■ When the Foreign Press Association in Israel was established in June 1957 by
31 enterprising journalists working for American, British, French and German
media outlets, its first guest speaker was a young politician by the name of
Shimon Peres. Today the FPA membership numbers around 480 representatives of
electronic and print-media outlets headquartered in close to 30 countries, and
the current members are no less interested in the views of that first speaker
than were the FPA’s founders. Towards that end, many of them will come together
at the President’s Residence later this month to wish Peres well on his 89th
Although he is no longer a politician and does not publicly say
anything related to specific political parties, he remains politically aware and
is no less a human bridge between Israel and the various countries with which
Israel has diplomatic relationships than is Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Peres himself served three times as foreign minister. As president, he receives
the credentials of every foreign ambassador who represents his or her country in
Israel, in addition visiting presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and
other foreign dignitaries almost invariably have meetings with him when they
come to Israel.
So even though his position is largely ceremonial, he is
very much involved in Israel’s relations with the world, and has been one of the
most vocal figures both in Israel and in the course of his many trips abroad, in
alerting the world to the dangers of a nuclear Iran.
■ Even before his
meeting with the FPA, Peres will have what is arguably a more meaningful
confrontation with nostalgia when he gets together next week with members of
Israel’s 25th government to mark the 20th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s second
stint as prime minister. Rabin formed the 25th government in July, 1992 with
Meretz and Shas as his coalition partners. Shas quit the coalition is September,
1993 and was replaced by the new Yiud faction which was a breakaway from
In November, 1995, Rabin was assassinated at the conclusion of a
peace rally in Tel Aviv.
Until recently, his assassin, Yigal Amir, was
kept in solitary confinement, and his contacts with other people are still
limited. He remains under constant surveillance. To mark the 20th anniversary of
the formation of the 25th government, in which Peres served as foreign minister,
the living members of that government, as well as deputy ministers, directors
general of government offices at the time, advisers and spokespeople have been
invited to a monumental reunion that will take place at the Rabin Center in Tel
Included on the day’s agenda is a discussion on the role of
government today and changes in national priorities from 1992 to 2012. For the
sake of posterity, there will of course be several group photographs. It will be
interesting to see if Gonen Segev, who succeeded Moshe Shahal as minister of
energy and Infrastructure, will show up. Better still, it will be most
interesting to find out whether he was in fact invited.
pediatrician by profession, has done prison time for forgery and attempting to
smuggle large quantities of ecstasy pills into Israel. His medical license has
been revoked and he has been treated more or less as a pariah. Not so Aryeh Deri
who was minister of internal affairs. Deri also went to prison after being
convicted of bribery and fraud. But Israel is a country in which fiscal crimes
are quickly forgiven, and hardly any of the politicians invited to the large
family celebrations of the Deri clan following Deri’s release from prison, found
an excuse not to attend. To the contrary, they were there en masse.
and Segev were not the only miscreants.
Some years later, Haim Ramon who
had been health minister under Rabin, as justice minister, literally let his
tongue run away from him and was convicted of indecent behavior for kissing a
girl soldier against her will, though events leading up to the kiss suggested
that it was not entirely his fault.
The deputy finance minister under the
Rabin administration was Raphael Pinhasi, who was convicted in 1992 of making
false statements, and was forced by the High Court to step down from
On the more positive side, the 25th government was the first to
have two Arabs in ministerial positions – Nawaf Massalka as deputy minister of
health and Walid Haj Yahia as deputy minister of agriculture.
everyone in the Rabin government has retired, or was forced out from
The only person still in government is Defense Minister Ehud
Barak who, though not an MK at the time, was the last of five people to hold the
internal affairs portfolio.
There is one other person who served as a
minister in the 25th government who is still an MK, and who has not switched
horses in midstream, and that it is Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer who was
minister of housing and construction, but who initially entered the Knesset in
1984 as a member of the Yahad party, which had been formed by Ezer Weizman after
his ouster from Likud.
However, he is not the longest serving of current
Knesset members. There are some others who have also been serving since
■ There have been many examples of Chelm in Jerusalem but the gag
order on the identity of the state witness in the Holyland case is one of the
most glaring examples of them all. First of all, it’s permitted to publish his
photograph, so long as his face is blurred.
But his physique is such that
anyone who knows him would instantly recognize his body, with or without his
Secondly, it’s permitted to publish the initials of his name, which
were published in full in the early days of the trial. Noone else of any
prominence has those initials. One doesn’t have to be a genius to work out from
the Internet who he is.
A former judge who was recently interviewed on a
current affairs program on television said that anyone who is really interested
in knowing his identity can find it fairly easily, and anyone who is in any way
involved with the case knows who it is. So why the gag order? Generally
speaking, state witnesses are partners to the crime and in exchange for their
testimony are promised immunity from conviction, or a reduced sentence, or some
other incentive that persuades them to turn against relatives, friends and
associates. But in the case of SD, who happens to be a very wealthy man in his
own right, he is also receiving a monthly perk of NIS 12,000, if a report
published this week in Yediot Aharonot is correct.
This is taxpayer’s
money, which although essentially is a drop in the ocean, is spitting in the
face of honest people who work hard to earn a minimum wage, and who, as a result
of new government fiscal policies, are going to have to tighten their belts even
more than they have already.
■ His colleagues describe him as 90 going on
19. The latter figure alludes to vitality and not to immaturity. Violin virtuoso
Ivry Gitlis who will officially turn 90 on August 25, was, as far as anyone is
aware, Israel’s first musical child prodigy, and the guest of honor this week at
the annual Keshet Eilon Summer Master Course for Violin and Strings.
master course, which was held from July 22-August 9, was sufficiently close to
his birthday to warrant its celebration, albeit a little over two weeks early.
In the course of a day that was entirely devoted to him, the energetic and
surprisingly youthful Gitlis gave a master class and also participated in a
Q&A about his life and his musical philosophy.
The Haifa-born Gitlis
has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras. He has been playing
the violin since he was five years old. When Bronislaw Huberman, the founder of
the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra first heard him play, he sent him to study at
the Conservatoire de Paris where Gitlis, then aged 13, won a first prize. Gitlis
has not confined himself to classical music. He has also played in rock-and-roll
Together with fellow Israeli-virtuoso Itzhak Perlman he was
commentator in the wonderful DVD released in 2000 called The Art of Violin,
which highlights performances by great violinists of the 20th century and
presents aspects of their biographies. A long-time advocate for peace and
tolerance, Gitlis was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 1990. He is a firm
believer of encouraging young people to explore their musical talents from the
earliest possible age, though it is doubtful that he would allow one of them to
play on his 300-year-old Stradivarius.
The Keshet Eilon Music Center at
Kibbutz Eilon in the Western Galilee on Israel’s northern border, is directed by
Itzhak Rashkovsky, and is dedicated to training and promoting young violinists
from all over Israel and abroad who are eager to attain the highest musical
levels. Some of the world’s greatest violinists are members of its faculty. The
Israeli junior violinists who come to the Keshet Eilon master classes and
seminars to enhance their talents include members of all the minority
The music center functions throughout the year but has
special master courses in summer and seminars for teachers and students in
spring and in winter. The three-day winter seminar will take place from December
Keshet Eilon also hosts many concerts which are open to the
general public. Some of the performances are presented free of
Among the special events at this year’s master course was a
weekend of homage to legendary Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler on the 50th
anniversary year of his death. Considered to be one of the greatest violinists
of all time, Kreisler, who was also a composer, was the son of a Jewish father
and a non-Jewish German mother.
■ Air-conditioning notwithstanding,
fashion models getting ready for a series of new season’s fashion shows are not
to be envied. It is almost incongruous that they will be presenting between
seasons and fall/winter collections when temperatures are so high, and getting
Castro will have its mega showing at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds on
Sunday, August 19, and co-CEO Ettie Rotter will as always be wearing one of the
company’s creations. Golbary will have an even bigger showing at the Caesarea
Amphitheater on September 3 and will temporarily bring home from Hollywood
television and film actress Ayelet Zurer, who is the current presenter for the
company, and who will open and close the show in which together with 47 models,
she will parade the company’s latest designs.
To add spice to the event,
the guest stars will be Idan Raichel and his project.
This is the fourth
time that Golbary is hosting a mega event this size. The previous gala shows
proved to be so popular says Moshe Golbary, that the company was left with no
choice but to continue, and 4,000 invitations were sent out.
■ Brazil's Defense Minister Celso Amorim this week unveiled a sculpture commemorating the
70th anniversary of Brazil’s entry to the battle against the Axis forces in
World War II. The sculpture, shaped in the form of a Star of David, was
commissioned by the Jewish Confederation of Brazil and the Jewish Federation of
Rio de Janeiro as a memorial to honor 450 Brazilian soldiers killed in
In 1942, Hitler ordered Nazi U-boats to attack Brazilian ships
carrying supplies to the allies. The attack resulted in the sinking of 33 ships
and the loss of 1,500 lives. The upshot was that Brazil sent 25,000 soldiers to
join the operations of the US’s Fifth Army.
Brazil’s Jewish community
decided that the men who laid down their lives in fighting a perverse ideology
that was unacceptable to universal human values should be commemorated in
perpetuity, and commissioned the statue as part of the National Monument for
The unveiling was attended by top ranking senior
military officers, leaders of the Jewish community and a large representation of
In his address Amorim recalled his visit to Yad Vashem in
2005 when he was chancellor of Brazil. He had been accompanied at the time by
Rabbi Henry Sobol, the chief rabbi of Sao Paulo.
Amorim said that as a
child he had been unable to comprehend this barbaric chapter in history, which
even today, defies understanding.
Jewish Confederation Secretary- General
Fernando Kasinski Lottenberg noted that the Star of David, while not only a
symbol of Jewish heroism, was used to identify Jews during the Holocaust years
and to mark them for extermination.
There were also Jews among the
Brazilian soldiers who fought in World War II, and a book, Soldiers Who Came
from Afar, which tells the story of 42 Brazilian soldiers who were among the
Jewish heroes of the war, was distributed at the event Brazilian Academy of