Grapevine: Missing ministers

Aside from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several top minisiters, many cabinet members were absent from the Yitzhak Rabin memorial.

By
November 6, 2014 21:02
PM Netanyahu

PM Netanyahu at annual state remembrance ceremony honoring slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, November 5. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

The power of the press is perhaps not as strong as legend would have it. Otherwise, there would have been a full turnout of ministers at the graveside ceremony on Mount Herzl marking the 19th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Aside from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the only cabinet members present were Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri and Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. Also missing was former president Shimon Peres, who had a good excuse in that he was still getting over the flu and had to leave for the airport to fly to India. Less than a week after returning from a lecture tour in the US, Peres left Israel on Wednesday night on a three-day working visit to India.

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As part of the “Green Revolution,” Peres and Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the infrastructure for a wide-ranging Food Security and water technology project.

During his stay in New Delhi, the nonagenarian Peres also met with Indian officials and businesspeople with the aim of enhancing economic cooperation and joint ventures between the two nations.

When he completed his term as president, Peres set himself a goal of helping Israeli companies, especially those in the food production and water management industries, to develop new markets abroad and establish new infrastructures with overseas partners.

The Food Security project is a joint venture between Israel, India and Australia through the Peres Center for Peace, the Indian Ananda Center and the Australian-headquartered Pratt Foundation, which concerns itself with economically and nutritionally deprived communities around the world; the foundation is also active in Israel in a number of social welfare spheres.

Peres also engaged in public diplomacy to explain Israel’s case to the Indian media.

■ Anyone who was watching Channel 10 after midnight Tuesday saw rare footage of then-chief of staff Rabin just after the victory of the Six Day War, reviewing the three wars Israel had fought in her first 19 years of statehood.

He was obviously nervous in front of the camera; his eyes darted all over the place, as if seeking approval from someone in the studio – probably his wife, Leah, who was his most honest critic – and he made grammatical mistakes.

The footage, discovered in the Educational Channel’s archives, had never been previously broadcast; according to the mini-discussion in the Channel 10 studio, it was presumably because the content didn’t live up to the myth of the man. Rabin would not be the first or the last great man to have flaws in his makeup. If anything, it proved he was human and not a robot programmed for leadership.

■ In the days when Channel 1 was known as Israel Television and had no commercial competition, Friday night was family night for the screening of full-length feature films.

Once it had competition and changed its name to Channel 1, the public broadcasting channel had little choice but to follow the trends of its rivals.

So for several years now, there have been no Friday night movies, and no reason for parents to persuade teenage offspring to stay home and join them in watching Friday night TV.

But what goes around comes around, and Channel 1 is reintroducing the Friday night movie this coming Friday, November 7, and every Friday for the rest of the month. The films will also be screened on Yes HD and Hot at 10 p.m.

All the movies being screened during November will be fast-paced action thrillers, beginning with Olympus Has Fallen, about a terrorist gaining access to the White House Secret Service code; and followed in coming weeks by The Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic neo-Western starring Denzel Washington; District 9, about extraterrestrials forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth who suddenly find a kindred spirit in a government agent who has been exposed to their biotechnology; and Snitch, about the father of a teenage son who is wrongly accused of a crime.

■ Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, who was the guest of honor at a breakfast meeting at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, said that one of the reasons he was very pleased to be there was because it afforded him the opportunity to meet with fellow countryman and historian Yehuda Bauer, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on Holocaust history.

Indeed, ICFR director Laurence Weinbaum described Bauer as “a national treasure.”

Also in attendance were several past and present diplomats, including Mordechai Palzur, the first Israeli diplomat to enter Czechoslovakia after the 1967 severance of diplomatic relations; and Yosef Govrin, who served in various diplomatic posts in Eastern and Central Europe and has written extensively on Israel’s ties with these countries. Weinbaum credited him with having written a weighty book of several hundred pages on the subject while hardly using the word "I."

Among the current diplomats was Ambassador to Prague Gary Koren.

Zaorálek is preparing for the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which will begin on November 17 and will continue over the coming months. One of the guests of honor will be Czech-born former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who discovered as an adult that she had been born Jewish, and that her parents had converted when she was an infant. Albright, who was the first woman to be appointed secretary of state, recently tweeted: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

■ Operation Protective Edge forced the rescheduling or cancellation of many summer events, including the 50th anniversary of the re-interment of Revisionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who passed away in New York in August 1940. In his will, Jabotinsky stated he did not want his remains to be transferred to Israel until such time as there was a Jewish state. While founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion felt no compunction towards honoring Jabotinsky’s last will and testament, Levi Eshkol was much more inclined to do so and in July 1964, had the remains of Jabotinsky and his wife, Johanna, brought to Israel and re-interred on Mount Herzl.

The Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv commemorated the occasion on Thursday night, with the participation among others of Jabotinsky’s grandson of the same name; and historian Ami Gluska, who has written extensively about Eshkol.

■ It's par for the course that Israel’s first and so far only Waldorf Astoria hotel, whose very name evokes the concept of luxury, should be managed by an Israeli – namely Guy Klaiman.

What would appear to be less likely is that the chain’s flagship hotel, the New York Waldorf Astoria – recently sold by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. to the Chinese Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion, with an agreement that Hilton will continue to manage the hotel for the next 100 years – also has an Israeli general manager.

This is in the person of Ronen Nissenbaum, formerly CEO of the Plaza Group, when New York City’s famed Plaza Hotel was owned by Yitzhak Tshuva’s El-Ad Group. Nissenbaum, who grew up in Beit Yitzhak and was once manager of the David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv, has an excellent reputation in the global hospitality and entertainment business; he took over his current position at the end of June.

He is not the first Israeli to manage the Waldorf Astoria. That honor belongs to Alon Ben-Gurion, a grandson of the prime minister, who managed the Waldorf Astoria for seven years from 1997 to 2004.

■ Women as CEOs or in other high-ranking positions are becoming quite commonplace.

But unfortunately, though women in decision- making positions have proved their mettle – with two women sitting at the top of the totem pole at the Bank of Israel, and women heading Bank Leumi and the First International Bank, not to mention two political parties, Ben-Gurion University and various colleges, plus several industrial concerns – women are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, and are still forced to make choices between careers and motherhood.

A day-long women’s conference on income and careers to discuss these and other issues will be held at the Holon Mediatheque on Monday, November 10, with the participation of Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat; Ayala Hasson, the first female head of Channel 1’s news division; and several other well-known women from the spheres of law, media, commerce and the arts.

■ One area in which women distinguished themselves even before the suffragette movement was literature. Israel boasts quite a long list of acclaimed women writers, not the least of whom is kibbutz-born and Jerusalem-based Zeruya Shalev, the survivor of a terrorist attack, who has just been awarded France’s prestigious Femina Prize for literature in the category of foreign writers for her novel, The Remains of Love. The plot is about a woman who had a demanding father, was trapped in a loveless marriage and loved one of her two children much more than the other.

Created in 1904 by 22 women writers of the magazine La Vie heurese, currently known as Femina, the prize was a protest response to the fact that women were overlooked when prizewinners were decided. The Prix Femina is awarded to both men and women, but the jury that decides on the winners is exclusively female, and announces the winners each year on the first Wednesday of November.

Shalev is not the first Israeli to be awarded the prize; Amos Oz received it in 1988 for his book Black Box.

■ There's a popular Jewish myth which says that when two Jews meet and find they’re not related, it’s only because they haven’t been talking long enough.

But now there’s a more efficient way of establishing a relationship – through DNA testing. Such tests do not provide information on the exact identities of kinfolk, but certainly provide a guideline for tracing ancestry and relatives around the world. DNA testing, though still relatively expensive, has for a long time been commonplace in proving or disproving paternity. But it goes far beyond that in linking Jews who may be closely or distantly related.

Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA, will shed a little light on the subject when he delivers a lecture in English on “DNA of the Jewish People,” taking into account Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Anousim (secret or genetic Jews), at Netanya Academic College on Wednesday, November 12, at 11 a.m.

■ In many  of the lands of their dispersion, Jews entered into the rag trade. Many were illiterate, but knew how to thread a needle, draw a silhouette and cut the shape to fit.

Some rose from anonymity to become international brand-name icons. Some became famous only in their home countries, and some created empires in which their offspring achieved fame and fortune.

Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, which seems to be falling over itself in the frequency of its desire to present a fascinating kaleidoscope of the Jewish world, is hosting a new exhibition this month under the title “Dream Weavers,” featuring local and international household names in the fashion business. Some are offspring of parents who worked in sweatshops; what they have in common beyond the fashion industry is that they are all Jewish.

It comes at an interesting time, in that this group exhibition – which opens to the public on November 18 – features contemporary creations, while at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum there is a continuing exhibition of the “Jewish Dress Code,” which displays clothing from other eras.

The Jewish preoccupation with clothing goes back to biblical times, with the Bible giving explicit instructions on how the high priest should be attired. In the Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, women are told not to wear men’s clothing and men are told not to wear women’s clothing. Moreover, women are instructed to wear sleeves that reach below the elbow, and to observe modesty with regard to necklines and hemlines.

Weaving flax and wool together is a Jewish no-no handed down from the Torah. Furthermore, in certain countries over the centuries, Jews were forced to wear certain garments that would distinguish them from the mainstream.

Small wonder that so many tailors and seamstresses exist in our midst.

The popular joke during the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union was that each new immigrant was a musician, because so many emerged from the plane carrying a violin or some other musical instrument. But the truth is that there were also a lot of Russian tailors and seamstresses who opened repair stores all over Israel. Many are highly talented craftspeople who not only repair clothes, but design garments and sew them together.

They are not featured in the exhibition, but it should be remembered that those who are were not born with a golden thimble – though some did indeed come from affluent backgrounds. Exhibits include inter alia creations by Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Alber Elbaz, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Sonia Rykiel, Diane von Furstenberg and Ilana Goor. The exhibition presents the fashion world’s greatest success stories, and the trajectories followed by traditional Jewish tailors; the creations range from ready-to-wear outfits to haute couture, and together represent collective dreams.

Exhibition curator Shelly Verthime quotes Lauren, who said: “I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.” Another quote comes from Israeli success story Elbaz, who for several years has been artistic director at Lanvin in Paris, after having previously worked for other leading fashion houses in Paris and New York, but never forgets his friends from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Elbaz says: “I design from my heart, making the fantasy, the dream, into a reality.”

Dream Weavers, as the name suggests, is an exhibition about the creators and trendsetters of fashion, who thread stories and weave dreams.

■ If all goes according to plan, and there are no Knesset elections prior to the end of March 2015, the number of female legislators will be increased from 27 to 29 – still disproportionate to the number of women voters in the electorate, but a definite improvement over previous years.

The distaff side of the Knesset will be enhanced by Ronit Tirosh and Nabila Espanioly, who will join Michal Biran, Merav Michaeli, Stav Shaffir and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor); Ruth Calderon, Karin Elharar, Rina Frenkel, Yael German, Yifat Kariv, Adi Kol, Aliza Lavie and Penina Tamnu-Shata (Yesh Atid); Zehava Gal-On, Michal Roisin and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz); Gila Gamliel, Tzipi Hotovely, Limor Livnat and Miri Regev (Likud); Fania Kirschenbaum, Sofa Landver and Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu); Tzipi Livni (Hatnua); Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, Ayelet Shaked and Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi); and Haneen Zoabi (Balad).

Kadima’s Yisrael Hasson will leave the Knesset if his appointment as director of the Antiquities Authority is approved by the Civil Service Commission and the cabinet. Hasson was recommended for the post by Culture and Sport Minister Livnat, and has been approved by the authority’s board.

Last week Muhammad Barakei, who chairs the left-wing Hadash party, announced he would be stepping down from the Knesset after 15 years as a legislator in order to make room for a woman. He has chosen March 8, International Women’s Day, as the date of his retirement and Espanioly’s entry into the Knesset.

A psychologist who has been active in the feminist movement both within the Arab world and the wider community, Espanioly is fifth on the party list. She is a co-founder of Mossawa – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel.

■ The Israel Broadcasting Authority has changed its letterhead, adding the words “in liquidation” in brackets after the word “Authority.” It was publicized that there would be no changes in personnel during the liquidation period, but apparently this no longer holds true. New people have been taken on, and there has also been a considerable amount of personnel moved from one position to another.

This is the case especially in the Channel 1 news division, where Daniel Ophir has been appointed Knesset correspondent alongside political correspondent Boaz Shapira; while Itzik Zoaretz has transferred from Walla to become Channel 1’s man in the South, replacing Vico Atuan, who is now the channel’s coordinator of news reporters. Eliran Tal, who was previously the reporter for the North, has been promoted to military correspondent, working alongside military commentator Amir Bar-Shalom. Anat Sharan, who has been the weekend news editor for the past 11 years, has been moved to editing special reports and been replaced in her previous role by Noa Barak. Dudi Nissim has been promoted from police reporter in Tel Aviv to economics reporter alongside Oded Shahar, and has been replaced on the police beat by Sheli Tapiaru... and that’s just a short list.

■ Apropos the IBA, it is one of those unfortunate examples of how one man can make a difference. Outgoing Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who is taking over as interior minister, is doing so with the proviso that he will continue to be in charge of public broadcasting reforms – namely the demise of the IBA and the possible creation of a more streamlined public broadcasting service.

Meanwhile, he has also forced Keshet and Reshet to set up separate channels that will broadcast seven days a week instead of sharing airtime on Channel 2; each will maintain its own news corporation. Both Keshet and Reshet are less than enthusiastic about the idea, because their expenses will shoot up and their profits will sink down. With a strong possibility that there will not be an extension of the franchise of debt-ridden Channel 10, which also suffers from low ratings even though it has some excellent programs, Erdan wants to ensure there will be a degree of competition in commercial television.

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