On the final evening of his state visit to Greece, President Reuven Rivlin was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Piraeus. In his address to senior faculty, government representatives and others attending the ceremony, Rivlin underscored the importance of democracy, which is one of the basic values of both Israel and Greece, and said that relations between the two countries should not be confined to politics and defense, but should expand to all sectors in which each country can learn from the other. Israel is a small country that was born out of great ideas, said Rivlin. Greece is also a small country, which was not born out of great ideas, he continued. “It gave birth to them.”
■ EVEN THOUGH Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned mentalist Lior Suchard to apologize, after having stumped him at the prime minister’s annual New Year reception for journalists in Jerusalem on January 10, it was difficult for Suchard to get over being professionally humiliated in public. At a performance in Rishon Lezion just over a week ago, Suchard invited pop singers Static and Noa Kirel to help him out with a new trick. “You can be bad,” Suchard told Static. “You can do me a Bibi.”
The end of the evening was not quite as funny. Suchard had obviously not read the mind of the person in charge of the car park, and when he left the building after the show, he was able to get into the car park, but not out. Everything was locked. It was bad enough that he couldn’t drive out, but he couldn’t get out himself, even if he wanted to take a taxi. A few frantic phone calls put an end to his predicament, but for a short while, it was a scary situation. Obviously, January was not the best of months for him.
Between the Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion performances, he had been in New York, and suddenly had to stop the show because an elderly man in the audience had collapsed. People were crowding around him, and someone yelled out to call 911. Suchard told everyone to be calm and to remain seated until the paramedics arrived. To avert panic, he assured the audience that the man who was sitting near the front was conscious and just felt a little under the weather.
When the paramedics arrived a few minutes later and wheeled out the man, the audience applauded. The man apparently recovered very quickly and was seen at the back of the theater after the performance.
Among the people in the audience were comedian Jerry Seinfeld, his wife, Jessica, and their children Sasha and Shepherd, who were in Israel at the beginning of January. The Seinfelds were already familiar with Suchard, who brought them up on stage to help him with one of his tricks. After the show Jerry Seinfeld went backstage to talk to Suchard in his dressing room, and shook the hands of quite a few fans along the way.
■ FORMER FEATURES editor at The Jerusalem Post
Elliot Jager, who authored the book The Balfour Declaration: Sixty-Seven Words, 100 Years of Conflict
(Gefen), and Azriel Bermant, author of Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East
(Cambridge), will have a joint launch and discussion at Mishkenkot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem on Tuesday, February 27. Jager has already had previous launches of the book in Israel and abroad, but discussing different aspects of leadership and change with a fellow author puts a new light on the launch.
■ ON WEDNESDAY of last week on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, anchorman Ronen Pollak said wistfully that where there were once many orchards where people could plant trees on Tu Bishvat, there are now mainly buildings. Anyone who drives extensively through Israel can corroborate Pollak’s statement. The whole country is punctuated by a series of construction sites with buildings pointing ever upward.
Tel Aviv with its numerous skyscrapers and more under construction is beginning to look like Hong Kong, and Jerusalem is gradually losing its charm, as old single- and two-story buildings are pulled down and replaced by multistory towers, which are completely changing the city’s skyline and blocking out the views that used to be a selling point for the capital.
■ APROPOS JERUSALEM, the question of Mayor Nir Barkat’s political future has still not been made public. Barkat was supposed to announce in January whether he would run for a third term or aim for a Likud seat in the next Knesset. His excuse for not making his decision known in January was that he was still embroiled in a battle with the Finance Ministry over the Jerusalem municipal budget. It will be interesting to see whether he will make up his mind during the month of February, which has fewer days than all the other months.
Another issue yet to be settled vis-à-vis Jerusalem is whether the light rail will run through Emek Refaim Street. Most of those residents who are opponents of the light rail are well educated and usually well mannered. But according to Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, who will run for mayor if Barkat opts for the Knesset, there’s a lot of racism boiling beneath the surface of those well-educated people. In an interview that he gave to the Jerusalem edition of Kol Ha’ir
, Turgeman, who holds the city planning portfolio, said that he had been subjected to extremely hostile racist remarks, such as “Who do you think you are?” “You don’t know who we are,” “Shut your mouth,” “We won’t be a station for the people of Katamon” (which is largely populated by people of Moroccan background, such as Turgeman, who grew up in adjacent Baka). “Who is this Moroccan to tell us what we can or can’t do?” and “We’re special people who live in a special neighborhood.”
Turgeman can give as good as he gets, but to insult him on the basis of his ethnic background is, in a word, disgusting. Whether or not one disagrees with him, one has to acknowledge that he’s an experienced representative of the city council, of which he has been a member since 1998. Unfortunately, too many of us, when we allow emotions to overtake logic, attack our opponents on their ethnic, religious or political affiliations, instead of on the specific issue over which opinion is sharply divided. Regardless of the final outcome of negotiations over the light rail in Emek Refaim, Turgeman’s opponents owe him an apology and should aim for a sulha. Barkat, like Turgeman, is strongly in favor of the light rail going through Emek Refaim, and has turned what amounts to a deaf ear to protests by residents.
■ WHEN HE was in Israel in July for the official opening of the luxury Orient Hotel at the entrance to Jerusalem’s German Colony, Julian Lewis, the president of Isrotel, admitted that he had other plans in the pipeline for Jerusalem, but at the time preferred not to disclose what they were.
The word is now out that Isrotel is on the verge of opening a second hotel in the capital, somewhere in the vicinity of Zion Square. It will not be as large or as luxurious as the Orient, but will serve the needs of tourists who want to be in the center of town, close to public transport, which will take them close to if not always right to important sites in and around the Old City on the one side, and the Knesset, Israel Museum, Supreme Court and Yad Vashem on the other.
The new Isrotel facility will join the recent swarm of boutique hotels which have sprung up in converted shops, retirement homes, post offices and pubs, in addition to others that have been and are being built from scratch.
■ WHEN BOTH her daughters gave birth at more or less the same time at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, Irene Fashi did not have far to go in order to visit them. She happens to be the head nurse in the hospital’s internal medicine department. It was a second child for both daughters. Shai- Li gave birth just after midnight to a 3.1-kg. daughter, and Shiran gave birth 12 hours later to a 3.3-kg. son.
The two sisters said that Assaf Harofeh was like home away from home for them, not only because their mother works there, but because each of them was born there. The sisters had heard about the hospital’s new maternity wing and were extremely happy with the treatment they received there, as was their mother, who was delighted with the two new additions to the email@example.com