Depending on where and when, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been alternately cheered and booed over the years, and this week was buoyed at the support rally in Tel Aviv that was organized by coalition chairman David Bitan. The outpouring of affection was so palpable that it almost penetrated the television screen. Although there are benefits to being part of the crowd at a rally, there are sometimes greater benefits in watching it on TV, because television cameras pan the crowd and bring lots of close-ups to the viewer, who gets to see body language and facial expressions.
Despite the cheers, the prime minister could not hide the fact that he was tired. He had every right to be tired. His job is physically, mentally and emotionally grueling – more so over the past month or two. But tired as he was, his power of oratory remained undiminished, and he had the crowd hanging on to every word.
His wife literally glowed with the adulation. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi looked as if he had been mesmerized. Transportation Minister Israel Katz, currently in Netanyahu’s bad books, looked decidedly unhappy, and when the prime minister was sitting down prior to addressing the crowd, sat furthest to the right from him. Sitting right next to the prime minister on his left, with a grin of pure joy on his face, was Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, a true Likud loyalist, who waited a long time for his loyalty to be recognized. To be physically closest to the prime minister on the night of the rally was his crowning glory.
■ IF ANYONE entertained any doubts about the marital breakup of former high-ranking politician Silvan Shalom and his wife, Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, it became obvious when Shalom showed up alone to celebrate his 59th birthday at a well-known restaurant. His birthday was actually on August 4, but actual dates of anniversaries and birthdays don’t seem to matter much these days. Judy’s 59th birthday is on August 14, and presumably she will celebrate it without him – though one never knows.
The dissolution of the marriage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is currently on hold, according to the latest media reports. After Pitt stopped drinking, Jolie halted divorce proceedings and there is now widespread speculation that the couple may get together again. If they can do it after all the publicity that accompanied their breakup, why not Judy and Silvan?
■ ON THE subject of breakups, the media frolic over the romance between celebrity chef Assaf Granit and high-profile dancer Anna Aronov is over, and she will have to find someone else to prepare gourmet dinners for her. Just a few weeks back, Aronov was telling people what a great romantic Granit is, despite the fierce expression on his face, but now he looks a little more sad than fierce.
■ APROPOS CHEFS, microbiologist Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, who rose to fame in 2014 when she won the MasterChef Israel competition, has been involved in several exciting culinary projects since then, and the one coming up is her own TV show on Channel 10, which is scheduled to go to air some time close to the end of this year. The old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach may also have political and social consequences. By introducing Arab cuisine with a modern twist to the wider Israeli public, Atamna-Ismaeel may well create a situation in which Israeli Jews will begin exploring Arab restaurants and making friends with Arabs in their places of employment. The show may do a lot more in breaking down barriers than anything that politicians have been able to do.
■ PRIOR TO his meeting on Thursday with Netanyahu, Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, attended a cocktail reception on Wednesday at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and its roof body, the Israel branch of the World Jewish Congress. A lawyer by profession and a former foreign minister of Uruguay, Almagro described OAS as “the space where diplomacy, democracy, and human rights come together,” values, he noted, that are shared by Israel. However, not all 35 member states of the OAS practice these values, in particular Venezuela, which Almagro acknowledged is problematic. Venezuela announced earlier this year that it may drop out of OAS.
Like so many representatives of foreign countries and international organizations, Almagro spoke of cooperation with Israel in the struggle against terrorism, and said: “One of the most dangerous elements of the threat of terrorism is that it is indiscriminate. Terror does not discriminate based on race, religion or social status. It does not respect borders. It is hate for hate’s sake disguised by a hollow cause far removed from any meaningful outcome, because in the end, violence only begets violence.”
And as far as Latin America is concerned, he revealed that there is a strong link between terrorism and organized crime. Almagro also spoke of cooperation on other levels, saying “Israel is not only welcome, but invited.”
He noted that there are more than half a million Jews in Latin America, and categorized them as people who are “vibrant, entrepreneurial and occupy an indispensable space in our nations’ culture, the arts, business, the professions, and politics. Jews in Latin America are part of the democratic forces of the region,” he said.
Yet for all that, Almagro could not guarantee that all the member states of the OAS would vote together with Israel in international forums.
Looking to the future, he said that it is imperative to build knowledge-based economies because so many of today’s children will have jobs that do not even exist today.
He was very pleased to see so many ambassadors and other diplomats of nearly all the Latin American countries that have relations with Israel.
When Uruguay-born foreign correspondent Jana Beris, who reports for several Latin American media outlets, asked Almagro what he planned to discuss with Netanyahu, he smiled and replied: “I have your email address. I’ll let you know afterward.”
■ WITHIN THE framework of the Acre Opera Festival, Yariv Hameiri, CEO of Treasures of the Galilee, provided a tour of the Western Galilee for Friends of the Israeli Opera, thereby enhancing their cultural treat with a sense of history and geography. Tour guide Danny Robinson led them through places of interest in Acre, Nahariya and Rosh Hanikra. Lunch was at chef Michael Grapolski’s bistro in Moshav Liman.
■ CULTURE AND Sport Minister Miri Regev has been waging a protracted battle with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon for additional funding for the 70th anniversary celebrations of Israel’s independence. Regev’s ministry is responsible for organizing the main events. Kahlon is digging in his heels, using social welfare needs as an excuse for refusing Regev’s demands.
Regev would like to bring back the military parade, which in the early years of the state was a great source of national pride and brought citizens from all over the country to Jerusalem to wave to the members of the different branches of the IDF as they marched past. There hasn’t been an Independence Day march for more than four decades, but Regev thinks that to revive it would be most appropriate for the 70th anniversary. So far, she hasn’t received any cooperation from the Defense Ministry, which claimed not to have the budget for such a prospect.
The NIS 100 million budget for the celebrations was finalized this week by Netanyahu and Kahlon, with half coming from the state budget and the other half from the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. Regev says that in relation to former money values, this is the lowest budget yet for milestone Independence Day festivities.
■ THE FIRST Zionist Congress was in Basel, Switzerland, on August 29-31, 1897. It’s hard to tell how many Jewish males have been given the name Herzl since then, just as it’s hard to tell how many boys have been named Binyamin Ze’ev after Jabotinsky, or David after David Ben-Gurion. For that matter, were the Davids named after him or after King David? Herzl, which was originally a surname, became a first name in Israel and in staunchly Zionist enclaves elsewhere in the world.
A Herzl Tribute evening will be held at Air Force House in Herzliya on August 24, to which anyone whose first name is Herzl is invited. At least 120 people who answer to the name of Herzl have been tracked down by the organizers of the event and have indicated that they will attend. Among the best known are former IAF commander in chief Herzl Bodinger and Begin Heritage Center CEO Herzl Makov.
■ JUST AS visitors to Jerusalem have a need to visit the Western Wall, they also have a need to visit Yad Vashem. Among the recent visitors were Chris Ruddy, founder and CEO of Newsmax Media Inc., who happens to be a very close confidant of President Donald Trump; designer Lenny Lauren, who is the brother of internationally renowned fashion designer Ralph Lauren; and Hollywood publicist Michael Levine. The trio toured the Holocaust History Museum and visited the Children’s Memorial.