While certain members of the media are judging and sentencing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before any decision has been made by the legal authorities regarding allegations of corruption, Netanyahu himself is carrying on with business as usual. Despite the media reports to the contrary, he remains true to his watchword that “There won’t be anything because there isn’t anything.”
As a seeming expression of that confidence, Netanyahu, in his Christmas message on YouTube to Christians, said: “So now I have a proposition for all our Christian friends... Next year, on Christmas, for those of you who come to Israel, I’m going to take a guided tour. In fact, I’ll be your guide on this guided tour.
“And think of all the places you can walk! You can go to the ‘Jesus Boat’ in the Sea of Galilee, you can get to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher right behind me – any places that you want to visit in the footsteps of Jesus, and the origin of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
“So please come to Israel. Next year in Jerusalem, and merry Christmas to all of you!”
If tens of thousands of Christian decide to go on Bibi Tours, Netanyahu will be in big trouble. How can he lead them all? On the other hand, he could become the Pied Piper of Jerusalem, but what a headache that would be for his bodyguards.
The video has received a lot of positive feedback.
■ THE PM’S bodyguards were extremely anxious this week when Netanyahu addressed Taglit Birthright Israel’s Mega Event at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. Before taking his place at the microphone, Netanyahu bent down from the stage to shake the numerous outstretched hands of people eager to make even the slightest physical contact with him. Bodyguards grimly hung onto him so that he wouldn’t fall and to make sure that nobody would pull him down.
Thanking all the people who believed in Birthright and made it possible, Netanyahu mentioned Sheldon Adelson, before correcting himself to include Miriam Adelson, who were both sitting in the audience. But when he mentioned Michael Steinhardt, who co-founded Birthright along with Charles Bronfman, and his wife, he did not mention Judy Steinhardt by name.
The organization is now in its 18th year and has brought half a million young unaffiliated Jews or descendants of Jews to Israel. Explaining that in Hebrew, the number 18 is written as “Het-Yud,” which spells the word “Hai” meaning “life,” Netanyahu said that Birthright has infused life into the Jewish identity of all those young people who it has brought to Israel. The responding cheer indicated that there was definitely more than a grain of truth in that statement.
■ FOR READERS interested in the Herzog/Hillman/Rabinowitz family ties as recounted by Prof. David Newman and reported in Grapevine last week, Ida Selavan Schwarcz from Ganei Omer wrote to say: Did you know that Sidney Hillman, an American labor leader, was a member of the Hillman family?
Dr. Fanny Rabinowitz used the surname Robinson. She served as the Hebrew University student medical adviser in the 1950s. She was my doctor and prescribed medication available in Israel but not yet, at that time, available in the US, which helped me.
I did not know she was the sister of Rabbi Rabinowitz until his obituary was published. I enjoyed his column, “Torah and Flora” in The Jerusalem Post
. When I read his memoirs and discovered that he had visited the prisoners in Camp Gilgil in Kenya and had helped in their escape I wrote to him and he invited me to visit him when I would next be in Israel. I did meet him and his wife but he was very ill at the time and we just talked for a little while.
It’s amazing who is related to whom because people often change when they leave the family nest. Sometimes it’s just a change of lifestyle, and sometimes it’s also a change of name. A great rabbi may have a grandchild who looks like a hippie, or a convert who may have been rejected two or three times by a rabbinical court may eventually become a great rabbinical leader. One usually discovers these things at bar mitzvas, weddings and funerals – but it’s nice when readers can simply contribute on the basis of their own experiences.
■ ANYONE WHO has ever visited the Savyon home or Tel Aviv suite of offices of honorary consul of the Marshall Islands and public relations guru Rani Rahav and his wife Hila, are aware of the fact that the Rahavs are compulsive collectors of contemporary art. What is less known is that they also collect vintage cars. But unlike rearranging paintings on a wall, there’s only so much room in which to park a car.
The Rahavs are currently eyeing some other potential vehicular purchases but in order to buy them they have to offload some classic cars to make room for the newcomers to the collection. The vehicles that are up for sale are classics that will be sold at a public auction by veteran Israeli auction house Tiroche. Before that happens, the Rahavs will put the cars on display on Friday, January 5, at the Museum Tower at 4 Berkowitz Street, Tel Aviv, on Floor -5.
The Rahavs are involved with a number of charity projects and a percentage of the sale proceeds of each car are dedicated to a different charity. The oldest car is a Chrysler Windsor V-6 that came off the production line in 1948, and the newest is a Ferrari 308 GTS that hit the road in 1977. The other cars include a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, dated from the 1950s.
There’s no shortage of vintage car collectors in Israel, so the Rahavs expect quite a turnout between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. But the dilemma will be in matching the cars with the various charities. What happens when someone falls in love with a car, wants to buy it, but isn’t keen on the charity assigned to it? If there are no other buyers for that vehicle, it’s possible that the Rahavs might be willing to negotiate on the charitable cause.
■ THE FACT that Guatemala was the first South American country to follow the United States in announcing that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem should come as no surprise. After all, President Jimmy Morales has a personal connection to Jerusalem. As an Evangelist, the holy city holds an important place in his heart and in November 2016, he received an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Guatemala also has a connection to the history of Israel. The country’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1947 was Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, a grandson of Miguel Garcia Granados who was one of the leaders in the 1871 overthrow of the despotic government of Rafael Carrera. Miguel became interim president of Guatemala and held the position for two years. His grandson, who was a member of UNSCOP, was one of the leaders in the battle to win the United Nations vote for the partition of Palestine, and on July 13, 1955, as Guatemala’s first ambassador to Israel, presented his credentials to President Yitzhak Ben Zvi.
In 1956, Guatemala was the first country to set up an embassy in Jerusalem. It was also the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
Jorge’s daughter-in-law Stella Garcia Granados was also an ambassador of Guatemala to Israel, and another member of his family was married to the diplomat of another Latin country who served as ambassador to Israel, and whose embassy was also in Jerusalem.
Although there is excitement in Israel about the growing list of countries that are willing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it’s not all political. Think of how much will be saved in petrol expenses, not to mention time, if ambassadors no longer have to travel from their embassies in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem several times a week. Diplomatic business will become much more efficient when embassies are a hop, skip and a jump away from the Foreign Ministry, the Knesset and the Prime Minister’s Office. In fact, once the light rail system is completed, ambassadors who don’t care about pomp will barely use their cars in the capital. They’ll just take the light rail to wherever they are going.
Though the savings on transportation could be enormous, property in Jerusalem is expensive. Nonetheless, it is also pricey in the areas where the ambassadors currently live and work. In most cases where countries actually own diplomatic properties, they will be able to make some money when they sell them, certainly with sufficient funds for relocation to Jerusalem. Those that rent places will likely pay the same amount in both areas.
■ BACK IN his native England to attend a bar mitzva at a synagogue in the London suburb of Hendon, Jason Pearlman was told by a congregant that another congregant who had been in Israel in the early part of December had pointed to Pearlman as someone of importance. The man who had singled him out had been at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference and had seen Pearlman walk out with President Reuven Rivlin after the latter had been interviewed on stage by the Post’s Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz, and had concluded that Pearlman must be important if security guards allowed him to get that close to Israel’s president. For the record, Jason Pearlman is in charge of foreign media at the President’s Office and also writes all the English-language press releases that emanate from there.
■ EGYPTIAN-BORN and Canadian- raised prize winning industrial designer Karim Rashid, whose designs include luxury goods, furniture, lighting, surface design, brand identity and packaging, is coming to Israel at the invitation of Michael Illouz, chairman of the Friends of the Galilee Medical Center. Illouz recently met with the internationally renowned designer in order to commission his services to design the internal department complex at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. Members of the Friends organization are currently working to raise funds from donors to make the design project a reality. The plan is that in the second quarter of 2018 they will meet with Rashid and ask him to prepare a design format that will include both the exterior and interior design of the departments.
“There is no doubt that Rashid’s art will be an additional tool for the atmosphere and recovery of the hospitalized patients,” said Illouz.
■ AT THE Export Prize ceremony at the President’s Residence this week, Rivlin thanked outgoing chairman of the Israel Export Institute, Ramzi Gabbay, for his sterling contribution to Israel’s industry and the success of Israel’s exports and international trade contacts.
■ CHIEF RABBIS and Ministers for Religion and Agriculture will visit the Western Wall on Thursday, not only to commemorate the 587 BCE siege of Jerusalem by the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, or Holocaust victims whose manner of dying and places of burial are unknown, but also to pray for rain that is so sorely needed. The prayer session was organized by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.
■ A LEOPARD may not be able to change its spots, but a former Palestinian armed resistance fighter can. Theater director, actor and educator Ahmed Tobasi, who was born in Jenin, was not yet 18 years old when he was put in prison for three years. During that period, he had plenty of time to think and decided theater was a better agent of change than armed resistance.
After two years of studying at The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Tobasi traveled to Norway to gain additional theatrical experience, and followed this up with a threeyear professional career abroad. While studying and working out of the country, he was engaged in several productions that involved collaborating with artists from different backgrounds as a way to create work that could reach diverse audiences and foster understanding. Tobasi is not afraid to tackle contentious issues and controversial ideas, and relishes the opportunity to challenge and question the status quo.
Following his return to the Palestinian Authority, he worked towards encouraging artistic expression and was particularly interested in creating cultural exchanges within children’s theater. Having led a production which worked to share the experiences of Palestinian young people with Norwegian audiences, he looks forward to bringing global stories to Palestinian children, to opening new vehicles of dialogue and to sparking an artistic fervor among the younger generations.
Whilst currently working as a resident teacher at The Freedom Theatre, Tobasi continues to act in projects that offer alternative narratives to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and share Palestinian experiences with new audiences.
Rivlin has frequently said that until Israelis and Palestinians learn to understand and accept each other, there can be no peace. Theater is certainly a significant means for fostering such understanding but, somehow, one suspects that Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev would nip any Israeli-Palestinian theatrical exchanges in the bud.
■ IN AUGUST of this year, it was noted in this column that the customary period of grace for any new enterprise is 100 days and that the first 100 days of Kan, the call sign for the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation that replaced the Israel Broadcasting Authority, had expired. Nonetheless, the IBC had not yet moved to Jerusalem, which is in violation of the public broadcasting law. What is also upsetting is that more than six months after going to air, the IBC commences nearly all its programs with the announcement that it is still in the running in period, even changing its email identification to include “running in.”
This is especially ludicrous when veteran broadcaster Aryeh Golan, who has been on the air for more than 50 years, says of himself when signing off that he is still in the running in period.
The IBC is not much different in style, content and staff to its predecessor the IBA.
While Kan may have not yet moved into its Jerusalem studios, there are things for which it should be commended. One is its choice to rotate its program presenters so that more people get a chance to show whether or not they are suited for a particular program. Another good thing has been to continue with Shalom Kittal, who in the final months of the IBA was brought back as a guest broadcaster but who now co-hosts a daily morning show with professionalism, asking probing questions without being aggressive. He is unfailingly polite to his interviewees, as is Yaakov Eichler.
Other standouts are Keren Neubach and Gili Tamir. It is doubtful whether commercial radio or television would pay the same attention to problems of individuals or certain sectors of society as do Neubach and Tamir. While it’s true that commercial television and radio do cover the ills of society, their coverage is mostly superficial compared to that of public broadcasting because public broadcasting networks tend to relentlessly pursue what is perceived as a social injustice until the matter is rectified.
Though Neubach is occasionally abrasive and Tamir sometimes loses patience, on the whole each of them in her own way does an excellent and praiseworthy job. Neubach can be credited with revolutionizing the way in which mentally ill patients are treated. She is also unswerving in her battles on behalf of single parents who have been evicted from their homes. Tamir will personally investigate injustices by the National Insurance Institute, the Health Ministry and other institutions whose bureaucrats cheat members of the public on their entitlements.
The frequency with which updates on politics, criminal investigations and other subjects, such as education and health, are broadcasted are sometimes a little over the top, but in general it proves the extent to which reporters have their fingers on the pulse of breaking news. It’s also nice for people who listen to Reshet Bet religiously to have programs from other Kan stations broadcasted in the midnight- to-dawn loop. It makes for an interesting change, includes a variety of cultural programs, and certainly enhances the knowledge of night owls, who like to listen to the radio in the predawn hours.
Aside from some of its less-thanstellar presenters, Kan has struggled from serious technical problems, with phone connections frequently breaking down and with delays in conversations due to field reporters attempting to hear what has been relayed from the studio. These technical difficulties don’t happen often with commercial television, where there is usually instant communication between the studio and the reporter in the firstname.lastname@example.org