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AT LEAST one of the new legislators who took his place in the Knesset plenum last week is no stranger to the Knesset per se. Kadima Knesset member Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, former rector of The Hebrew University, was a member of several delegations of the Council for Higher Education that appeared before Knesset committees to argue for increased budgets.
The National Religious Party was for many years headed by Ben-Sasson's father-in-law, the late Josef Burg, also an educator by profession and one of the noted leaders of the Mizrachi movement, the parent body of the NRP. Burg was a long-time cabinet minister, and served in the Knesset for just under 40 years. Ben-Sasson's brother-in-law is former Knesset speaker and former Labor Knesset member Avraham Burg, who happens to be distantly related to Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin, the speaker of the 16th Knesset whose name has been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Moshe Katsav as president.
WITH REGARD to the presidency, the race is on. Former foreign minister David Levy, recently tipped as a potential candidate, seems to be out of the running. Shimon Peres's name has been mentioned again, but given his unfortunate election history, it is doubtful he will stand unless he happens to be the sole candidate. Another name that has come up recently is that of Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, who is due to retire shortly.
Barak has had some unpleasant run-ins with Knesset members on matters relating to the authority of the Knesset vis-a-vis that of the Supreme Court, which may deter him from casting his hat into the ring.
Supporters of Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi and former chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau have been working toward his candidature for close to two years, and of all the current possibilities, Lau is arguably in the lead. Still, anything could happen between now and July 2007, when President Katsav concludes his seven-year term of office.
WHAT DO Mevaseret Zion and White Plains, New York, have in common? Plenty. During a recent visit to Israel, White Plains Mayor Joseph Delfino met up with Mevaseret Zion Mayor Carmi Gillon, who presented him with the keys to the city (not that Mevaseret Zion can actually be defined as a city) and, according to reports from White Plains, the key is prominently displayed in Delfino's office.
White Plains has a large Jewish population whose members urged Delfino to find an Israeli twin. Together with the White Plains Israel Action committee, the mayor's office is looking into initiatives that will enhance dialogue, cooperation and economic relations between White Plains and Mevaseret. One of the first plans that went into effect was a student exchange, with the Israeli students first in line. Last month they spent two weeks at the White Plains High School and participated in events organized by various City Hall departments.
MANY OF the guests attending the official opening of the JB Jewelers Boutique in Jerusalem during the intermediate days of Pessah made a special effort to speak English or French to Swiss Ambassador Francois Chappuis, not realizing they could converse in Hebrew. Before joining his country's Foreign Ministry, Chappuis worked with the Red Cross and was stationed in Israel, where he picked up Hebrew, which he speaks quite fluently.
Brothers Ofer and Alon Jonasoff, owners of JB Jewelers, come from a long line of jewelry experts; the Jonasoff family has been engaged in jewelry design and importing for more than 125 years.
The Swiss Ambassador was invited to the opening because the Jonasoffs decided to combine it with an exhibition of the new Chopard collection of Swiss watches and jewelry. Scantily clad models paraded around the store wearing some of the more striking pieces. As is always the case at such events, they could not help but rub shoulders with men sporting earlocks (peyot), dark suits, black velvet kippot, kapotas and shtreimels; the jewelry industry is largely populated by Orthodox Jews.
No one seemed to find this distracting, especially Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi, who obligingly posed for photographers while happily cradling a model in each arm.
MOST AMBASSADORS, when hosting celebrations for their country's national day, invite a lot of their fellow countrymen as well as local dignitaries, business people, representatives of academia, the arts, etc. But a couple of years back, the ambassador for the Netherlands decided that only the Dutch can feel any real affinity for Queen's Day, with its strong emphasis on orange colors and flavors. Present incumbent Ambassador Bob Hiensch is obviously of a similar mind and is hosting a Queen's Day reception wholly and solely for members of Israel's Dutch community.
WHEN JERUSALEM lingerie store proprietor Moshe Rosenthal was vacationing in Eilat, he met up with Algerian-born, French-educated artist Mark Boganin, who settled in Israel in 1999 and made his home in Eilat. Rosenthal was enchanted by Boganin's sensuous, color-drenched paintings, and told him that he must exhibit in Jerusalem. It just so happened, he said, that there was a small gallery replete with spotlights above his Women Only store, and he would be happy to make it available.
It was an offer that was difficult to refuse, so Boganin and his wife decided that it was a good opportunity to spend some time in the capital. The two dozen or so huge canvases selected were all paintings of women in a variety of poses and various stages of dress or undress, which he felt was in keeping with the name of the host enterprise. There were also some haunting portraits of women that revealed considerable insight on the part of the artist.
The most common remark of viewers was: "It's beautiful - but why in such a small gallery?" The response whetted his appetite, so before leaving the capital Boganin met up with the curator of a much larger gallery where he will likely exhibit later this year.
WELL-KNOWN Jerusalem-based bridal wear designer Odelia Mizrachi has decided that the bride should have something a little less formal to wear on the honeymoon, and has therefore expanded her range to include what she calls casual wear. The items are not quite as dressy as a bridal gown, but they certainly could not be described as casual. They're for the type of woman who flits from event to event all day, and wants to be sure that she's wearing a smart and trendy outfit to keep her going around the clock.