THE CHASM between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
grows ever wider – but there’s one commonality that, no matter what, will not
disappear. Both were born on February 12, and will celebrate their birthdays on
Saturday. Barak will be 69 and Ben-Eliezer 75. For Barak, an even more important
date will be February 14, not because it’s Valentine’s Day, but because it’s the
day that Gabi Ashkenazi, with whom he is at such great odds, will cease to be
chief of General Staff.
As for February birthdays, another that is coming
up is that of Arye Deri, who in his heyday was considered the boy wonder of
politics, and at 29 was interior minister.
Rumor has it that Deri, who
will be 52 on February 17, is contemplating a political comeback now that the
legal obstacles which previously stood in his way no longer exist.
THERE IS little doubt that Ashkenazi is much happier to have Benny Gantz as his
successor than he was to have Yoav Galant. This was obvious in the warm embrace
that he gave to Gantz on Saturday night when the two met at the Leonardo Hotel
in Ramat Gan. Broadcaster Menahem Horowitz and his wife Tehiya were hosting
their farewell to the North after spending more than three decades in Kiryat
Shmona. Not only did Ashkenazi and Gantz embrace, they also joined Horowitz on
stage for a sing-along tribute to the North.
The two were among some
1,000 guests, including businesspeople, past and present military personnel,
politicians and broadcasting personalities. Among the past politicians was
former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who despite his legal problems continues to
be on many invitation lists.
Whether it’s a large or a small gathering,
Olmert is never left in isolation. People are forever coming up to him to kiss
him, hug him or shake his hand. In fact, since leaving office, his popularity
Even the Hebrew media, which to a large extent influenced
his resignation, are now quite kind to him.
■ POLITICS AND religion are
unfortunately not strange bedfellows here. If there were no relationship between
the two, many Jewish identity problems would have been settled long ago. As
proof of the ongoing relationship, the Conversion Department of the Prime
Minister’s Office, in conjunction with the Religious Education Administration
and the educational branch of the IDF Chaplaincy Corps, will host a day-long
seminar on ways to teach faith.
Curiously, the list of speakers does not
include Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and former director
of the State Conversion Authority, which he headed for 18 years. The seminar
will be held on Monday, February 14 at the Jerusalem International Convention
■ WELL KNOWN Australian businessman and philanthropist Ruvi
Herzog, who heads the Herzog Group, a private family group with interests in the
automotive and boating industries, real estate and other sectors, was here last
week with business colleagues from GreenEarth Energy, which has agreements with
two local clean-tech related companies and is entering into a strategic alliance
with the Weizmann Institute.
The Herzog Group is involved in a joint
venture with GreenEarth Energy.
Herzog is also the founder of Hatzolah in
Australia, and a year ago, when coming home from a flight, made national
headlines when he saved the life of a woman who had suffered a heart attack at
Because Herzog is religiously observant and always has
guests at his Sabbath table in Melbourne, he saw no reason to deviate from this
practice in Jerusalem, as a result of which some 30 people sat down at his table
at the King David Hotel last Friday night. Herzog’s Green Earth Energy partners
are by and large not Jewish, but that did not deter Herzog from his regular
For much of the evening, he played musical chairs so that he
could have some form of personal conversation with each of his guests who
included, in addition to GreenEarth Energy chairman Rob Annells and managing
director Mark Miller, Philip Zajic, CFO of the Melbourne-headquartered Erdi
Group which owns, buys and manages hotels all over Australia and which is also
involved with GreenEarth; Leon Kempler, chairman of the Australia- Israel
Chamber of Commerce; Australian expatriates Izzy Tapoohi, president-designate of
Israel Bonds, and his lawyer wife Regina, who works for the Justice Ministry;
freelance marketing consultant Jay Bryce, and executive director of the Israel
Australia Chamber of Commerce Paul Israel.
Among the sabra guests were
Judge Sefi Alon, head of the Southern District Courts, and his wife Yael, and
Director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center director Jonathan Halevy and his wife
Adina. When Alon heard who Halevy was, he became quite excited because both he
and his mother were born at Shaare Zedek.
■ IT WAS a full house at the
Hess Restaurant in Ra’anana this week, when Chaim BePlus launched its first
Compared to the ambitions of other organizations
trying to raise funds, it had the very modest overall target of NIS 188,000.
Chaim BePlus is the brainchild of Mindy Ajzner, originally from Canada, who is
convinced that there would be less poverty and more hope for the future if
people here learned to manage their money better and didn’t fall into the
overdraft trap. Ajzner has devised special courses that have been certified by
the Education and Defense ministries. The organization has 70 volunteers, 17
lecturers and two staff members. In the four years of its existence, it has
provided courses at 80 different institutes and can boast 3,000
But money management is not just a problem of the poor. Even
in affluent society, children must be taught that mom and dad won’t pay for
everything, and limits have to be put on that expenditure. To help parents
better understand how to deal with their children money-wise, Chaim BePlus
invited investment and tax experts Douglas Goldstein and Leon Harris, who write
regular columns in The Jerusalem Post, to answer some questions put to them by
Marc Singer, a member of the Chaim BePlus board.
Among those attending
the fund raiser were former US congressman from Florida Peter Deutsch, honorary
president of World Keren Hayesod Julia Koschitzky and Dr. Mark Schwartz, who
teaches business ethics at York University in Toronto.
■ EVEN A man of
peace may want to curl his finger around the trigger of a gun.
President Shimon Peres last week visited the police counterterrorism unit, he
could not resist posing for the camera with weapon in hand. Although the
president was bare faced, members of the unit all wore masks to protect their
identities. Members of the unit told Peres that they would not hesitate to risk
their lives to bring abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit to freedom.
was accompanied by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and outgoing
Insp.-Gen. David Cohen. During his visit, he witnessed a simulated operation in
which members of the unit took control of a building in which terrorists were
holding hostages. Peres lauded the unit as being the best in the world, adding
that it had saved countless lives through its covert operations, professionalism
■ WHILE POLITICIANS and public servants, Peres included,
received increases in their January salaries, most people did not, even though
prices of commodities and services from bread to oil to transportation rose by
several percentage points. The president’s gross monthly salary is now NIS
50,400, which after taxes comes to NIS 34,545. In addition, he receives a net
monthly pension of NIS 17,395, which in total is a lot less than presidents of
most other countries.
It is doubtful that any other president works
harder than Peres, who more often than not puts in a 14-16 hour day. Former
president Moshe Katsav, who has been convicted of rape and is awaiting sentence,
last month received a pension increase equivalent to approximately one-third of
the minimum wage.
■ LAST WEEK, Amalia Eyal and Eleanor Glickman issued a
press release about the 25th Jerusalem International Book Fair, which opens on
February 20 at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
readers and other visitors will be able to rub shoulders with famous authors,
editors, agents and publishers, as well as with a number of ambassadors who will
be attending functions related to literary personalities and exhibits from their
British author and Jerusalem Prize laureate Ian McEwan will be
on hand and will probably be feted with even greater enthusiasm than were his
predecessors, because he had the courage and integrity to ignore the British
Israel-bashers who sought to dissuade him from coming. Best-selling Italian
author Umberto Eco will also be in attendance and will engage best-selling
author A.B. Yehoshua in conversation in the literary café. It will be one of
many conversations between acclaimed writers from different
The Book Fair, like so many of the city’s cultural traditions,
was the brainchild of legendary mayor Teddy Kollek, who even when confined to a
wheelchair and in the twilight of his life, kept attending its
■ ARE ESCALATING tensions good for business? It depends on the
nature of the business.
As far as the powers that be at Jerusalem Capital
Studios are concerned, it’s been boom time. As a result of what’s been happening
in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, and in anticipation of what may happen elsewhere
in the Middle East, there was a surge of global interest in what might emanate
from the prestigious Herzliya Conference, hosted annually by the
Interdisciplinary Center’s Institute for Policy and Strategy. Speakers always
include high-ranking politicians, military personnel, security experts,
economists, academics and businesspeople. In view of the changing Middle East,
news outlets are naturally interested in anything that Israelis or prominent
visitors might have to say on security and strategy.
According to Hanani
Rapaport, CEO at JCS, more than 30 television stations worldwide received live
feeds from the conference at their request. JCS sent a large mobile broadcast
unit and six TV crews to produce the broadcasts, which were transmitted live to
the company’s studios in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and then distributed to major
international broadcast networks, including CNN, AP, Germany’s ARD and ZDF
networks, Italy’s RAI, Britain’s SKY and to Canadian, French, Chinese and
Japanese television networks. The broadcasts were also being transmitted to the
European Broadcasting Union, which centralizes all of Europe’s national
■ THE FORTUITOUS signing some weeks ago of a student exchange
agreement between the University of Haifa’s International School and Elon
University in South Carolina enabled five Elon students who had just arrived in
Cairo on an international exchange program to remain in the region. They escaped
the riots in Egypt to the safety of the University of Haifa.
a few days ago, I never thought I’d find myself in Israel. Now I am happy to be
in a safe and friendly place like this,” said Rachael Borowy.
exchange program was supposed to begin in October. But when the unrest in Egypt
broke out, Elon’s management turned to the University of Haifa with an urgent
request to take in five of its students who only days earlier had begun their
semester at the American University in Cairo. The response was positive and the
students, who arrived on Sunday, were given rooms in the dorms and over the next
few days will become fully integrated into the campus before they begin their
semester studies here.
“The American University in Egypt is located on an
island on the Nile, so at first we didn’t hear or see anything. But it wasn’t
long before we started hearing gunshots and smelling the tear gas. A
representative from the international program of the university in Cairo took us
to his home on the shore of the Red Sea and from there we set out on our way to
Israel,” said Jonathan Ordog.
“Our families were most worried of all and
they urged us to get out of Egypt as quickly as possible. At first there were
options like Lebanon or Jordan, but when they heard that Israel was an option,
they preferred we come here. Once they knew we were on our way here, they were
much calmer,” said Kate Donovan.
The students will complete their
exchange program studies in Haifa regardless of the eventual outcome of the
situation in Egypt.
■ ISRAEL DOES not want to attack Iran, but if the
international community fails to stop it from achieving nuclear capability, it
may have no other alternative. That was the message delivered by Maj.-Gen.
(res.) Ya’acov Amidror to more than 50 ambassadors and senior diplomats
attending Bar-Ilan University’s fifth Ambassadors’ Forum. Amidror stressed that
Israel is considering every non-military option in dealing with the Iranian
Amidror, who served primarily in intelligence for 36 years and is
currently vice president of the Lander Institute Academic Center, said that he
was among those who think that the capabilities of Iran are less than what has
been described, but acknowledged that Iran does have hundreds of missiles and
■ LOCAL FOLLOWERS of Rabbi David Twersky, generally known in
hassidic circles as the Skverer Rebbe, were very excited last week when he paid
his first visit in five years. Twersky, who lives in New Square, New York, is
the son-in-law of the Viznitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager of Bnai Brak,
whose elder daughter Chana he married 52 years ago. The Viznitzer Rebbe has been
in ill health for some years, but last week his condition deteriorated, and his
son-in-law felt the need to be with him. When Twersky made it known he was
coming, a large number of his disciples decided to come with him.
welcomed at Ben-Gurion Airport by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and
outgoing MK Menahem Porush.
During his stay he paid a series of courtesy
calls on some of the leading rabbis in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. He was also
received with great fanfare in Beit Shemesh, where he inaugurated a new Skverer
neighborhood that will become the permanent home for Skverer Hassidim. Some 80
Skverer families currently reside in Beit Shemesh. Among those attending the
ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone were Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul
and his deputy David Weiner.
■ CONSIDERING THAT no Knesset Speaker has
been a member of the religious camp, it is highly unlikely that a prayer service
was held in his office prior to last week. Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, the coalition
whip, had a meeting scheduled with Speaker Reuven Rivlin and apologized that it
would have to be cut short because he had to go to synagogue to recite afternoon
prayers. Elkin is in mourning, and is very meticulous about attending services.
Rivlin promised that if he stayed until the end of the meeting, he would arrange
a minyan for him, so that he could keep both his political and religious
Sure enough, at the end of the meeting several MKs,
accompanied by some of their aides, wandered into Rivlin’s office, and in no
time at all there were more than 10 men. As far as Rivlin is aware, this was the
first prayer meeting in the Speaker’s office.