THERE WAS no strutting on the runway at this year’s showing of Castro’s Fall/Winter collection at Hangar 11 on the Tel Aviv Port on Sunday. This season, there was a surprise concept by way of what looked like a giant two tiered black closet with Venetian blinds on each compartment. The shutters were raised – sometimes over only one compartment, sometimes more to reveal male and female models standing immobile like store window mannequins clad in the latest Castro creations. Eti Rotter, the co-director of the company with her husband Gabi Rotter, was as always dressed in an outfit from the collection, and as always excited, but this time more emotionally so. She could barely control the sob in her throat as she spoke of Castro being her home, her parents’ home, her children’s home and her grandchildren’s home.
Indeed, there were three generations of her family in attendance. Although there are other multi generational companies in Israel, Castro is the only fashion company with a nationwide brand that has remained a family controlled company for 65 years. Couture and swimwear designer Gideon Oberson, who was present at the show started his enterprise quarter of a century later than Castro. Eti Rotter told her guests that the collection was a blend of nostalgia and modernity, and for those who could remember several yesteryears ago, there were many hints of de ja vu in long jackets over shorts and mini skirts, hemlines running the gamut from mini to midi to maxi, fringed suede vests differing from their earlier incarnation of the real thing to the current fad for super soft pseudo suede. There were culottes and pants that fell straight, but not narrow, and there were still some residues of skinny pants. Also making the forward leap from bygone fashion eras were classic high necked long sleeved dresses split from the top of the thigh, grunge, cropped tops, reversible capes, ethnic and animal skin prints and quilted jackets plus plaid shirts in the men’s collection. Key colors were shades of black and charcoal, white, caramel, bordeaux and indigo blue.
It’s a wonderfully eclectic collection that would offer something for everyone if Castro had a more comprehensive range of sizes.
Many women with fuller figures would love to wear some of the Castro creations – but unfortunately they can’t get into them, because Castro’s largest size is 42. Rotter apologized to anyone she may have offended when quoted as saying that larger women would not look good in Castro creations, and insisted that they were for everyone of every age. Time will tell if sizes 44. 46 and 48 show up on the racks. This season’s show was vastly different not only in its presentation but in its marrying of fashion to food under the headline Flavors of Fall. Immediately after the show everyone was invited to step through the windows and to take their assigned seat at seven ultra long tables where in keeping with the fringe element they were urged to take strands of spaghetti hanging over small black racks and swish them around in strategically placed bowls of boiling water. Every course had some relationship to the themes in the collection. Credit for the culinary concept belongs to Ido Garini of .studioappetit.
Among the faces in the crowd were Moshe Edery, one of the co-owners of Cinema City, and his wife Pnina, Ronen Ashkenazi, one of the owners of Gazit Globe Israel and his wife Orly, Prof. Rafi Bayer, the director of Rambam Medical Center, actresses Keren Mor and Maya Dagan, celebrity chef Israel Aharoni, and singer Efrat Gosh.
■ SENSATIONIALISM IS
the bread and butter of the tabloid press, and one would think from the front and back page coverage which Yediot Aharonot gave this week to British Ambassador David Quarrey and his partner, Aldo Oliver Henriquez, that there was something unusual about diplomats being gay.
And that’s really what gay pride marches are all about – accepting people for their talents and their merits and not rejecting or condemning them outright for their sexual orientation which has absolutely nothing to do with their capabilities. In fact, Quarrey and Henriquez are totally up-front about their relationship as anyone who reads the British Embassy Facebook can see. On the day prior to the presentation of Quarrey’s credentials to President Reuven Rivlin, the entry read: “Ambassador David Quarrey and his partner Aldo Henriquez visited Jerusalem Open House where they met LGBTQ teenagers and their parents. They heard about their experiences and how the gruesome murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki affected them. David and Aldo empowered the teens and encouraged them to continue to be true to themselves.”
On the following day, after a group of new ambassadors had each presented their credentials in separate ceremonies, they stood in line at the King David Hotel to receive the well wishes of their colleagues and other dignitaries at the vin d’honneur which traditionally follows such presentations, and is a kind of diplomatic icebreaker Henriquez stood alongside Quarrey , shook many hands and exchanged polite small talk. Israel has its own share of gay diplomats who take their partners with them when they go abroad to serve.
While Quarrey may be the first gay diplomat in Her Majesty’s Foreign Service to come to Israel, he is by no means the first head of a foreign mission in Israel to be openly gay. As far as is known, the trailblazer in that area was Danish Ambassador Carsten Damsgaard, who brought his partner Esben Karmark to Israel and when he presented his credentials to then-president Moshe Katsav in September 2003, he was accompanied by Karmark who also accompanied him to the subsequent vin d’honneur reception for new ambassadors at the King David hotel and to all subsequent diplomatic and other social events to which the ambassador was invited. Invitations to events hosted by the ambassador always included Karmark’s name. Being open about their sexual orientation leaves gay diplomats less vulnerable to blackmail, because they have nothing to hide.
Twelve years ago, Yediot was more cautious than today and it took three years before one of the paper’s journalists interviewed Damsgaard about his sex life about which he was absolutely candid. Damsgaard served in Israel for five years after which he went to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan and was recently named Denmark’s next ambassador to China where he and Karmark will continue to be together.
Curiously, while Israel did not object to a gay ambassador coming to this country, fundamentalist Christian groups in Denmark were outraged.
While Pope Francis has been widely recognized as a liberal pontiff, his open mindedness does not stretch to accepting gay ambassadors to the Holy See. In April of this year, he met with Laurent Stefanini, France’s gay ambassador designate to the Holy See and allegedly told him that his appointment was unacceptable to the Vatican, even though Stefanini is a practicing Catholic. Given the Vatican’s opposition to homosexuality, accepting Stefanini would be tantamount to opening the door to controversy for the length of his tenure.
■ WHAT WAS interesting to note at the vin d’honneur was the difference between male and female ambassadors. Whereas the men remained in the suits they had worn for the presentation of credentials, Thessalia Salina Shambos, the ambassador of Cyprus changed her dress. Charming, articulate and attractive with an enviable slim figure, the ambassador looked more like a fashion model than a diplomat.
■ TEL AVIV-based chef Mano Strum has built up quite reputation for the authentic Italian cuisine which diners at his Campanello restaurant love to watch him prepare in his open kitchen. Jerusalem-based chef Shalom Kadosh, who is the cxecutive chef of the Leonardo chain of hotels and the resident executive chef at the Leonardo Plaza hotel in Jerusalem, thinks that Strum is Israel’s best exponent of Italian cuisine. So when Kadosh was looking to do something special for the summer menu at the hotel’s Primavera restaurant, which for summer evenings is expanding onto the refurbished terrace directly outside, he invited Strum to come and work with him in conceiving a new menu which was served up to a group of journalists last week.
The ambience was pleasant and some of the culinary creations that were served were quite delicious, while others left no tingle on the palate. The two chefs declined to say which dishes each had prepared because they preferred to present the menu as a joint effort. There were a lot of choices on the antipasti buffet inside the Primavera near the door leading to the terrace, but the buffet was not free standing, which meant that there was a long queue of people lined up and trying to get to particular offerings – something that shouldn’t happen in a restaurant that size. The paying diners inside, all happened to be haredi, an indication of the high standard of kashrut.
■ POPULAR PRESIDENT that he may be, it is doubtful that President Reuven Rivlin would have received the barrage of coverage that was given to him in the weekend print and electronic media, had he not received a number of death threats which are being investigated by the police. While his unequivocal condemnation of Jewish terrorism, his championing of democracy and his calls for equal rights and opportunities for Arab citizens, for the disabled and people with special needs, and his acceptance of and support for the LGBT community are commendable, his activities in these areas have been reported in depth by numerous media outlets and did not require elaboration in reviews of his first year in office. It was the death threats coupled with his publicly voiced fears that the prime minister has gone too far in antagonizing the Americans on the Iran deal that earned the president front-page headlines followed by lengthy news features.
While the president has been widely hailed as the defender of democracy, the same cannot be said for his staff. The invitation to interview the president was not extended to radio reporters or to foreign language journalists of Israeli publications. It is doubtful that Rivlin himself was aware of this because he is generally willing to talk to any media representative, but is often held back by his spokespeople.
On more than one occasion when his spokespeople have tried to evict journalists from the room when Rivlin is meeting with a foreign dignitary, Rivlin has interceded and said that he wants them to stay. He surely would not have wanted to discriminate on such a hot news issue as threats to his life. Too often, people in high places are blamed for the damage caused by their lackeys. Ideally, people in top notch positions should have their fingers on the pulse of everything related to their respective roles – but only in the cases of a few geniuses is such a thing possible, and therefore others are entrusted with total responsibility for certain tasks. Sometimes, as in this case, that responsibility is abused. When Rivlin, soon after taking up his present position, met with media representatives who generally cover events in the President’s Residence, he said that he didn’t mind what they reported – even criticism of him – so long as the reports were accurate. He also declared that his presidency would be completely transparent. That has not been the case, not because of anything he may or may not have done, but because of presidential personnel who are not nearly as democratic as their boss.
■ WHILE RIVLIN was giving interviews to local TV channels, Amir Gera of Channel 1 went out and interviewed Daniella Weiss, a prominent figure in the Gush Emunim settlement movement and a former mayor of Kedumim. Weiss did not appear to be the least bit upset about the callous murder of Ali Dawabsheh, nor did she feel any concern with regard to the death threats made against the president. Rivlin can sleep peacefully, Weiss told Gera. “He’s not important enough to kill.”
■ ON FRIDAY afternoon, the Labor Young Guard orchestrated a huge show of support for Rivlin, and on Sunday, when Moshe Kahlon led his Kulanu Knesset members into the President’s Residence in a Johnny- Come-Lately demonstration of solidarity and support, it was too little, too late and almost laughable in comparison. The only advantage that Kahlon and Kulanu. had over the Labor people was that they were allowed into the presidential compound. On the other hand, it was kind of nice for Labor that Rivlin came out to them. One of the speakers, Dr. Tomer Persico noted that Rivlin was never a member of Labor and that conversely Persico was never a member of Likud, “but we both understand that without democracy, the Zionist enterprise will fail.”
Journalist and satirist Einav Galilee on last Saturday night’s Gav Ha’Uma (Back of the Nation) on Channel 10, wore a t-shirt featuring a large portrait of Rivlin. Galilee was raised on Kibbutz Na’an which was founded by her grandfather, Yisrael Galilee, who had been the chief of staff of the Hagana and later a government minister and one of the most loyal and trusted advisers to Golda Meir. The show, which thrives on irreverence, brought iconoclasm to its zenith when program’s creator, host, and partial scriptwriter Lior Schlein in commenting on the circulation on social media of photo shop portraits of Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in SS uniforms declared: “How ridiculous to portray Bibi as a Nazi. The Nazis would never tolerate such chaos.”
■ AND ONE final reference to Gav HaUma: the show’s logo bears a remarkable resemblance in style and color to that of the Labor Party of which Schleien’s significant other, Merav Michaeli, is a leading MK.
■ IN THE greater diplomatic picture, Taiwan – which is represented in some 80 countries – has full diplomatic relations with less than twenty. Political and economic pressures imposed by China have dissuaded most countries from going all the way in their diplomatic ties with Taiwan, with the result that in most places where it is represented Taiwan has an economic and cultural office, often headed by someone who has full ambassadorial status in his country, but not in the country in which he is serving. In countries such as the United States and Japan, Taiwan has many representative offices, but no embassy.
It doesn’t have one in Israel either, even though there are many Israeli business enterprises in Taiwan and there is also a considerable volume of trade between Israel and Taiwan.
This week, Yun-sheng Chi, the Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv and Prof. Dror Wahrman, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote Taiwan Studies. This MOU is part of a global project initiated by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, in a quest for international partners to promote worldwide research on Taiwan. Such partnerships are facilitated by Taiwan offering funding for relevant research and teaching projects. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv will assist the Hebrew University in this respect. Over the coming three years the fund will be used to offer courses related to Taiwanese culture or society in the Department of Asian Studies; to bring Taiwanese scholars to Israel to give lectures or workshops; and to purchase databases from Academica Sinica, the Taiwanese academic research center. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv also provides Huayu Enrichment Scholarships and Taiwan Scholarships each year, for Israeli students who are interested in studying in Taiwan which is a beautiful country with a diversity of Asian culture, and in terms of cuisine an absolute delight for vegans and vegetarians .
■ FATE IS a strange companion. In October last year, when three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun was killed by a Palestinian who deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of people at a light rail station in Jerusalem, Ziad Dawit, the senior Magen David Adom medic who removed the critically injured baby from the wreckage, again came into contact with the infant’s parents at the beginning of this week, but under much happier circumstances.
When Chaya Zissel’s parents Shmuel Elimlech and Channy tapped 101 into their telephone because Channy had gone into labor, they could not anticipate that the first responder to their call would be Dawit, who while pleased to deliver any baby, was overjoyed to be able to deliver this particular little girl. Dawit did not initially realize why the baby’s father who was anxiously waiting for him when the ambulance pulled up started burbling about the number 12 which is the number of Dawit’s ambulance. But Braun instantly remembered that a number 12 ambulance had come to the scene of the tragedy and which had taken him, his wife and Chaya Zissel to hospital .Dawit was too busy delivering the baby and cutting the umbilical cord to pay much attention to Braun. It was only after the birth that Channy also recognized Dawit and almost went to shock. She thanked him profusely while Shmuel Elimelech danced around him and kissed him on both cheeks. How wonderful that the Brauns could have another baby so soon to bring joy into their lives and to help assuage their grief.
■ THE DEATH last week of Orna Porat, 91, the great lady of Israeli theater, most definitely signified the end of an era, 14 months after the death of another great thespian Hanna Maron who died on May 30, 2014 at age 90.
The two were born in Germany and were never quite able to rid themselves of their German accents, even though Hannah Meron was barely ten years old when she arrived in Tel Aviv in 1933. Both women were eulogized by avid playgoer Shimon Peres, who while still president, had hosted them in September, 2008 when they were part of a Cameri Theater delegation which had come to Jerusalem to present then-president Peres with the Cameri’s 65th anniversary book written by Prof. Gad Kenar, who was present along with graphic designer Itamar Wexler and editor Rivka Meshulach, as well as Cameri Theater director Noam Semel and several other people associated with the theater. Maron and Porat who in addition to being colleagues were good friends and always capable of spontaneous theater, while waiting for Peres came up with impromptu texts that had everyone else including the president’s staff members in stitches. Although each had played some very serious roles in her time, both were natural comediennes. But after Peres entered the room, the two women became a little less exuberant and each performed a couple of powerful vignettes. In the final analysis, Peres eulogized them both – Maron last year and Porat last week.
Of Maron, he said: “The State of Israel has lost a wonderful woman, a great artist, and an exceptional individual. For Hanna, the world was not a stage, the stage was her world.”
When eulogizing Porat, Peres, referring to her Children’s Theater, said that she had turned the stage into an educational network.
Peres who was a personal friend of Porat’s doubted that any writer could do full justice to the incredible story of her life moving from a member of the Hitler youth to marriage to a Mossad agent, to conversion to Judaism, to the adoption of two children who she always treated as if they were her biological progeny, to becoming a grandmother, but never for any of these reasons leaving the theater. She had promised herself that Israeli children would have a childhood filled with culture, education and values. She loved Israel with her heart and soul, he said, especially the children of Israel.
In an archive interview that she gave to Yoav Ginai on Channel 1, and which was rebroadcast last Saturday night, Porat – who was also a sculptress who loved to get her hands into the clay – said that she laughs a lot because laughter is healthy and she cries because tears cleanse the soul.
■ GRAMMY WINNER Mariah Carey, who will perform in Rishon Lezion AmphiPark on August 18, in an interview with Dana Weiss on Channel 2 spoke of her previous visit to Israel last June with her current beau, Australian business tycoon James Packer, who incidentally owns a house in Caesarea. During that visit, the two had dined with the Netanyahus, which Carey deemed “such a great honor” and whom she described as “a great couple.” She said she was sorry she hadn’t been able to sing for her fans on that visit, but is going to make up for it this time. She thinks Israel is a wonderful country and always wanted to perform here. Packer will not be accompanying her this time around, but Carey will be bringing her four-year-old twins, Moroccan and Monroe.