THE GOVERNMENT of Israel designates the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan the New Year for kings, according to the Mishna to commemorate deceased presidents and prime ministers. Each year the incumbent president and prime minister award prizes in the memories of a deceased president and a deceased prime minister. This year's prizes, awarded last Thursday, commemorated Israel's third president, Zalman Shazar, and Yitzhak Rabin.
President Moshe Katsav awarded the President's Prize to the Zalman Shazar Elementary School in Acre, which has successfully integrated immigrant children from the Commonwealth of Independent States with native-born Israelis. Acting prime minister Ehud Olmert awarded the Prime Minister's Prize to Dana Ariely Horowitz, Yoram Peri and Ori Standel for their monumental books on Rabin's life and death, and for their research into the ways in which Rabin has been memorialized and given a permanent place in Israeli consciousness.
IT WAS quite a squeeze at the soon-to-be-restored Palace Hotel to accommodate all the invitees to the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the first Hebrew broadcast on the Palestine Broadcasting Service that subsequently evolved into The Voice of Israel. While it was interesting to see who was there, it was even more interesting to discern who wasn't. Notably absent were former directors-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority Uri Porat and Yosef Barel, who, though they left the IBA under a cloud, had given many years of service and deserved some form of recognition. Also absent was Amnon Nadav, the immediate past chief of Israel Radio, who currently anchors a morning current affairs program on Reshet Bet.
The early days of radio in pre-State Israel will be revived in dozens of programs throughout the coming year. On the day following the 70th anniversary ceremony, veteran broadcaster Amikam Rotman found it appropriate in his regular morning show to tie in the triumph at the polls of Gil, the Pensioners' Party, with the anniversary celebrations of the radio, and packaged the deal with a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "Yesterday."
EVEN THOUGH he has spent most of his life as an actor on stages and film sets in Tel Aviv, Romanian-born Yaacov Bodo chose to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his career on the Hebrew and Yiddish stages in Jerusalem - not with a big party, but with the premiere of the Yiddishpiel production The Wooden Dish. Bodo's fellow thespians and three generations of his family managed to surprise him at rehearsals two days prior to the premiere - a date that happened to coincide with Bodo's 75th birthday. During a break in rehearsals, Yiddishpiel director Shmulik Atzmon took Bodo aside; meanwhile, a buffet table was set up on stage, and when the call went out for the cast to come back, Bodo found himself the star of the show in more ways than one. The emotion he displayed was contagious, and affected everyone present. And he wasn't acting.
IT'S HARD to say exactly what Dudu Topaz intended when he decided to interview Yvonne Rosenstein on his television show Everything Moves. Yvonne is the wife of Israeli crime czar Ze'ev Rosenstein, who was extradited to Florida on drug trafficking charges that allege his involvement in a plan to distribute more than 1 million ecstasy pills in the US.
Yvonne, who became religious 18 years ago, announced that she would stand by her man no matter what. When Topaz asked whether she had ever wondered where all her husband's money came from, the loyal wife answered: "from casinos abroad." (Rosenstein owns casinos in Romania.) Yvonne Rosenstein denied that her husband was a criminal, described him as a wonderful husband and father, and noted that he was also a generous donor to charity.
While Topaz was willing to give Rosenstein air time, he seemed intent on exploring how far he could push her before she cracked. To this end, he showed her photographs of her husband in the company of beautiful, scantily clad women. Yvonne remained stoic and shrugged off the matter, noting that since he was incarcerated well over a year ago, her husband has changed his ways, including eating kosher food and donning tefillin. She was sure, she said, that Rosenstein would be found innocent at his trial, and that he would return to her and their children.
After allowing Yvonne the opportunity to say all the positive things she wanted to say about her husband, Topaz asked if there was one negative quality that she wanted to change. Throwing him a sly grin, she replied: "The women." If Rosenstein is convicted, he will serve his sentence in Israel, during which time the only women who will visit him will be members of his family.
INCLEMENT WEATHER couldn't spoil a wonderful evening hosted by George Zodiates, the ambassador of Cyprus, at his residence in Kfar Shmaryahu. Zodiates invited members of the diplomatic community and some of his other friends to a piano recital by Batya Murvitz. Usually, when a soloist performs at the residence of an ambassador, it is an artist from the ambassador's home country. Murvitz is an Israeli - albeit the daughter of the honorary consul for Papua New Guinea - but, as Zodiates pointed out, music is international.
Murvitz's selection ranged from light and gentle to robust and energetic works by Haydn, Schumann and Prokofiev, demonstrating her skill and versatility.
Guests arrived before the rains came and enjoyed a pre-recital reception in the front garden of the residence. A sumptuous buffet was served following the recital - but not on the large veranda overlooking the spacious back garden, as originally planned, because rain drenched the tables that had been laid out.
IT HAS become quite commonplace for ambassadors and their spouses to be of different national backgrounds, though the spouse usually assumes the ambassador's nationality in order to qualify for a diplomatic passport. Several of the heads of foreign missions in Israel have wives born in other countries. Case in point is Belgian Ambassador Jean-Miguel Veranneman de Watervliet, whose wife Maria comes from Brazil. What could be more appropriate, then, that when they opened their residence for a fashion show, the designer whose creations were displayed was Emanuel Le June, who happens to be of Belgian and Brazilian parentage.
The ambassador surprised his guests by delivering a welcoming address in flawless Hebrew, but there was an even bigger surprise at the end of the show when Maria Veranneman de Watervliet came out in one of Le June's most striking gowns, and in the most uninhibited fashion with the smoothest of movements, introduced her guests to the fluid intricacies of Brazilian dance.
ON A previous occasion when police questioned him for a long time about money laundering suspicions, an angry Arkadi Gaydamak threatened to pull all of his financial interests out of Israel. If he had not retracted, Betar Jerusalem Soccer Club (which he owns) and Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club (which he sponsors) would both have been in dire straits.
Last month, when the police again questioned him about money laundering, Gaydamak vented his anger at the police rather than the two teams that depend on his largesse. And, even though State Prosecutor Eran Shendar believes that Gaydamak should be charged, Gaydamak is continuing to back the teams.
NOTWITHSTANDING THE adverse effect that the elections have had on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, affluent Israelis continue to contribute considerable sums of money to numerous worthy causes. On Thursday of last week, the Friends of the Soroka Medical Center contributed more than NIS 3 million that have been earmarked for the department of internal medicine.
As it has done in the past, the community of the Negev rallied around the Beersheba hospital at a gala fundraising dinner that was attended by some 770 people. Among the most outstanding contributions was NIS 500,000 by Israel Chemicals, whose managing director Akiva Mozes is also the chairman of the Friends of Soroka Medical Center. Another very handsome contribution of NIS 300,000 was announced by Hezi Kalo, vice president of information and planning for Clalit Health Services. Other major donors included investment entrepreneur Nochi Dankner and building contractor Yigal Dimari. Comedian and master of ceremonies Adir Miller, who has participated in several big fund-raising campaigns, said he had never seen such large-scale giving before.