Grapevine: Hidden in a drawer

Women Wearing tallitot were again apprehended at the Western Wall yesterday.

By
April 11, 2013 22:18
Idan Ofer, Principal shareholder and Director of Israel Corporation,

Idan Ofer 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

It’s hard to believe that the people at Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the cultural and educational institute that is named for Israel’s second president – who resided there during just over a decade of tenure – did not thoroughly explore every nook, cranny and piece of furniture. But that was apparently the case, and only recently were several of his personal effects discovered in the drawer of a desk that had remained locked throughout most of the 50 years since his passing.

In fact, the 50th anniversary was commemorated this week at a service at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery in Givat Shaul. At his own request, Ben-Zvi, who was a great scholar but a man who lived a very simple life, asked to be buried in a regular cemetery and not in the area of Mount Herzl set aside for the nation’s leaders.

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Other leaders whose graves are also elsewhere include Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, who is buried in Rehovot; its fourth president, Ephraim Katzir; Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, who is buried in Sde Boker; Prime minister Menachem Begin, who is buried on the Mount of Olives; and Israel’s seventh president Ezer Weizman, who is buried in Or Akiva alongside his son.

A nondescript desk that Ben-Zvi had used had been placed in storage and was taken out for renovation after the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute went through a major overhaul and expansion process. When the locked drawer was opened, 31 of the president’s personal effects were discovered, including a black kippa, two pocket watches, a checkbook, a pair of sunglasses, a small tin of tobacco, a bank savings book, some calling cards and a small pouch of Jerusalem soil.

The desk and its contents will go on view at a memorial seminar to be held for Ben-Zvi and his wife Rachel on April 18 in the hut in which he received both heads of state and people of far lesser rank, in the heart of the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood.

■ JUST AS Finance Minister Yair Lapid is inexperienced in the field of economics and is still learning, Lapid – who also had his eye on the Foreign Ministry portfolio during his negotiations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – seems to be even more inexperienced in diplomacy. Such was the case when he voiced his opposition to the sale of Israel Chemicals to the Canada Potash Corporation while Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was still in the country, and during a Canadian administration which has proven to be extraordinarily supportive of Israel. Talk about a bull in a china shop.

Then again, looking at the heavy taxes that Idan Ofer, Israel’s wealthiest man, will evade by moving to London, Lapid – whose background in both television and boxing have taught him a lot about timing – may have opened his mouth about Israel Chemicals, a subsidiary of the Israel Corporation in which Ofer has the controlling interest, as a means of punishing Ofer for the future loss of revenue that will be borne by the Israel Tax Authority.

It had been made public the previous day that Ofer was planning to move to London, but the announcements had made it clear that it was his only personal wealth he was protecting – his business operations in Israel would continue to function as usual.

Lapid not only made a diplomatic gaffe, but also punished Israel Chemicals and Israel Corporation shareholders.

The value of shares in both plunged drastically after Lapid’s announcement. The finance minister didn’t take into account that middle and lower income people are also stockholders in one or both companies, and individually could have lost thousands of shekels. The moral of the story is that if the government doesn’t want to lose the few natural resources the country has, it should not encourage privatization of state-owned companies.

■ IT HAS been mentioned in this column before that journalists, individually and collectively, spend a lot of their time just waiting – especially when having to cover events in places where security concerns are high and they have to come early to submit to a thorough security inspection.

Earlier this week, when the passing of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was announced, the spokesman’s department in the office of President Shimon Peres put out a notice to the effect that he would be making a statement about her at 4:30 p.m. He had an appointment with US Secretary of State John Kerry at 5:30 p.m., which meant that everyone who was covering that meeting would have to come to the President’s Residence an hour earlier than they had originally planned. When 4:30 came and went, presidential staff apologized and said the time for the statement had been moved to 4:45. Then it became 4:50, then 5 – and still no statement. A television cameraman working for a new agency that was servicing the UK kept calling London to explain the delays, and the people in London were not at all happy and couldn’t understand the Israeli tardiness.

The reason for the delay was that Netanyahu had decided to call on Peres prior to Kerry’s arrival to discuss with him the salient points of the talks between Peres and Kerry. The statement on Thatcher was finally delivered at 5:12 p.m. Kerry, unlike his Israeli hosts, was more than punctual. He was early and arrived at 5:24 p.m.

When asked to sign the guest book, he spent much more time than other dignitaries doing so, and penned a message in the most beautiful, almost calligraphic handwriting, taking up the whole page.

■ ALMOST EXACTLY a year ago, Yoel Schalit, the older brother of Gilad Schalit, announced his engagement to Ya’ara Winkler, who he had met in the course of demonstrations for Gilad’s release. The two had quickly become a couple but had put their marriage plans on hold until such time as Gilad was not only free, but sufficiently rehabilitated to be able to join wholeheartedly in the wedding festivities. They were married last summer.

Now, everyone is waiting with bated breath to see whether Gilad will pop the question to television personality Roni Scheiner, 31, with whom he has been romantically involved for several months. The two met when Gilad attended a performance by Aviv Gefen at the Tel Aviv Port and Scheiner was doing the PR for the company that was sponsoring the event. They’ve been in constant contact ever since, and Gilad even took her home to Mitzpe Hila to meet his family.

Gilad has been doing a lot of travelling to the US, Europe and Australia since his release, but now that he’s more or less made up for lost time with regard to travel, adventure, sport and leisure, he might just be ready to settle down.

■ TALKING ABOUT timing, it was purely coincidental that an art sale on behalf of the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center included Yuval Mahler’s humorous fiberglass sculpture of Ben-Gurion resting on his elbows with his legs in the air, albeit not as high in the air as in the famous photographs of him standing on his head on the beach in Tel Aviv. Only a few hours prior to the sale at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem, a square had been named for Ben-Gurion near his family’s home in a dilapidated suburb in the Polish town of Plonsk. The event was attended by members of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council, which has strong ties with Plonsk, and by participants in the March of the Living.

Among the friends and supporters of JRCC was El Salvador Ambassador Suzana Gun de Hasenson, who had her eye on a Menashe Kadishman original oil painting of a sheep’s head surrounded by bright splashes of color. All the works had previously been on display at the JRCC premises, where some had been snapped up by early viewers and already bore red stickers. Shula Fozen, who was largely responsible for organizing the event, said that while it is a given that entertainers donate their services to a variety of social welfare organizations, it is not generally known that creative artists are equally generous. Fozen had been amazed at the positive responses she had received from gallery owners and individual artists, especially when she asked galleries to donate valuable, highquality works. As for individual artists, Fozen gave two examples of goodwill.

When she said she was going to approach Assi Dayan, who had just had a successful exhibition, everyone told her not to bother since she would come away empty-handed. But Fozen, who believes in nothing ventured, nothing gained, decided to try anyway. Dayan answered the phone in a gruff voice. She complimented him on his exhibition and explained the purpose of her call. He didn’t argue and told her to come and pick up a painting the following day. Moreover, he then told her to instead go the gallery where the paintings in his exhibition were still stored, and to select one from there because it was already framed.

When Fozen called Sigalit Landau, who now focuses mainly on large-scale installations, Landau told her that she hadn’t painted in years. Fozen remained persistent and Landau finally found an unfinished watercolor on paper which she completed and donated.

Ceramicist Gaia Smith, who is one of some 200 volunteers operating the hotlines at JRCC, said she had come there 13 years ago at age 47, when her children were already grown. She had volunteered because her sister-in-law had told her about a wonderful Rape Crisis Center in Beersheba where the training program was of the highest standard. Smith had looked around to see if there was anything of a similar nature in Jerusalem and had discovered JRCC, which was founded just over 30 years ago. Smith was surprised that nearly all the other women in the program were much younger. Some were single, some were young mothers, and some even juggled careers with family obligations and volunteerism.

Smith was embarrassed and asked herself what she had been doing all these years.

The embarrassment gave way to the realization that she was there to help anyone who had experienced the trauma of rape. Speaking on behalf of all the volunteers, she said: “We are available to help anyone who has just been raped, was raped last week, last month, last year or as a child. We’ll always be there for her whenever she calls and as often as she calls.”

Smith said that she herself had been sexually abused as a child and had hidden the incident so deep in her subconscious that she had almost forgotten about it, until it resurfaced while she was helping others at JRCC.

“I came to give, but I also received,” she said.

On the subject of giving, Fozen reminded everyone that the root word for giving in Hebrew is spelled nuntaf- nun, reading the same backwards as forwards – indicating that all those who give also receive. JRCC CEO Rinat Kedem said that the center was initiated in 1981 by a small group of dedicated women who wanted to create a support system for victims of rape and sexual assault.

Initially, it operated twice a week. It now operates 24/7 and serves every victim regardless of age, race, religion or gender. It is one of the capital’s leading human rights organizations, with an educational outreach program to create greater awareness in combating violence against women and striving for gender equality. It works closely with all other rape crisis centers in the country and organizes workshops, seminars, support groups and legal assistance.

In addition to the 200 volunteers, it has 10 paid professionals.

Among the many well-known figures present was Kedem’s predecessor in office, Meretz MK Michal Roisin, who had been the JRCC CEO for five years and pledged to continue to fight for a better society in her role as a legislator. Norms are changing and realities are changing, she said, though both she and Kedem regretted that sexual assault continues to be a frequent crime.

JRCC receives literally hundreds of calls a year from women who have suffered rape or some other form of sexual assault.

■ WOMEN WEARING tallitot were again apprehended at the Western Wall yesterday, in yet another proof that freedom of worship in Israel is not quite what it’s cracked up to be. The whole business of a veto on men wearing women’s clothing and women wearing men’s clothing stems from Deuteronomy 22:5.

But maybe the people who are so angry at seeing women in prayer shawls – although a shawl is most definitely a female garment – should take a leaf out of the book of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. As of the greatest authorities on Jewish law, he ruled that women can wear trousers, providing that such trousers do not have a fly front. This would distinguish women’s trousers from men’s trousers. By the same token, using his ruling as a precedent, women could have prayer shawls in which the stripes would be brightly colored – perhaps even in rainbow hues – whereas men would be confined to either black or blue stripes, their traditional colors.

Of course, some of the flashy men, who currently take the peacock approach and wear prayer shawls with multi-colored stripes, might object strongly to being limited to either black or blue.

■ IT’S THAT time of year again when Yediot Aharonot takes note of how much entertainers are being paid for Independence Day performances. This year the focus is more on total expenditure by municipalities than what is being paid to individual stars, although it’s not hard to guess that they will be receiving the lion’s share of the pay-outs.

Because this is an election year for local authorities, the emphasis is both on expenditure for Independence Day entertainment, and the extent of the budgetary deficit of any municipality. The Ramat Gan and Ramat Hasharon Municipalities have the highest outlays for entertainment – NIS 800,000 each – but both can afford to spend because they are among the few municipalities with a budgetary surplus. Ramat Gan has NIS 3.7 million and Ramat Hasharon NIS 817,000.

The star performers in Ramat Gan will be Rita and Kobi Peretz and in Ramat Hasharon, Rami Fortis and Rami Kleinstein. Eyal Golan, Kobi Aflalo and Natan Goshen must have lowered their rates for Kfar Saba, which has a NIS 19 million deficit but has allocated NIS 340,000 for Independence Day entertainment. Several of the star performers will be appearing in more than one municipality, so what they lose on the swings, they’ll make on the roundabouts.

■ COLORADO GOVERNOR John Wright Hickenlooper, who is visiting Israel this week at the head of a delegation of senior investors and business executives, is due to plant a tree at the Kennedy Forest at around lunch time today. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was elected governor of Colorado in 2011, after serving as mayor of the city of Denver since 2003.

A professional geologist, the governor was engaged in the oil industry until the mid-1980s, when he left to establish a brewery and restaurant. When elected mayor by a large majority in 2003, his popularity was based largely upon his image as a successful business executive.

As mayor, he introduced and executed a program of financial reform, and enjoyed the reputation of an effective professional.

Perhaps he could give some pointers to Israeli mayors whose municipalities have accrued huge deficits.

Pundits believe Hickenlooper might aim for the presidency following his term as governor.

greerfc@gmail.com


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