Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is on a two-week trip to Japan and Vietnam, which is a relatively long time to be away from home from husband, Or Alon, and one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Mayan. The solution was to make it a family affair whereby Hotovely would attend to bilateral relations throughout the day and family relations in the evening.
In case any reader may be wondering, only the deputy minister traveled at the expense of the public purse, and actually saved tax payers some money by not traveling business class, although her position entitles her to such. But as her husband and daughter were traveling economy class, she decided to do the same so they could all be together. Of course she could not have foreseen the catastrophe in the Japanese stock exchange. Even though that produced many glum faces in the Land of the Rising Sun, it did not affect the purpose of her visit, which was to strengthen ties between Israel and Japan. The two countries established diplomatic ties in May 1952, but it took another three years before Japan sent a minister plenipotentiary to Israel.
Even though Japan was included in an oil embargo imposed by Arab states on countries that had diplomatic links with Israel, Japan did not yield and did not sever its ties with the Jewish state.
■ ACTRESS, PRODUCER and model Noa Tishby, who is on a frequent commute between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv is well on the way to changing her status and becoming a first time mother. The ultrasound indicates that there’s a little boy in there waiting to conquer the world, and although the baby’s father would not pass a halachic test, the mother has publicly stated that her son is going to be raised Jewish. She celebrated her 40th birthday in Tel Aviv a couple of months back by hosting a panel discussion on Zionism, Judaism, Israel and the future. Some time before that, the politically ardent and involved Tishby launched an online pro-Israel advocacy organization Act for Israel. Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman, who is also an advocate for Israel, chose a non-Jewish father for her child and likewise insisted that her son would be raised Jewish.
There was also a Jewish component in her marriage.
■ ANYONE WHO has not experienced a Sephardi celebration does not know what true joy is all about, regardless of whether it’s a wedding, a bar mitzva or a brit mila. That was definitely the case at the circumcision ceremony of Itai Ben-Ano, the son of Hana and Alon Ben-Ano. Itai’s mother is the chief graphic artist at The Jerusalem Post and colleagues from all departments of the paper came to join in the festivities at the Yehuda Hotel in the capital, where they feasted at a pre-circumcision reception on the patio and then again on a festive dinner in the banquet hall after the ceremony. It had been presided over by Rabbi Shai Oved, who in addition to expertly performing the circumcision, with minimal noise from Itai, took on the role of teacher and entertainer, explaining the meaning of most of the blessings and leading the chorus of singing them. With so many people happily singing this child into the world and into the Jewish faith with blessings for success, happiness, health, prosperity, integrity and so on, he’s well equipped for the future.
Coincidentally, the patio overlooked a garden area in which a bridal canopy had been prepared and under which Jewish bridegrooms recite Psalm 137, If I forget thee O Jerusalem, was recited by Alon Ben-Ano at Oved’s urging.
“We have to remember Jerusalem at every simha [happy occasion],” said Oved, who also said at the start of the ceremony that God had decreed that the world could not do without this baby. “Every person born has a role.”
Some of the American immigrant guests were surprised to be at an afternoon circumcision ceremony and to be feasting on meat. Back in the US they said, it’s usually an early morning affair with bagels, cream cheese and lox.
■ BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY is basking in the glory of one of its faculty members, Prof. Susan Rothstein of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics, has been awarded the prestigious Humboldt Research Award (Humboldt-Forschungspreis) of Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
The prize, granted in recognition of a researcher’s entire achievements, is awarded to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting- edge achievements in the future.
Rothstein is a widely recognized international authority in formal linguistics, focusing on semantics and the syntax- semantics interface.
“Our understanding of the nature of predication and of the crosslinguistic realization of aspectual distinctions substantially rests on her work,” read the laudation presented to her at the conferment ceremony in Bamberg, Germany.
Humboldt Foundation award winners are invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a longterm research project with specialist colleagues at a research facility in Germany.
During her stay in Germany, Rothstein will be hosted by Prof. Gerhard Jäger at the University of Tübingen, where she will pursue a number of projects on the semantics of aspect, including a book project on the semantics of event structures from crosslinguistic and algebraic perspectives in collaboration with her husband, Prof. Fred Landman, of Tel Aviv University, who is also a Humboldt Research Award winner.
British-born Rothstein, with a bachelor’s degree from Oxford University and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has focused her research on the semantic expression of counting and measuring, noun phrase structure, event semantics from a theoretical and crosslinguistic perspective. She joined Bar-Ilan as a lecturer in 1985 following two years as assistant professor of linguistics at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Today she is professor of theoretical linguistics and a fellow at Bar-Ilan’s The Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center. She has twice been chairwoman of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics, and from 2014/15 was the university commissioner for the prevention of sexual harassment. She has taught as a guest lecturer in Brazil, the Netherlands (Leiden University), the United States (Cornell University) and France (L’Université de Paris), and is the author of two books. In addition, she has edited four books and published dozens of papers in prestigious academic journals. Her third book, Semantics for Counting and Measuring is scheduled to appear under the imprint of Cambridge University Press in 2016.
■ WHEN SHE sang to a crowd of some 12,000 fans at the Rishon Lezion Amphitheater last week, the audience included many of Israel’s own singing stars, but not all of them got to meet Mariah Carey backstage before the show. Someone who did was the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, who had hosted Carey and her significant other, Australian billionaire James Packer, to dinner during an earlier visit this year. Carey, who has said that no political pressure was used to dissuade her from appearing in Israel, and that she didn’t allow politics to intrude on her life as an entertainer, must have nonetheless angered those of her fans abroad who are part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement when she paid a visit to SodaStream in Lehavim last Thursday. It transpires that the pop diva is very fond of it and has a SodaStream appliance in her home.
Notwithstanding BDS, SodaStream has Palestinians and Beduin among its 900 employees as well as Jews, and most of them remained beyond their shifts in order to welcome Carey and applaud her. Some were even able to pose for pictures with her and others snapped photos of her. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum took Carey on a tour of the plant and presented her with new appliances for her and her children. SodaStream is not the only Israeli brand name product in Carey’s possession. She’s also enamored with the creations of fashion designer Alon Livne and wore one of his eye catching gowns while in Israel. She gave him credit in a photo on her website and of course Livne was bowled over and said so on his website. But there’s more.
While in Israel, Carey needed an emergency hairdo and makeup refresher and Miki Buganim, who is the makeup man and hairdresser to the stars and the fashion industry was called to the rescue. After leaving Israel, Carey went to Ibiza for a brief vacation with Packer. Coincidentally, Buganim also headed for Ibiza for a summer holiday. When Carey heard that he was in town, she called on his services once again.
■ ZIONIST UNION MK Merav Michaeli was among the speakers at an unusual memorial tribute on Saturday night, when several hundred placard bearing demonstrators congregated a short distance away from a well-known brothel at 98 Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv to honor a practitioner of the world’s oldest profession, who unable to bear the pain and indignity, had committed suicide the previous week. The original intention had been to congregate directly opposite the brothel, but police refused to give permission. Despite the rivalry for tricks, or more accurately for a means of income, there is a strong camaraderie among prostitutes who tend to look out for each other and after each other. Thus when Jessica (not her real name) took her life, they banded together to organize a protest memorial for her and advertised it on Facebook and in the Hebrew press. Michaeli said that no one actually chooses to be a prostitute, asking men in the crowd not to become clients, adding that she would press for tighter legislation to discourage men from frequenting brothels, and for the rehabilitation of prostitutes who for whatever reason were unable to turn their backs on the profession. Poet Marva Zohar dedicated a poem as a legacy that Michaeli published on her own Facebook page.
The poem is much more powerful in Hebrew than in translation, and reads: “Some man says to me ‘I’ll buy you. How much?’ Follows me to the end of the street and into a store.
‘I’ll buy you, how much’ ‘I’m not for sale at the moment. I’m not, but someone else is. I’m not for sale at the moment – not now, but maybe another time. Try me again in winter when the roof will protect me from the water of the rain. Try me again. It will all pass.’ Meanwhile everyone is so polite. Look, they even gave me a permit to enter a Knesset committee.
They allowed me to speak. They allowed me to recount.... And I said ‘It’s only a matter of time till the next funeral. Tell me slowly, so I’ll understand.’ ‘At the moment there’s no budget. Now we have to worry about peace and security.’” In October, 2006, the Knesset unanimously passed a bill to strengthen and broaden legislation against human trafficking. The bill was drafted by Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On who at the time headed the Knesset subcommittee on human trafficking and who continues to devote many of her energies to enabling the rehabilitation process of prostitutes who want to start anew and lead a normal life. At that time, nongovernmental organizations estimated that there were some 15,000 victims of human trafficking in Israel.
Despite tougher laws human trafficking continues and over a nine-year period, the number of victims has increased considerably. Jessica was one of several prostitutes whose exit from the profession was facilitated only by death. This week, the police closed down the brothel that had been her home.
■ MEA CULPA. In last Wednesday’s “Grapevine,” the item on the documentary Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace that will be screened Thursday at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People named New York real estate tycoon Leon Charney as the producer. When the film was being made, the Israeli producer on the team was Jerusalem- born Vered Kollek-Meisel, who is married to award winning American global media consultant, producer, director and general manager of emerging media centers around the world, Farrell Meisel. He is currently stationed in Baku where he is managing director of the Azerbaijan International Film Company, while Kollek-Meisel remains in their home in Southern California.
Back Door Channels was selected to open the 2009 Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monaco. At that time, there was no mention of Charney’s name in the credits. The producers were listed as Matthew Tollin, Donald Stansell and Arick Wierson, of Channel Production Films, along with Vered Kollek-Meisel, and Harry Hunkele as director. Kollek-Meisel, who was responsible for lining up most of the dignitaries who appeared the film, and who knew most of them especially the Israelis – personally due to her family and own professional connections, kept asking about the funding for the production and was consistently fobbed off. It was not until the film was completed and edited that she learned that Charney was the key angel who together with a group of other affluent people had supplied the $1.85 million budget.
Charney appears briefly in a YouTube trailer released prior to the New York premier of the film, but Kollek-Meisel, the other producers and the director appear on the web in photos taken during production as well as with Albert II, prince of Monaco, in Monte Carlo.
■ IN POLITICS, especially Israeli politics, it’s not uncommon for bitter rivals to at least temporarily bury the hatchet and to form an alliance. Proof of this can be seen in the composition of the current government coalition as well as in preceding coalitions.
So it is not at all surprising, that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Moshe Lion his rival in the last mayoral elections have struck a deal whereby Lion has moved from the opposition to Barkat’s Yerushalyim Tatzliah (Jerusalem will succeed) coalition.
The two men previously worked well together when Lion headed the Jerusalem Development Authority, but traded barbs during their mayoral election campaigns.
Prior to becoming a candidate, Lion did not live in Jerusalem, and took up temporary residence in order to be eligible to run in the mayoral race.
Barkat and his people kept saying that after the elections Lion would move back to his home in Givatayim, but Lion insisted that he was in Jerusalem to stay, and indeed acquired a permanent residence in the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood. Barkat has previously had an on and off political romance with Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, so it’s not surprising that he made an overture to Lion. And it certainly doesn’t hurt him to have someone who is religiously observant on his team. On the other hand, Barkat, who is secular himself, has incurred the anger of owners and managers of mini markets and supermarkets that are open on Shabbat and are under threat of closure. The threat does not apply to Arab enterprises, though the issue may be dicey in the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood of Abu Tor where a Hebron Road mini market is under Arab management, but is actually surrounded by Jewish residents. If it is allowed to remain open on Shabbat, it will be a form of reverse discrimination, in that the proprietors of this store will be able to increase their earnings, while the Jewish proprietors who do business from tourists on Shabbat will lose out.
■ ICONOCLASTIC SATIRIST Lior Schleien, the host and main script writer for the popular Channel 10 program Gav Hauma, (Back of the Nation) that slaughters all of the nation’s holy cows, defended himself on Saturday night against charges leveled against him by ultra-Orthodox MKs Meir Porush and Yisrael Eichler, who claim that Schleien is denigrating the haredi community.
Porush told the haredi online news service Behadrey Haredim that what Schleien says is a shameful insult to the whole of Israel. Eichler accused Schleien of incitement aimed at physical assault on haredim for the purpose of blocking those who want to strengthen their religious beliefs and practices. Schleien, a self-confessed atheist, pointed out that he had never engaged in name calling against haredim. He had nothing against haredim if all they wanted to do was to be devoutly religious, he said, but he was against religious coercion and the control that the rabbinate has over the lives of individuals. It was the role of a satirist he stated, to spoof the injustices in the system so that people would sit up and take notice.
■ IN OTHER Channel 10 news, late night news and actuality presenter Guy Zohar, who is the master of strange body language and weird facial expressions was at the end of last week reportedly moving to Channel 2 where he was negotiating to present a similar program, but possibly with a little less gimmickry.
All the late night news presenters on channel 10 look as if they’ve been choreographed at best or are cloned robots at worst. Maybe, if he had proceeded to Channel 2 as planned Zohar would have had the opportunity to return to his normal self. But over the weekend Channel 10 CEO Yossi Varshavsky persuaded Zohar to remain at Channel 10 with which he has been identified for the past 14 years.
Curiously Gav Hauma previously known as Matzav Hauma (The state of the nation) went from Channel 2 to Channel 10. And one last word about Channel 10, which not so long ago was on the verge of closing due to heavy debts and lack of funding, is being super generous at this time of the year. Employees will get a lot more than a bottle of wine or a symbolic gift voucher for Rosh Hashana.
In celebration of the fact that news of Channel 10’s demise was at least 15 years premature, Varshavsky is being more than expansive with Rosh Hashana gifts for members of staff.
■ AMONG THE most common colors in national flags are red, green, navy blue and white. The Israeli flag has some of the white, but none of the other three. Like the Greek flag, its dominant color is a brilliant sky blue, though not necessarily for the same reason. Blue, albeit not the blue of the flag, is an extremely important color in Jewish tradition dating back to biblical times. Tekhelet, which translates as blue or turquoise is mentioned 49 times in the Bible and was included in the garments of the high priest and in the ritual fringes (tzitzit).The ritual blue remained an enigma for centuries until it was discovered in the hilazon sea snail by Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner, known as the Radziner rebbe, and Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog, the first chief rabbi of Israel. Additional research has taken place in recent years, and the ancient dye has been restored with the help of technology.
Ptil Tekhelet, an Israeli nonprofit that promotes, educates and produces authentic tekhelet (blue-dyed fringes for the fulfillment of the biblical commandment of tzitzit), has been providing up to 10 tallitot (prayer shawls) per month to engaged couples since the beginning of the Hebrew calendar month of Elul and will continue to do so for another six months. Generally speaking, among the wedding gifts provided by the bride or the bride’s family is a prayer shawl for the bridegroom. But thanks to Ptil Tekhelet, some brides will not have this expense. The winners of prayer shawls are drawn from a raffle. Engaged couples can enter the draw by sending their wedding invitations to Ptil Tekhelet at info@ tekhelet.com. Ten winners will be selected each month for receipt of a free wedding tallit tied with tekhelet.
“As these young people enter into marriage, it is fitting that they usher in their new life by donning something at once so ancient and so new as the tekhelet strings. It’s the perfect metaphor for marriage itself,” says Dr. Ari Greenspan, chairman of Ptil Tekhelet.