IT'S NOT often that a street or square in Israel is named for a member of the country's Anglo community. One of the rare exceptions occurred last week when a new Jerusalem square was inaugurated in memory of American-born Simon Agranat, president of the Supreme Court from 1965 to 1976. The Simon Agranat Square was inaugurated in the centenary year of his birth.
The scion of a staunchly Zionist family from Louisville, Kentucky, Agranat spent much of his youth in Chicago and received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. In 1930, shortly after being accepted to the bar, Agranat, together with his parents and brother, set sail for Haifa, where he entered private practice. After he had lived there for 10 years, married and started a family, he was offered an opportunity to sit on the bench. He was the second Jewish magistrate in Haifa.
When Israel gained independence, he was appointed chief judge of the Haifa District Court, serving only a year before he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1949. One of the early advocates for a constitution, Agranat was unable to convince David Ben-Gurion of its importance, but he did succeed in winning the battle for judicial independence. Following his retirement, Agranat was appointed to head the Commission of Inquiry into events that had led to the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War and Israel's lack of preparedness.
Among those attending the Simon Agranat Square dedication ceremony were members of the Agranat family, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and various legal personalities including former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar and outgoing Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.
ONE OF the ongoing controversies related to the Supreme Court is whether one of the vacancies on the bench will be offered to Ruth Gavison, the brilliant Hebrew University law professor and human rights activist. Gavison has been at the forefront of drafting a covenant for secular-religious reconciliation, and has contributed to writing at least one version of a proposed draft for a constitution for the State of Israel. Gavison was last week a member of a delegation of the Institute for Zionist Strategies that presented its draft for a constitution to President Moshe Katsav.
In the small reception room in which Katsav usually receives delegations, the leader sits alongside him behind a low coffee table, and the two next most important people sit in large armchairs on either side of the coffee table. One of these seats was occupied by Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson, who chairs the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Knesset member and former government minister Natan Sharansky was about to take the other seat when he saw Gavison standing alongside him. He insisted that she sit there. When Katsav entered the room and walked around shaking hands with the members of the delegation, he said to Gavison: "I see that you're in your rightful place."
MINDFUL OF the commitment of intrepid State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to expose corruption and irregularities in all areas of public service, Knesset members are being more cautious than ever about accepting favors. Thus several of the Knesset members invited to IDB-Cellcom's event of the year - a mega concert by Rita - were forced to reluctantly decline, according to a Yediot Aharonot report.
Some of the Knesset members had consulted with the Knesset legal advisor Nurit Elstein as to whether it would be proper for them to accept the invitation. Even though it was a gratis event in which none of the hundreds of invitees was asked to buy a ticket, Elstein decided that since the politicians would not be attending in connection with their public duties, and because the event was organized and sponsored by a commercial enterprise, it was off-limits.
It was a prime example of the advisability of not asking questions if you don't want a response you won't like. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and former government minister Danny Naveh posed the question and missed out on the entertainment. Apparently, judging by the Yediot report, Justice Minister Haim Ramon did not seek advice, and unlike his Knesset colleagues, showed up at the event, which included a lavish reception.
AT THE annual distribution of prizes by the Israel Public Relations Association at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv last Friday, master of ceremonies Roni Akkerman confessed that he had always wanted to appear on stage in front of an audience and kept up a patter about reasons given by journalists for not running items fed to them by PR people.
Some of the journalists in the audience laughed because they had so frequently used many of these excuses, but Menashe Raz, who hosts a current affairs program on Channel 1, remonstrated with Akkerman, telling him there were two sides to every story. In the final analysis, Akkerman conceded a symbiotic relationship. "We can't do without you and you can't do without us," he said.
IN ADDITION to giving awards to its members in recognition of specific PR campaigns, ISPRA also selects a public figure who has done a great job of promoting his or her cause and has drawn media attention without necessarily using a PR firm.
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, named Man of the Year in 2005, was supposed to show up to hand this year's Gur Arye Shoeg (roaring lion) award to Dr. Itzhak Kadman, executive director of The National Council for the Child, but was prevented from doing so because only an hour or two before he was scheduled to leave for Tel Aviv, Kassam rockets again landed in Sderot, and the mayor simply couldn't take off while some of his constituents were in shock.
Kadman made the point that most people who were guilty of child abuse had themselves been abused as children, but noted that children from the worst socio-economic backgrounds tended to respond favorably to the influence of a positive adult. Kadman appealed to all those present to be that positive influence.