PRIME MINISTER Netanyahu's brother in law, Prof. Hagai Ben Artzi, who has been known to give him advice in the past, has done so publicly with regard to the American demand to freeze all settlement building in Judea and Samaria. Speaking on Radio Kol Hai, Ben Artzi said that he senses that Netanyahu might capitulate in the face of pressure by the Americans, which could lead to a rift in the nation and defeat in a possible impending war against Iran. "If he can't stand the pressure, he should vacate his place to a stronger leader," said Ben Artzi.
WHILE IT is largely acknowledged that Yiddish culture will never return to its pre-World War Two glory, all proclamations to date about the imminent demise of Yiddish have been somewhat premature. If anything, Yiddish renaissance seems to be the order of the day with increasing interest in the revival and preservation of Yiddish as part of Jewish cultural heritage. Mendy Cahan, one of Israel's leading advocators for the preservation of Yiddish, is the founder of Yung Yidish, an organization dedicated to salvaging Yiddish literature and song and to bringing both to the masses. Cahan founded Yung Yidish in Jerusalem and stored thousands of Yiddish books in a cellar in the capital's Yirmiyahu Street, a few doors from The Jerusalem Post. The cellar also became a venue for Yiddish cabaret and an education center for people who wanted to learn Yiddish. A couple of years back Cahan expanded his operations to Tel Aviv when he acquired considerably larger premises in the Central Bus Terminal where he has regular Yiddish concerts in which he often performs. He is an accomplished raconteur, singer and dancer. There is also more room in which to store and display some of the 40,000 Yiddish books that he has collected during the past 20 years. Cahan refers to the place as the 'Yiddish Book Museum.' Now, together with the Kayma Gallery and studio in Jaffa's Ben Dosa Street, Yung Yidish has embarked on a new collaborative venture in which several contemporary artists from a number of different disciplines, at the invitation of curators Gilad Ophir and Philippe Brandes, met with Cahan. He introduced them to many aspects of Yiddish literature, which in turn inspired them to produce works of art which will be on display at the Kayma Gallery from June 1 till July 18. All the works are for sale, with proceeds dedicated toward finding a permanent home for the Yiddish books. The artists are Gilad Ophir, Dov Or-Ner, Danielle Orsinger, Guy Bibi, Nomi Bruckman, Mireille Brandes, Gary Goldstein, Alexander Vojik, Yaacov Hefetz, Rolanda Teicher-Yekutiel, Yifat Laist, Rivka Potechebutzky, Ariela Plotkin, Hovav Rashelbach, Matvey Shapiro, Melanie Rosencwaig and Jhava Chikli. Interestingly, Cahan over the years has attracted a large following of immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and more recently from France. He's also had people of Moroccan background who were keen to study Yiddish. The majority of the performers at his cabaret nights are from the CIS, just as most of the Yiddishpiel actors are from the CIS.
VERY MUCH in the news in Israel as a possible new owner of Betar Jerusalem soccer club, energy tycoon Guma Aguiar - who together with his wife Jamie and their three children divides his time between South Florida and Jerusalem - met recently with President Shimon Peres to discuss political and economic issues that affect Israel and world Jewry. Aguiar, who is a new generation leader among Jewish philanthropists contributed more than $25 million to a variety of causes through his Fort Lauderdale-based Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation in 2008. Following his meeting with Peres, he said that he was most appreciative of having been given a unique perspective on the challenges currently facing Israel from a person who has played such a significant role in Israel's history.
CHANCES ARE good that when the next elections for the Knesset come around, Kadima will score many votes from Israel's gay community. The reason: at the opening of Gay Pride month at the Gay Center in Tel Aviv last week, Kadima head Tzipi Livni not only graced the event with her presence, but also declared, "Every person has the right to love. I can only imagine what young people experience when making the decision to come out of the closet, to live content with themselves while simultaneously coping with a world that does not always accept them." She surmised that connecting with the gay community made coping easier for gay individuals, and suggested that if society does not accept them as a group then this reflects not on the gay community but on society at large. Other politicians who attend the event included Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who makes no secret of his sexual orientation and lives with his partner in Tel Aviv, Deputy Mayors of Tel Aviv Yael Dayan a long-time advocate for civil rights for gays, and Assaf Zamir of the Rov HaIr faction, who expressed hope that this was the beginning of a tradition aimed at upholding gay rights and the rights of civil society in general; journalist and broadcasting personality Gal Ochovsky, television personality Aviad Kissus, who once hosted a tv program 'Dates for Straights' in which he was the broker who arranged the date and determined whether the man and the woman were really suitable for each other; Dana Olmert, the daughter of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his wife Aliza, and many gay activists. DJ at the event was celebrity chef Israel Aharoni. One of the highlights of Gay Pride month will be "the weddings of the year," as announced by Yaniv Weizman, the mayor's adviser on the gay community. Weizman said that seven same sex couples will be married. Although same sex marriage is not legal in Israel, heterosexual unions in which a couple are married in front of witnesses in accordance with the Law of Moses and of Israel, are binding, and this may be used as a model by the gay community.
IT HAS been mentioned previously in this column that different embassies could be a little more flexible in celebrating their national days, so that invitees will not be put in the position of having to decide to accept one invitation and to decline another or to rush madly from one to the other without having sufficient time to really enjoy either. Jordanian Ambassador Ali Al-Ayed is celebrating Jordan's National Day in Tel Aviv tonight while Portugal's Ambassador Josefina Reis Carvalho is hosting a reception in honor of Portugal's National Day at her residence in Kfar Shmaryahu. Portugal is actually celebrating on the correct date. Jordan's National day was on May 25, but for various technical reasons Al-Ayad was unable to arrange a reception on that date, which may have something to do with the schedule of his guest of honor President Shimon Peres. As it happens, the Russian Federation celebrates its National Day on June 12 which is the same date as Philippines Independence Day. In previous years, guests invited to both receptions had to juggle between Tel Aviv and Herzliya Pituah, staying for only a few minutes at one before speeding off to the other. However current incumbents Piotr Stegny and Petronila Garcia have resolved the problem. She's having her reception a day early and he's having his almost a week late.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar represented the government at the 63rd anniversary celebrations of the Italian Republic - Italian Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo's first Republic Day in the Italian residence. Like all their predecessors who have lived in the stately Ramat Gan mansion with its huge back lawn, Luigi and Stefania Mattiolo welcomed close to 1,500 guests. Many of the embassy staff, together with their spouses, stood alongside the ambassador and his wife to bid everyone welcome and to accept congratulatory wishes. However, the Italian who captured the most attention was Tomaso, the ambassador's cherubic young son with the smile of an angel, a golden tan complexion, a mop of curly hair and endless patience and politeness for all the adults who smothered him with admiration and affection. Both Mattiolo and Sa'ar noted the fact that Italy had boycotted the Durban II conference because of its anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and racist content. Mattiolo also made the points that Italy is home to "the most ancient Jewish community outside Israel" and that Holocaust denial under any circumstances must be fought. He was happy to note that the twin city relationship between Milan and Tel Aviv will be given musical expression next month with a performance of Aida by members of the La Scala Opera in tribute to Tel Aviv's centenary. Mattiolo also awarded Italian decorations with ranks of Knight and Commander to several Israelis, among them political scientist Prof. Shlomo Avineri of the Hebrew University and Yitzhak Eldan, chief of Protocol at the Foreign Ministry. Eldan refused to accept the honor for himself and shared it with all the members of his department.
BECAUSE TEL Aviv is celebrating its 100th anniversary, it was entirely appropriate that L'Oreal Israel celebrate the 100th anniversary of its France-headquartered beauty product conglomerate parent company in Tel Aviv. At an elegant 5 o'clock reception at the Tel Aviv Hilton, the dress code was either all black, all white or black and white. Etti Propper, wife of L'Oreal Israel chairman Gad Propper, wore a white dress with a black stripe, a black see-thru jacket and black and white shoes. L'Oreal Israel CEO Nava Ravid was in black and white, while advertising queen Gimmel Yafit was in all black as was Dorit Widawsky, L'Oreal's long time in-house public relations executive. Anyone who came in color really stood out in the crowd. The King Solomon Room at the Tel Aviv Hilton also featured exquisitely elegant black and white decor plus a superb view of the hotel's private beach where the sun glinted on the ripples, and swimmers, surfers and boaters managed not to get in each other's way. Among the guests was outgoing French Ambassador Jean-Michel Casa, who, speaking in French, English and Hebrew, said with typical French gallantry, "We don't have an opportunity every day to congratulate a 100 year-old lady who remains eternally young and innovative." The L'Oreal success story, he said, is that of a small family hair coloring enterprise that grew to become a global brand name. L'Oreal now has hundreds of different beauty products. He was particularly pleased, he said, that L'Oreal Israel provides 30 scholarships to Netanya Academic College and that the recipients of these scholarships in turn become the mentors of Ethiopian high school children and tutor them in subjects in which they are weak so that they can eventually qualify for higher education.
FRIENDS OF the late Sheila and Yossi Carmel showed up in force at the annual Sheila and Yossi Carmel lecture, organized by Tel Aviv University's Department of English and American Studies. The lecture series was inaugurated by Yossi Carmel 22 years ago following the death of Sheila Carmel, who was a great lover of English literature. After Yossi Carmel died, his son continued the tradition, renaming the lecture series in memory of both parents. Among the couple's many friends, who almost unfailingly come each year to listen to the lecture, were Dame Shirley Porter, Esther Herlitz, Annette Dulzin, Rachel Pentol, Raya Jaglom, Austen Science and Rolly Kohansky. The lecturer was Professor Joseph Litvack of Tufts University, Boston, who presented some interesting insights on Jewish influence on Broadway, as well as the information that unlike Hollywood, Broadway never had a blacklist of people in the entertainment industry who were suspected of un-American activities, but found subtle ways of criticizing the witch hunt for alleged Communists by subtley incorporating protest into the lyrics of songs or by adapting Hollywood movies to the stage and infusing them with protest material, lampooning the witch hunt. An example was Cole Porter's 'Silk Stockings,' adapted from 'Ninotchka.'
METUNA, THE national road safety organization which recently moved its headquarters to Jerusalem, held a memorial evening for one of its founders, Leon Harris, who died in September last year just before Rosh Hashana. The event was held at the Yedidiya Synagogue where The Jerusalem Valley Wind Band's offered lively rendition of some of his favourite songs. Amongst the many family members and friends from Jerusalem and elsewhere who were present were his wife Zelda, son Peter and granddaughters Shimrit and Or, and Ivan Pope, Founder and Chairman of Metuna. Also in attendance were the Wallis family, life-long friends who are among the mainstays of MELABEV and Yad Sarah, and "Father of Solar Energy," Prof. Henry Tabor and his wife Vivienne, former PR Director of Hadassah Hospital. Professor Elihu Richter of Hadassah-HU Unit of occupational and industrial medicine and an internationally acclaimed traffic safety expert, gave a moving dedication. He first read some "thoughts on his father" from Micah Harris, the youngest Harris son in England, and then compared Leon Harris's personal battle against illness to his spirited efforts to encourage others to fight for change, whether of the Electoral System through the Council of Concerned Citizens in the 80s or through Metuna, from 1993 until his demise. Diana Kogan, Head of the Road Safety Unit of the Jerusalem Municipality, spoke passionately about the need for more involvement of those in the audience in the issue of road safety, praising Metuna and its present leadership. Dr. Hersch Katz, a leading authority on road safety and a driving force behind many neighbourhood safety programs in Jerusalem, was a clarinetist in the band, and arranged the musical interlude, together with conductor Bruce Levy. Mordechai Feder, the Acting Director of Metuna gave a short seminar on pedestrian safety, together with David Rapaport a former chairperson of the Jerusalem Committee. Popular local figure and long time activist David Waiman was the emcee.
The general manager of the Inbal Hotel Jerusalem, which has hosted numerous international dignitaries including current and former heads of state, Rodney Sanders, who resigned a few months ago, is still in the hotel business. He is the Business Development Consultant for the new luxury Mamilla Hotel that opened this week. The hotel belongs to real estate developer and philanthropist Alfred Akirov and is part of Alrov Mamilla Mall which leads from West Jerusalem into the old city. Akirov also owns the David Citadel Hotel across the road. Both projects, which contribute considerably to the architectural aesthetics of the capital, were designed by internationally acclaimed, prize-winning Haifa-born architect Moshe Safdie. Although many of Akirov's projects are cloaked in luxury, he is also aware of the fact that a lot of people cannot afford even small luxuries, such as the price of a ticket to a concert. So every few weeks throughout the spring, summer and fall months, he provides free entertainment in the mall. He may even extend this to winter, given the size of the lobby in the Mamilla hotel.