After receiving 90th birthday greetings for almost a year, Israel’s
globetrotting President Shimon Peres, who has just completed official visits to
Latvia and Lithuania, can finally celebrate the real date of his birthday –
which is today, August 2. No doubt he will continue to receive greetings from
wellwishers in the weeks and months to come, and he still has a few more trips
abroad scheduled before he completes his seven-year tenure next
Meanwhile, Peres is getting ready to welcome members of the
Barcelona Football Club on Sunday, though local fans both in Israel and the
Palestinian Authority are more interested in star player Leo Messi, one of the
best footballers in the history of the game.
■ ALSO IN birthday mode is
billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, who will celebrate his 80th birthday
Adelson, who had once hoped to boost Israel’s tourist industry
and economy by opening a legal casino in Eilat, met with so much opposition for
so long that he finally gave up.
The upshot was that Israelis and
tourists alike cross the border nightly to gamble at the casinos in Taba, just
as they traveled to Jericho when there was a casino in operation
Adelson operates casinos in the US, Macau and Singapore; they
carry strict warnings against gambling addiction and provide information on
where gambling addicts can receive help. This goes hand-in-hand with the work of
Adelson’s wife, Miriam, a philanthropist in her own right and a physician who
has opened drug addiction treatment clinics in the US and Israel, also mentoring
medical professionals and social workers in Macau on the prevention and
treatment of drug abuse.
Adelson already celebrated the Hebrew date of
his 80th birthday last month, and before that in June at a Taglit-Birthright
mega-event in Tel Aviv – where some 6,000 Birthright alumni and new participants
gathered to honor the man who had made their first visit to Israel possible.
Adelson and his wife have donated tens of millions of dollars to the program, to
enable young Jews from around the world to connect with Israel and strengthen
their Jewish identities.
■ GETTING BACK to addiction, the Israeli media,
like that of the US and some other countries, has become addicted to defining
the most influential people in different categories.
The Jerusalem Post
is no exception and like other Israeli publications, publishes an annual list of
the most influential Jews. Other Israeli media outlets also publish lists of the
most influential businesspeople and entertainers, the highest earning
entertainers and CEOs, and the most influential Israeli women and
Now Haaretz, via its culturally oriented Galleria
supplement, has come out with a publication listing the 100 most influential
people in Israeli culture, covering television, theater, cinema, literature,
art, architecture, dance, Israeli and classical music, fashion and
While 90 of the 100 people are listed within the context of their
respective categories, the first 10 are not.
No. 1 in the top 10 is Avi
Nir, who heads the Keshet production company, one of the franchisees of Channel
2. Second place goes to brothers Moshe and Leon Edery, who started their film
careers screening movies in Dimona, and have since become producers and
distributors as well as the pioneers of Cinema City theaters throughout the
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who has just scored a
royalties victory for Israeli authors, is in fifth place, and conductor Zubin
Mehta, the musical director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is No.
The overall list is controversial, more so in regard to who has been
omitted rather than who has been included. In the theater list, for instance,
there is no mention of Tzipi Pines, the general manager and artistic director of
Beit Lessin, though Guy Pines, whose nightly Channel 10 show on the
entertainment world, Good Evening, is featured in a section on multidisciplinary
people of influence.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai is featured in the same
section and described as a mini culture minister, because there are so many
diverse cultural outlets within his purview. Similarly, Netanya Mayor Miriam
Fierberg is listed in the classical music section, due to the tremendous support
she has given to the Netanya Music Conservatory, the Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra
and the National Youth Wind Instrument Orchestra.
from the literature list are Amos Oz, David Grossman, A.B.
Aharon Appelfeld and a host of other bestselling authors. Etgar Keret and poet
Noam Partom did make the literature list, as did some other writers, but not the
ones who are best-known.
In truth, there are always disagreements on
lists of this kind.
■ LET’S HOPE that Leo Leiderman, the newly designated
governor of the Bank of Israel, has no skeletons in his closet.
taking into account the humiliating treatment that previous governordesignate
Jacob Frenkel received at the hands of the media, and the even worse
difficulties that acting governor Karnit Flug suffered at the hands of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who overlooked her
capabilities and the fact that she had been recommended by former governor
Leiderman has excellent credentials, but Flug is the
qualified person who has been holding the fort. In addition, she would have made
history as the first female governor of the central bank.
seem to have broken through Israel’s glass ceiling, in that the state has had a
woman prime minister, a female state comptroller, a female president of the
Supreme Court, a female Speaker of the Knesset, two female foreign ministers, a
female justice minister, and currently has a female chief negotiator in the
But that’s just a crack in the glass ceiling, not a break
– especially considering that one woman, Tzipi Livni, has held three of the
At the local government level, the situation
is not much better. While women may receive greater representation in some local
councils than in the Knesset, very few are mayoral candidates – and there are
less than a handful of women currently serving as mayors. Women have been
shamefully underrepresented in Israel’s political spheres, even though they
constitute more than 50 percent of the population.
Organizations such as
Ken – a Hebrew acronym for Power to Women, and spells out the Hebrew word for
“yes” – have been training women to compete and take their places in the
political arena, but have not yet reached their ultimate goal.
heartening, however, that three of the nine mayoral candidates in Herzliya are
women. Herzliya is one of the few municipalities that has previously had a woman
mayor – in the person of Yael German, who is currently health minister.
WHILE ON the subject of female politicians, both male and female legislators
will be taking advantage of the long vacation period during the Knesset summer
recess, and will be going on holiday somewhere in Israel or abroad.
those going abroad – though not entirely on vacation – is Yesh Atid MK Ruth
Calderon, who will be the keynote speaker at the Plenary Conference of the
Zionist Federation of Australia. She will address the topic, “Jewish and
Democratic: Contemporary Questions of Identity in the State of
Also traveling from Israel to Sydney for the August 11
conference is Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth of Ra’anana’s Ohel Ari
Together with several colleagues, Neuwirth founded Beit
Hillel – Tolerant Spiritual Leadership. The two will participate in a panel
discussion on “Religion and State: The Role of Judaism in the Jewish
It’s just as well that the Foreign Ministry has suspended its
sanctions, which will enable outgoing Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem to attend
the conference and deliver an address.
The conference will be his last
formal engagement before completing his tour of duty. He might have received
permission to attend anyway, given the nature of the event, which will also
incorporate his farewell.
■ CURRENTLY AMERICA’S most famous physician,
known not only for his expertise as a surgeon but also as a promoter of
universal human values through his highly popular television show, Dr. Mehmet Oz
came to Israel with his family at the urging of his friend, Rabbi Shmuely
Boteach. Oz is in the process of completing a week-long tour of the country,
which has taken him from north to south and east to west.
One of the
places they visited was Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, where they not only
toured the facilities and spoke to medical experts and other staff, but also
spoke to a large audience in the hospital’s packed auditorium – which contained
a good sample of Israel’s demographic mosaic.
Oz, who had been impressed
by the fact that Jews and Muslims pray under the same roof in Hebron, was
equally impressed by the total lack of discrimination at Rambam, where both
staff and patients are of a religious and ethnic mix. “Israel is a paradigm for
democracies, for your treatment of minorities. You reward people who are not in
the majority,” he said.
When asked how the coexistence model at the
hospital can be exported, Oz replied: “We need to create policies based on core
values and shared values. Rabbi Shmuley has impressed on me the importance of
spreading Jewish values to unite all humanity, and really, they are universal
values, the kinds that we all try and instill in our children. But it’s great to
be here in Israel, the source where it all began.”
Oz also encouraged
Israel to make cooperation agreements with Turkish medical centers and
■ DESPITE DECLARATIONS by Yossi Selman, director-general of
the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, that no one in Israel dies of
starvation, it is only because of organizations that run soup kitchens and
distribute food to the needy that people aren’t dying of hunger in Israel.
Prices keep rising, while wages are either cut or remain stagnant. After coping
with rents or mortgages and paying for utilities, there isn’t much money left
for food, and what there is, is often spent on carbs that are cheap and filling
but not necessarily nutritious.
For the past eight years, the kitchen
staff working the sunrise shift at the Tel Aviv Hilton has come in a little
earlier than required, in order to prepare 60 sandwiches each day and deliver
them to children in schools in low-income neighborhoods. Sixty sandwiches a day
doesn’t seem very much for an enterprise the size of the Tel Aviv Hilton, but
the sandwich makers don’t really have much time because they have to attend to
breakfasts for the hundreds of guests staying at the hotel – and the breakfast
has to be ready on time.
Even the hotel’s general manager, Ronnie Fortis,
along with other senior staff, join in the sandwich-making enterprise – which is
the Hilton’s contribution to Leket Israel’s Sandwiches for Kids project. Leket,
which is also known as Israel’s national food bank and food rescue network,
supplies more than 1.5 million sandwiches per year – approximately 8,400 each
day to needy children, who would otherwise have nothing to eat during the
The people at the Hilton admit that their 60 daily sandwiches
may not seem like much, but it’s like the old English proverb – if you look
after the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves. Every contribution
counts in the battle against food insecurity, and together they add up to a
Moreover, in addition to the sandwiches, the Hilton staff includes a
bottle of water and some fresh produce in each food package.
volunteers are making sandwiches all over the country, and are also rescuing hot
meals and perishable goods. Altogether, Leket has some 45,000 volunteers engaged
in sandwich- making, food rescue and distribution, and believe it or not, more
It should be remembered that Leket is one of many
organizations providing sustenance for the poor. Just imagine what the situation
would be like without them.
Anyone who wants to become a Leket volunteer
should contact email@example.com or (09) 744-1757, ext.
SURPRISE treat at the Israel Cancer Association’s bazaar today will be Persian
rice cooked by the mother of singer Rita. Apparently it tastes so good that
Rita’s niece, actress and singer Liraz Charhi, has promised to come and buy a
few portions of her grandmother’s cooking. Being in an advanced stage of
pregnancy, Charhi will be eating for the next generation as well.
bazaar is in the association’s Givatayim headquarters at Beit Mati, 7 Revivim
Street, 3rd floor, adjacent to the Shimoni School. It will be held from 8:30
a.m. until 2 p.m.
■ WHAT GOES around comes around. In the days when
Israelis had access to only one television channel – plus depending on where
they lived, news broadcasts from Jordan – the Friday night line-up included a
celebrity-studded talk show or a series of satirical sketches, followed by a
late-night movie. The late movies were dropped years ago, to be eventually
replaced from time to time with British drama series – though recently, the
offerings have been increasingly sexualized.
According to the Israel
Broadcasting Authority Law, one of the purposes of state public broadcasting is
to encourage Israeli productions. The IBA hasn’t been very good about that, at
least as far as feature films are concerned – though it has occasionally shown
(mostly short) films by students at Jerusalem’s Ma'aleh School of Television,
Film & the Arts and Tel Aviv University’s film school.
But the IBA,
faced with much more severe budgetary problems than in the past – because the
Finance Ministry has reneged on signed agreements, and both the Finance and
Communications Ministries want to close down the IBA and reopen it in a
radically reduced format – is wary of commissioning new programs. It is thus
giving a boost to Israeli feature films, which for the foreseeable future will
be shown on Friday nights at 9.30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem
Journalists Association is gearing up to fight any attempt by Communications
Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Lapid to close down the IBA, and will
use every possible means of preventive action. In a statement released on
Thursday, the association charged that management had brought the impending
catastrophe on the IBA, which resulted in the negative report published by the
deputy attorney-general and the subsequent ministerial assault on the
There is little comfort in the fact that public broadcasting
services worldwide are experiencing similar situations. In Greece, the PBS was
temporarily closed and reopened in a much slimmer format. In Russia, the PBS is
under threat of being drastically streamlined, and the BBC has already announced
a major trim on its payroll.
Threats against the IBA have been par for
the course for years, and the psychological effect on staff operating in a
constant state of uncertainty must be devastating.