DIFFICULT THOUGH it is for him to function properly after publication of the recommendation by the police this week that he be indicted, and the sensationalized detailed reasons for that recommendation, President Moshe Katsav is carrying out his duties to the best of his abilities, and will today, Wednesday, receive the credentials of five new ambassadors in the morning, and in the evening will host an Iftar dinner for Muslim community leaders.
Katsav has hosted such dinners annually with leaders of Muslim communities from different parts of the country gathering at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem to break the fast after Ramadan. This year, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also hosted an Iftar dinner. She invited the ambassadors of Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania to break their fasts at the King David Hotel. In the past, Katsav also hosted heads of diplomatic missions at Iftar dinners, but both he and Livni seem to have forgotten that the three aforementioned countries are not the only Muslim countries that enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel and have an ambassador stationed in Tel Aviv.
WHILE ISRAELIS seem to thrive on gossip, reflected in the fact that newspapers, magazines and Internet sites are devoting increasing space to voyeurism, one new publisher is steering clear of material which would in any way be harmful to the subject. Moshe Haim, who was twice married to cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenblum, is publishing a quarterly lifestyle magazine, in which, he has decided, only positive things can appear. As someone who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, not to mention the paparazzi onslaught and manifold invasions into his privacy, Moshe Haim does not want to inflict the same suffering and harassment on others. Yes, his magazine will deal with celebrities, and may even do some in-depth features on them - but nothing negative. The popular maxim that "no news is good news" is reversed in professional media circles where good news is no news. But who knows, Moshe Haim may not go bankrupt from his new venture. Maybe the public has become so fed up with the exposes of dirt and corruption that a Pollyanna policy might be just what the doctor ordered.
THE TALMUD teaches that a prophet is not heard in his own city, which may explain why someone of the caliber of Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison was not only passed over in the selection of new judges for the Supreme Court, but publicly deemed unsuitable. But if Jerusalem doesn't appreciate her qualities, New York does. Gavison has been invited to participate in a three-day conference on "Jews and the Legal Profession" in which speakers will include some of the giants in the field. The conference, which opens at Yeshiva University this coming Sunday, is co-sponsored by Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cordoza's School of Law, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Fordham Law School's Institute on Religion, Law, and Lawyer's Work, Harvard Law School's Program on the Legal Profession and New York Law School's Center for Professional Values and Practice.
Some of the legal superstars sharing their thoughts will include Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, Stuart Eizenstat, who was deputy secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration, former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, former assistant attorney-general in the Kennedy administration Nathan Lewin, Marc Galanter of the New York Law School, the University of Wisconsin Law School and the London School of Economics, and Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas Law School. Gavison has been asked to deliver the keynote address on the opening day of the conference. In the face of the combined North American legal genius, it;s quite an honor not only for Gavison, but for Israel that she was invited.
n APROPOS YESHIVA University, that august institution last month became the recipient of the largest ever single gift contributed in North America in support of Jewish education and the continuity of Jewish life. Ronald P. Stanton, chairman of Transammonias Inc., a private company engaged in trading, distributing and transporting fertilizer materials, liquefied petroleum, gases, petrochemicals and crude oil, announced his intention to give YU $100 million by way of a revolving fund that will enable the university to grow in many directions. Stanton is a former YU chairman of the board. Curiously, soon after his arrival in the US in 1937, German-born Stanton was offered a scholarship by Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue in New York to study for the rabbinate at YU. He declined and enrolled at City College where he studied economics. However, he had a healthy respect for YU and formed a long-standing personal and philanthropic relationship with the university.
n ALMOST EXACTLY a month after hosting a housewarming in their Jerusalem abode, Sam and Melissa Ser once again found themselves with a full house of people sitting or standing in every available centimeter of space. This time, it was for the circumcision ceremony of their first-born son, Ariel Moshe. A Jerusalem Post editor and feature writer, Ser was surprised when so many JP staff members turned up exactly on time. As an occasional night editor, he is used to some reporters not meeting deadlines, and for them to be so punctual on this occasion caught him off guard.
At most circumcisions, the mother of the infant goes into another room or stands at the back of the hall. But Melissa, though she turned her back during the actual cutting of the foreskin, stayed only a meter away from her baby and wept throughout. Ariel Moshe got over the ordeal faster than his mommy and his crying subsided as soon as the ceremony was over. Like most Jewish babies, his name honors the memories of deceased relatives, but in addition to that, it symbolizes strength and peace. Ariel means lion of God, and the lion is universally the symbol of strength.
"You have to be strong in order to make peace," said his father, who mentioned peace offerings in the Temple and noted that Moshe though a humble and modest man, was arguably the greatest of all Israeli leaders, and also a man of great strength.
"After all, you have to be strong to be able to argue with God," observed Ser. Perhaps one of the most poignant aspects of the ceremony was in the choice of godfather. Journalist Erik Schechter is a personal friend of the Sers and is also the survivor of a terrorist attack. In January, 2004, Schechter, then a Post staff writer, was one of many people severely injured when a seven-kilogram bomb was exploded in a Jerusalem bus. Eleven people were killed. Schechter, who had a very close brush with death, never allowed the experience to affect the buoyancy of his spirit or to influence the objectivity of his reporting. If a guardian angel is hovering over him, it is likewise hovering over Ariel Moshe.
n FRIENDS OF Jerusalem old city residents Aba and Pamela Claman are used to receiving invitations to a huge Succot party in honor of her birthday. But this year, it was also a milestone birthday for him. Although Aba Claman turned 60 a couple of weeks earlier, the traditional Succot party became an ideal vehicle for the celebration. The Clamans are well-known for their hospitality and for the enormous support that they give to IDF soldiers. They have also mustered many of their friends towards this cause via an organization called Todah L'Tzahal (Thanks to the IDF). The purpose of the organization is to motivate and support soldiers defending Israel by strengthening their connection to the Jewish people and the land of Israel. While soldiers risk their lives daily to protect Israel, its citizens and even Jews abroad, many of them know very little about Jewish heritage and Jewish values. Todah L'Tzahal seeks to amend this lacuna through heritage lectures and seminars presented by IDF officers, special entertainment events on army bases and in the Jewish quarter of the old city, post army support and community and home hospitality not only on Sabbath and festivals but also with the celebration of Jewish life-cycle events such as a brit or a bar mitzvah. The organization has also established the Jerusalem Old City Soldier Center which offers lectures, Internet access, a learning library, refreshments, social events, opportunities for off-duty camaraderie and a chance to connect with many Jews from around the world who want to say a personal thank you and to express their appreciation with more than words.
n WHEN BRITISH immigrant Austen Science wanted to have a reunion of fellow Brits from northeast England, he turned to veteran immigrants Ruth and Yitz Greenwald for help. The Greenwalds are experienced organizers and were happy to oblige, but wanted to proceed cautiously and to explore the options. Science was so eager for the project to get off the ground that he went ahead and booked a fancy hotel, whose prices were way beyond what most people would be willing to pay. The Greenwalds were aware that for the event to be a success it had to be much more affordable. They checked out several alternatives and got very good value for money at Kfar Hamaccabiah. They also succeeded in getting a fair amount of publicity in English-language publications, but they knew that the best response would come from personal contacts. The last such reunion had been eight years ago, and they somehow managed to get hold of the list of people who had participated then, but the list was devoid of e-mail addresses and many of the phone numbers were no longer relevant. With painstaking research they put together a new list with updated phone numbers and e-mail addresses where they existed. They sent out around a hundred e-mails and made several phone calls. Initially they thought they would be lucky if 80 people showed up, but in the final analysis, there were 152, including some who responded to the publicity.
Among these was leading lawyer and former president of the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association Michael Fox, who was the first booking.
"I'm from London," he said, "but my mother is from Sunderland. Does that count?" Indeed it did. In fact, anyone from anywhere in England was welcome, and there were a few who were not genuinely part of the "Great North Eastern Reunion," but had close connections with north easterners. There were a lot of happy "hellos" among people who had not seen each other in years, especially old school chums who had lost touch. The program promised a special guest, but did not reveal the identity.
It turned out to be her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, convincingly played by Madelaine Mordechai, who not only looked the part, but played it to the hilt, while introducing some Yiddishisms and Hebrew expressions to the royal lexicon. She carried a handbag in the same manner as the queen, but for good measure added a Marks & Spencer shopping bag. Looking very regal, she made a grand entry into the banquet room to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance." Some of the guests got into the act and bowed and curtsied to her, to which she responded with a gracious nod of the head. Her 20-minute patter, which included references to Prince Philip and Prince Charles, had people almost falling off their chairs with laughter. It was a fun evening in the best of British tradition.
n WIDELY HAILED as a contemporary Agnon, author Haim Sabato, whose extraordinary command of both classical and modern Hebrew has won the hearts and minds of many reviewers, was introduced this week to some of his admirers whose language limitations deny them access to the original, but who nonetheless appreciate the English translations of his works. The occasion at Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim, was the launch of "The Dawning of the Day" the English translation of "Ke'afapey Shachar."
The event was hosted by his English publisher Matthew Miller, the founder of Toby Press, who after making some self deprecating remarks about people who can't write and can't teach becoming publishers, spoke of the deep satisfaction derived from discovering new literary talents and from translating commercial fiction into English.
First time authors represent a large percentage of the Toby Press output. Literary critic, editor, translator and Aliyat Hagag (Books in the Attic) publisher Yehuda Meltzer, who is Sabato's Hebrew editor, and who can be largely credited with having discovered him, is a self-confessed secular leftist.
Initially, it was not easy for him to read Sabato, he confessed. He couldn't understand the writing, but he persevered, and after a while it seeped into his consciousness and he found himself writing yofi (beautiful) in the margin. Sabato sees himself first as a rabbi and then as an author. His works are deeply laced with Jewish heritage and symbolism. The first manuscript was passed on to Meltzer by the Yediot publishing house, for which the writing was simply too complex. It stayed in Meltzer's top drawer for a long time.
To succeed as a writer in Israel, said Meltzer, "You have to write light."
After allowing himself to become captivated by Sabato's language, he made it his mission to publish him and to have him read. The fact that he's being translated into English and is attracting an ever-increasing readership, is proof of the success of that mission. Sabato who does not yet speak English, said that he was heartened by many of the reactions to his books. His first book Aleppo Tales had been written from his intellect; his second Adjusting Sights had been written from his heart, and his latest book The Dawning of the Day had been written from his soul.
Sabato has a particular way of dealing with pain, a factor that aroused the curiosity of several people in the audience. It was hard to tell whether it was the rabbi or the author who gave the reply. "You have to learn to listen to people's pain," he said.
n BEING SICK is never any fun, especially for children, and particularly for children who have cancer. During Succot, the Israel Cancer Association funded a four-day holiday retreat at Shefayim for 130 young cancer patients and their families at a cost of more than NIS 400,000. The funding came from the annual cancer door-knock campaign which was officially opened at Beit Hanassi this week. Illness makes no religious or racial distinctions. Arab children and their families mixed easily with Jewish children and their families - united by a common concern. Participants frolicked in the water-park and motor park, went on a trip to Caesarea, received gifts from numerous companies and met up with lots of entertainers including actress, singer and model Agam Rodberg, who spent a day with them. Members of Israel's entertainment industry are very generous in sharing their time and their talents with sick children.
n ISRAEL'S AMBASSADOR to Australia, Naftali Tamir, who was mentioned on this page last week in relation to an address that he gave to the Israel-Australia-Oceania Chamber of Commerce in which he called Australia a true friend of Israel, also referred on that occasion to the need for Israel to develop stronger trade ties in Asia.
He had been of that opinion for several years, he said, after having served at the Israel Embassy in Tokyo. In advocating deeper Israeli penetration into the Asian market by utilizing Australian springboard opportunities, Tamir said nothing of a racist nature. However, he was not as careful when later interviewed by Charlotte Halle of Ha'aretz, who quoted him as saying: "Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia. We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically a yellow race. Australia and Israel are not. We are basically the white race. We are on the western side of Asia and they are on the southeastern side." Tamir also told Ha'aretz that Israel has a past and a present in Europe, but no future. He made similar remarks when talking to the Chamber of Commerce.
The Foreign Ministry wass both incensed and embarrassed by the reported remarks and will not allow the matter to rest. Tamir had asked for Halle to be invited to the Chamber of Commerce event, but she did not show up. In a subsequent tete-a-tete, he allowed himself to say more than he had said in front of a group of people. In the meantime, he has been recalled home to present his version of what he said. His diplomatic gaffe may earn him more than a mere slap on the wrist.
n SOMEHOW ONE doesn't expect to see too much drama on a television breakfast show - but last week both Channel Two and Channel 10 got more than they bargained for in terms of excitement. On Friday morning, genial cooking expert Gil Hovav collapsed during a live broadcast of "A New Day" and was caught by program host Gidi Gov before he hit the floor. Gov called for an ambulance, but Hovav who is apparently given to fainting spells recovered quickly, and continued as if nothing had happened. On Channel 10, Danny Roup and Anat Gonen who had scheduled an interview on "Every Morning" with an owner and breeder of pedigreed cats, found themselves on hands and knees when one of the prize felines escaped from her cage and simply disappeared from sight. The owner burst into tears - not an easy situation.