GRAPEVINE: Three is a lucky number

While there was great rejoicing in this particular area of the world during Christmas 1917, Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular have less cause for rejoicing at Christmas 2017.

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December 14, 2017 20:22
GRAPEVINE: Three is a lucky number

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN lights the second Hanukka candle in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen at an event honoring outstanding Mossad personnel.. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

 
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Tuesday is the third day of the week. Thirty-three years ago, Limor Fadida of Haifa and her twin brother, Lior, were born on a Tuesday on the eve of Hanukka.

This year, the eve of Hanukka was again on a Tuesday, and Fadida gave birth to her third child, a boy, at Rambam Medical Center. The baby came into the world weighing 3.46 kilograms. He came as a birthday present for his mother and uncle, who were also born at Rambam, and he is the third of Fadida’s children to be born there. The baby was somewhat overdue in making his presence known, and Fadida had a feeling that he would exit her womb on her birthday, which is exactly what he did.

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■ THERE WAS a time when most Israeli employees were part of collective agreements in which provisions were made for annual salary increases in relation to increases in the cost of living. After Israel ceased to be a socialist country, many of these agreements lost their strength, as employers refused to renew them, or refused to include new employees in old agreements.

The upshot is that there are many people in Israel who haven’t gotten a raise in close to 20 years; or if they have had one, it has been so minimal as to barely make a difference.

Not so ministers, parliamentarians and the president of the state, whose salaries are adjusted annually, and who will therefore get a pay raise in January. But even in their cases, there is a certain degree of unfairness with regard to the salaries of the president and the prime minister.

Regardless of their popularity or otherwise, few people would dispute that both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu work very hard and very long hours. Neither is in the nine-to-five category. They work much more than eight hours a day. Yet there is a vast gap in their salaries. Netanyahu’s gross salary will go up from NIS 47,485 per month to NIS 47,865, and Rivlin’s from NIS 59,185 to NIS 61,172.

Ministers’ salaries will rise from NIS 41,644 to NIS 41,977, and MKs’ salaries will increase from NIS 41,432 to NIS 42,797. Legislators also get quite a few perks in addition to their salaries, such as cars, trips abroad and tours around Israel, while there are still too many ordinary Israelis who are not yet earning double-digit salaries and whose travels in Israel do not extend beyond their cities of domicile.



And, of course, in the Teva crisis, loyal and overseas employees are made to pay the price of mismanagement, while the new CEO, Kare Schultz, who is about to slash thousands of jobs, has been given a car that reportedly cost NIS 1.3 million in addition to his $20m. bonus for signing on with the ailing drugmaker. Former Teva chairman and interim president and CEO Yitzhak Peterburg left the company on Tuesday with a hefty bonus in hand, which he refused to discuss with the media.

■ ONE OF the tasks of a deputy chief of mission is to step in when the ambassador is unavailable.

That’s what happened on the first night of Hanukka, when Tony Kay, the deputy British ambassador, greeted guests at the ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan.

Ambassador David Quarrey had to briefly return to London due to a bereavement in his family, and rather than cancel a special Hanukka reception in honor of Viscount Henry Allenby and his mother, Lady Sara Allenby, Kay took over as host for the evening.

It was a fitting conclusion to the five-day visit by the Allenbys, who had been wined and dined and given the red-carpet treatment by numerous Israelis, especially those associated with the Tower of David Museum.

Overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome, Viscount Allenby said that he would be getting back to reality the following day, because he would be leaving at 5 a.m. to return to the small village where he lives, and would be back at work that day as well.

He also took pains to make it clear that he would not be viscount if Gen. Allenby’s only son, Michael, had not been mortally wounded in battle on July 29, 1917.

Two years later, in October 1919, when Gen. Allenby was promoted to field marshal and made viscount of Megiddo and Felixstowe, he was initially offered the title of viscount of Jerusalem, which he declined, not only because he was a humble man, but because he was a soldier who had previously fought in the Boer War and was not a crusader, said the present viscount, who said that his ancestor chose Megiddo because he had fought and won the battle there.

He also spoke of his ancestor as a family man and “a man of faith” who, while serving in the Middle East, wrote regularly to his wife and to his mother. Viscount Allenby promised to return to Israel with his own wife.

The British reception for the Allenbys was a Hanukka party in the true sense of the word, with the first candle being lit in a proper traditional silver hanukkia standing in front of a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, with the blessing recited by Oriel Agmoni and guests singing familiar Hanukka songs, and trays of food that included potato pancakes.

Aside from the hanukkia that was used for candlelighting, there was another under guard and under glass. The latter was a conversation piece for the evening, and was on loan from the Imperial War Museum in London. It was a relatively large artifact which had been given to Allenby in 1917 by the Jews of the Old City of Jerusalem and was artistically quite different from the eight-branched hanukkia found in so many Jewish households around the world. Many of the guests posed alongside it for photos.

Brig.-Gen. David Maisel made a presentation to Viscount Allenby on behalf of Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.

Gadi Eisenkot. The presentation included a framed photograph of Gen. Allenby entering Jerusalem plus a medal that was minted in honor of the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Declaring that 2017 had been a bumper year for the Israel-UK partnership, Maisel singled out the port visit to Haifa in November of the British warship HMS Bulwark plus, a few days later, the visit of Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the head of the British Armed Forces.

“Gen. Eisenkot heard through Israeli Intelligence that you were coming,” quipped Maisel, adding that the viscount was one of the first recipients of the medal, and certainly the first person from the UK to receive it.

Allenby surmised that it would take a while for another British warship to visit Israel. Noting that this was his own first visit to Israel, he described the experience as “awesome.”

The reception was not only a celebration of Hanukka and the 100th anniversary of the end of Turkish rule in Jerusalem, but also the 19th wedding anniversary of Col. Ronnie Westerman, defense attaché at the British Embassy, and the 24th wedding anniversary of Indian defense attaché Capt. Tejpal Singh.

■ MUCH HAS been written and said about Gen. Allenby’s capture of Jerusalem and the fact that he’d been asked to do so by Christmas.

While there was great rejoicing in this particular area of the world during Christmas 1917, Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular have less cause for rejoicing at Christmas 2017.

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy will, on Christmas Day, December 25, address the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association on the New Great Powers Overshadowing the Middle East, 100 years after the Balfour Declaration. It should be remembered that the letter sent by Balfour to Rothschild was dated November 2, 1917, but its contents were not made public till November 9, and it took another month and two days for Allenby to enter Jerusalem. Since then, the Middle East has gone through a series of turmoils, with no real letup in sight. When the fires die down in one area, they shoot up in another.

It’s a much more dangerous neighborhood than it was in Allenby’s time.

Halevy will be speaking at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya following a post-Hanukka, pre-New Year’s brunch.

■ CONSIDERING ALL the good work done by Chabad, it’s not a nice thing to say, but Chabad has hijacked Hanukka. Wherever one goes in Israel, not to mention Melbourne, Montreal and New York, plus a few hundred other places on the map, one see the large Chabad hanukkia in the street. There’s even one outside the President’s Residence, but inside Rivlin uses a more distinctive hanukkia, as was demonstrated at the awards ceremony that was held at the President’s Residence in honor of outstanding Mossad personnel.

■ THE WIVES of American ambassadors to Israel have always been in the forefront of activities of the International Women’s Club, and Tammy Friedman is no exception.

She hosted a pre-Hanukka reception for the IWC and also persuaded her husband, US Ambassador David Friedman, to attend.

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