Former president Shimon Peres certainly has an eye for the ladies – and they for him. At the beginning of this week he was reminiscing with Winnie Mandela in Johannesburg, and next Tuesday morning at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa he will be hosting supermodel Naomi Campbell; Israel Prize laureate Adina Bar-Shalom; international businesswoman and philanthropist Ofra Strauss; the first female Druse pilot, Prof. Anan Falah, who is also a dentist and lawyer; political blogger Tal Schneider; the CEO of Hot Media, Tal Granot-Goldstein; Ethiopian protest leader Inbar Bugale; the principal of the Hand in Hand bilingual school, Nadia Kinani; and senior Teva Pharmaceuticals executive Iris Beck-Codner, among several others who have chosen to celebrate International Women’s Day in the company of a prominent statesman and longtime politician who has consistently advocated parity for women, and whose key executives are mainly women.
The event will be held under the banner of Women Promote Change, and Campbell, who has been a staunch activist for women’s rights, especially those women who are victims of terrorism or natural disasters, will be conferred with the Women Promote Change award. When he welcomes Campbell, Peres will be surrounded by 100 Arab and Jewish children who participate in Peres Center projects.
Campbell, who admires Peres for his efforts toward peace and advancing the status of women, and who has met him in other parts of the world, has long wanted to visit Israel, and the award on International Women’s Day has given her the opportunity.
■ IT’S A known fact that in Israel, many holidays, festivals and anniversaries are prolonged far beyond their actual dates. We’ll be seeing children parading in Purim costumes for several days before and after the reading of the megila, and in similar vein International Women’s Day events began way ahead of March 8, and will doubtless continue till the following week.
Emunah, the National Religious Women’s Zionist Organization, which according to the Jewish Virtual Library was established in 1925 and which according to the Jewish Women’s Archive was founded in 1935 as the Women’s branch of Hapoel Hamizrachi, celebrated its round figure anniversary last year, but nonetheless brought its members together this week at the Wohl Auditorium at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan to celebrate both its 80th anniversary and International Women’s Day.
As Emunah’s activities include a school network, it was only natural that the guest speaker, both in view of his position and his politics, should be Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Paraphrasing a statement made some years back by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his ministers when he told them to “become Kahlons” – that is, like current Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who had succeeded in drastically reducing cellular communications prices – in finding creative solutions to problems, Bennett declared: “I say to all organizations and all Religious Zionist organizations, be Emunah.” Lauding the organization Bennett continued: “Emunah works with the professionalism and excellences of a hi-tech start-up, is as determined as an elite commando unit, and combines this with the soul of a mother.”
Emunah chairwoman Liora Minka, while on the one hand praising the efforts and achievements of Emunah volunteers to date, emphasized that in order to fulfill the vision of Emunah’s founders and to reach the targets to which they aspired, many more good and believing people with a sense of commitment to society are needed.
■ THE ONGOING revolution in communications, which caused fears that people would no longer go to the movies when television and video cassettes came into vogue, progressed to newspapers, periodicals and books with the advent of social media.
While it is true that many newspapers and periodicals around the world either downsized, decided to publish solely online or closed down, new publications were inaugurated and the shelves of newspaper vendors are still chockablock with daily newspapers and glossy periodicals. Although people are very busy with social media – both as readers and contributors – they still find time to write and read books.
In advance of International Women’s Day, it is gratifying that a woman author, Orly Castel Bloom, one of Israel’s most admired writers, was on Wednesday awarded this year’s prestigious Sapir Prize for literature.
Closer to home, former Jerusalem Post writer Sybil Kaplan, following her initial aliya from the US in 1970, worked as a freelance journalist and wrote her extremely popular book The Wonders of the Wonder Pot – Cooking in Israel without an Oven. For new immigrants and people on sabbatical, the book was a godsend, because the Wonder Pot, a staple utensil in every Israeli household, enabled baking and roasting on top of the stove – and the results were every bit as good if not better than using an oven. The Wonder Pot disappeared from the market for several years but recently returned, so Kaplan’s book, which was revived by popular request, is sold privately. She subsequently wrote Israeli Cooking on a Budget, which was published by the Post in the days when it also operated a publishing company, and it remained in print for 12 years.
In August 2015, Kaplan published her autobiography, Witness to History: Ten years as a Woman Journalist in Israel, set against the history of Israel of the 1970s. Like so many immigrants, even today, she had to hold down several jobs to make ends meet.
She was the first public relations director of the Encyclopedia Judaica. Later she went on to be the first public relations director of the David Yellin College of Education. From there she went into full-time journalism, becoming a Government Press Office-accredited representative for the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle – for which she still writes.
She also wrote the midweek recipe column for the Post from 1976 to 1980 as well as several other shopping columns, food features and book reviews. She returned to America for a long period, but for the past few years has been living with her husband in Jerusalem.
■ COINCIDENTALLY, A four-member panel of energy and natural resource ministers in a panel discussion at the CERAWeek annual energy conference in Houston, Texas, organized by the Colorado-based information and insights company IHS, included three Jews. The trio kept tossing Jewish expressions and Hebrew words into the conversation, such as “What are doing for Shabbat?” and “Who’s getting the halla?” The three were Jim Carr of Canada, Yuval Steinitz of Israel and Josh Frydenberg of Australia.
Given the range of Jewish geography, it’s no wonder that many people think that the world Jewish population is much larger than it really is.
■ UNLESS HE specifically wanted to spend Purim in Israel, having already spent Hanukka in the United States, it would appear that with a little flexibility, President Reuven Rivlin should have been able to go to both Australia and Russia. Having postponed his Australian visit that was due to begin on March 13, he will now be leaving for Russia on March 15 and will remain there till March 17. He could have possibly left Israel a little earlier, cut his Australian visit by a day and his visit to Russia by a day, but then, of course, one does not know to what extent the Australians or the Russians might be flexible, if at all.
Rivlin had a long, convivial telephone conversation this week with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and explained to him how critical it was in view of developments in the region for him to go to Russia at this time to meet with President Vladimir Putin. Rivlin told Turnbull that he had been looking forward to his visit to Australia with eager anticipation and emphasized that Israel sees Australia as one of its most long-standing and true friends. Turnbull voiced disappointment that Rivlin would choose Moscow over Canberra, but assured Rivlin that this would not impact on the friendship between the two countries, and said that he hoped to see Rivlin in Australia sometime soon.
■ EVERY BIRTHDAY is special, but more so for those who get to have a birthday only once in four years. That’s the fate of people born on February 29. They can celebrate the real date of their birth only on a leap year. That happens to be the case with Post archivist Chaim Collins. That’s why his colleagues were so pleased to help him celebrate what was technically his 21st birthday, although the year of his birth indicates that it was his 84th. As has been the case for much of his life, Collins had to endure jokes about his age, including the comment that he was finally old enough under American law to indulge in alcoholic beverages.
Staffers, including his daughter, the Post’s International Edition Editor Liat Collins, Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde, and chief archivist Elaine Moshe, were among those who gathered to mark the special occasion.
The Post’s most veteran employee, Alexander Zvielli, 95, though unable to attend, phoned especially to wish his younger colleague a happy birthday.
This will be a special year in the Collins family, with a series of celebrations culminating in December with the 60th wedding anniversary of the birthday boy and his wife, Yehudit.
The crowded room emitted a collective “Wow” in admiration when Linde and Liat Collins presented the honoree with his portrait created by talented painter and staffer Olga Levi.
In thanking everyone for their good wishes, Collins noted that in keeping with the leap year phenomenon, he’d received several greetings of “Until 30!” instead of the traditional “Until 120!”
■ A SINGLE person can make a difference and so can a single word. Articles and books had been written and documentaries made about Samuel Willenberg, who was known far and wide as the last survivor of Treblinka.
In fact, he wasn’t, though as far as is known, he was the last survivor of the Treblinka Revolt. Notwithstanding the enormous amount of publicity that Willenberg received over the years, it was not until he died in February of this year that other Treblinka survivors came forward. They had not participated in the revolt, and therein lay the subtle difference.
Following publication of eulogies for Willenberg, Rodney Liber of California wrote to say that his father, Sol Liber, 92 is alive and well, and is the last known surviving fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Liber was shipped to Treblinka after the uprising, stated his son.
Alon Goldman, who is chairman of the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel and vice president of the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants, eulogized Willenberg at his funeral.
Willenberg was born in Czestochowa and designed and supervised the construction in his native city of the monument to Czestochowa Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. He and Goldman were very close, but after his death, Goldman published a notice saying that there were other survivors of Treblinka.
One is Michael Leizerovich, 89, of Haifa, who escaped prior to the revolt. Czestochowa- born poet, writer and translator Irit Librowicz-Amiel confirms that Leizerovich returned to Czestochowa following his escape from Treblinka. No one wanted to believe his tale, and people said he was out of his mind. Amiel survived the war in hiding. Her parents and other relatives met their deaths in Treblinka. Another Treblinka survivor is Pejsach Leon Poldek Rytz, who lives in Sweden, and whose surname was originally Ryzwol.
Regardless of whether or not Willenberg was the last survivor of the Treblinka Revolt, what is important is that he made it his life’s work to create awareness of what Treblinka was and what happened there.
His great wish was to establish a Treblinka Museum on the site, just as there is an Auschwitz Museum that for generations to come will serve as the memory and conscience of all who visit. Although the Polish government acquired the land on which the Nazis had set up their death camp, and had created a memorial of sorts through small, almost minuscule symbolic tombstones with the names of all the cities, towns and villages from which the Treblinka victims had originated, there is nothing really explanatory on the site.
Willenberg’s wife, Ada, and daughter Orit, who have undertaken to try to bring his dream to reality, are being aided by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, who believes that part of the cost should be borne by the Israel government, because it is not only in Jewish interests but in Israel’s interests that there be a memorial museum in Treblinka.
■ AMONG THE first of the concentration camps set up by the Nazis was Dachau in Germany, which was opened as early as 1933. Inmates were treated with exceptional cruelty, as a result of which tens of thousands died. But Dachau was essentially a forced labor camp.
While some Holocaust survivors – especially those who survived the camps – never recovered from the ordeals they had experienced, others – such as Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, writer Elie Wiesel, sculptor Willenberg, award-winning film producer Branko Lustig, sexologist Ruth Westheimer, prizewinning author Ephraim Kishon, fellow Hungarian writer and Nobel Prize laureate Imre Kertesz, physician Henry Morgentaler and architect and real estate developer David Azrieli – went on to receive national and international renown in the countries in which they settled.
Another was prizewinning Austrian artist Ernst Eisenmayer, who lives in Vienna and will celebrate his 96th birthday in September. Eisenmayer was sponsored to go to England before Britain got into the war, and although interred as an enemy alien once Britain was involved, he later became a celebrated sculptor and painter, who has exhibited in many parts of the world. But just as Willenberg was unable to get Treblinka out of his head and recreated Treblinka images in his art, so Eisenmayer, who now lives again in his native Vienna, recreated Dachau images in his art.
■ RECENTLY VOTED by Condé Nast Traveler magazine readers as the best luxury hotel in the Middle East, the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem now has an additional perk for its guests. Following an agreement signed by the hotel’s general manager Guy Klaiman and El Al CEO David Maimon, hotel guests traveling via El Al will now be able to check in for all El Al flights departing from Ben-Gurion Airport from the hotel’s business center. Between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sunday through Thursday), guests can check their luggage and print their boarding passes at the hotel. Guests’ bags are then transported by private courier directly to the airport. Once there, luggage is then scanned by security before being transferred to the intended flight, allowing passengers to arrive relaxed at the airport only an hour-and-a-half before their scheduled departure, instead of three hours.
The catch is the cost. This fixed scheduled service, available exclusively for Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem guests, does not come free of charge, but costs NIS 549 plus value- added tax for seven people. Presumably, anyone staying at the Waldorf is flying first or business class, so the extra expenditure is no big deal.
■ ACTORS SOMETIMES forget their lines, and if there isn’t someone around to cue them, they have to come up with a spontaneous solution. But it wasn’t a memory lapse that threatened to bring down the curtain on a Cameri Theater production in Kiryat Malachi. A power outage plunged the theater into total darkness, so much so that the actors on stage could not see one another let alone where they should enter and exit. One of the cast, veteran actor Shmuel Vilozny, had a brilliant idea. He asked the audience to activate the screens on their cellphones and to hold them up in the direction of the stage by way of spotlights. It worked. The show continued, and it put a whole new spin on interaction between players and audience.