One thing that outgoing US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have in common – other than a great talent for oratory – is that each heaps high praise on his wife. Obama did so in the course of his farewell speech in Chicago, saying that for 25 years she had not only been his wife and the mother of his children but also his best friend. She had not asked to be first lady. It was a role more or less thrust on her. Wiping a tear from his eye, Obama said: “Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side; for the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and you made it your own, with grace and with grit and with style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And the new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. So you have made me proud. And you have made the country proud.”
Obama, who managed to do a good job of combining attentive fatherhood with the presidency, did not omit his daughters from praise.
“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women. You are smart and you are beautiful, but more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.”
■ SOMETIMES THERE are just too many events in one evening and the choices are difficult. For instance, this coming Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin is hosting a state dinner for Polish President Andrzej Duda in Jerusalem; US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie Fisher, who like their president and his wife are great parents to their daughters, are hosting a farewell party in Tel Aviv; and Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser is hosting an evening seminar in memory of Raoul Wallenberg that will include the screening of a short film, The Survivors in Budapest, survivors who owe their lives to Wallenberg. The film’s interviews will later be made public on You- Tube. One of the interviewees will also speak at the event, as will the ambassador and Danny Rainer, who heads the Israeli branch of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
SOMEONE HAS dreamed up what at first glance looks like a win-win compromise on the issue of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Just the ambassador and his immediate staff will be moved, but the physical embassy compound will remain in Tel Aviv, and the official residence of the ambassador will remain in Herzliya Pituah, though incoming ambassador David Friedman may prefer to reside in Jerusalem in one of the apartments that he owns; or perhaps the residence currently occupied by the consul-general will be transferred to the ambassador, though it would be better for him to live and work out of the building on David Flusser Street in Arnona, rather than the older consulate- general office on Agron Street, because so many of his friends in Jerusalem would suddenly start having lunch at the nearby Waldorf Astoria, just a few doors down the street, in the hope that they could pry him away from his desk and have him join them.
It will also be interesting to see where this year’s Fourth of July reception will be held. In past years, the ambassador hosted a reception on the undulating lawns of the US residence, and the consul-general hosted a reception in the gardens of the residence in Jerusalem. But if the reception is held either in Arnona or on Agron Street, it will save the Americans money because there will be no need for two receptions. Two of Friedman’s predecessors regularly served up kosher fare, and presumably, because he is Orthodox, he will do likewise.
■ WHEN HE hosts a relatively small group of people in the smaller of the two reception halls of the President’s Residence, Rivlin invites everyone to be photographed with him, but when Rona Ramon brought a group of high school students from around the country who had received the Ramon Foundation’s award of excellence, there were just too many to get comfortably into the frame, so Rivlin asked the photographers to take the photo again, but not before he told all the students who had been the center of the group to move to the ends and allow those who had been at the ends to be in the center. That way, he said, everyone will have a memento of a visit with the president.
■ FOLLOWING THE meeting, the president went to pay a condolence call to the family of Sec.-Lt. Erez Orbach, who was one of four soldiers killed in Sunday’s terrorist attack, while Nechama Rivlin went to Shaare Zedek Medical Center to visit the soldiers who were wounded in the attack and are still hospitalized.
“I came to strengthen you and embrace you in these difficult times,” she said to the parents of Aviv – Israel and Anat – who have barely strayed from the bedside of their daughter since Sunday afternoon. Rivlin, who had been briefed by Dr. Philip Levine, the head of the intensive care unit, said that she was very pleased to learn that Aviv, the most seriously wounded, had recovered consciousness and that her condition was improving. Anat shared her great feeling of relief after Aviv finally opened her eyes, while Israel related how happy Aviv had been in the Border Police, where she had learned about different aspects of the country.
In a moving moment Aviv stretched out her hand to Rivlin, who clasped it and told her to take heart because she was in the best of hands on her road to recovery.
■ SHLOMO CARLEBACH fans who were not previously aware of an upcoming concert in celebration of the 92nd anniversary of his birth are now informed that it’s happening Saturday night, January 14, at what is coincidentally the most appropriate venue – Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem, even though it was not exactly named for him. Doors open at 8, and the concert begins at 8:30. Tickets are priced at NIS 40, and singers include Aharon Razel, Yehudah Katz, Yitzchak Meir, Chizki Sofer, Reb Yankele Shemesh, the Kotler Brothers and Aharon Deutsch, who will present a broad range of Carlebach melodies.
Carlebach died on a plane on October 20, 1994, while getting ready to fly to a concert. Even though he has been physically absent for more than two decades, his spirit, teachings and songs linger on, and he arguably has even more followers today than he did in his lifetime.
■ PRIZEWINNING JOURNALIST Keren Neubach – who has some remarkable achievements to her credit, and who takes on some of the most difficult of social welfare causes, from time to time succeeding in finding partial or total solutions for the physical, mental or economic distress in which so many Israelis find themselves – can sometimes go overboard, particularly when it comes to her personal perceptions of politics and corruption.
Her pursuit of the Bibi-Noni affair is so obsessive that it has gone beyond all the limits of journalism. Her accusatory style of questioning becomes increasingly aggressive when she can’t get the answer that she wants.
It seems from the questions that she asks, including those she puts to journalists working for Yediot Aharonot
, that what she is trying to do is to cast doubts on the paper’s trustworthiness and to suggest that its general policy is “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
journalists insist that they have never been pressured to specifically write or not write about a particular subject or individual. Moreover, Yediot
, which has a penchant for sensationalism, has treated this story in the same manner as it would any story to which it would give that kind of attention. It has appeared on the front page and in full-page and double-page spreads on the inside pages without giving Noni Mozes kid-glove treatment.
In fact, Israel Radio’s Aryeh Golan on Wednesday morning noted the fearlessness and integrity of Yediot
’s veteran journalists and in the same breath included the veteran journalists of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
On Thursday Amotz Shapiro, who anchored the early morning program, said that he could now understand why such strenuous efforts were made to close down the (politically) clean IBA. He said this after having watched on television the first press conference held by US President-elect Donald Trump, and hearing his negative comments about media reports in which Trump used words like “fake” and “phony” in relation to reports about himself and applied the same comments to a journalist from CNN, refusing to take his question. BuzzFeed, which had published a large number of allegations against Trump, was described by him as a “failing pile of garbage,” and CNN, which had reported on additional findings, came in for similar disdain, as Trump continued to disregard press conference etiquette.
■ APROPOS THE IBA, every time that the yet-to-be-launched Israel Broadcasting Corporation signs up another employee, particularly an IBA personality, it puts out a press release. But to be fair, it also announces when people choose to leave the IBC – and there have been a few such individuals. The most recent is deputy CEO Dina Lanir, whose resignation will become effective as soon as a replacement is found. Lanir said that she is proud to have been on the founding team of the new public broadcasting service, but feels it necessary to give her full attention to Educational Television, which is her first firstname.lastname@example.org