GRAPEVINE: A double celebration

A weekly roundup of news around Israel.

LIONEL LEVY from Alcyone restaurant at the InterContinental Marseille. (photo credit: Courtesy)
LIONEL LEVY from Alcyone restaurant at the InterContinental Marseille.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Tel Aviv Hilton has a long tradition of supporting culture in general and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in particular.
The hotel hosts an annual gala dinner for the IPO, and has been Maestro Zubin Mehta’s home away from home for all the years in which he has been associated with the orchestra. Last Sunday, dinner at the hotel had a more festive air than usual, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the orchestra, and re-celebrating Mehta’s 80th birthday (which was actually on April 29).
Ronnie Fortis, Hilton country general manager, welcomed more than 700 guests who despite the cold and the rain came to the hotel’s ballroom following a memorable concert conducted by Mehta at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium.
The performance at the hotel was of a somewhat different genre and included a musical tribute to the legendary Leonard Cohen with Rona Kenan and Itay Pearl performing together with IPO musicians in presenting an inspirational rendition of Cohen’s immortal classic “Hallelujah.”
Among those present were Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and his wife Yael, former government minister Meir Sheetrit and his wife Ruthie, internationally renowned violinist Pinhas Zukerman, Ami and Lizika Sagie, Ella and Oded Gera, Sara and Michael Sela, Gideon and Yair Hamburger and many other well-known patrons of culture. The only sad note was the knowledge that Mehta will be retiring in 2019.
■ IF KNESSET members continue to set a bad example with their behavior, parents will be faced with the task of preventing their children from watching television news when there is coverage of the Knesset. Last week, there was a high pitched exchange between Meretz MK Zehava Gal- On and Likud’s Oren Hazan. Fellow Likudnik Yehuda Glick, taking on the role of peace maker tried to calm Hazan down, only to be rebuffed and roughly pushed away. Who needs enemies with friends like that?
■ HEARTWARMING THOUGH it may be to see groups of lone soldiers arriving every few weeks to join in Israel’s national security endeavors, some 25% of these young men and women do not opt to stay in Israel according to reports in the Hebrew media. In some cases they feel a lack of acceptance because they are not halachically Jewish, and they don’t want the hassles that are part and parcel of religious bureaucracy. But in most cases, it’s because they can’t find jobs and they can’t afford the rent.
As it is, they receive precious little money as soldiers, so they can’t save, and although various individuals and organizations make strenuous efforts to help them while they are in uniform, that attention tends to wane once they return to being civilians.
An example of how they are affected can be seen in an excerpt from a blog written in November by Max Rochman of New Jersey: “I, and the other lone soldiers, returned to base to organize equipment. The next day we would be driving to Beit El, a settlement next to Ramallah, to return everything the army gave us. From my room I see the fires raging.
At 3 a.m. I sat at the entrance of the base for my final guard duty. In the morning we threw our equipment and personal belongings into a Hummer and all stuffed into the back seat. I had four pairs of pants and shirts, one jacket, two water canteens, a ‘onesie’ (one-piece winter coat), one helmet cover, one helmet, one pair of rain gear, six magazines, and one gun. The roads of eastern Israel are like a labyrinth — certain roads are only for Israelis, others are only for Palestinians, others are for both. The government tells [people not] to drive on certain dirt roads, yet both of them do.
This land is still so ancient. The landscape is decorated with knotted olive branches and jagged stones. The hills are painted a faded green and a dusty brown, her curves are deep inclines, and her face is biblical. These were the lands of our ancestors: Jewish, Christian, Muslim ancestors. The smell of smoke has permeated my glasses. Every breath of this scenery tastes like fire. Why would anyone want to destroy a place so beautiful? We arrive at the army office in Beit El, return everything, sign a few papers, and that’s it.
No grand ceremony. No fireworks or streamers.
Nothing, but a cute girl in an office telling you to go home.
I’m feeling a lot of things. But I’m also feeling nothing at all.
I have to ask myself: ‘Was it all worth it?’ Did the hours of scraping weeds, cleaning the kitchen, breaking bones, hiking countless kilometers in broken shoes have meaning? Did I make an impact on my country? The truth is… sorta. I have never seen a day of war. I have never shot my gun at a terrorist. I never saved a child from a well or a cat from a burning tree. The stories that I have collected are ones of personal suffering.
Of testing how far I could push my body. Of how much pain I could take until my legs gave out.
But although that may not constitute ‘making an impact’ on the country, I feel in many ways I did.
I gave pride to the Jewish mothers who heard I had come here alone and offered me a seat at their dinner table. I gave friendship to those who remain in my unit. I was an example to Jews around the world that even though most people hate us, we still have something to be proud of – a country of our own.
The real story is that I did this for myself. Any lone soldier who tries to claim that volunteering for the army is completely altruistic is a liar. We all joined for the glory, for the story, for the experience. And there is nothing wrong with that.
So yeah, maybe I am a different person. Maybe this was all worth it.
But when I ask myself, ‘So now you know what’s next, right?’ I answer, ‘No, I am in the exact same place where I started: just a Jew lost in the homeland.’”
■ MBA USUALLY stands for Master of Business Administration, but in the case of Tel Aviv’s David Intercontinental Hotel it stands for Marseilles, Berlin and Amsterdam, which are the cities from which three Michelin Chefs will arrive for the hotel’s Taste of Michelin Festival in its Aubergine restaurant.
Hotel general manager David Cohen is very excited about providing a unique Michelin gourmet experience for hotel guests, and better still, it will be kosher.
The first chef to arrive will be Eberhard Lange of the InterContinental Berlin’s Hugos restaurant. Aubergine will feature Chef Lange’s delicacies from January 9-15. Under Lange’s leadership, Hugos is the highest rated restaurant in Berlin. From January 16-19, Lionel Levy from InterContinental Marseille will serve as the chef-in-residence.
Levy is the head chef of the hotel’s Alcyone restaurant and is regarded as the leader of the new Mediterranean cuisine.
Chef Roger Rassin, from the InterContinental Amsterdam’s La Rive, will demonstrate his culinary creativity from January 23-29. In 2013, Rassin was awarded the title of SVH Master Chef, the highest possible culinary honor in the Netherlands.
■ THE CHRISTMAS Day plane crash, in which 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble choir were killed, does not mean that the choir’s concert scheduled concert tour for this month in Israel is canceled. The Alexandrov Ensemble is the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces and includes hundreds of singers and musicians who are not only Russia’s musical ambassadors around the world, but also perform for Russian military forces. As painful as it has been for Russia to suffer a plane crash with no survivors, there are still more than enough singers and musicians available to come to Israel as scheduled, and to give Russian immigrants a taste of the old country.
■ SHE’S ONLY 16, and she’s already a seasoned opera singer, but in recent days, Jackie Evancho who rose to fame six years ago, when as a ten year old, she sang an operatic aria on America’s Got Talent is rising to even greater heights. She subsequently released an album and became the youngest recording artist to go platinum.
But now Evancho is becoming even more famous because she was chosen to sing The Star Spangled Banner at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.