During his lightning solidarity visit to Israel, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with Chemi Peres, chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and told him that every Sunday in the Big Apple throughout the month of June will be called Shimon Peres Day, as a fitting tribute to the legacy of Israel’s ninth president.
The people of New York are proud to participate in something like that, said Cuomo.
Chemi Peres said that it was extremely moving to know that such an honor was being bestowed on his late father.
In the Shimon Peres Day Proclamation that Cuomo presented to Chemi Peres, it states: “Whereas New York is home to more than 1.7 million Jews – the largest Jewish community outside of Israel in the world – and always had a special relationship with Israel, and president Peres served as a tremendous ally in promoting and strengthening the bond....”
■ LAST WEEK, when he learned of the death of legendary photographer David Rubinger, Chemi Peres recalled that there were several Rubinger photographs in the Peres family album, and a quick search revealed a happy moment for Peres’s parents, Sonia and Shimon, and another showed Shimon Peres asleep in a deck chair by the pool of the King David Hotel.
Rubinger was famous for catching his subjects in unguarded moments, and even in his 90s never went anywhere without his Leica.
Still working till the end of his days, albeit no longer chasing news stories, Rubinger was involved in two important projects at the time of his death. He was working with the Government Press Office on its National Photo Collection, and he was also the mentor for a photo contest for photos of Jerusalem taken anywhere in the city at any time. As far as the GPO was concerned, “We considered him family,” said GPO director Nitzan Chen.
■ FRENCH-AMERICAN producer, director, screenwriter and actor Philippe Martinez, a former president of the famed Odeon Theater in Marseilles, which is one of the largest in Europe, was the guest of honor at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot, at a wide-ranging discussion on the rights of women in Israel and around the world. He was greeted by the center’s founder and CEO, Ofra Elul, its president, Prof. Ron Shapira, and its dean of behavioral sciences, Prof. Malka Margalit.
Martinez, who has an impressive list of film credits to his name, spoke about his latest film, of which he is a co-producer. Finding Soraya, directed by Najia Khaan, deals extensively and in a universal context with women’s rights.
The event also included a women’s panel, moderated by television personality Dana Weiss, in which Deputy Foreign Minister Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, clinical psychologist Dr. Michal Einav, Buba Levi from Kol Hanashi, an advocacy group for single mothers, and mental health expert Osnat Vaturi participated.
Recalling conversations with Shimon Peres, Weiss said that Peres had often stated that the future of the Middle East depends on the freedom and education given to its women.
Hotovely emphasized the importance of education toward equality from the earliest possible age, and also noted that even now, when women are reaching the highest ranks in almost every field, there is still a wage gap instead of equal pay for equal work.
■ WHEN HE officiated at the wedding last week of Asael Shabo and Saray Cohen and recited the Shehehiyanu prayer, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this time,” it had far greater meaning for Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and former chief rabbi of the State of Israel, than at most other weddings, with the possible exception of the one he attended earlier last month in which the bride was his granddaughter Yael.
The groom in the more recent wedding was the child survivor of a terrorist attack, in which his mother and three of his siblings were murdered. Lau is a child survivor of the Holocaust, with a large family of children and grandchildren who would not have been born had he not survived. Similarly, newlyweds Shabo and Cohen will build a home and a family in Israel.
Amid all the joy that accompanies a wedding, there were many tears, as people remembered what the Shabo family had endured. In June 2002, when a terrorist invaded the Shabo family home in Itamar, he murdered Rachel Shabo, 40, and three of her children. Asael, who had also been shot, played dead, which is how he was saved. He was nine years old.
The terrorist who infiltrated the settlement shot in all directions before firing at the Shabo family. He shot Rachel Shabo in the back; then he shot Avishai, five, Zvika, 13, and Neria, 16, as well as a neighbor, Yosef Twito, who came to help them. Asael and his 13-year-old sister, Avia, were wounded, Asael more so than Avia. He had three bullets in his leg as well as shrapnel. Doctors tried to save the leg, but couldn’t and in the long run had no choice but to amputate.
Despite the loss of a leg, Asael became an athlete, a champion basketball player and swimmer and represented Israel in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Among those who recited one of the seven blessings under the bridal canopy was M, a border policeman who rescued Asael from the carnage, but whose name still remains classified.
At the time of the attack, Boaz Shabo, the father of the family, was not at home, nor were the two eldest children, Yariv, 17 and Atara, 15. The Shabos were among the founders of Itamar.
Seeking to rehabilitate what remained of his family, Boaz Shabo remarried six years after the tragedy. His new wife, Hila Susan, had five children of her own. Together, in 2009, they produced a set of triplets. The family lives in Kedumim.
Three years ago, Avia married her stepbrother David Susan. Very soon after the two families became one, a very close bond developed between Avia and David, and no one was surprised when they decided to get married.
Last year, while attending the Israeli Final Four basketball semifinal between Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Eilat at the Jerusalem Arena, Asael publicly proposed to Saray and presented her with an engagement ring, to the cheers of the crowd. Although they had been going steady for some time, Saray had no idea that Asael was going to propose, and as she accepted, tears of joy washed her cheeks. At her wedding, she was all smiles.
■ THE GOVERNMENT is finally waking up to the appalling conditions under which the mentally ill are kept under lock and key, and the cruel treatment to which senior citizens are subjected in certain nursing homes. The government might still be oblivious or derelict in its duty, were it not for Israel Radio’s Keren Neubach and Israel Hayom health reporter Ran Reznick, who for months have been pursuing both issues and broadcasting ongoing revelations of the mistreatment of patients in facilities for the mentally ill as well as those in homes for senior citizens.
Patients in both are abused, put in solitary confinement not just for days, weeks or months, but for years, and if they “misbehave” they are denied visitations by their families. When they beg to be allowed to go to the toilet, their cries fall on deaf ears, and they have no option but to answer calls of nature in the beds to which they are strapped. Because they are locked away, the general public does not spare any thought for the inhuman conditions to which they are subjected or the fact that they are deprived of basic rights.
Still, it’s unlikely that either Neubach or Resnick will be nominated for the Israel Prize which they richly deserve.
■ DURING THE period leading up to International Women’s Day and in the immediate aftermath, the volume of publicity given to women achievers in almost every field of endeavor makes one doubt that there ever was a glass ceiling, or alternately, makes one realize that the glass ceiling has been smashed to smithereens.
Emunah, the religious Zionist Women’s Organization, chose as its Woman of the Year Frumit Cohen, a lawyer by training and in charge of human resources for the Prisons Service, which means that she is responsible for some 9,000 people. She will be officially recognized as woman of the year at an official ceremony on March 15.
She has worked with the Prisons Service for 22 years, during which time she has held a number of different positions. She also works for the benefit of prisoners to help them find their places in society once they are released from prison. Notwithstanding the complexities of her job, when anyone comes to her with a problem, she is unfailingly supportive.
Raised in Ramat Gan in a staunchly religious Zionist family, Cohen, 46, a mother of five and a grandmother of two, now lives in Nof Ayalon. She earned her law degree at Bar-Ilan University. The Emunah Woman of the Year is chosen by a public committee headed by Emunah chairwoman Liora Minka. As has happened every year for the past decade, the committee received numerous nominations that included extremely outstanding women in their respective fields, but Cohen proved to be the most outstanding.
■ FOR MUCH too long, Holocaust survivors in Israel have been cheated of their rights – more often than not because they were not fully aware of their entitlements. Now, those who are left may have a chance to get what is due to them.
Holocaust survivors, social workers and representatives of organizations working on behalf of Holocaust survivors are invited to attend a conference taking place at Kfar Hamaccabiah in Ramat Gan on Tuesday, March 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The conference is jointly sponsored by the Claims Conference, the Authority for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors, the Center for Holocaust Survivors Organizations in Israel and the Social Equality Ministry.
Speakers will include Colette Avital, who chairs the Center of Holocaust Organizations; Ofra Ross, the CEO of the Authority for the Rights of Holocaust Survivors, and Udi Mozes, legal adviser to the Israel branch of the Claims Conference.
■ HOLLYWOOD MOVIE star Richard Gere, who came to Israel for the premiere of Norman, the most recent film by acclaimed director Joseph Cedar, is also a political activist who may anger some right-wing politicians in Israel.
According to an interview that he gave to Yediot Aharonot’s Tzipi Shmilovitz, Gere intends to meet with various political figures, including the leadership of Breaking the Silence. The occupation has to end and Jerusalem should be the capital of two nations, Gere told his interviewer.
On his previous visits to Israel, he said, he had listened to opinions from all sides, but now the situation has become almost intolerable.
“The occupation is destroying everyone from both sides, and a binational state will not solve anything. It will only lead Israel to apartheid.” There must be two states for two peoples, with Jerusalem as the capital of both, he said.
■ SIMILAR THOUGHTS were expressed on Monday by Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List in the Knesset. At a meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem with members of the Foreign Press Association, Odeh also warned of the dangers of apartheid and the increase in settlements, unless the two-state solution is implemented.
After voicing his support for Palestinian aspirations for self-determination, Odeh was also asked his views about Hezbollah. Most people are against Hezbollah, he said. “Do you think I could live under the fundamentalism of Hezbollah? Do you think my secular wife, who is a gynecologist, could live under Hezbollah?” The soft-spoken and amazingly candid Odeh was very well received by his audience, and his popularity was enhanced by the fact that unlike most other guests of the FPA, both Israeli and Palestinian, his was not a hit-andrun affair. Crowded by journalists who wanted to ask him more questions after the official lecture and Q&A session had concluded, Odeh stayed behind and patiently satisfied the curiosity of all.
By the way, the fact that he identifies with the Palestinian struggle has no bearing on his views about Jewish rights to self-determination in the territory shared by Jews and Palestinians.
In his view, there is room for both to be sovereign nations.
■ CULTURE, HUMOR, gastronomy, nature tours and rabbis in residence are some of the attractions being marketed by hotels to lure domestic tourism. The idea of going away for the weekend simply to relax is fast becoming obsolete. The weekend often begins on a Thursday and runs through Friday and Saturday, with checkout on Saturday night soon after the conclusion of the Sabbath.
At the Ye’arim hotel located at Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hahamisha in the Judean Hills, they’ve really gone overboard this weekend, meaning from March 9 to 11, inclusive.
Billed as a weekend of humor and laughter, it includes Rivka Michaeli, Roni Weiss, Rafi Shragai, Rubik Rosenthal, Dudi Ben Zeev and Tami Sirkis, with subject matter that includes cabaret, humor in movies, the complexities of modern Hebrew and standup culinary comedy. Taking into account the identities of the above, it’s going to be a real nostalgia kick.
■ ON THE subject of nostalgia, last week Zemereshet, a voluntary enterprise dedicated to the preservation of pre-state and early state Hebrew songs, last week paid tribute to Israel Prize laureate composer, pianist and lyricist Moshe Wilensky on the 20th anniversary of his passing. The tribute would have been more appropriate in January, but better late than never.
The auditorium at the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem was packed, mostly with senior citizens who were paying much more for a ticket than many senior citizens can afford, but they had the time of their lives singing Wilensky’s marvelous tunes, many of which were composed by Natan Alterman.
Classically trained at the Fryderik Chopin University of Music, also known as the Warsaw Conservatory, the Warsaw-born Wilensky, who came to Tel Aviv in 1932, was shown in a film clip in which he said that when he arrived in the country, the people were very serious and expected him to compose serious music.
They were disappointed that he opted to compose lighthearted tunes. But he wanted his music to be sung – not only by professionals but by people who simply came together to sing. Had he written symphonies, he said, they would have remained in a drawer and no one would ever have heard them.
Leading the community singing was Noga Eshed, who is not exactly a spring chicken herself, but who plays guitar and has a wonderfully flexible voice – at times sounding almost like Shoshana Damari.
Film clips were also shown of Damari at the peak of her career – beautiful to look at, impressive and charismatic in her dramatic caftan.
Coming up in the Zemereshet programs is a memorial sing-along for Netiva Ben-Yehuda on the sixth anniversary of her death. The event will take place at her graveside on March 24 at 11 a.m. at Klil in the Western Galilee, east of Nahariya and close to the Arab villages of Kafr Yasif and Yanuh-Jatt. The event will not take place if it rains.
Claude Buchbinder, producer of Ben-Yehuda’s late-night radio programs, Raya Admoni, the program editor in recent years, and Dalia Horesh, who was the editor of most of the programs, were all present at the Wilensky memorial tribute.
Ben-Yehuda was an author and broadcaster who appealed particularly to the generation of the Palmah, playing their songs and recalling their history. Despite the fact that she didn’t have a radiophonic voice, was often forgetful and occasionally impatient, her fans adored her and protested so forcefully when the powers that be at the Israel Broadcasting Authority wanted to take her off the air that she stayed almost until the day she died.
One of her great claims to fame was co-authoring a book on Hebrew slang, which today would be barely relevant, as there have been so many changes and innovations in the language.
■ WARSAW WAS the birthplace or temporary home of some great Jewish figures in the arts. Also born in Warsaw was photojournalist Dawid Szymin, later called David Seymour, but known professionally as Chim. Considered one of the greatest photojournalists of all time, he was among the pioneers of the golden age of political photojournalism. He was also a co-founder, with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, of Magnum, whose stable includes some of the world’s greatest prizewinning photographers.
This being the 70th anniversary year of the founding of Magnum, Beit Hatfutsot – the Museum of the Jewish People is presenting a retrospective exhibition of the life and work of Chim, who took portraits of leaders, artists and intellectuals that appeared in the world’s major magazines. His depictions of the Spanish Civil War, Europe devastated by World War II, and the first years of the State of Israel helped form the collective memory of the 20th century. These iconic photographs reflect Chim’s technical expertise and visual intuition, but also the compassion, humanism and optimism that characterize his work.
A highlight of this exhibition will be Chim’s stunning photographs of the young State of Israel, including color works on display for the first time. Other features include personal items from Chim’s estate. Like many photojournalists who get too close the action, Chim was killed in 1956 while covering the Suez Crisis.
The exhibition, which opens on Tuesday, March 28, was developed in collaboration with Helen Sarid and Ben Shneiderman, Chim’s niece and nephew. The chief curator is Dr. Orit Shaham-Gover, the exhibition curator is Asaf Galay, and the exhibition director is Michal Houminer.
■ AND IN Jerusalem at Beit Avi Chai, there will be a memorial tribute to stunning prizewinning actress, film director and fashion model Ronit Elkabetz, who died in April last year after a failed struggle with cancer. The tribute will take place in the course of the Maghreb festival honoring Jews from North Africa and those of North African background.
The festival will be held from March 27 to 30.
Elkabetz, the eldest of four siblings, was born in Beersheba to parents from Essaouira in the western Moroccan region known as Marrakesh- Safi. She divided her time between Israel and France, where she also worked in films.
The tribute will be made with the participation of her brother Shlomi Elkabetz, who is a film director, actress and model Yael Abecassis and several other entertainment personalities of North African extraction.