In typical fashion, no sooner was the release of American spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard announced than the knives were unsheathed to cut into the euphoria.
Prize-winning investigative journalist and author Ronen Bergman, who writes primarily for Yediot Aharonot, but whose articles have appeared in many leading American and European publications and who is frequently interviewed on major American and European television channels, wrote a scathing anti-Pollard article in The New York Times. And it was not the first anti-Pollard article that he has written over the years.
Gary Pickholz, director at the White House Alumni Association, in a Facebook exchange wrote: “He served his sentence. It was fair. It is over. I regret deeply he did not receive the death penalty and I am a devout Israeli, but I am also an American. This was the most shameful and harmful moment in Israeli- American history – this is not Sharansky coming out of the gulag to hora-dancing throngs at Ben-Gurion Airport. Turning him into a hero is both an outrage and a dangerous message. We must learn when to bite our collective lip and be silent.”
Ze’ev M. Freed in the same exchange wrote: “He was his own victim. Some of his motivation may have been positive, but some was apparently not and that knotted him into a second look at him. He shot off his mouth and that is a huge sin in a game that is supposed to be played quietly. He refused to express any remorse even if it would have been stage dress. He apparently also sold info to [South Africa] and elsewhere.”
Pickholz told Freed: “If you visit the CIA headquarters in Langley you will see two black stars on the memorial wall directly attributable to Pollard. More importantly, the entire local citizen network was identified and slaughtered. It was never rebuilt to this day due to lack of trust in USA ability to keep identities secret from their ‘best allies’ with divergent agendas. And that fear is legitimate.”
In the statement issued on Pollard’s behalf by his pro bono lawyers, following announcement of the release, Pollard expressed special thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres for the efforts they made on his behalf. Yet anyone who scrolls through the Internet to look for Pollard-related stories, will see that his supporters often mounted protest demonstrations outside the prime minister’s office, the Prime Minister’s Residence and the President’s Residence and charged both Peres and Netanyahu with lack of concern for Pollard’s fate.
Yet, both men, at every opportunity, raised the Pollard issue with US presidents, secretaries of state and other dignitaries. Peres raised it yet again when he went to the US to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, and subsequent to that, just over a year ago, after receiving a letter signed by 106 MKs who called on Obama to grant clemency to Pollard. At the time, Peres told MKs Ayelet Shaked and Nachman Shai, who initiated and delivered the letter and who headed the Knesset Lobby for Jonathan Pollard, that it was both a right and a duty for him to bring the request from across Israel’s political spectrum to Obama.
“It is my clear responsibility to voice such clear consensus,” he said, adding that he would do so with pride. At a media conference this week Peres declared Pollard’s release is important and necessary from both a moral and humanitarian standpoint.
Netanyahu rejoiced with Esther Pollard, who as always was accompanied to their meeting by the ever loyal Effi Lahav, head of the Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard.
■ THE NAME of Mordechai Spiegler ranks high in the list of Israel’s legendary soccer players. Spiegler scored more goals for the national team than any other player before or since. But now he has an additional string to his bow as a film actor portraying no less a figure than former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Amos Gitai’s film Rabin, the Last Day, which is being screened at the Venice Film Festival, which runs from September 2-12. The film, which focuses on Rabin’s assassination, will be released in Israeli theaters in November on the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s death.
■ SOME OF the guests at a wedding in Kfar Chabad this week may have been surprised to see Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the prime minister, in their midst. Netanyahu, who is a working child psychologist, is a psychological counselor at the Beit Chana Chabad elementary school in Jerusalem, whose principal, Rivka Blau, happened to be the mother of the groom, and invited Netanyahu to join in the celebration.
■ INDIA’S PRESIDENT Pranab Mukherjee will make history in October when he becomes India’s first head of state to visit Israel. The visit is designed to further enhance cooperation between Israel and India. Mukherjee’s visit to the region will include Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
India and Israel have close cooperation in defense and cybersecurity, and trade between the two countries in excess of $4 billion. Yet another sign of the significance of relations between the two countries is the projected visit to Israel later in the year by India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Tehran as soon as he possibly can, thereby balancing the weight of India’s friendship to countries that are hostile to each other.
■ IT WAS very difficult for veteran Israel Radio broadcaster Ofra Nehmad to control the lump in her throat last Tuesday night. It was the grand finale of her weekly health program in which over many years she had interviewed countless conventional practitioners as well as proponents of alternative medicine. She had listened to stories of old wives’ tales and new technologies and had asked questions about diseases and new therapies and medications and over the years had attracted a faithful audience who listened not only to her health program, but her early morning reviews of the daily papers and her weekly Saturday night news roundups. Some of her colleagues and regular listeners called in with emotional messages of appreciation. Some sang to her or read poetry to her or plied her with tearful wishes for only good things in the next chapter of her life. They commended her respect for her interviewees and her ability to bring something new and exciting to the program every week. Nehmad had a hard time accepting the outpouring of affection and admiration and kept repeating to people that she did not know what to say to them.
This, despite the fact that aside from being a veteran broadcaster, she’s a published poet.
■ FORMER DIPLOMAT and parliamentarian Colette Avital, who currently heads the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, returned this week from a visit to Cuba. “I wanted to get there before McDonald’s takes over the territory,” she said.
Though saddened by the situation in which Cuba’s Jewish community finds itself, Avital described Cuba as “fabulous,” saying she heard a lot of jazz, which was even better than the jazz she heard in New York during the years that she was Israel’s consul-general in the Big Apple. But what really amazed her was when she went to a veteran dance school where nonagenarians were teaching young people how to rumba, samba and salsa. Avital was stunned by both their ability and their agility.
■ BRITISH EXPATS who were looking forward to hearing British Ambassador-Designate David Quarrey on August 20 will be disappointed. The event has been canceled, but organizers say that all those who paid in advance will be refunded.
■ WHEN HE was a member of Knesset, before adding a ministerial title to his name, Uri Orbach, the late senior citizens minister, who introduced the legislation of reduced prices for seniors on Tuesdays, was a guest at one of Yossi Alfi’s annual and ever popular storyteller’s festivals, which take place every Succot. Orbach died in February this year after spending more than a month at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center where he died from a rare blood disease.
Orbach worked as a print and radio journalist and was a beloved figure on Army Radio.
He also wrote several children’s books.
Known for his wit, humor and integrity, Orbach entered the political arena six years ago, when he joined Bayit Yehudi. Following the 2013 elections he was appointed senior citizens minister.
When he appeared at the storyteller’s festival, it was in a program dedicated to second generation yekkes, Jews of German descent. Among several people sharing the platform with him at the time were singer Shuli Natan, Rabbi Meir Azari, who heads Beit Daniel Progressive Synagogue in Tel Aviv, Chana Kehat, the founding director of Kolech: Religious Women’s Forum, which believes women should play a larger role in religious Jewish life, and historian Muki Tzur who is a member of Kibbutz Ein Gev.
At the time, Orbach pointed out that inasmuch as fun is made of the yekkes, they brought culture to the Holy Land and yekkes were prominent figures among three early media outlets. He cited Gershom Schocken of Haaretz, Azriel Carlebach the founder of Ma’ariv and Uri Avnery, who edited the now defunct Haolam Hazeh news magazine. Orbach himself wrote a regular column for Yediot Aharonot, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary at the festival where some of its leading reporters will disclose details of how they came across some of their best known scoops.
Getting back to yekkes, there will also be a special session devoted to the 100th anniversary year of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Apropos Einstein, he was a member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s first board of governors. This year happens to be the 90th anniversary year of the university.
As for human nonagenarians, special sessions will be given to members of Avnery’s peer generation, fifth president Yitzhak Navon, who has participated in the festival on several occasions and ninth president Shimon Peres. Navon and Peres have been friends for close to 70 years. Both are disciples of founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion and both are former politicians.
Navon celebrated his 94th birthday in April and Peres will celebrate his 92nd birthday this coming Sunday, August 2.
This year’s story teller’s festival at the Givatayim Theater will open on September 24.
■ GETTING BACK to anniversary years, and yekkes, H. Stern, the famous Brazilian jewelry company with branches around the world and in luxury hotels throughout Israel, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It was founded by German-born Hans Stern, who managed to get out of Germany at the beginning of the Second World War.
H. Stern chose supermodel Bar Refaeli to head its worldwide 70th anniversary campaign, and brought her to Brazil for the photo shoot. It’s on the cards that Refaeli received a very handsome sum of money, which will come in handy towards the expenses of her wedding in September, although she was more than affluent before receiving the H. Stern assignment.
■ THERE’S NO shortage of celebrity chefs in Israel these days. Haim Cohen, Eyal Shani, Michal Ansky, Yisrael Aharoni, Moshik Roth, Meir Adoni, Segev Moshe, Yonatan Roshfeld, Asaf Granit and Tzahi Bukshester have all become household names, not only because they are chefs of high repute but because all of them have appeared or are currently featured on TV shows and commercials.
Veteran prize-winning celebrity chef Shalom Kadosh, who is the executive in-house chef at Jerusalem’s Leonardo Plaza but is also the executive chef for the whole Leonardo hotel chain, hardly ever appears on television, but has been the mainstay of the country’s major culinary extravaganzas through his impressive contacts with topline chefs in Europe and the US, many of who have come to Israel to join him in preparing gala events. They prepared events such as the 12-course meal served in 1996 at the banquet celebrating the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem.
The hotel industry is by and large noted for its nomadic character. Not only guests come and go but also staff at fairly frequent intervals. There are exceptions of course, such as Ronnie Fortis, the general manager of the Tel Aviv Hilton and the area manager for Hilton hotels in Israel. But few people have stayed in the same place for as long as Kadosh. Managements and owners have come and gone, but Kadosh has remained the king of the kitchen since the late ’70s when the hotel was managed by Canadian Pacific. He has cooked for monarchs, heads of state and prime ministers, among them King Hussein of Jordan, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and US presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama.
He is widely regarded as the unofficial chef of Israel’s prime ministers, most notably Menachem Begin, whose birthday was celebrated each year by the chefs of the hotel marching to the nearby prime minister’s residence, bearing a huge tray with a birthday cake. Though born on August 16, 102 years ago, Begin always celebrated his birthday according to the Hebrew calendar date of Shabbat Nachamu, the first Shabbat after Tisha Be’av, which falls this weekend.
■ AUDIENCE REACTION indicated that the annual Tisha Be’av program of films and discussion on various aspects of conflict presented by Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai was arguably the best ever. But no matter how good anything may be, there’s almost always a spoiler of sorts – in this case clinical psychologist Avner Hacohen who seems to have become the permanent moderator of this event. In previous years, when interviewing film makers and commentators, Hacohen also allowed questions from the audience. This time, he not only hogged the microphone, but contrary to previous practice did not allow any questions, and kept disrupting his interviewees when they were making extremely interesting points in their conversation. Certainly a case of physician heal thyself.
■ THE CASTRO fashion company, headed by Etti and Gabby Rotter, has had a long relationship with Shenkar College and is now moving further into the sphere of culture by entering into a relationship with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, whose director and chief curator, Suzanne Landau, was more than happy to cooperate in what is believed to be the first venture of its kind between the museum and a fashion house. The Rotters and Landau hosted art lovers and leading members of Israel’s business community at the opening of an exhibition of a collection of men’s and women’s T-shirts featuring prints by well-known Israeli artists such as Jennifer Bar Lev, Nahum Gutman, David Tartakover, Menashe Kadishman, Yigal Tumarkin and others, most of whom or their representatives were present. But more than holding an exhibition, Castro has decided to sponsor Thursday in T throughout August, where from 9 p.m. until midnight, there will be free admission to the museum on Thursday nights. Castro has long been represented by public relations-celebrity-in-his-ownright Ran Rahav, who treats all of his clients as part of his extended family, so it was not surprising to see several of them at the opening. Among them were Melisron chairwoman Liora Ofer, deputy CEO of Gazit Globe Yaron Eshel, Moshe and Penina Edery of Cinema City and a lot of other wellknown faces. There were also fashion design luminaries including Sasson Kedem, Raziela Gershon and Yuval Caspin.