This week marks the 20th anniversary of Grapevine in its present
It was originally published in the Australian Jewish News, made
aliya with its writer in 1973, lay dormant until the beginning of 1992 when it
was revived in In Jerusalem, the local supplement of The Jerusalem Post, then
briefly made dormant again and revived once more on October 8, 1993, at the
behest of the Post’s then editor- in-chief David Bar-Illan – who sadly died 10
years later on November 5, 2003, some time after suffering a massive heart
An internationally acclaimed pianist, author and columnist,
Bar-Illan wrote in a caustic style, but on a personal level was the kindest and
most generous of human beings. He wanted the column to be biting, and wrote a
couple of sample items attacking public figures.
Although I have on
occasion attacked public figures, I couldn’t be as acerbic as he wanted, because
I was always conscious of the fact that many such figures have children who
should not be made to suffer for the sins of their parents.
understood and didn’t press the point.
However, on one occasion, when I
killed off a prominent diplomat by mistake and that person threatened to sue me
and the paper, Bar-Illan would not allow me to apologize. He heartily disliked
the man, the report of whose demise had been premature, and told me to find a
solution without apologizing.
As it happened, the man in question had
been a recluse in recent years, but in previous years had a large circle of
friends and acquaintances who called his house to offer condolences – and were
pleasantly surprised and even a little shocked to hear him answer the phone. The
next Grapevine column carried an item to the effect that in Jewish tradition,
when someone is erroneously reported to be dead, it means they will have a very
Moreover, judging by the number of calls received, this person
now knows how popular he is.
Of course, he didn’t sue.
Grapevine column in the daily paper included an item about Madonna, who was
visiting Israel at the time.
The King David Hotel had prepared a lavish
suite for her and had taken note of all her special requests. But it was all to
no avail. Madonna swept in and soon after, she swept out without staying the
night. However, it wasn’t a total loss – she went to the Dan Hotel in Tel
The King David is the Jerusalem flagship of the Dan chain.
GRAPEVINE ORIGINALLY appeared on the back page of the paper on a Friday, and it
was a balm to the ego to stand in line at the local supermarket, which is
largely frequented by Anglos, and watch people reading the column while waiting
for their turn at the check-out counter.
As editors changed and wanted
the back page for their own Friday columns, Grapevine moved inside the paper.
Under Jeff Barak it was expanded to twice a week, was reduced again to once a
week by Bret Stephens, was expanded to a full page – albeit once a week – under
David Horovitz, and was finally restored to twice a week by current Editor-in-
Chief Steve Linde.
The most heartwarming feedback is when someone who is
not a public figure or a socialite, but has been written about in the column,
telephones or emails to say that their phone has hardly stopped ringing all day
with calls from people who read the item.
Everyone is entitled to their
moment of glory, and it’s a privilege to be in the position to give that moment
to at least a few people.
■ENOUGH SAID. Back to business.
THURSDAY NIGHT celebrations of National Day receptions are gaining in popularity
in Israel’s diplomatic community.
Last Thursday night, invitees to both
Korea’s 4,346th Foundation Day and the Day of German Unity had somewhat of a
It might have been easier had both events been held the
residences of the respective ambassadors.
After all, Rishpon is fairly
close to Herzliya Pituah. But Korean Ambassador Kim Il- Soo chose to have his
reception at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, while German Ambassador Andreas
Michaelis, who for two years held the Day of German Unity reception at the Rabin
Center while his residence was undergoing serious renovation and repair, was
happy to once more be standing on his balcony at home to address his
Not only did both ambassadors choose the same day on which to
celebrate, but also the same time, which posed a problem for several heads of
diplomatic missions. Some stayed longer than usual in Tel Aviv and sent their
spouses to the German reception, where they joined them later. In fact, there
was an early exodus from the Korean reception by non- Asian diplomats; some
didn’t even wait for the speeches. But the ambassadors from Asian countries
remained at the Korean reception long after the speeches were over. This was
diplomatic solidarity at its best.
Although the government was
represented at the Korean reception by Economy and Trade Minister Naftali
Bennett, the guest of honor was former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was
surrounded by an admiring throng of diplomats and businesspeople.
from his day in court, when his former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, stormed out in
anger, Olmert was relaxed, smiling and genial.
Asked by the writer of
this column whether he still had voting rights in Jerusalem, he said no, but
because he owns homes in both Mevaseret Zion and Tel Aviv, has voting rights in
both – and has decided to vote in Tel Aviv.
Asked who he would vote for
in the upcoming mayoral election if he still had voting rights in Jerusalem,
Olmert unhesitatingly replied: “Moshe Lion.”
Guests were treated to
superb renditions of the national anthems of the Korean Republic and Israel by
Korean coloratura Kim Kyoung-Heejing, who is the wife of the World Bank
representative in Israel.
Ambassador Kim noted that both the Republic of
South Korea and the State of Israel were established in 1948, and said that in
many ways the two countries were mirror images of each other – despite the
distance that separates them. Both lack natural resources. Both have been
subjected to wars and threats. Both have highly developed economies, and both
seek peace. Kim wondered which would achieve peace first, taking into account
that Israel has resumed peace talks with the Palestinians, and South Korea is
entering into a dialogue with North Korea.
In listing the similarities,
he neglected to mention that both countries had two generations of presidents
from the one family.
Park Geun-hye, the sixth and current president of
the Sixth Republic of Korea, is the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee,
who was the first president of the Fourth Republic. Chaim Weizmann was the first
president of Israel, and his nephew Ezer Weizman was Israel’s seventh
Bennett said he has four children: Yossi, Michal, Avigail and
David, aged from eight to one and a half. The first song that David learned to
sing, he said, was not in Hebrew – but in Korean. “He sings ‘Gangnam Style’ all
Ties between Israel and Korea go back 51 years, said Bennett,
and echoing Kim, observed that both countries have known periods of war but
strive for peace. While Israel is using diplomatic means against Iran, Bennett
continued, South Korea has the threat from the north. “But we haven’t allowed
that to slow us down,” he said, speaking for both countries.
trade currently stands at $2.4 billion in Korea’s favor, said Bennett, adding
that one of Israel’s goals is signing a free trade agreement with Korea, a
factor which he believes would significantly increase trade.
greeted Bennett warmly, observing from the podium that he was proud that Bennett
was sitting in the same chair and in the same office he had occupied when he was
industry and trade minister.Only the ministerial title has changed, he
Olmert, who is scheduled to be in South Korea this week, told Kim
there was one issue that unites Israelis in the administration and in the
opposition – they are all for South Korea, and against North Korea. He hastened
to clarify that Israelis have nothing against the North Korean people, only
against the policies of the North Korean government.
Olmert asked Kim to
convey this to President Park, adding that otherwise he would do so himself in
person. He also mentioned the presence at the reception of former minister Ran
Cohen, and MK and former minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
■ AT THE German
residence, Michaelis welcomed Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who was there as
the government representative. Also present was the once and maybe future
foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who currently chairs the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee.
Michaelis noted that in Israeli and German
elections this year, both heads of government were returned to office, but the
composition of the governments changed.
Germany and Israel cooperate on
many levels. Michaelis referred specifically to security, and quoted Chancellor
Angela Merkel, who said in a recent interview that Germany will never be neutral
where Israel is concerned, and that the Jewish state can be sure of Germany’s
support when it comes to ensuring its security.
Like his predecessors in
office, Michaelis made no attempt to escape the horrendous past that preceded
the excellent relations of the present.
“After the end of World War II
and the horrors of the Shoah, we had to build our relationship from the lowest
point imaginable. Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations almost 50
years ago, we have moved from being skeptical, cool partners towards becoming
close and trusted friends,” he said, citing political, cultural, economic and
Bilateral relations are being enhanced by some
10,000 young people from both countries who have participated in exchange
programs over the past 12 months. Several hundred Germans come to Israel every
year to assist in the care of the sick or the elderly in hospitals across the
country, said Michaelis, who introduced a former German volunteer who first came
to Israel as a high school student, then returned as a volunteer some 20 years
The former volunteer is Tom Franz, who has become an international
celebrity since winning the MasterChef contest in January. Franz became so
enamored with Israel and the Jews that he returned yet again to live in Israel,
converted to Judaism, married a Jewish woman, fathered two Jewish sons and
learned to cook kosher. A booklet of his recipes was distributed to the
Michaelis also introduced Eran Margalit, 19, who headed the
string quartet that played the national anthems.
When he was a
16-year-old high school student, Margalit won a Johannes Rau Scholarship, which
took him to Berlin to stay with a German family.
The trip also provided
him with the opportunity to visit the house where his greatgrandparents had
lived before being forced to flee from Berlin.
Margalit is currently
serving in the IDF and plays with the Young Israel Philharmonic
Apropos Berlin, Michaelis announced the launch of Berlin Days
in Tel Aviv, which will bring some 100 diverse German cultural events in the
city. Around 17,000 Israelis are estimated to currently live in Berlin, said
Michaelis, adding that thousands of Israelis visit every year.
to a most undiplomatic Facebook post by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who wrote
that he has little patience for people who are ready to throw the state into the
trash because Berlin is more comfortable, Michaelis commented that thousands of
Israelis visit Berlin every year.
Whenever he flies to Berlin, he said,
he is surrounded by Israeli families and students on the plane. On the Berlin
underground, he hears Israelis talking in Hebrew, and his children, who spent
several years of their childhood in Israel and are now studying at Berlin
universities, tell him about encounters with Israelis on an almost daily basis.
For all that, Michaelis hastened to assure Lapid that most Israelis don’t remain
in Berlin – they do come home.
Like Michaelis, Yaalon in his address also
referred to the Holocaust, calling it the most horrible crime against humanity
in the annals of history. Yet while the Jewish people will never forget the
Holocaust, he said, the Israeli-German dialogue encompasses almost every field
of endeavor. Yaalon thanked the German government, especially Merkel, for the
support given to Israel, and said that Germany is one of the few countries with
which Israel has permanent government-togovernment consultations.
2015, Israel and Germany will mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations
with a series of important events in both countries, said Yaalon.
BYZANTINE Church of Bacchus was discovered in 1986, when Keren Kayemeth
LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund began planting a forest in what was then the
wilderness of Shoham. It has been turned into an archaeological site, which was
officially launched at the beginning of the month and is now open to the
The remains of the church, which dates back to the 5th century
CE, contain what is left of what was once a magnificent mosaic, as well as an
olive press. The site is now open for school activities and family
Speaking at the official opening of the site, KKL-JNF world
chairman Efi Stenzler emphasized the importance of creating community parks and
forests in partnership with the communities they serve, and said KKL-JNF had
initiated many such projects throughout the country. Also present at the opening
were Shoham Mayor Gil Livne, Antiquities Authority deputy director
Uzi Dahari, and the Readymix Group’s stone and lime quarries
director-general Menachem Intertur, who had made a significant contribution to
the restoration of the site.
The park, with its carefully tended forest
section, covers an area of 200 hectares (about 495 acres).
PRESIDENT Milos Zeman, at the reception hosted in his honor by President Shimon
Peres on Monday, declared that he had doubts about the EU’s guidelines with
regard to Israel. The soft policy of the EU always reminded him of the
appeasement policy of the 1930s, “and we all know the consequences of that,” he
The fight against terrorism by all civilized countries, Zeman
insisted, “must be based on no negotiations with terrorists.”
way to get rid of terrorism, he emphasized, was to just fight it. If not, he
warned, the consequences will make the future fight more complicated than it is
Zeman told Peres that Israel is an oasis of democracy in the
Middle East and as a technological tiger, has the full support of the Czech
Republic. Citing examples of Czech support, Zeman said his country’s foreign
minister, who is traveling with him, worked hard to persuade the EU to include
Hezbollah on its blacklist. His defense minister also negotiated at the UN in
New York for the Czech Mission to replace the Austrian Mission, which had been
withdrawn from the Golan Heights. The list could go on and on, he
Due to the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the state dinner which
Peres hosted on Monday night in Zeman’s honor was diminished in nature and
Peres thought it inappropriate to hold a festive event on a day in
which the nation had lost one of its giant figures, in addition to which many of
the invitees were unable to get to Jerusalem – because so many of the roads were
blocked. So the event became a working dinner, with far fewer participants than
■ NOT ALL Russian immigrants arrive in Israel
Philanthropist Leonid Nevzlin, who saved Beit Hatfutsot from
closure and broadened the scope of its operations, is a former high-ranking
Yukos executive and before that a high-ranking banker, who has also engaged in
both national and Jewish politics. Before making aliya 10 years ago, he served
as president of the Russian Jewish Congress and was influential in the
preservation of Jewish heritage projects, contributing to many Jewish
educational programs. He also spent a short period as rector of the Russian
State University for the Humanities.
It was only natural when he came to
Israel that he should continue Jewish educational and cultural projects. In
fact, the first was at the Hebrew University, where he established the Leonid
Nevzlin Research Center for Russian and East European Jewry. He has supported
other projects through the Nadav Fund, which he established with two
Much of his philanthropy was channeled through Keren
He has twice made the Forbes list of the world’s 100 wealthiest
people. While still in Russia, he spent a year as deputy director- general of
the ITAR TASS News Agency, and revived his media interests two years ago when he
acquired a 20-percent stake in Haaretz.
On Thursday of this week, Nevzlin
will launch a three-day celebration to mark the 10th anniversary of his aliya.
It will be a lot more than just a party.
Nevzlin is hosting a three-day
conference on freedom, democracy and justice at the Cramim Resort & Spa, in
appreciation of major differences between life in Israel and in Russia.
BRITISH AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould last week joined thousands of swimming
enthusiasts to cross Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) in what is the largest
amateur sports event in the country.
This is the second consecutive year
Gould has participated.
He was no less enthusiastic about it this year
than he was last year. “This is a wonderful event,” said the exhausted but happy
diplomat. “It was definitely one of my best experiences here. I was delighted to
return and join so many others in this very Israeli event. The atmosphere here
was fantastic; swimming somewhere so magical with 10,000 others is an unmatched
experience. It’s a great honor to be part of this 60-year-old Israeli tradition.
I just wish I had a little more time to practice.”
Sport is a popular
pastime in the Gould family. Later this month, the ambassador’s wife, Celia, who
is head of the International Women’s Club, will be participating in the 10-km.
Tel Aviv night run. She will be running to raise money for Chimes, a nonprofit
that provides care for mentally challenged children and adults.
THE British Royal Family wield more clout than the Council of Europe? British
royals have a long history of circumcision. Admittedly, it would be easier for
them than for European Jews or Muslims to agree not to practice circumcision,
but tradition is tradition, and one somehow suspects that Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth would not be overjoyed at the idea that due to a decision by the
Council of Europe, a future king of England would not be a cut above
■ LAST WEDNESDAY, some 600 Polish and Israeli high school
students visited the site of the former notorious Nazi death camp Treblinka, to
honor the memories of the hundreds of thousands of people murdered there as well
as the memories of all 6 million Jewish victims of the
Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner was there, as was
nonagenarian Samuel Willenberg of Tel Aviv – who is the last of the survivors of
the Treblinka Revolt of 1943, of which he was one of the key organizers.
Willenberg was present to light a memorial flame and to give a firsthand account
of what happened there 70 years ago.
Willenberg, who has written and
lectured extensively about his Treblinka experience and his fighting against the
Nazis with the Polish underground resistance forces, also attended the 70th
anniversary commemoration of the uprising in August. He has been recognized by a
series of Polish governments, which have honored him for his courage and for
what he has done to enhance Israel-Poland relations.
The high school
students held a dialogue with each other, in which they discussed the Jews who
lived in the Treblinka area prior to World War II. They also spoke about
educator Janusz Korczak, who is considered a Polish as well as a Jewish hero.
Korczak was given the chance to save himself, but opted not to abandon the
children in his orphanage and to go with them to the death camp.
Israeli students wore white jackets or sweatshirts with a large blue print of a
Star of David. The Polish students all had symbolic yellow stars on their
■ THE GUEST of honor at the opening ceremony last Sunday of the
10th Jewish Eye World Festival at the Ashkelon Academic College international
convention center had not been announced, because the organizers were not sure
she would arrive to Israel in time. But she did.
Andrea Pasternac, the
new Romanian ambassador-designate, told a delighted audience in perfect Hebrew
how happy she was to be back in Israel, where she had been in charge of cultural
affairs some 15 years ago. In fact, so perfect was her Hebrew that master
musician and comedian Nansi Brandes, who was moderating the event, said she must
be a member of the Securitatea, the dreaded secret service of Romanian dictator
Nicolae Ceaucescu. This drew a laugh from the 90% of the audience, who were of
Romanian origin or had links to the country, and blank looks from the rest –
mostly local personalities eager to be seen publicly at events so close in time
to the municipal elections.
In fact, when the lengthy speeches were over
and the movie began, they slunk away under cover of darkness, missing the world
premiere of Jews for Sale by Radu Gabrea, who came specially to Israel for the
occasion. The film tells the story of how the Romanian regime used the Jews as
bargaining chip, selling them outright for cash or bartering them for whatever
they need. “They were paid only $5,000 for me,” quipped Brandes. “I thought I
was worth far more!” Romanian-born former diplomat and MK Colette Avital was
there, as was Aharon Yadlin, an Israel Prize laureate and former education
minister who bemoaned the lack of government support for culture in the
periphery. Romanian-born Micha Harish, a former industry and trade minister who
was due to be one of the keynote speakers, did not show up. It later transpired
he was in Tel Aviv to support to Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich in her election
campaign. Harish is a former secretary-general of the Labor Party.
ISRAEL’S leading proponent for brain research, President Peres, whose vision is
to turn Israel into a worldwide brain-tech hub, will be the keynote speaker at
the first international BrainTech Israel Conference taking place next week at
Hangar 11 in the Tel Aviv Port. Also delivering a keynote address is US
Congressman Chaka Fattah, Congress’s chief proponent of brain research and a
leader of the US Brain Initiative.
They will be joined by a who’s who of
brain science, including Nobel Prize laureates, leaders of international tech
and pharmaceutical giants (i.e.
Intel, J&J, Pfizer, Medtronics and
Teva, among others) and top investors and entrepreneurs from around the
Peres will also present the first $1 million B.R.A.I.N. Prize to
one of 10 finalists, in the contest initiated by Israel Brain Technologies for
global breakthrough research and innovation in neurotechnology. All 10 will
present their breakthrough developments at the conference, and the winner will
be determined by an international committee of neuroscience and life science