The prime minister’s brother, Dr. Ido Netanyahu, agreed to be interviewed on Kan 1, and tried to defend him against some of the allegations that have been made against him, but was constantly interrupted by Uri Levy, who would not allow him to finish a sentence.
The younger Netanyahu asked several times to be permitted to complete what he was trying to say. Levy apologized, but butted in again and again. Finally, Netanyahu folded his arms and said: “You want to talk, go ahead.” Levy got the message – but not entirely.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu did manage a few sentences, before Levy interrupted him yet again. What is the point of inviting someone to be interviewed, if you’re not really interested in what they have to say?
■ THE BEST thing about the elections is when the bombardment of telephone calls and emails urging people to vote for one party or another will stop. Even Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has got in on the act and, in a recorded telephone message, is telling people that he’s a longtime Labor Party man, and the right thing to do is to vote for Labor. Actually, the right thing for every voter to do is to follow his or her conscience. It’s pointless asking anyone to vote for a party whose policies may be inconsistent with the voter’s values.
Not necessarily on the day after, but within the week after, there will be a lessening of radio and television interviews with political and candidates and with swan song MKs, but that doesn’t mean an end to political analysis. In a social media era in which it has become so important to keep one’s name and image out there, people are going to ridiculous extremes.
For instance, the Institute for National Security Studies on April 10 is holding an elections briefing for diplomats and foreign correspondents, not at lunch time, when the final results should be available, but from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. That means that anyone living outside Tel Aviv who wants to beat the rush hour traffic has to leave home at 5:30 a.m. at the latest.
In Australia, they’re a little more sensible and are waiting for a few days before turning to an Israeli expert to get his take on the election results. Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz will be addressing a meeting hosted in Melbourne by the Zionist Federation of Australia on April 15. By that time the election results will have been finalized, and the picture will be somewhat clearer than in the early morning of April 10.
■ APROPOS ELECTIONS, some of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest neighbors are wondering why they are not voting at the same polling station as the prime minister and his wife, but have to trek a considerable distance from their homes. It’s possible that he votes at a polling station closer to his private home – just as President Reuven Rivlin may be voting at a station closer to his private home – than the one a few streets away from his official residence. The prime minister’s neighbors used to vote at a polling station within easy walking distance of where they live, and before that at a polling station that was literally next door to the Prime Minister’s Residence. But two or three elections ago, the polling station was moved to its present location, which is considerably farther away.
■ LIFE APPEARS to be imitating art in Ukraine, where actor turned presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky this week scored a very comfortable win over the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko. Neither candidate received an absolute majority vote in the first round of elections. Zelensky, who is halachically Jewish, though with a non-Jewish spouse, scored 34.4% of the vote, whereas Poroshenko was favored by only 17.8% of the voters. This means that they will have to contest in a second round on April 21. Zelensky starred in a popular comedy about a schoolteacher who wins the presidential election. Now, it appears that he’ll be starring in a real live drama about an actor becoming president. It happened in America with Ronald Reagan, so why not Ukraine?
■ AFFABLE JERUSALEM Mayor Moshe Lion, during his campaign and immediately following his election, made no secret of the fact that he intends to give the green light to the construction of thousands of new apartments in the capital, whose population is the largest in the country and double that of Tel Aviv. Last week, the first step in that direction was taken, with approval for the construction of a neighborhood in which there will be 5,250 residential units, with thousands more anticipated in various parts of the city over the next five years within the framework of a long-range plan for urban renewal.
In bygone years, Jerusalem real estate agents used to advertise properties “with a clear view to the Judean Desert.” These days, the only apartment buyers who get to see the Judean Desert are those who can afford a penthouse in an apartment complex that is 20 stories high or more.
But the word is out that in addition to adding thousands of apartments to an already crowded city, Lion wants to introduce a light rail service to Keren Hayesod Street that intersects with several side streets in Talbiyeh and threatens to cause more traffic chaos than currently exists, especially if he goes ahead with his plan to build two adjoining hotels on Keren Hayesod and Ahad Ha’am streets. Concerned residents are convening an emergency meeting Wednesday evening, April 3, at Ginot Ha’Ir Community Center, 12 Emek Refaim Street, where for months on end residents of the German Colony, Baka and Katamon were meeting in an effort to prevent the light rail from going through Emek Refaim and thereby changing the character of the neighborhood.
Many residents in these areas as well as Talbiyeh are affluent immigrants who bought properties in these neighborhoods because of their character. Most do not understand the lack of democracy in the Jerusalem Municipality, as demonstrated by previous mayor Nir Barkat and seemingly by his successor. Aside from all the various arguments presented by those who oppose the light rail going through Emek Refaim, and who appear to be in the majority, they cannot understand how, in a so-called democratic system, the majority loses the battle.
In recent weeks, Rivlin has been talking increasingly about democracy and the elections and has made it clear that the government does not rule the people, it is the people who rule the government, which is why members of government are called public servants. But without electoral reform in Israel, elected officials will continue to be responsible only to their political parties and not to the people who voted them into office. Then again, disgruntled voters may not give Lion a second term.
■ IN HASSIDIC circles, the dynasties of great sages are treated in the same manner as royalty. The custom, when a monarch dies, is for a member of the royal family or for the prime minister to proclaim “the king is dead, long live the king.” In essence, this amounts to continuity and recognition of the king’s successor, no matter how long the waiting period may be before the coronation. When a great hassidic rabbi dies, his successor is announced either at the funeral or during the seven days of mourning. In the case of Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landa, who was one of Israel’s leading kashrut authorities, and whose supervision was recognized by the most stringent observers of dietary laws, his successors were announced at his funeral, which was attended by thousands of men.
It had been his will that no women attend, because he wanted to preserve their modesty and not have them jostled, especially at his final resting place on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. In fact, the 84-year-old unofficial chief rabbi of Bnei Brak and one of the most trusted kashrut authorities in the world had several funeral services: first, in Netanya on Saturday night, following his death at Laniado Medical Center; then, the following day in Bnei Brak, after which he was transported to Jerusalem, to Chabad’s Yeshivat Torat Emet in the capital’s Romema neighborhood, and from there to the Mount of Olives.
In Bnei Brak, it was announced that one of his sons, Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Isaac Landa, together with Rabbi Tzvi Rosenblatt, who heads the Lithuanian Yeshivat Batei Hora’ah in Bnei Brak, would be the successors to the deceased Rabbi Landa and would work in close cooperation. Rosenblatt, who is a member of Badatz Sheiris Yisroel, is very close to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the 91-year-old talmudic genius who leads the Lithuanian camp. The younger Landa was an assistant to his father, who appointed him as head of the city’s kashrut two years ago and expressed the wish that he would succeed him after his death. Rav Isaac, as he is known, will also be responsible for the city’s ritual baths. The kashrut network was established by his grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Landa.
■ RETIRED JUDGES seem to have a thing about music. Former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar is a great jazz enthusiast, who has annually traveled to Eilat for the jazz festival. His wife, Michal Rubinstein, who is herself a retired judge, heads the Friends of the Israel Conservatory of Music, who were recently captivated by a performance by pianist Shlomi Shaban, who is a graduate of the conservatory and who presented a varied program with the Bat Kol choir, the conservatory orchestra, and saxophonist Yuval Cohen, who heads the conservatory’s jazz department. Other retired judges present included Theodor Or and former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak and his wife, Elishava, a former vice president of the National Labor Court. Many other legal figures enjoyed the concert, as did several well-known academics and prominent figures from the business world.
■ YAD VASHEM regularly conducts competitions for the poster design of the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year’s winner was Itamar Maggid, 25, a first-year student in visual communications at Shenkar College, and a grandson of Holocaust survivors.
His design is full of symbolism, integrating writings, drawings and music. The main focus is on three boats reflected in the water and creating a shape that is partly a regular Star of David, and partly the yellow star that Jews living under Nazi occupation were forced to wear on their clothing. The boats represent the fact that life still exists and that the passengers in the boats carry the memory of the Holocaust, as they travel together over the water to a new reality of hope and dreams. The overall composition represents both the past and the future.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev last week presented Maggid with his award. Copies of the poster will be sent to schools across Israel to serve as a tool for this year’s Holocaust studies curriculum.
■ ANYONE WALKING through the Sportek area of Hayarkon Park this coming Friday might see a game of football that doesn’t look familiar. Actually, it’s Australian rules, which is somewhat different from soccer, rugby or American touch football. It’s an annual tournament hosted by the Australian Embassy, and players include embassy personnel, Australian expats living in Israel or Israeli sons of Australian expats. When teams from Israel have gone down under to compete in international Australian Football League competitions, they have sometimes included Palestinian players as well. The organizer of Friday’s event is Noah Geduld, the research and public diplomacy officer at the Australian Embassy.
Hot dogs are the popular fare at American sporting events. In Australia it’s meat pies, which will be on sale at the site. The tournament will start at 9 a.m. and run through till 12 non.
■ ANOTHER AUSTRALIAN connection coming up in another sporting event is martial arts champion and Budo for Peace founder Danny Hakim, who is an Australian expat who is the driving force behind the International Day of Sport and Peace, taking place on Sunday, April 7, at the Ramle Sports Center and the Ramle Azrieli Mall between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Four hundred young athletes – Jewish, Arab, Bedouin, ultra-Orthodox, secular and anything in between – will participate in 10 different kinds of sport to illustrate the value of sport as a vehicle for bridging differences and promoting a shared society.
The United Nations and the International Olympic Committee declared April 6 as the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace, but because April 6 is a Saturday, and organizers wanted to ensure that no obstacles would stand in the way of participants, the event, which is being supported by members of the international diplomatic community, was moved to Sunday. Also attending, to show support for the 13 NGOs participating in the event, are Israel’s Olympic athletes, including medalists. The sports that will be featured include soccer, tennis, wheelchair tennis, karate, tae kwon do, capoeira, catchball, frisbee, surfing and kayaking.
■ IN FORMER years, the governor of the Bank of Israel used to present his or her annual report to the president of the state on March 31, which is the end of the fiscal year. But this year, Rivlin was beginning his state visit to Canada on March 31, and therefore Amir Yaron presented his report almost three months to the day following his official appointment as governor by Rivlin. However, any report of the meeting last week was under embargo, even though highlights of the report were already known; but tradition being what it is, the meeting went unreported, and only one journalist was present.
On the whole, other than per capita GDP, which is lower than Western countries, and overspending by the government, resulting in too large a deficit, the report was optimistic, a factor that Rivlin found gratifying, especially with regard to low unemployment, low inflation and a strong shekel. However, he warned that “we live in an era and a neighborhood of uncertainty, and things can change radically.”
Rivlin also said that he hopes the new government would be formed quickly, and would do more in the field of social justice. He also voiced his strong belief in the independence of the Bank of Israel, and told Yaron that regardless of any criticisms he might encounter, he should not hesitate to make his views known.
■ FORMER PEACE Corps member Elana Rozenman of Jerusalem and formerly of the US continues to be involved in interfaith work, peace organizations, and projects for women’s empowerment. She is currently promoting International Golden Rule Day, which is part of the mission of Pathway to Peace. Ambassador Mussie Hailu of Ethiopia, a senior staff member of United Religions Initiative and the founder of International Golden Rule Day, is currently in Israel, and will join her at her home in the capital’s Abu Tor neighborhood on April 4, which is the eve of International Golden Rule Day, which is now endorsed by organizations in more than 120 countries.
Hailu is also the goodwill ambassador of the Culture of Peace Initiative and a representative of the Federation of United Nations Associations. Golden Rule Day essentially means treating others as you want them to treat you. It is a guiding principle for universal ethics, mutual respect, a counter to violent extremism, and fosters interreligious and intercultural harmony, which he believes will eventually bring peace to the world.
■ NEW ZEALAND has been in the news for sad reasons resulting from an outrageous attack on a mosque, but now there’s some good news from New Zealand that has thrilled Mary-Clare Adam, the honorary consul in Israel for the Solomon Islands. Following a multimillion-dollar tourism investment in the Solomon Islands by New Zealand, which includes the opening of an international airport in the Western Province, the tourism industry powers that be in the Solomon Islands expect a massive boost to their tourism industry. The first scheduled international flight to Munda Airport arrived from Brisbane, Australia, on March 30.
Eventually tourists who love the pure beauty of nature will also find their way to the Solomon Islands, where they can go boating or diving in the pristine waters and enjoy the stunning beaches. Accommodation is not in the five-star bracket, but this very fact may add to the charm of a destination yet to be discovered.
■ PEOPLE FLYING in and out of Israel don’t get to see much of the country during landing and takeoff. If they have a chance to look out of a window of the plane, they will see Tel Aviv and Jaffa but not much else. El Al decided to give a total of 180 passengers,
including members of the Israel Special Olympics and the Krembo Wings youth group and their families, the opportunity to see much more, by taking them on a free flight across the whole of Israel in one of the company’s Dreamliner planes. Krembo Wings fights for the rights of youngsters with special needs.
Just before take-off, El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin and Yehudit Grisaro, the company’s manager of human resources, organized a ceremony on the tarmac with the participation of Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon, Talia Harel Bejerano, the CEO of Krembo Wings, and Sharon Levy, the CEO of the Special Olympics.
Usishkin said how pleased he was to host both groups leaving from the Herzliya airfield. He added that El Al initiates many community projects, and will continue to do so.
Fadlon was quite emotional about the fact that the company’s eighth Dreamliner plane has been named Herzliya.
■ ISRAEL PRIDES itself on what it has achieved over the past 70-plus years, but let’s not kid ourselves. If Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had not reached an agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany’s first postwar chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, Israel’s achievements might still be admirable but not nearly as great as was made possible by compensation for Nazi genocide. Though both men were naturally suspicious of each other as they prepared for their first meeting, the chemistry was right, and they developed a wonderful friendship.
This is the subject of a new book by David Witzthum, who was a longtime radio and television reporter and anchorman with Israel Radio and Israel Television in the era of the now defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority.
At a certain stage of his career, Witzthum was the IBA’s man in Germany, where he gained expertise in Israel-Germany relations, which he has continued to cultivate, so much so that travel agencies specializing in special niche group tours hire him as a scholar in residence for their tours to Germany. In addition to having been a broadcaster and a university lecturer, Witzthum is also a talented musician, and the tours to Germany have included lectures by Witzthum on famous German composers and musicians, as well as visits to concert recitals and opera performances.
His book launch, under the auspices of Talkhouse, will be held on Saturday night, April 6, at Pavilion 12 in Tel Aviv Port. Pavilion 12 is not to be confused with Hangar 12. It’s a separate entity altogether.
■ QUITE A few people were peeved during the period in which Netanyahu also served as foreign minister. The cause of their dissatisfaction was their contention that the position of foreign minister is not a part-time job; it demands full-time attention. They somehow overlooked the fact that even on a part-time basis, Netanyahu had many more diplomatic triumphs to his credit than many of his predecessors.
Around the time that election billboards began appearing all over the country, there was one that featured large portraits of both Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz on either side of the text, which read: “Bibi, Gantz, promise that the position of foreign minister will be full-time.”
Some people wondered who was behind this particular billboard, and as is usually the case in Israel, there were several conspiracy theories. Now there’s no longer any need to theorize. The culprit has confessed. It would not have taken major guesswork to realize that whoever it was had a relationship of some sort with the Foreign Ministry. Indeed, it was a former director-general and former ambassador to both the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Yes, it was Ron Prosor, who currently heads the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.
Prosor is hoping that whoever winds up as prime minister will select a foreign minister with the attributes of Abba Eban, in order to bring about meaningful change within the Foreign Ministry.
■ AMONG THE films being screened at the current Westchester Jewish Film Festival, which continues till April 17, is Ran Tal’s highly acclaimed film The Museum, which takes viewers behind the scenes at the Israel Museum. After the screening, the Jacob Burns Film Center will host a Q&A session with James Snyder, emeritus director of the Israel Museum, who served in that position from 1997 to 2016, and subsequently as the museum’s international president till the end of 2018. Snyder, who is now again living in the US, is an erudite speaker with an intimate knowledge of the museum, and will definitely give filmgoers value for firstname.lastname@example.org
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