Grapevine: Tit for tat

Rivlin criticizes Netanyahu in address to diplomats serving in Europe; France’s envoy praises Shaare Zedek; and Israeli fashion designer Alber Elbaz makes an appearance at Beit Hatfutsot

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January 6, 2015 23:17
Netanyahu Rivlin

President Reuven Rivlin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R). (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO/REUTERS)

 
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■ HAVING VOICED criticism of the proposed “Jewish State” law and having publicly declared that it was wrong to hold elections at this time, President Reuven Rivlin has delivered yet another barb against his nemesis Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telling Israeli diplomats serving in Europe that Netanyahu’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority was harmful to Israel’s interests. He said this after journalists covering the Monday meeting were asked to leave the room, but some of the diplomats leaked it to the Hebrew media, and other media subsequently blew it up.

After Rivlin won the presidential election despite Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent such an eventuality, the two seemed to have mended fences. But there is obviously no love lost between them, and given the way Netanyahu has treated Rivlin, one cannot help wondering if there will be tit for tat following the March elections. After all, it is the president who ultimately decides who will be tasked with forming the next government.

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■ WHAT GOES around comes around. Some 70 years ago, on one of the rare occasions when he left his native Jerusalem, Rivlin went to Tel Aviv with his father, Prof.

Yosef Yoel Rivlin. One of the places they went was the house of national poet Haim Nachman Bialik. At the end of the visit, Bialik’s wife Mania gave the young Ruby a book of Bialik’s poems and songs. With the candid disdain of a child, he turned to his father and said, “Who hasn’t got Bialik on a bookshelf at home?” Unperturbed, Mania Bialik gave him a book of poems by Leah Goldberg instead.

The president relayed the story last week after Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai gave him a book of Bialik’s poems for children. The presentation again took place at Bialik’s home (now a museum and cultural center), at a poetry-reading evening on the occasion of Bialik’s 142nd birthday. Huldai explained that the book was given to every baby born in Tel Aviv as a way of preserving Bialik’s legacy.

After greeting Rivlin, Huldai chose to speak about Bialik’s poem “Metei Midbar Ha’aharonim” (The Last of Those Who Died in the Desert). Huldai was fascinated by the way Bialik transposed a biblical story onto the situation in 19th-century Europe by urging those “lost in the desert” to abandon slavery, death and desolation, and to walk “strongly and silently” toward the “new land.” Bialik, who wrote the poem in the year of the first Zionist Congress, was aware that some Jews would not embrace the new Zionist leadership and would stay put, destined to die in the wilderness like Moses and Joshua. Huldai’s parents were among those who heeded Bialik’s message, left Poland and settled in the Land of Israel.

Among the other readers of Bialik’s poetry were Knesset members from the extreme Right to the extreme Left, including Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu), Meretz leader Zehava Gal-on, Labor MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Avishay Braverman, Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg, Yesh Atid’s Aliza Lavie, Yisrael Beytenu’s Shimon Oyahon and Hadash MK Dov Henin. Henin could not resist talking about the injustice of the forcible and even brutal eviction of the last families from Givat Amal last month. He and other Knesset members who had come to demonstrate solidarity with the people of the Tel Aviv neighborhood had been helpless, he said.

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“We could do nothing for them.” Judging from its reaction, the audience was sympathetic to Henin’s dilemma.

Israel Prize laureate Eliahu Hacohen presented a delightfully humorous story of Bialik’s first visit to the Land of Israel, where he was feted left, right and center and had to sit through innumerable welcome speeches. He initially appreciated those speeches, but gradually got bored, frustrated and angry, especially when he had to listen to 18 welcome speeches at a single event. Only when leaving to return to Odessa did he say that he finally understood why the great poet Yehuda Halevi had died so soon after his arrival in the Holy Land.

■ IN AN open letter to former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, which appeared in Israel Hayom this week under the headline “I’m sorry about you, my brother Avrum,” former Meretz leader Yossi Beilin criticized Burg’s recent decision to join Hadash.

Beilin acknowledged Hadash as a legitimate political party with “democratic elements” and an “interesting history” – for instance, its support of the United Nations 1947 resolution for the partition of Palestine – but he underscored that it was not a Zionist Party and was, in fact, an anti-Zionist party that regarded Zionism as coercive.

Beilin – who spent most of his political career in the Labor Party before moving to Meretz-Yahad, which he headed for four years prior to his 2008 retirement – saw nothing wrong with having a non-Zionist party in Israel, but he did see something wrong with Burg aligning himself with such a party, given that Burg had been born into a religious-Zionist household and was a former chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization.

Before entering the Knesset on a Labor Alignment ticket, Burg was active in Peace Now, so it is not all that surprising that he has moved further left, even though he still wears a kippa.

■ JERUSALEM ONLINE, which is related to Channel 2, quoted Rebbetzin Yehudit Yosef, the daughter-in-law of late Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, as saying that the recently released video tape of her father-in-law castigating Aryeh Deri was for personal use. The report quotes the rebbetzin as saying that everyone knew video cameras were scattered throughout their home, but the recordings were intended for personal use only.

“It hurts me and upsets me very much that they try to say the rabbi was recorded 24 hours a day. It’s really not the case,” she stated. “Everyone knew that all of the cameras in the house were for defense purposes only, except for one camera in his bedroom that had a sound recording device, and everyone knew that.”

According to her, when they wanted to talk about personal things in the house, “we did not even know how to turn off the camera in order not to be recorded.”

However, anyone who has watched the tape more than once could easily draw the conclusion that the Shas mentor was being deliberately led into making the anti- Deri remarks, and that the person steering the conversation in that direction was Ovadia Yosef’s son Rabbi Moshe Yosef, who kept prodding him. Also, despite his great brain, one does not know how Ovadia Yosef may have been affected by his medication, and whether he made those remarks in a clear-headed state. Anyway, it transpires that Deri was well aware of the recording long before it was aired, so it was not quite as big a shock to him as the media presumed.

■ FEW PEOPLE would deny that the Israel Broadcasting Authority produces excellent documentaries. One that aired in December 2014 and ran again last week should be compulsory viewing for all high school and university students. The film, Hadrian’s Curse (or in Hebrew, Klalat Adrianus), presents the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict from an academic standpoint that, with few exceptions, shows there is very little difference between the Zionist and the Arab narratives.

The program takes its title from the Roman emperor Hadrian’s decree that the area known as Judea should be called Palestine from then on, after the Philistines – the ancient enemies of Israel who had faded into oblivion more than six centuries earlier. The decree was a curse with which the Jewish people have had to contend for close to 2,000 years. The interviewees from leading institutes of higher learning in Israel, Britain, the United States and Canada included historians, political scientists, Arabists and experts in international law. Among them were Jews, Christians and Muslims, including Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer, Shimon Gibson, Dan Shiftan, Mahmoud Yazbak, Mordechai Kedar, Benny Morris, Mustafa Kabha, Yehoshua Porat, Yoav Gelber, Ephraim Karsh and Jerusalem Post Op-Ed Editor Seth Frantzman.

There is more or less consensus that neither the Arabs nor the Jews who lived in the Land of Israel for centuries before the advent of Zionism had any ideological or nationalist aspirations. Their sense of identity was religious as far as the Jews were concerned, and social as far as the Arabs were concerned. The Jews who arrived with the First Aliya wanted to integrate with the local population and even wore traditional Arab garb. It was only with the Second Aliya that there was a visible change in the status quo. It’s also interesting to learn that in the various uprisings that occurred, more Arabs were killed by the British than were Jews. The Arabs and the Jews had a mutual hatred of the British Mandate authorities, but as one of the interviewees notes, “without the British, there would be no State of Israel.”

The old joke about two Jews having three opinions does not hold water here, with people from four countries and at least three faiths agreeing on many issues – especially considering that they were interviewed separately, at different times and places. The program certainly gives open-minded viewers something to think about.

■ CHANNEL 1 has also reintroduced movies to its line-up. In addition to its Friday night action movies, it has also included mid-week Israeli productions.

Stay-at-homes on Wednesday night can see Hahefech, which might best be translated in this context as “Contradiction.”

Starring Keren Berger and Itamar Rothschild, the film deals with a young Orthodox rabbi who receives a request from the father of a girl dying of cancer.

The girl has refused medical treatment, and the father asks the rabbi to be her spiritual mentor and persuade her to let the doctors help her. Torn between his love for God and learning, and his attraction to the young girl, the rabbi falls victim to temptation and enters into a physical relationship with her – something that is strictly forbidden in Orthodox circles.

Rothschild, who does not have a yeshiva background, plays the role as if he were born to it. The film, which was a year and a half in the making, premiered last Friday morning in a special screening at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Yehoshua Greenberg wrote the story from which the film was adapted, and the screenplay was by his brother Amichai Greenberg, who is a seasoned filmmaker. Someone in the audience shouted out that they were the new Coen Brothers. Yoav Ginai, the head of programming at Channel 1, said that the drama was opening up a new era in public broadcasting.

The film will be screened on Channel 1 at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

■ IF THE weather predictions turn out to be a false alarm and snow does not blanket Jerusalem on Wednesday, actor Rami Baruch will be appearing in the evening in a somewhat different take on the trial of Jonathan Pollard. Baruch, a leading actor in the Cameri Theater, will appear at the Begin Heritage Center in a one-man play written by Victor Gordon.

Baruch takes on the persona of Pollard and, 25 years after the trial, reviews it step by step, trying to make sense of the injustice done to him compared to other spies who did far more damage to America. The play is in Hebrew and begins at 8 p.m.

■ EVEN AS many European countries are demonstrating greater friendship toward the Palestinians than toward Israel and leveling accusations of war crimes against IDF soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge, European ambassadors are visiting Israeli hospitals and seeing with their own eyes that Israel is providing excellent medical and humanitarian care not only for its Arab population and patients from the Palestinian Authority, but also for more hostile elements from Syria and Gaza.

French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave visited Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for the opening of the Jules Hosansky Sterile Supply Unit. The unit’s development was made possible by a generous gift from the Hosansky estate in France, and through the cooperation of the Hosansky estate and the office of Israel’s administrator-general.

Erella Yelin, director of the Justice Ministry’s Estates and Trusts Department, also attended the opening in her capacity as the representative of the administrator- general. Maisonnave toured several of Shaare Zedek’s facilities, met with staff who had come to the country from France, and discussed the situation of French Jewry with them. He voiced pride in the important roles that French expatriates were playing in Israeli society.

The highlight of the tour was the sterile supply unit itself, which was developed through an investment of more than NIS 17 million and integrates robotic technology and advanced sterilization equipment to offer a high level of patient safety.

Support for the unit’s development also came from the USAID program. The unit is responsible for the sterilization of over a million pieces of equipment each year, and since over 23,000 surgical procedures are performed each year, the unit’s activity is viewed as an integral aspect of preserving the hospital’s operation.

Maisonnave said Hosansky would have been proud of the way his life’s work was being allocated to such a remarkable facility. The ambassador added that he was humbled by the realization that ordinary citizens could play such an important role in the lives of the people of Israel.

■ ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Francesco Maria Talo and his wife, meanwhile, visited the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where numerous Syrian refugees have been and are being treated. Deputy director Dr. Calin Shapira briefed the couple in Italian, and the pair made a point of visiting with the Syrian patients and hearing their stories. The Talos were particularly moved by their encounters with Syrian children among the hospital’s patients. The ambassador said he had traveled all over the country and come to know it from many perspectives, but he was most impressed by the humanitarian aid being rendered to the Syrian patients, and said he would be happy to cooperate with the hospital in any way possible. As of Talo’s visit on Monday, Ziv had treated 435 Syrians, with only seven – two of them children – still hospitalized.

■ ON THE subject of diplomatic issues, the German Embassy has announced the establishment of the Ernst Cramer and Teddy Kollek scholarship program in journalism for best-written articles on Israel-German relations. The contest is taking place as part of the 50th-anniversary year of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Germany.

Entries are limited to stories of less than 1,000 words that were published in German or Israeli newspapers or Internet sites between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2014. Submissions should relate to politics, society, culture or economics.

German and Israeli adjudicators will examine all the entries, and the winner from each country will receive a prize of €5,000, to go toward completing a journalistic project in the partner country.

The Israeli adjudicators are Haaretz correspondent in Berlin Ofer Aderet; Haaretz Weekend Magazine Editor Mike Dagan; Adar Primor, the senior editor of i24 News, whose father was an Israeli ambassador to Germany; Channel 2 political reporter Amit Segal; journalist and novelist Sarah Stricker; and Ben Dror Yemini, a columnist and editor at Yediot Aharonot. Aderet is also a member of the German jury.

For further information, email Cramer. award.il@gmail.com.

■ STAFF AT Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, were thrilled last week when visitors to the exhibition “Dream Weavers: From Jewish Tailors to Top Fashion Designers” included eminent fashion designer Alber Elbaz, the creative director of the famous French fashion house Lanvin. Elbaz, who happens to be a graduate of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and who still likes to get together with former classmates, created a wedding gown especially for the exhibition.

He was on a private visit to Israel, where he has relatives and friends, and had decided that while on home turf, he should also visit the exhibition. When talking about his own designs, he told his hosts that “I design from the heart and turn the fantasy and the dream into reality.”

■ THE YIDDISHPIEL production of Mikve, the prize-winning play by Hadar Galron, closed the 2014 season and opened the season for 2015. Future performances are scheduled until March 3 in Bat Yam, Netanya, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Afula, Givatayim, Or Akiva, Jerusalem, Rehovot, Petah Tikva, Kiryat Haim, Kiryat Motzkin, Rishon Lezion, Kfar Saba and Ariel. During the tour, the production will return periodically to its home base of Tel Aviv, where it has its greatest following.

The Yiddish version of the play, which won Israel’s Drama of the Year award in 2004, was translated by Lea Shlanger, who for years has developed a vast radio and theater following. Appearing in the lead role is Anat Atzmon, the daughter of Yiddishpiel founder Shmuel Atzmon. The controversial play, which has received rave reviews in Israel and abroad, has prompted numerous discussions and newspaper articles about the secrets that women bring with them to the ritual bath, when their sometimes bruised bodies are exposed. On the 10th anniversary of its success in Israel, the play continues to capture the attention of audiences who want not only to be entertained, but to see something thought-provoking.

■ ANOTHER 10TH-anniversary event marks the passing of the great satirist, novelist, playwright and filmmaker Ephraim Kishon, whose family has organized the Kishon Festival of Humor to celebrate his works. The best-selling author, who died in January 2005, was a Holocaust survivor whose talent for chess helped him to survive: The commander of one of the concentration camps in which he was incarcerated wanted a good chess partner. Kishon arrived in Israel in 1949.

Although he had already demonstrated a talent for writing satire in his native Hungary, it seemed unlikely that someone who had come to Israel with only a few words of Hebrew at his command would go far in the country’s literary world. Indeed, he began his writing career in his new home by writing for the Hungarian publication Uj Kelet, for which famed journalist and politician Tommy Lapid – the father of Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid – also used to write. Kishon picked up Hebrew quickly, partially by inventing difficult word games for himself to test his own brain power. By 1951, he was already writing in Hebrew.

He wrote numerous books and plays, which were translated into scores of languages, in addition to which he wrote, produced and directed five feature films – three of them nominated for international awards and two for the Oscar. The films – Sallah Shabati, Ervinka, Blaumilch Canal, The Policeman (Hashoter Azoulay) and The Fox in the Chicken Coop – have remained Israeli classics. From 1953 onward, he won numerous prizes in Israel and elsewhere. However, the prize he wanted most eluded him until 2002, when he finally received the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.

For someone who had put Israel on the map in his field, the reward was long in coming. In fact, he felt so shabbily treated in Israel that in 1981, he took up part-time residence in Switzerland, where it was easier to travel to other parts of Europe and where he was treated like a celebrity. On receiving the Israel Prize, Kishon – known for his right-wing political views – remarked drily that it was almost like receiving a state pardon: “They usually give it to one of those liberals who love the Palestinians and hate the settlers.”

The festival will be at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and other Tel Aviv venues from January 19-31.

greerfc@gmail.com

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