"In only 24 hours, you have conquered the hearts of Israel – even in the
Knesset, which is not easy," President Shimon Peres told French President
Francois Hollande at the state dinner he hosted in his honor.
dinners, with the exception of the entertainment, are usually humdrum affairs in
which the guests are happy to leave as soon as the guest of honor departs. But
this was different. Hollande, who arrived late from the Knesset, was in no hurry
to return to his hotel and was obviously enjoying himself, as were Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
Aside from some of the
historic and political issues mentioned in the speeches by Peres and Hollande,
the atmosphere was informal, relaxed and happy, with many kisses on both cheeks
exchanged by guests in the hall with each other and with the guests of honor. As
Peres, Hollande and his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, entered the banquet hall
together with the Netanyahus, sculptress, jewelry designer and museum-owner
Ilana Goor threw her arms around Peres and embraced him, then turned around to
do the same to Sara Netanyahu.
For her part, Sara Netanyahu, after
briefly leaving the presidential dais to chat with friends seated at various
tables, returned to find Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman deep in conversation
with her husband.
Pausing momentarily, she threw her arm around
Liberman’s neck, kissed him on both cheeks and then returned to her seat at the
Singer David D’Or – who received a roaring ovation from the
crowd, including members of the large French delegation – was kissed on both
cheeks on the way back to his table by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.Yonit Tobi,
the star of the musical based on the life of Edith Piaf – who sounds remarkably
like the famous French chanteuse, albeit a little less husky – also received a
The dinner had been scheduled for 7:30 p.m., but since
the moment of his arrival in Israel, Hollande had been running behind schedule –
and this was no exception. The dinner began more than an hour late, and also
finished much later than usual. A state dinner is usually over somewhere between
9:30 and 10 p.m; this one went on until 11 p.m. and even when its conclusion was
announced, Hollande continued to linger and talk to various guests – as did the
Netanyahus, who joined Peres in eventually seeing the French president to his
Guests continued to talk to Peres and the Netanyahus and to pose for
photos with them. Both the president and prime minister were extremely obliging
on this score, and even after Peres went back into the building, the Netanyahus
remained, chatting to people on the grounds.
Hollande had mentioned in
his address what a good time he had the previous evening at the dinner hosted by
the prime minister, in which there had been a lot of singing, and the same jolly
mood characterized the state dinner – although there was more humor bandied
about than song.
Peres, who had a very warm relationship with French
president Francois Mitterand, said there were three people in the room who had
been great friends and admirers of Mitterand’s: one was Hollande; another was
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius; and the third was Peres
Peres also mentioned what a great friend Socialist leader Guy
Mollet, who was elected prime minister in the mid-1950s, had been to Israel.
Prior to his election, he had promised to help Israel if he won the election,
and the day after he was elected he called Peres to come to Paris, saying he
intended to keep his promise. This was an example from which other politicians
could learn, quipped Peres.
Hollande also referred to Mollet, saying
Peres was the great expert on the man. “If you ever want to know anything about
Guy Mollet, just ask Shimon Peres,” said Hollande, adding that Peres was one of
the few people living who actually knew Mollet personally.
that Mollet had indeed been a great friend of Israel.
Among the guests
who came in for a great deal of attention was Liberman, who was congratulated
left, right and center on his return to the government. Other prominent figures
among the guests were former Israeli ambassadors to France, among them: Ovadia
Sofer, who served in the position for nine years; Avi Pazner; Danny Shek; Nissim
Zvili; and current Ambassador Yossi Gal.
Ministers in addition to
Liberman and Livni included Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister
Yair Lapid, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz and Deputy Foreign
Minister Ze’ev Elkin. There were also several MKs, though Speaker Yuli
Edelstein, who had been invited, was conspicuous in his absence.
the Knesset, where Hollande had initially decided he wouldn’t speak, but then
had yielded under pressure from Edelstein – who had said he would not be welcome
unless he addressed the plenum – Hollande said he had greatly enjoyed his time
There is always some special detail in the food and table décor at
state dinners. Sometimes the floral arrangements are in the colors of the
national flag of the guest of honor, or there is a specifically Israeli item on
the menu. This time, the staff of the President’s Residence went all out,
creating a French ambience with white chairs around the tables, napkins held
together with fine gold string from which a gold hamsa was suspended,
magnificent all-white floral arrangements which inter alia included roses,
tulips, gladioli and lily of the valley, and wonderfully presented food that
tasted as good as it looked – with the main talking point being the soup made of
various orange-colored vegetables, served in baby pumpkins.
aspect, it was one of the best state dinners held to date.
AMBASSADOR Daniel Shapiro is a fluent Hebrew speaker who demonstrates his
prowess with the language at almost every opportunity. But last Friday, when
interviewed by Israel Radio’s Arieh Golan about the dispute between Netanyahu
and US Secretary of State John Kerry on how to deal with Iran, as well as the
lobbying trip to the US by government maverick and Economy and Trade Minister
Naftali Bennett, Shapiro opted to reply in English, so that his answers would be
absolutely clear (presumably to the folks back home). Golan translated Shapiro’s
remarks into Hebrew – not literally, but with enough of the gist.
BIG question in Israel’s communications industry is who is behind Yafit
Greenberg’s announced purchase of Ronald Lauder’s 30-percent stake in Channel
Lauder, majority shareholder Yossi Maiman and Arnon Milchan, who owns
24% of the shares, have spent tens of millions of dollars in keeping Channel 10
afloat – without any return on their investment. There have been times when the
channel was close to closing, and many of its 600 employees were fearful that if
Lauder bailed out, the channel’s days would be numbered.
Greenberg, known professionally as Gimmel Yafit, runs a highly successful
advertising agency and is famous for her concise promotions that end with the
word “nekuda” (period or full-stop in British English), no one believes she has
enough of her own money to keep the channel going. The element of surprise in
her announcement, which reportedly caught even Channel 10 CEO Rafi Ginat
off-guard, has left many questions dangling with regard to the channel’s future
and that of its employees.
Greenberg, at the media conference in which
she made her announcement, said television has been good to her and that she
wants to do something positive for it. That may be true, but Greenberg is a
shrewd businesswoman who is unlikely to throw hardearned money down the drain.
The question remains: Who is she fronting for? ■ THE SLIGHTLY premature 25th
anniversary celebration of the Israel Free Loan Association, which was held at
the Begin Heritage Center, was brought forward to coincide with the 80th
birthday of its founder and president, Prof. Eliezer Jaffe, an internationally
respected expert on social work.
Jaffe believes that giving people
interestfree loans, arranged with comfortable repayment terms, goes a lot
further in preserving human dignity than merely giving charity. He doesn’t
discount the importance of feeding the hungry, but is convinced that if people
are helped to help themselves, the end result is better for the individual, the
person’s family, the community and society as a whole.
speaker spoke of Jaffe with admiration and affection, noting the extent to which
the association has grown and improved under his guidance.
might have basked in the glory of it all, and though it was undoubtedly pleasant
to Jaffe’s ear to hear so many compliments, he wasn’t happy about the direction
in which the anniversary symposium was going – declaring he didn’t want it to be
an “Eliezer Jaffe Festival.”
But the truth is that without Jaffe, the
IFLA would never have gotten off the ground.
Indeed, his ideas have been
adopted elsewhere. Rabbi Benny Lau spoke of how they have been taken on by his
own congregation, which helped a man who was near suicide because his debts had
increased to what he believed was an untenable extent.
Lau had sent an
accountant to probe and analyze the situation, and come up with a possible
solution. The accountant worked out how much money was needed to help eliminate
the man’s debts, and Lau put it it to the congregation. Although it was quite a
sizable sum, the congregation raised the money in a very short period. The
accountant worked out an interest-free repayment plan. The beneficiary began
paying off the debt and with this and other funds, the congregation is now
helping others in need.
Jaffe’s philosophy is to turn the borrower into a
lender. He developed the idea as the waves of Russian immigrants came in from
the former Soviet Union. They came with hope, often with impressive academic
credentials or professional abilities, but with no money. He wanted to help them
help themselves, and initially raised $20,000. In the interim, he received a lot
of support from philanthropists who liked his idea, and since then, the
association has given loans somewhere in the range of NIS 750 million. Nearly
all the loans have been repaid, said Jaffe, and as they are being repaid, the
money is made available to other people seeking loans. As a result of these
funds, people have been able to build up small businesses, embark on essential
study courses, get medical treatment that was unavailable without payment, pay
off part of their mortgage, etc.
Jaffe and other speakers noted that when
someone is reduced to asking for charity, it is a sign of failure and loss of
self-esteem. Asking for a loan is like any business transaction, and does not
involve loss of dignity.
The biggest contributors to the loan fund are
the Gottesman family of New York, who fund many different projects in Israel,
and whose key representative, Bob Gottesman, specially came to Israel to pay
tribute to Jaffe.
■ A HUMOROUS note was injected into the IFLA
celebration by chairman Edward Cohen, who acted as master of ceremonies and
apparently found the hall a little too hot.
He approached the microphone
while still wearing his jacket, then removed it and decided to tell a joke to
explain his action: David Ben-Gurion, when invited to dine with the British high
commissioner, removed his jacket – and was soundly reprimanded.
have permission from Winston Churchill himself,” he protested. When dining with
Churchill, he continued, he had also removed his jacket, to which Churchill’s
reaction had been: “You can do that when you’re dining with the high
commissioner in Jerusalem – but not here.”
When Benny Lau, minus jacket
and tie, took his place at the microphone, he made a crack about not knowing
about the dress formalities.
IFLA CEO Joe Rosen, who was wearing a suit
and tie, said that even though he had never dined with Churchill or the high
commissioner, he was following the dress code – but Gottesman, before mounting
the stage, removed his jacket to be in sync with Cohen.
ROCKMAN-Goldsmith family of Jerusalem and Ra’anana might well be described as a
family on the run. Gila Rockman, who was in the final stages of pregnancy last
Tuesday, joined her husband, Justin, on the 10-kilometer Jerusalem Night
She called her father, Dr. Michael Goldsmith, a general
practitioner, the following morning to tell him she had dropped out after seven
kilometers. Goldsmith, who is an avid runner himself, going for a run almost
every day, was somewhat shocked by his daughter’s conduct at such an advanced
time of pregnancy. But she was cool with it, and on Wednesday went about her
regular tasks – including shopping.
On Wednesday night, Gila Rockman went
into labor and gave birth to her fourth child, a boy, who will be circumcised
and inducted into the faith tomorrow, Thursday. Gila’s brothers, Ari and Ronen,
who are both marathon runners, will be on-hand with their own
The entry of a new baby into the family did not prevent Justin
Rockman from attending the launch of the Afikim run from Jerusalem to Eilat,
which is scheduled for December 18 – when Rockman, together with 15 other
runners, will set off from Jaffa Gate on a run to Eilat. He wasn’t the only
member of the family at the Afikim event. His mother and mother-in-law were also
there to lend moral support to the cause.
Afikim deals with at-risk
youth, not only providing an environment that will keep them off the streets,
but also working with their families and communities. Moshe Lefkowitz, 46, who
founded Afikim, is a father of seven and grandfather of five, with his most
recent grandchild born just a week earlier. His experience with various social
welfare organizations led him to believe that just dealing with children at
risk, and not with their families, was not the right way to achieve success.
Social gaps are as a big a danger to Israel as Iran, he told the large crowd
that had come for the launch.
Though haredi in his lifestyle, Lefkowitz
believes there is room for many different facets of society, and is keen to
narrow the gaps between religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, Left and
Right, Jews and non-Jews. “There’s no consensus on anything,” he
Lefkowitz, in some respects, has a similar outlook to that of
the IFLA’s Jaffe, advocating that while food is important, it is equally
important to give people the tools with which to make their way in life, so they
can live with dignity. Foodwise, Afikim is one of the organizations supplying
meals to schools to ensure that no child goes hungry.
Lefkowitz is now
working on a plan to bring youngsters doing national service into the schools,
to help pinpoint at-risk children and begin helping them and their families at
the earliest possible stages.
The launch event included a hilarious
selfdeprecating act by religious stand-up comedian and journalist Kobi Arieli.
Because his audience was also religious it was a kind of all-in-the-famiy
affair, punctuated by chuckles and guffaws. Had a secular comedian used some of
the same material, he would have been accused of anti-religious incitement. It’s
a similar principle to Jews being allowed to poke fun at themselves, but if a
non-Jew tells the same jokes, he’s branded an anti-Semite.
■ FEW THINGS
are more frustrating to a journalist than being invited to cover an event, only
to be told when they show up that most of what is being said is off-the-record.
That’s what happened last Friday night, when British Ambassador Matthew Gould
addressed the Anglo-Israel Colloquium, which convenes somewhere in Israel every
year or two to focus on a particular issue.
This was the 10th meeting of
its kind, and the topic was “Ethics and Responsibility in an Interconnected
World.” This was not the topic of Gould’s talk, however. He was more focused on
relations between the UK and Israel, and when one of his predecessors, Sir
Andrew Burns, who served as British ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1995,
introduced him, he made the point that Gould’s remarks were
Gould had previously made some remarks on-the-record,
discussing the growing trade between the UK and Israel, noting that the UK is
the Jewish state’s largest trading partner in Europe and quoting figures which
indicated the boycott of Israeli goods in the UK is really a peripheral
phenomenon that has been blown out of proportion.
Gould also mentioned
the top-level exchanges between the two countries, and as proof brought along
Vice Admiral Alan Richards, who is Britain’s chief of defense intelligence, and
who conveniently happened to be in Israel at the time.
which was held at the initiative and under the auspices of the Anglo- Israel
Association, convened on this occasion at Mishkenot Sha’ananim – which could not
have been more suitable, given its Anglo- Israel history, being the area that
was the site of the first Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem to be settled outside
of the walls of the Old City. The neighborhood was developed at the initiative
of Sir Moses Montefiore, in whose memory another symposium will be held at the
same venue soon. Montefiore had visions for Jerusalem that were not realized in
his lifetime, but were followed up on much later – and not always with
In addition to Sir Andrew, a familiar British face at the
colloquium was that of David Elliott, the British coordinator of the colloquium
who works hand-in-glove with colloquium coordinator Asher Weill. Elliott is a
former director of the British Council in Israel, and the wonderful parties he
hosted are still remembered by many. Burns has been the UK envoy for
post-Holocaust issues since 2010, and is chairman-designate of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance for 2014-2015. He recalled that the Oslo Accords
had heralded an exciting time during his period of service in Israel, and had
also led to a closer relationship between Israel and Britain.
HUMANITARIAN REASONS have prompted Israel to provide medical treatment for
patients from Gaza, including the granddaughter of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail
Haniyeh – but Israel seems to be less humane when it comes to her own
As such, Meretz MK Ilan Gilon is protesting the way Prisons
Service authorities have treated Amir Attias, the father of soldier Eden Attias,
who was murdered on a bus in Afula last week by a Palestinian
The family of Amir Attias, who is serving a prison sentence
for sex offenses and acts of violence, had pleaded with prison authorities to
allow him to attend his son’s funeral in regular clothing, instead of the
orangehued prison uniform. The prison authorities refused, and would only accede
to the family’s pleas that his shackles be removed for the duration of the
funeral. The family is particularly angry because former president Moshe Katzav,
who is also in prison for sex offences, was permitted to wear a regular civilian
suit to his son’s wedding, whereas Attias was forced to remain in the prison
Gilon, in a letter to Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch, said he could not understand how anyone could be so heartless and
lacking in consideration, and demanded that such people be rooted out of the
system as quickly as possible.