IF ANYONE was under the impression that the appointment of Moti Sklaar as the director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority was going to have a positive effect, the short-term result suggests that they may be mistaken. Sklaar, who took up his new post only a few days ago, has already stirred major unrest by calling on veteran broadcaster Dan Shilon to take over the 8 a.m.-10 a.m. current affairs talk-show slot on Reshet Bet in place of regular anchors Liat Regev, Amnon Nadav (who for several years was the head of Israel Radio) and Amikam Rotman. Shilon was brought in for the duration of the conflict in the North - but in Israel there is a tendency to turn temporary situations into permanent ones, and the three broadcasters who have been unceremoniously moved to the back burner are not exactly happy campers. But that's not all that is rocking the boat at the IBA. Sklaar is also bringing in outsiders to host live current affairs television programs on Channel One.
The two names in the forefront are Jackie Levy, the religious comedian, moderator and actor, and Neri Livni, the Ha'aretz journalist who occasionally appears as a panelist on controversial current affairs shows. IBA union heads are thinking of taking legal action before usurpers take over their territory, but the groundswell of opposition may peter out as it did in the case of Gabi Gazit, who did not find a welcome mat when he returned to his old stomping ground. On air, his colleagues had little choice but to cooperate with him, and that's what will doubtless happen in the cases of Shilon et al.
Meanwhile, Shilon began broadcasting on Monday morning. Shilon's previous stint with the IBA, in the twilight days of then director-general Yosef Barel, was short-lived, as was the program he co-hosted with his wife on Channel 10. One of the pioneers of Israel Television, Shilon though still greatly admired, seems to have lost his staying power. It will be interesting to see how long he lasts on Reshet Bet.
KNOWN AS the valium of the nation because of calm quiet manner in which he broadcast in his capacity as Army Spokesman during the Gulf War, Nahman Shai, who has become a regular commentator on Channel One over the past week, is anything but cool and calm these days. Speaking in an angry tone of voice, with hands moving rapidly to punctuate his speech, Shai more than once lambasted the IDF Home Front Command for what he alleged was a lack of clarity in the instructions that it gave to the public during the war in the North.
LIKEWISE, CHANNEL One Arab Affairs expert Oded Granot, who provided a simultaneous translation of Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's taped television address on Sunday, put a lot more fire and drama into Nasrallah's oratory than did Nasrallah himself, who spoke in soft, almost soothing tones that belied the content of his speech. In fact, Granot got so carried away in translation and in his subsequent remarks that anchorwoman Keren Neubach could not resist commenting on his agitation.
WHATEVER THE reasons for his ongoing largesse in many directions, and whatever the views of the cynics who see his generosity as an attempt to gain acceptance in Israeli society in general and in the business world in particular, it cannot be denied that Russian immigrant tycoon Arkady Gaydamak is doing a tremendous amount of good for increasing numbers of people. For instance, this week it became public that Gaydamak decided to wipe out the deficit of Magen David Adom with an NIS 10 million gift, because he didn't want the deficit to impede MDA's life saving work. He also established a summer camp south of Ashdod for thousands of children from the North who would otherwise have missed out on summertime activities, and has arranged for soccer players from the Betar Jerusalem team that he owns to go to the camp and give the kids a thrill.
IT WOULD appear that there is life after Shinui, and that one can continue returning to public life after retirement age. Former Shinui leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid has been named chairman designate of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority. The government approved the appointment on Sunday. Lapid, who turns 75 in December, will replace former Knesset speaker and former ambassador to Poland, Prof. Szewach Weiss, who last week celebrated his 71st birthday. Lapid, like Weiss, is a Holocaust survivor. He is also a close friend of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A former deputy prime minister and justice minister, Lapid, a journalist by profession, had a long career with At and Ma'ariv and also served as director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. In his six years as a member of Knesset, Lapid was a vociferous opponent of Orthodox influences in people's status, and unsuccessfully tried to introduce civil marriage. His new position represents the closing of a circle. As a survivor whose father perished in the Holocaust, the Yugoslavian-born Lapid has always been conscious of the Holocaust and has played an active role in preserving Holocaust remembrance. Now, he will continue to do so in both a personal and an official capacity.
HYPERENERGETIC BROADCASTER Haim Hecht played fairy godmother to ensure a happy ending to a wedding that almost didn't happen. When Revital and Avihu Degem-Foor of Hatzor were planning to get married, they booked a banquet hall in Kiryat Shmona and sent out some 500 invitations. But when Katyusha rockets were again wreaking havoc in the north, home front security authorities advised the proprietors of the banquet hall that they could not have a function on their premises. The couple started a desperate search for an alternate venue, and after several phone calls hit the jackpot.
Despite the short notice, Kibbutz Mahanayim agreed to cater the wedding. The couple, together with members of their families, telephoned all the guests to notify them of the change in venue. But only a few hours later, Mahanayim was subject to the same security restrictions as Kiryat Shmona, and regretfully told the couple, "No can do." They thought of calling off the wedding, but after all the planning that had gone into it, they didn't want to postpone it. Revital's father, mindful of Hecht's many contacts and his ability to get things done, called him at his Radio Kol Rega station on Kibbutz Beit Keshet and explained the problem. Hecht subsequently talked to the groom on air and promised him that there would be a wedding that night at Beit Keshet. Once more the two families had to make some 500 phone calls to inform guests that the location of the wedding had changed yet again. This time, it was for real.
Better still, Hecht performed a second miracle and brought along singer Harel Skaat, who sang the haunting ballad, "Behold I'm here." Skaat had been taking a career break in recent months but after hearing of the couple's plight from Hecht, he could not refuse. He'd been watching the news on television, and like so many other Israelis, wanted to do something - but felt totally helpless. Along came the opportunity for him to make a difference in the lives of two people, to bring joy to a bride and groom simply by contributing his voice. As far as the Degem-Foors are concerned, the wedding in itself would have been enough of a miracle. Skaat's presence made it just perfect.
IN THE midst of all the chaos, members of the Sulha family of Jews, Muslims and Christians trying to effect reconciliation between peoples of the region, especially those who have lost loved ones in terrorist attacks and military reprisals, met this week in Jerusalem at the home of Sulha president, Melila Hellner-Eshed, to discuss the three-day, sixth annual "On the Way to Sulha" gathering scheduled to take place in Latrun from August 22. Among those present was the organization's co-founder, Gabriel Meyer (a musician who lives at Amirim and is originally from Argentina where his father was a rabbi), Ihab Balha (a member of the Arab community of Jaffa), two Arab women including one who is engaged in international conflict resolution, several orthodox Jews and several secular Jews.
Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians who are part of the Sulha family share each other's pain, talk to each other, listen to each other, demonstrate compassion for each other, make music and dance together and teach each other about their respective cultures. In a documentary film showing a mass "On the Way to Sulha" get-together, a Palestinian man who is interviewed says that he asked his father how he could talk to the killers of his son, not only talk to them but also shake their hands. His father's reply lies at the root of all reconciliation movements: "I don't want to lose my other son."
ONE OF Israel's busiest thoroughfares is Tel Aviv's Allenby Street - almost always clogged with motorized traffic on the road and pedestrian traffic on the pavement lined with dozens of shops on both sides of the street. Haifa also has a main street called after Allenby and Jerusalem has a square in which there are benches and a children's playground as well as a plaque commemorating his triumphant entry into Jerusalem in December, 1917. But ask Israelis who Allenby was and the chances are high that hardly anyone will know. Even among those who might know that he commanded the British forces that vanquished the Turks, it's unlikely that they would know his first name.
Outgoing British Ambassador Simon McDonald hopes to shed a little more light on the conquering British hero when he unveils a statue of Gen. Edmund Allenby in Beersheva on Tuesday, July 25. The unveiling in the newly renovated Allenby Park, will be attended by Allenby's grandson, Lord Michael Allenby, who is due to fly out from Britain especially for the ceremony. The original bust of the general was destroyed during riots in 1936 and the park where it stood was neglected over the years and fell into disrepair. In the course of a visit to Beersheba, McDonald was asked by Mayor Ya'akov Terner whether the embassy could assist in reinstating the statue. A copy of the original was located at the Imperial War Museum in London. However, it was not possible to duplicate it due to technical difficulties and concerns that it might become damaged in the process. In September 2005, Etienne Millner, vice president of the Society of Portrait Sculptors, was commissioned to sculpt a new bust. Now 70 years after his arrival on the scene, Israelis will finally get to see what Allenby looked like.
n BOSTON RED Sox Executive Vice President, Dr. Charles Steinberg, who was featured in The Jerusaem Post last week in an interview that he gave to the Post's Hilary Leila Krieger, subsequently sent a letter to the editor in which he wrote that while he appreciates the Post's interest in baseball, his role in visiting Israel was simply to escort his sister, Golda Shira Aaron, aka Jane, who was making aliya. "Indeed, I believe that Jerusalem and Israel can benefit from her presence more than it ever could from mine," he wrote, adding, "Her achievements are unparalleled in the world of Jewish journalism."
Steinberg then went on to list his sister's achievements, including her regular coverage of the White House over the past 10 years, her reports on the Netanyahu-Arafat-Clinton summit, the Barak-Clinton talks at the White House, the Camp David summit in 2000, the eight Sharon-Bush meetings, as well as the Abbas welcome to the White House. Moreover, she has been in the Oval Office several times," asking questions of and chatting with both the prime minister and president." She has appeared on CNN, Fox, C-Span, and other networks, reporting from the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. Steinberg went on to list more of his sibling's attributes, including the fact that she is a recipient of the American Jewish Press Association's Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. She was also in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Mall in September, 1997.
n PRESUMING THAT none of the invitees gets cold feet and decides not to come, there will be an influx of some 50 leading Orthodox rabbis from around the world to Jerusalem in November at the invitation of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as part of a global task force on agunot (women who are chained in marriage). The problem is one of tremendous importance in the Jewish world, since so many Jewish women whose husbands will not grant them a bill of divorce are being denied the ability to move on with their lives, remarry and have children. The problem also affects Jewish demography, since the women concerned cannot bring more children into the world. The Global Rabbinical Task Force Conference seeks to find halachic solutions to the problem and is being held in conjunction with the International Council of Jewish Women - which for more than half a century has advocated for the rights of agunot in Jewish communities around the world - and with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The JCPA and the ICJW co-sponsor the International Jewish Women's Rights Project, whose director, Sharon Shenhav, has been instrumental in convening the conference.
THERE ARE many ways to spend the summer, conflict notwithstanding. Some 100 Jews and non-Jews from approximately a dozen countries chose to spend a major part of the summer at the School for Overseas Students at Tel Aviv University. What's the great attraction? Believe it or not, Yiddish. Prof. Hana Wirth-Nesher, director of the new Goldreich Family Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture and professor of English and American Literature at TAU and Prof. Avraham Novershtern, Director of Beit Shalom Aleichem, are directing the program. At the opening of the course, Wirth-Nesher observed that although Israel, particularly Tel Aviv, has not always been hospitable to Yiddish, the language wars are long past, and today Tel Aviv is reclaiming its rich heritage. The program includes language, literature, songs, movies and cabaret. Yiddish aficionados who do not want to participate in the whole course but who may be interested in music or theater workshops can catch up with music and dance in Room 103, Webb at 4.30 p.m. Wednesday and also on July 25 and 27, same time, same place. The theater workshop meets at the same venue at 3 p.m. on Thursday and again on July 24 and 26. For information on the theater workshop call Refoel Goldvasser at 050-686-8380. For the music workshop, call Avishay Fisz at 052-324-4602.
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