The last ones standing

For those who are fond of trivia and believe in coincidence, there’s vague point of interest in the fact that the first government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dissolved in July 1999.

July 30, 2019 22:16
CROATIAN PRESIDENT Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and President Reuven Rivlin inspect the IDF honor guard

CROATIAN PRESIDENT Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and President Reuven Rivlin inspect the IDF honor guard at a welcome ceremony in Jerusalem this week.. (photo credit: MARK NEIMAN - GPO)

For those who are fond of trivia and believe in coincidence, there’s a vague point of interest in the fact that the first government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dissolved in July 1999, and the only people who served as ministers and who, like Netanyahu, are still in politics are Yuli Edelstein and Tzachi Hanegbi. Meir Porush, who was deputy minister of housing, could also be counted among those still standing, because until the advent of Ya’acov Litzman, representatives of United Torah Judaism declined ministerial positions so that they would not be party to government decisions that were in violation of Halacha – the code of Jewish law. In the following election, Netanyahu was defeated by Ehud Barak, but none of the members of Barak’s government have remained as legislators.
Edelstein, who has long been regarded as a frontline runner in the race for the 11th president of Israel, following the expiration of President Reuven Rivlin’s term in July 2021, could possibly become the next prime minister instead of becoming president. If that happens, he will be the 13th person to hold the office of prime minister, not counting Yigal Allon, who served for a few days as interim prime minister. Some Israeli prime ministers served more than one term.
Among the many scenarios related to the upcoming September Knesset elections is the possibility that Rivlin may not ask Netanyahu to form the next government, in the event that the Likud wins; or if he does task him with that responsibility, he may not give him a 14-day extension. If Netanyahu fails to cobble together a coalition within 28 days, Rivlin, who met with Netanyahu on Monday, may transfer the task to Edelstein, who won second place in the Likud primaries.
But given the speed of recent political developments in Israel, it is truly impossible to predict the outcome of the elections. According to Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz, who in addition to his political activities has had a long career in journalism in Israel and the United States, even the best and most experienced political pundit cannot possibly know what the election results will bring.
■ LAST WEEK Israel Hayom published a photograph taken in 1984 on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi, many of whose members originated from English-speaking countries. The two people in the photograph were Boris Johnson, the newly elected prime minister of England, and Alec Collins, originally from Leeds, whose family made aliyah with other British Habonim members in 1957.
In those days, Johnson was reed slim and sported a Beatles-style haircut. He and his sister, Rachel, had come to the kibbutz as volunteers, and stayed there for three months. Collins told Israel Hayom that Johnson had explored everything in the kibbutz down to fine details, that he frequently said how happy he was in Israel, and that he was interested in seeing the whole country.
Collins continued to be in touch with Johnson over the years, and holds him in high regard. He says that Johnson can strike up a conversation with anyone and has a great sense of humor. Both attributes should serve him well as prime minister.
■ ON THURSDAY evening of this week, both Rivlin and Netanyahu will attend a memorial service for Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who is buried on Mount Herzl in the section reserved for leaders of the nation.
Jabotinsky died of a heart attack in New York on August 4, 1940, while visiting a Betar summer camp. He had published his will five years earlier. In it he asked that in the event that he died outside the Land of Israel, his remains be transferred there only after a Jewish government was in power.
Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, adamantly refused to honor this request. He had no desire to give legitimacy to the Revisionists. After Levi Eshkol became prime minister, risking Ben-Gurion’s wrath, he decided that acceding to Jabotinsky’s last will and testament would be a unifying factor for the nation. But Eshkol was also one of Ben-Gurion’s protégés, and he really didn’t want to do anything to upset him. Nonetheless, he firmly believed that Jabotinsky, a Zionist leader, soldier, author and orator, deserved to be honored.
Fortunately, the El Al plane bringing Jabotinsky’s coffin and that of his wife, Johanna, from New York to Lod on July 8, 1964, had to make a stopover in Paris. Eshkol flew to Paris, where a section of the airport had been sealed off for a memorial ceremony. Accompanied by Walter Eytan, Israel’s ambassador to France, Eshkol arrived at the airport shortly after the plane had landed, and the coffins had been lowered to the tarmac. Standing at the foot of the coffins, Eshkol bowed low in respect, then shook hands with Prof. Eri Jabotinsky, the son of the deceased, and with other family members. A military honor guard and a 140-member band were at the airport together with French army officers, parliamentary officials and former ministers. Eshkol reviewed the honor guard before the coffins were returned to the plane, which then made its way to Israel, where a burial ceremony took place the following day.
Eshkol’s gesture served to legitimize not only Jabotinsky but also Menachem Begin, Jabotinsky’s protégé, who was likewise reviled by Ben-Gurion.
But Jabotinsky was not given the full honor due to him till March 23, 2005, when the Jabotinsky Law was passed, making the 29th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Tamuz a national memorial day for Jabotinsky. As a result, Ben-Gurion’s closest protégé, Shimon Peres, while president of the state, delivered memorial addresses dedicated to Jabotinsky.
In the army, there is respect for the enemy. Even the Nazis gave funerals with full military honors to Jewish soldiers from the Allied forces who died in captivity. There is no reason that politicians from opposing parties should not emulate the army in this regard – preferably showing respect to one another while still living – and especially in a country that prides itself on being a democracy.
■ PROUD GREAT-GRANDMOTHER Ida Selavan Schwarcz of Jerusalem combed the Israeli media in vain to find some mention of the fact that her 11-and-a-half-year-old great-granddaughter Eden Mayorkes had won a gold cup and the gold medal as the top junior tennis player in the international youth tennis tournament in Dubrownik, Croatia, in mid-June. The Israeli flag was raised and “Hatikva” was played.
In view of Croatia’s shameful Holocaust history and attempts in that country to revive the fascist Ustashe movement, Schwarcz considers the omission of a report of the event by the Israeli media to be a serious blunder. However, the victory of the young Israeli was reported in the Dubrovnik media.
■ BUT CROATIA was definitely in the news in Israel this week, with the state visit of its eloquent and charming president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who may have started a new custom. Like many world leaders who go to Yad Vashem, she stopped off at the nearby section of Mount Herzl reserved for the final resting place of leaders of the nation. Over the past 30-plus months, world leaders came to pay their respects at the grave of Peres, but Grabar-Kitarović opted to place a bouquet of white flowers on the tomb of Nechama Rivlin.
Emotionally moved by the gesture, President Rivlin, who hosted a state dinner on Monday night in honor of his Croatian counterpart, said how touched he was, and added that Nechama would have been pleased because she always preferred women leaders.
He reminded Grabar-Kitarović that when they visited the notorious Jasenovac death camp during his visit to Croatia last year, he told her about Miriam Steiner-Aviezer, a Croatian child Holocaust survivor born in 1935, who came to Israel in 1971, where she spent her first months at the Beit Giora absorption center in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel. Samuel Aviezer, whom she married, lived across the road. The couple raised a family, and for 30 years she worked for Yad Vashem, interviewing Holocaust survivors from the former Yugoslavia, while working simultaneously in a committee that brought to light Righteous among the Nations. She also wrote several books. When their children grew up, the couple left Jerusalem and settled in Givatayim. Following Samuel’s death four years ago, Miriam moved to Ness Ziona to be closer to her grandchildren.
Rivlin was happy to report that Steiner-Aviezer was among the guests at the dinner. Also present was historian Esther Gitman, who likewise is from the former Yugoslavia.
In October 1941, Gitman escaped from Sarajevo and managed to get to the Italian occupied zone on the Adriatic, where she was saved by Righteous Gentiles. That example of selflessness remained with her. Many years later, after winning a Fulbright Scholarship in 2002, she spent a year in Croatia researching the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.
Among the Holocaust survivors interviewed by Steiner-Aviezer was the mother of Mirko Stefanovic, the Serbian-born ambassador of the former Yugoslavia, which maintained an embassy in Israel prior to Serbia winning its independence. The ambassador’s mother was Jewish and an Auschwitz survivor.
After the war, when she was already an adult, and her fortunes had improved, she took a gypsy woman as a housemaid. The gypsy noticed that her employer had a number on her arm, then bared her own arm, to show that she, too, was an Auschwitz survivor. After that, the two women developed a close relationship and were more like sisters than employer and employee, Steiner-Aviezer told The Jerusalem Post.
The chemistry between Rivlin and Grabar-Kitarović was unmistakable. He addressed her as “My dear Kolinda,” and she called him “Ruvi.”
Although he repeated, both at the morning reception that he hosted for her and at the state dinner, how very welcome she was in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, there was a difference between the pomp and ceremony welcome that Rivlin received in Croatia and that which his Croatian counterpart received in Jerusalem, where the honor guard was dressed in drab khaki, as compared to the gold-braided red livery, reminiscent of another era, of the honor guard in Croatia.
One of the things that Rivlin and Grabar-Kitarović have in common is a love of soccer, and she was delighted to see among the state dinner guests Croatian-born former midfielder Giovanni Rosso, who played for several teams in Israel, but mostly Maccabi Haifa. She referred to that and also congratulated him on winning the TV reality show Survivor: VIP which was broadcast on Channel 13.
Poland has invited several world leaders to come to Warsaw on September 1 to mark the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, which signified the start of the Second World War and the Holocaust. Included among the invitees is US President Donald Trump; excluded is Russian President Vladimir Putin because the USSR invaded Poland on September 17, 1939.
Croatia which for the first time will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in January 2020, will be devoting a lot of time to Holocaust remembrance, though Grabar-Kitarović made it clear that it would not deny the atrocities of its fascist Ustashe regime. She was very proud that in contrast to the Ustashe, 118 Croats have been listed by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to save Jews.
Rivlin had said earlier that “we must never seek to minimize the crimes of Ustashe,” but he also mentioned the 118 righteous Croats and referred to them as “a shining example.” He invited Grabar-Kitarović to return to Jerusalem in January for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and she said she would be honored to accept the invitation.
There will also be a commemorative event and an exhibition of Righteous Among the Nations at United Nations headquarters in New York.
In April, the Polish government, as it does every year, will commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
During its presidency of the EU, Croatia intends to provide a more positive platform for Israel to be heard, and will also do more to champion the fight against growing antisemitism.
■ FIRST SCREENED in May this year at DocAviv, Mrs G – the story of Gottex, the brand name that put Israel on the world fashion map – was partially shown again last Saturday night on KAN 11, and is likely to be screened several more times before the end of the year, because 2019 is the 70th anniversary year of Gottex. The film is a salute to Hungarian Holocaust survivor Lea Gottlieb, who, with husband Armin and their daughters Miriam and Judith, arrived in Tel Aviv in 1949. In Hungary, they manufactured raincoats, but quickly realized that their business was not suited to the Israeli climate and ventured into swim-wear.
Armin had been taken to a labor camp during the war, but Lea and her daughters fled from one hiding place to another. Whenever they had to pass a check point, she pretended to be a flower seller and buried her face in the numerous floral bouquets that she carried. The upshot of this was that flowers became a signature feature of her swim-wear collections, because she believed that flowers had saved her life.
Her initial designs were sewn in her Jaffa apartment. Later, as the company developed, she and her husband set up a large factory plant and showroom in Tel Aviv. From swim-wear per se, her collections expanded to include diaphanous caftans that added a sense of mystery to the bikinis over which they were worn, pareos and sexy pants suits.
Gottex fashion shows were both ultra-glamorous and dramatic, and featured many more creations than the norm at other fashion shows. As a result, Gottlieb, or Lady Lea as she was known, attracted a global following. The models she chose to show off her designs were handpicked, the most famous of them being the late statuesque Ramle-born Tami Ben Ami, who in 1979 became the first Gottex house model. Over the years, Ben Ami was featured extensively in Gottex catalogues and on international runways wherever Lea Gottlieb took her Las Vegas-inspired fashion shows. In 1994, Ben Ami was diagnosed with cancer, and died on July 22, 1995, at age 40.
Following the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Lea Gottlieb canceled an overseas fashion tour and instead decided to boost the morale of Israeli soldiers by taking fashion shows to the front lines.
Gottex went into fiscal decline in 1995, following the death of Armin Gottlieb. He had been the company’s business manager. Lea Gottlieb continued to run the operation.
She was passionate and so immersed in her profession that she had no time or emotion to spare for her daughters, who were also part of the business. Miriam Gottlieb-Ruzov fled to New York years earlier to be the Gottex representative there, and sold thousands of swimsuits to leading department stores, but Judith remained in Israel and became a designer in her own right for a Gottex subsidiary brand. When Judith discovered that she had cancer, her mother had little time for her, so Judith went to New York and stayed with Miriam for eight months. Miriam took her to the best oncologists, but to no avail. Judith died in 2003.
In 1997, Gottex was in such dire financial straits that Gottlieb signed a contract with Africa Israel Investments, which was controlled by Lev Leviev, in which Africa Israel bought an 80% share of the company, leaving Lea Gottlieb with 18% and her daughters with 1% each. In 2002, Africa Israel gained total control of the company, and continued producing under the Gottex brand name.
It must have been galling to Lea Gottlieb that Africa Israel commissioned her chief rival, Gideon Oberson, as the chief Gottex designer, a position he held from 2002 to 2009. Oberson is known for his own luxury brand of super sexy, geometrically cut and patterned swim-wear. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but somewhere along the line he still has a finger in the fashion pie.
He regrets that Gottex production is now in Asia rather than in Israel, and thus calling a Gottex garment an Israeli creation is not exactly a legitimate claim, even though the brand name still has a certain allure.
Lea Gottlieb died in November 2012 at the age of 94. In 2003, she founded another swim-wear company under her own name, but it was not very successful. She lacked the spark of her younger years.
In its heyday, Gottex clients included Sofia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Nancy Kissinger, Brooke Shields and the wives of influential sheikhs in Arab countries.
Lea Gottlieb’s creativity and dedication to quality did not die with her. Items from most of her collections can be seen at the Holon Design Museum.
■ POPULAR AND very busy Slovak Ambassador to Israel Peter Hulenyi, who is the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, is winding up his term after spending four years in Israel. In a farewell note, he said that his stay had been “extremely inspirational, enriching and enjoyable.” He also underscored that Slovak-Israel relations are flourishing in many areas, but that the time had come for him to undertake new challenges in Bratislava at the headquarters of his country’s Foreign Ministry. Although his phone number and address will change, he said, his email address will remain the same, and he would be pleased to maintain contact with people who have previously been in touch with him by email. He is due to take up his next position on August 1.
■ “BEFORE THERE was Google, there was Manny Quint,” said Rabbi Dr. Dov Frimer, a halachic authority and an attorney practicing in Jerusalem and also serving as an adjunct professor in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Law. “He knew everything.”
Frimer was speaking to a standing room only packed house at the OU Center in Jerusalem on the first anniversary of the death of his friend and colleague Rabbi Emanuel Quint, who was a highly successful New York lawyer.
Quint took early retirement and moved to Jerusalem more than 30 years ago. Frimer described him as “a world-class lawyer, a world-class Torah scholar, but above all a mensch.”
Frimer based his memorial address on the Torah, which in all its aspects had been very precious to Quint, who wrote and lectured on it.
“Torah is based on understanding, reason and morality,” said Frimer, commenting that Halacha is largely taken from the Torah, “Halacha is morality.”
Quint’s wife, Rena, a Polish-born child Holocaust survivor, who lectures extensively on the Holocaust, spoke of the many organizations of whose boards her husband had been a member, and of the Kollel he established at the Hazvi Yisrael synagogue, where he taught Talmud twice a week to men who had missed out on Jewish studies in their youth. In addition, he gave weekly lessons on Torah-related subjects in his home on Thursday nights, with an average attendance of 80 men and women.
Quint, who would have turned 90 last week, was always ready to help and give pro bono legal advice. He contributed to many charities.
Among positions that he held were dean of the Jerusalem Institute of Jewish Law (which he co-founded with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz) and visiting scholar-in-residence in forums throughout Israel. He enjoyed sharing his broad, in-depth insights into rabbinic law, Torah and Talmud. He also wrote numerous articles, edited publications, co-authored Jewish Jurisprudence (with Prof. Neil Hecht) and was one of the founders and trustees of Touro College, from which he received an honorary doctorate in of law. At various stages he served as president of the Young Israel Council in Israel, head of the Rabbinical Court of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, vice president of the Orthodox Union in Israel and a member of the board of trustees of the Jerusalem College of Technology.
He also wrote a 10-volume series titled A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law, in order to make an English-language, well-organized, easily understandable body of rabbinic jurisprudence available to wider audiences.
Some of his many grandchildren spoke with deep affection not of the lawyer or the rabbi, but of a doting grandfather who not only plied them with gifts and trips abroad or to different parts of Israel, but who was keenly interested in each of them, and who engaged in their activities such as skydiving at an advanced age.

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