Grapevine: Say cheese

Dankner throws daughter thrifty wedding; Dan Panorama hails wine critic Daniel Rogov.

Barkat big face 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Barkat big face 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
■ THE COTTAGE cheese protests must have really gotten through to Nochi Dankner, who via IDB Holding Corp holds the controlling interest in Shufersal (or as we Anglos pronounce it, Super Sol). When his daughter Rona and her significant other Talor Erdan wanted to get married in relatively simple surroundings, Dankner did not insist on a lavish banquet hall with all the extras. He didn’t need the people calling for social justice to come down on him like a ton of bricks, accusing him of using his cottage cheese profits to finance the cream. So he settled for being father of the bride at Ronit Farm on Kibbutz Gaash, close to Shefayim. Not that there’s anything wrong with Ronit Farm. In fact, it has several outdoor amenities that are absolutely breathtaking and make for great bridal photo backgrounds.
Even though he and his wife Orly Dankner gave their daughter a lower-key wedding than they might have under other circumstances, they couldn’t very well avoid inviting the country’s pillars of affluence, with whom they mingle socially and to whose family celebrations they have been invited. So in many respects, the wedding last Thursday looked like a millionaires’ convention, with guests including Yitzhak Tshuva, Shari Arison, Tzadok Bino, Lev Leviev, Galia Maor, Yair Saroussi, Ya’acov Perry, Liora Ofer, Eliezer Fishman, Ilan Ben-Dov, Yossi Meiman, Mozi Wertheim, Michael Strauss, David Fattal, and several politicians and journalists – not all of them from Maariv, which IDB took over a few months back (Dankner subsequently appointed his 26- year-old son Omer, a first sergeant (res.) in the IAF and an alumnus of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, to sit on the board of Maariv, not giving him quite as much leeway as former major shareholder Ya’acov Nimrodi had done when he appointed his son Ofer editor of the paper).
The bride and groom are also graduates of the IDC, which is where they met when both were studying law. The wedding ceremony was performed by two wellknown rabbis, Israel Prize laureate Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Gross of Migdal Ha’emek and Rabbi Ya’acov Ifergen, aka The X-Ray, from Netivot.
It has been widely rumored that Dankner never makes a business decision without first consulting Ifergen.
■ IT’S COMMON knowledge – at least among most Jews – that the shofar, often referred to as the ram’s horn, is sounded on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, unless the latter happens to fall on Shabbat (Rosh Hashana is a two-day festival, and therefore at least one of the days is guaranteed not to fall on Shabbat). “Ram’s horn” has become a generic term for the horn of any animal that can be used as a wind instrument. It may surprise people to learn that there are more than 100 different kinds of animals whose horns are suitable for a shofar.
In the days when the Children of Israel still had Kings instead of presidents, a shofar was sounded at the crowning ceremony of the monarch. It has also become a custom in contemporary Israel for a shofar or a chorus of them to herald the inauguration of a president. Many a bride has walked to her bridal canopy to the sound of the shofar. Moreover, according to Jewish tradition, Elijah the Prophet will blow a shofar to usher in the coming of the Messiah.
Less commonly known shofar data will be related by well-known personalities at the Wednesday night opening of a special exhibition at the capital’s Bible Lands Museum, featuring ancient and modern shofars from around the world – including the one blown by former IDF chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, when Israel gained sovereignty over the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six Day War.
Shofar-related anecdotes culled from Nir Barkat, Avraham Burg, Einat Sarouf, Avri Gilad, Gadi Sukenik, Margalit Tsanani, Aviv Bushinsky, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and many other celebrities can be accessed via the Bible Lands Museum’s website The museum management is interested in collecting more such stories from the general public and invites anyone who has a good shofar-oriented story to send it to The exhibition will remain on view till February 28, 2012.
■ UZBEKISTAN’S AMBASSADOR Oybek Ishanov was excited to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of his country’s independence from the yoke of Soviet rule, coupled with the 20th anniversary of its diplomatic relations with Israel. Ishanov’s office not only ordered a menu that featured many delicacies from the old country, but also brought in a group of traditional Uzbek dancers and musicians for the occasion and decorated the lobby leading to the ballroom at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv with an eye-catching exhibition of Uzbek pottery, embroidery, carpets and traditional garments. These included absolutely gorgeous reversible robes, which were richly adorned on one side and relatively plain on the other, meaning that they were equally suitable for a prince or a pauper.
Although a member of the embassy called for silence for the official part of the reception, both Ishanov and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein had a difficult time making themselves heard.
Uzbekistan declared its sovereignty on September 1, 1991, and started a new era of development that became known as the Uzbek Model of Reform. Though relatively slow, it performed well. Harking back to that date, Ishanov said it had been a difficult but glorious day. He also noted that Uzbek and Israeli people were tied through a millennium of friendship. “Israel is an important partner for us,” said Ishanov.
The claim about centuries of friendship was endorsed by Edelstein, who spoke warmly of how Uzbekistan had always welcomed Jews, especially during World War II, when so many Jews from Europe and other parts of the Soviet Union were evacuated to Uzbekistan or sought a haven there. He also referred to the remarkable development and great progress achieved not only by the country, but by its average citizens. He conveyed the congratulations of Israel’s prime minister and people on this most auspicious occasion in contemporary Uzbek history.
■ APROPOS AMBASSADORS, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, speaking this week at the First International Conference for Economic Regional Cooperation, said that one of the reasons the current American administration was committed to Israel’s security and had extended aid to an unprecedented level was that when President Barack Obama had come while campaigning for the presidency and visited Sderot, he had been struck by its vulnerability.
■ THE CONFERENCE also demonstrated the extent to which Israelis will bend over backward so as not to offend Arab sensibilities. Although Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian representatives had been invited to the conference, given the delicate political situation in the region right now, very few accepted the invitation. Among the exceptions was Ibrahim Osman, the former deputy director-general of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Osman is a charming, erudite Jordanian with a wonderful gift for language. He was one of a five-member panel that convened toward the end of the day when most of the conference participants had already left, and along with the other panelists, he had been asked by moderator and veteran journalist Boaz Bismuth – who currently serves as foreign news editor of Yisrael Hayom following a four-year stint as ambassador to Mauritania – to keep his remarks brief.
But Osman had prepared a speech, which he was determined – good-naturedly – to deliver. Bismuth’s facial and body language spoke volumes about his discomfort. Had it been any other panelist, he would not have hesitated to cut them short, but in this case, he simply could not bring himself to do so.
Osman grinned when he finally concluded his address, and apologized for taking up so much time – though the other panelists were then left with very little to say, simply because there was so little time in which to say it. Bismuth regretted the time factor because he had many questions to ask, but surmised that he would have an opportunity to ask them next year – an indication that he didn’t anticipate too much change by then.
■ IF FURTHER proof were needed that timing is everything, newlyweds Shira Amsel and Yonatan Zaksh of Jerusalem are living testimony, at least according to her maternal grandmother. The wedding took place toward the end of last month, and though the bride’s grandparents Max and Jenny Weil would have liked to invite all their many friends to join them in the celebration, grandparents’ guest lists at weddings are known to be severely limited. So the Weils decided to do the next-best thing: have a sheva brachot luncheon the following Sunday at the Crowne Plaza hotel.
Given the huge turnout, the overflowing basket of gifts and the lavish buffets, it was more of a wedding encore than a sheva brachot, with lots of singing and dancing and photographers milling among the merry-makers.
The speech-maker in the family is usually Max Weil, but this time he gave the initial honor to his wife and waited until after the recital of the seven blessings to deliver his address. Jenny Weil explained that she had long been looking for a bridegroom for her beloved granddaughter, but the prospective suitors had been either not religious enough, or too religious; not thin enough, not fat enough, not educated enough, not apt to smile often enough, etc. Then Amsel met Zaksh, who seemed to lack none of the attributes she was looking for in a husband. They went out a few times, but broke up; then, some time later, they almost collided one Friday night in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood, and started to talk again.
Meanwhile, Weil happened to be at an event where she was introduced to Zaksh’s mother. Both women were in despair, one thinking that her granddaughter would never marry, the other that her son would never bring home a bride. They got to talking, and Weil said, “I’ve got a beautiful, intelligent 27-year-old granddaughter for whom I’m trying to find a husband.” Zaksh’s mother responded: “And I’ve got a handsome, intelligent son of 30, for whom I’m trying to find a wife.” Weil gave her Amsel’s phone number, but by then there was no need. When Zaksh’s mother told him about the prospective young woman, he said he’d already met her – and the rest is history.
Both newlyweds are avid volunteers. Zaksh deals with wayward youth and gets them back on the straight and narrow, while Amsel is a volunteer with Zichron Menachem, which provides treats and treatment for children with cancer. She’s also a basketball and street ball coach.
The bride’s prominent physical feature is her long mane of curly blonde hair. To sing a witty ditty written in the newlyweds’ honor by her father, Rabbi Nachum Amsel, her mother, Judy Amsel, and the rest of the immediate family donned curly blonde wigs, looking and sounding as if they were auditioning for A Chorus Line.
■ FOR QUITE a long time, it seemed as if Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street could otherwise be known as Embassy Row, with the embassies of the US, Russia, Turkey, Great Britain, India, Kazakhstan and Switzerland all located there. In fact, the majority of embassies are located in Tel Aviv, with several in one building on Daniel Frisch Street, others sharing an address on Dizengoff Street, and still others scattered throughout the city.
But now, with the increasing influx of luxury towers in Ramat Gan, Hayarkon Street and the rest of Tel Aviv are facing serious competition from Ramat Gan’s Abba Hillel Street, which houses the embassies of Belgium, South Africa, Ghana, Colombia, Austria, Jordan, Kenya, The Netherlands and Costa Rica, with others on nearby Shoham Street. While prestige buildings in Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan may be on a par, with most diplomats living in Herzliya Pituah, the latter is just that little bit easier for them to get to – and out of – during rush-hour traffic.
A couple of months ago, the Belgian Embassy moved into its new premises in the impressive Sason Hogi Tower at Abba Hillel 12, and took advantage of the visit this week by Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme to make the opening of the new chancery official. Among the guests were neighbors from the building: South African Ambassador Ismail Coovadia, Ghana’s Ambassador Henry Hanson-Hall, Colombia’s Ambassador Isaac Gilinski and – in the absence of Austrian Ambassador Michael Rendi, who completed his term of office and has returned home with a Sabra baby – Austrian Charge D’affaires Jochen Hans-Joachim Almoslechner.
One of the trials of being a head of state is that at cocktail receptions, you are often monopolized by eager guests, to the extent that you seldom manage to indulge in any of the refreshments. For one brief moment, Leterme was left to his own devices, when a waiter offered him a tidbit. He was enormously appreciative and thanked the waiter, but he’d barely bitten into it when he was once again waylaid by several guests.
Gilinski said his country’s President Juan Manuel Santos was eager to come to Israel and might join Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, who is due to visit in November. When Hanson-Hall was asked when his president would visit, he played coy. Later, when riding in the elevator from the Belgian Embassy’s 15th floor, he did not stop at his own seventh- floor office, explaining that people in Ghana don’t work on Sundays.
■ IT’S NOT often that an Anglo immigrant wins renown in Israel. Among the exceptions is Haaretz wine critic Daniel Rogov, who previously wrote for The Jerusalem Post. Rogov has earned himself fame in Israel and abroad and has made a major contribution to the success of the country’s wine industry by writing and talking about it in detail in international languages (he’s fluent in French).
To show its appreciate for Rogov’s talent and contributions, the management of the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, along with some of the country’s leading chefs whose culinary creations Rogov has also critiqued, hosted a dinner in his honor, with all the trimmings – and not just those of a gastronomic nature. Master of ceremonies was stage, screen and radio personality Meni Pe’er who also fancies himself a wine maven; chefs Eyal Shani, Meir Adoni, Mena Strauss, Eyal Lavi, Ofra Ganor, Shalom Maharovski, Victor Gluger and others, as well as winemakers and distributors who included Shmuel Bokser, Victor Schonfeld, Uri and Eli Shaked, Aviram Katz, Avi Ben-Ami, and Eldad Levy. Almost everyone present had an anecdote about the erudite and flamboyant Rogov, who was almost moved to tears by the outpouring of affection and contributed a few choice words of his own.
■ PEOPLE IN the tourism business have long been aware that goodwill in tourism is often stronger than any political impasse.
Thus, despite the crisis in relations between Turkey and Israel, Israel Hotel Association President Ami Federmann last week hosted his Turkish counterpart Timur Bayandir and some of his colleagues. The Israeli and the Turkish hotel managers got along famously and found they had many things in common – both good and bad. Federmann was surprised to learn from Bayandir that the security situation in Istanbul was not much different from that in Israel, where hotels are heavily guarded. In Turkey, just as in Israel, there is fear that terrorists may strike, and the whole security network is on high alert.
If politics and religion didn’t get in the way, Bayandir told Federmann, Turkey and Israel could do great things together to advance bilateral tourism.
■ ANYONE TRAVELING on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway cannot help but notice the old army vehicles just above the road in the vicinity of Latrun and Sha’ar Hagai. These vehicles stand as a monument to the bravery of soldiers who fought in the fierce battles that raged in 1948. In this same area is a forest established by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund. The forest commemorates the 300-plus American and Canadian immigrants or members of their immediate families who have lost their lives in Israel’s wars or in terror attacks against civilians since the establishment of the state.
The first trees were planted in 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War. Since then, an annual memorial ceremony has been held at the site, and unfortunately, new names continue to be added to the inscribed memorial plaques. This year, the additional names are those of Ariel Ovadia, Ben-Yosef Livnat, David Kandelman and Kristine Luken. The keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony on October 4 will be US Ambassador Shapiro. Another speaker at the ceremony will be Dr. David Breakstone, a former chairman of the Masorti Movement in Israel and currently vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization. He will speak on “Sanctity and Sacrifice: Binding Isaac on the Zionist Altar.”