gadecki offered surprising statistics on the number of Jews living in Poland today. Although Poland had one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, with more than three million Jews, before the Holocaust, 90 percent were murdered by the Nazis, he said, adding that “only a godless regime would want to destroy a whole people.”
Nonetheless, he was pleased to say, “The Nazis were not able to completely extinguish the light.” No one knows for sure how many Jews there are in Poland today. Gadecki thought the number was around 100,000 but said that sometimes it is given as 30,000 to 40,000 and sometimes as high as 150,000. Whatever the figure, Jewish life has begun to flourish again in Poland. He also noted the positive change in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community of Poland, the progress of which he attributed largely to Pope John Paul II.
The Catholic Church in Poland now has an annual Jewish Day, which has helped to promote mutual respect, but a lot still has be done to eradicate bias and stereotype concepts, he acknowledged.
Peres said that even though Jews had suffered greatly in Poland, they were nonetheless able to maintain their religious and cultural traditions and to develop Jewish institutions.
He himself had attended a Jewish school there until his family left for what was then Palestine. Half his family had left Poland and the other half was murdered during the Holocaust, he said.
We are living in a new scientific era, he said, but he sees no conflict between science and religion because science can neither replace God nor disprove the existence of God.
Both Peres and Gadecki were pleased that there are diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel and that most of the differences have been resolved with a new document almost ready to be signed.
In a reference to an earlier remark about how the Nazis and the Communists had each, in their ambitions to overtake the world, tried to break the Polish spirit, Peres said that when he saw the white smoke signifying the election of a new Pope it was also yet another sign that Stalin had failed.
MANY PEOPLE are excited at the news that Barbra Streisand will be performing at Bloomfield Stadium in June, but none more so than eminent Canadian lawyer and philanthropist Harry Bloomfield, whose family on his father’s side has been associated with this country since 1902. On his mother’s side, his greatgrandmother was a delegate to the Second Zionist Congress in Basel in 1898. The Bloomfields have funded numerous projects in Israel, including the Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa, which last December celebrated its jubilee, the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, the Bloomfield Memorial Forest near Neve Ilan and the Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education in Haifa.
Harry Bloomfield, who was in Israel this past week, plans to be back in June. When asked whether he gets special preference for events at Bloomfield Stadium, which was named for his father, Bernard, and his uncle, Louis, or whether he has to stand in line like everyone else, he acknowledged that he tries not to stand in lines and that he does have some protekzia (connections) with the stadium.
IN NOVEMBER 2006, thentourism minister Isaac Herzog was the target of severe criticism for inviting super model Bar Refaeli to help promote Israel at the World Travel Market tourism fair in London.
Refaeli had gotten out of army service by entering into a fictitious marriage, and many Israelis were outraged that someone who had done that would be representing Israel’s image abroad.
Now it’s the Foreign Ministry’s turn to come in for flak, following a decision to use Refaeli in an information campaign. Leading the battle to get the ministry to drop Refaeli from the project is Nachi Eyal, who is the CEO of a student body called Legal Zionism. Eyal contends that anyone who evades army service cannot represent Israel. The IDF Spokesman’s Office has also come out against the Foreign Ministry’s decision. But the good news is that Refaeli has signed the petition calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard. Another piece of good news is that, since the break-up of her internationally publicized romance with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Refaeli’s romantic liaisons, however brief, have mainly been with halachically Jewish Israelis.
NUMEROUS ORGANIZATIONS and institutions have been conducting appeals on behalf of economically disadvantaged sectors of society to ensure that no one goes hungry on Seder night. People who have already made their preparations for Passover and are still willing to contribute to the less fortunate can get some good entertainment in exchange by attending a live benefit concert tomorrow night, Thursday, on behalf of needy families in the Modi’in area.
Performers will be Yehuda Solomon and the Solomon brothers of the Moshav Band. They will give two concerts, at 7 p.m. and at 9 p.m. The concerts are under the aegis of the Maccabee Institute Social Programs and will be held at the Chai Farm, Mevo Modi’im. For directions and reservations, 054-428-3646 or chaifarm@ netvision.net.il
LEADING THE annual March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau this year will be IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, whose Hungarian-born mother, Malka, was a Holocaust survivor and weighed just 28 kilograms upon liberation from Bergen-Belsen. Gantz’s son, who is currently serving in a paratroop unit, will accompany him on the trip. Former chief of general staff Gabi Ashkenazi, whose father was a Bulgarian-born Holocaust survivor, led the March of the Living in 2008. An annual participant is soccer coach Avram Grant, whose Polishborn father was a Holocaust survivor.
The march, which has become an expression of Jewish triumph and survival in sharp contrast to the death marches imposed by the Nazis, has grown in size over the years as Jews from all over the world converge in Poland in a show of Jewish continuity despite the attempt to implement the final solution to the “Jewish problem.”
The march was conceived by former finance minister Avraham Hirschson, who was recently released from prison. Hirschson has no family ties to the Holocaust.firstname.lastname@example.org