IN AN interview published last Friday in Yediot Aharonot, just prior to the Saturday night premier of his reality show, in which he hopes to find a worthy successor, psychic Uri Geller, who lives in London but came home for the shooting of the show, told journalists Raviv Golan and Raz Shechnik that given permission, he could have roused former prime minister Ariel Sharon from his coma. He has previously woken other comatose people, he said, but when he approached the Sharon family with his offer, they declined. When Omri Sharon was asked about this by Yediot, he chose not to comment.
Geller has achieved fame as a telepathist, spoon bender, clairvoyant, diviner, writer of metaphysical thrillers and manufacturer of jewelry, but according to the interview, he hasn't a clue as to what he's worth, nor does he carry money or a credit card on his person. All his finances are controlled by his brother-in-law, who does let him know he's worth millions - but not exactly how many. Still, if Geller concentrates, he can probably figure it out.
TIMING IS everything. Thus when Beth Hatefutsoth wanted to inaugurate its International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies, it tailored the event to the timetable of Education Minister Yuli Tamir. Guests were invited for an earlier hour than usual to accommodate her schedule. Yet, when organizers called Tamir's office shortly before she was due to arrive to ascertain that she'd left Jerusalem, the news was not what they wanted to hear. Tamir was in urgent consultation with the prime minister, and was running late. Moreover, it wasn't certain that she could come at all. If she did come, it would not be for several hours.
That was not the only disappointment of the day. Beth Hatefutsoth had published large ads and had sent out dozens of invitations, but the auditorium, which seats approximately 200, was barely three-quarters full. In addition, Shlomo Lahat, chairman of the Beth Hatefutsoth board of directors, was recovering from a fall, so he too was unable to attend. Lahat's absence was excusable, but the empty seats in the auditorium, including the seat reserved for Tamir, spoke volumes about the lack of importance Israelis place on education.
This was not exactly the way to show appreciation to philanthropist Leonid Nevzlin, chairman of the Nadav Fund, the group which enabled the creation of the school with a gift of $2 million. It was left to Tel Aviv University President Itamar Rabinovich and the school's director Dr. Shlomi Ravid to carry the ball. Rabinovich read out greetings from Tamir, and then spoke of how natural it was for Nevzlin to concern himself with education.
Back in the days when Nevzlin was still very much a VIP in Russia instead of a target for extradition, he was rector of humanities at the University of Moscow. After he came to Israel in 2003, Nevzlin devoted himself to the Hebrew University, where he set up a center for Russian and East European Studies, and to Tel Aviv University, where he initially provided scholarships for students from the former Soviet Union, and then expanded his interests to include Beth Hatefutsoth, which is housed on the campus. Ravid recalled that he had first met Rabinovich in Los Angeles when the latter was doing his doctorate at UCLA. Ravid's father was at that time Israel consul general in LA. "And before we changed our name to Ravid - it was Rabinovich," he said.
ON THE evening prior to hosting a business breakfast for Israeli companies on the verge of or already trading on the London Stock Exchange, British Ambassador Tom Phillips hosted the Clore Foundation's 40th anniversary award ceremony honoring 10 schools that were selected as winners of the English Learning Centers Project. Just in case it rained, a window-pane tent was put up in the garden, which was just as well, because rain clouds loomed over Ramat Gan when Phillips entertained some 50 Israeli and British business people. They were able to sit in comfort at tables covered with white cloths, and have the feeling of being outside, while protected from the elements.
Inside the house, a buffet table in the dining room was laid with an Israeli rather than a British breakfast, no kippers or sausages - and of course, no bacon, though there were eggs. Chairs had been set up theater-style in the entrance room adjacent to the front door, prompting Graham Dallas of the London Stock Exchange to remark that he had never seen anyone with the hutzpa to put the microphone in front of the exit. What that meant was that anyone who wanted to leave early would have to walk past whoever was at the podium at the time, a potentially embarrassing experience. Thus, with one or two exceptions, participants were a captive audience. Still, the event had a relaxed feel to it. When Peter Stephenson, director of trade and investment at the British Embassy, who acted as master of ceremonies, did get around to inviting the guests to take their seats, he told them to bring their coffee with them. "This is Israel, we're informal here," he said.
Following a presentation by David Westover, a public relations expert specializing in financial and corporate communications and crisis management, Stephenson remarked in humor: "President Katsav is looking for a good PR agency at the moment. I think there's a job there."
AND WITH regard to President Moshe Katsav, one of his initiatives is being continued, though future historians may fail to give him credit for it. When Katsav first proposed a "second house" or a world Jewish parliament alongside the Knesset to deal with those challenges that affect the Jewish people as a whole and not just the Jews of Israel, some of the international Jewish activists who gave approval to the idea to his face scoffed at it behind his back.
Word of this reached Katsav but he continued to persevere, and the upshot was the establishment of the World Jewish Forum, with a broad representation of Jewish world leaders and a desire to attract unaffiliated Jewish intellectuals. The steering committee was originally headed by Prof. Moshe Kaveh, the president of Bar Ilan University, but after a disagreement on the objectives of the forum, Kaveh stepped down and was replaced by Prof. Uzi Arad, the former Mossad head and currently director of the Policy and Strategy Institute at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and the driving force behind the prestigious annual Herzliya Conference.
Earlier this month, Arad participated in a closed-door meeting of the forum, chaired by birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt, who is today one of the biggest movers-and-shakers in the Jewish world. It was decided that the forum will go forward and will be under the patronage of the office of Israel's president, but not under any specific president.
Thus Katsav has lost control of his baby, but he can take comfort in the fact that the birth pangs are on record.
THREE MAY be a lucky number in some circles - but not necessarily for Austrian Ambassador Kurt Hengl, who at some stage in 2007 will be winding up his third stint in Israel, as well as his diplomatic career. Hengl turns 65 in January, and although he may be given a few months' extension to enable him to complete certain projects, the end of his stay here will mark the beginning of his retirement.
PUBLIC RELATIONS guru Ran Rahav and his wife and partner Hila are used to organizing large-scale events on behalf of clients such as Shari Arison, Lev Leviev, Ofra Strauss and Gabi and Etti Rotter. But what they've done for other people and companies will pale in comparison to what they're preparing for the February bar mitzva of their son Ro'i.
When Ro'i was born, his parents hosted an enormous celebration at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. Since then, their circle of friends, clients and acquaintances has grown enormously, as can be seen by the parties on the vast lawn of their home in Savyon. The "save the date" notice didn't mention a venue, though it's bound to be extraordinarily spacious. Some kibbutz facilities, such as the Ronit Farm near Shefayim where Yitzhak Rabin's granddaughter and Rahav family friend Noa Ben-Artzi recently got married, have huge cavernous barns that are ideal for accommodating upwards of 1,000 people.
Of course, they might go back to the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, which were designed for mass gatherings.