Grapevine: The price of loyalty

By
June 2, 2016 22:24
Joe Biden Israel

Joe and Jill Biden are greeted by Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)

Being too loyal can be costly, as Yossi Cohen, one of the lawyers representing Sara Netanyahu, has discovered to his cost. In protesting a judgment by Jerusalem Labor Court president judge Dita Pruginin, who retired on May 15, in favor of a former employee of the prime minister’s household, Cohen made the cardinal error of attacking the judge and stating that she had been influenced by the media campaign against his client. There was an immediate angry response from the judiciary, as prominent judges past and present along with the Israel Bar Association lambasted Cohen for his personal criticism of Pruginin. There was consensus that there is always room to protest a judgment, but not against the judge who rules it. Cohen apologized, but the stain on his reputation will take a long time to fade.

■ SEEN AT early morning breakfast this week at the King David Hotel was Lord Paul Myners, who until recently was chairman of the London School of Economics, from which he resigned in March, because he was impatient with the slow pace of the LSE’s reforms.

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Myners, who was born a month ahead of the establishment of the State of Israel, was on his first visit to the country, on the recommendation of his good friend Lord Jacob Rothschild, and toward the end of his five-day visit said that he had enjoyed it very much.

With a distinguished background in economics and finance, Myners was financial services secretary in the UK’s Finance Ministry during the Labour government of Gordon Brown. He also served on the prime minister’s economic council. Other positions that he held prior to that were chairman of the trustees of the Tate Gallery, chairman of the Low Pay Commission, chairman of The Guardian Media Group, publisher of The Guardian and The Observer, chairman of the large European property company Land Securities and chairman of Marks & Spencer.

■ APROPOS ROTHSCHILD, one shudders to think what Israel would be like without the generous support of various branches of the Rothschild family, which for well over 200 years has helped the Jewish homeland to become a state and to flourish.

The most recent example of this was at the end of last month when Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, the chairwoman of the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, inaugurated the Rothschild Center in Rothschild House at 104 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.

This despite an ongoing dispute with the Israeli taxation authorities, which until last year had not asked the Rothschilds to pay taxes on the billions of dollars of assets that they own in Israel. What the Rothschilds have given to Israel over the years is far in excess of the heavy taxes now being imposed on them. It’s not a very nice way for Israel to show its appreciation.

However, the baroness is very interested in providing a platform for creative young Israelis to show their art, play their music, explain their scientific discoveries, and so forth. Thus the center has no fence around it, because the baroness wants to convey an image of a place that is welcoming and accessible, and she also wants casual passers- by to come in and see the creativity of young Israelis. The center will host scientific, cultural and artistic events.

Preserving its Bauhaus heritage coupled with its spirit of Tel Aviv took quite a massive investment, said the baroness.. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that there was no more appropriate place in Israel for a Rothschild center than in Rothschild House on Rothschild Boulevard. There had been four previous attempts by different investors to restore the property to its former glory, he said, but only the Rothschild Foundation had succeeded in fulfilling the mission.

For world-renowned conductor and pianist Gil Shohat the event represented the closing of a circle. Shohat, who was in charge of the entertainment aspect of the program, said in a voice choking with emotion that were it not for the Rothschild Foundation, his career may have taken a completely different turn. He had been the recipient of a Rothschild Foundation scholarship, “which came at exactly the right time, when I needed it most.”

Among the many public figures who attended the launch were Shlomo Yanai, the deputy chairman of the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, Michael Karsenti, the director-general of the Caesarea Development Corporation, Yuli Tamir, the president of Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, Yona Bartal, the longtime personal assistant to former president Shimon Peres, Ofra Strauss, the chairwoman of the Strauss Group, Chemi Peres, the chairman of Pitango Venture Capital, Miki Kliger, the general manager of the Israel branch of the Edmond de Rothschild Bank, Ilana Goor, sculptress, fashion designer and owner of the Ilana Goor Museum in Jaffa, Prof. Avishay Braverman, former MK and former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and David Brodet, chairman of Bank Leumi.

■ NOT SO long ago, when Jerusalem was a provincial city whose skyline was not dominated by an ever-increasing proliferation of high-rise towers, and its stores were by and large down-market, there was a popular saying that the best thing about Jerusalem is the road to Tel Aviv.

Indeed, if anyone wanted to buy a special occasion outfit, they usually went to Tel Aviv to window shop and make a purchase.

These days, Jerusalem is a very cosmopolitan city with a wealth of cultural outlets, numerous educational facilities for both formal and informal education, modern, well-stocked stores, international-standard restaurants and hotels, plus hi-tech hubs.

But for all that there is still the pull of Tel Aviv – only now people want to get there faster than in the old days. After years of delay, the project of constructing a railroad for an express train to get from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in 30 minutes is well under way and should be completed sometime in 2018.

On Wednesday, which was a preliminary for Jerusalem Day, President Reuven Rivlin donned a hard hat and a protective yellow vest and, guided by project manager Dror Supro, inspected the progress so far, driving out to the furthest point that the railroad track has reached to date, and coming back to the station at the entrance to Jerusalem, where the track begins at 80 meters below ground level.

In the afternoon Rivlin presided over the Jerusalem Unity Prize ceremony, and in the evening he went to the Jerusalem International Convention Center to attend the wedding of the daughter of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

■ ELSEWHERE IN the country, in the Druse village of Yirka, Salah Tarif, a prominent member of the Druse community and a leading figure in the Labor Party, married off his eldest son, Amir.

Tarif, a former member of Knesset and the first non-Jew to serve as a minister, invited current Labor MKs and other Labor notables to join him in the festivities. Led by chairman Isaac Herzog and secretary-general Hilik Bar, they happily accepted the invitation.

Another Wednesday wedding with politicians among the guests was that of Paz Farhi, the daughter of Likud MK Nava Boker, whose marriage to Zion Rubin was celebrated in Emek Hefer. The bride’s father, Dep.-Ch. Lior Boker, who headed operations for the Israel Police’s Northern District, was among those who lost their lives in the Carmel Forest fire in 2010.

■ THE SHERATON Hotel in Tel Aviv, in collaboration with the Italian Embassy, the Italian Trade Center and the Italian Cultural Institute, will host the grand opening of the Italian food festival on June 6.

Most festivals of this kind continue for a week to 10 days, but this one will go till June 30. Italian celebrity chef Max Mariola will be doing the honors in the kitchen, and the opening dinner will be attended by Italian Ambassador Francesco Maria Talo. Italian cooking classes will take place within the framework of the festival.

■ THE INDIAN Embassy, which has already put its culinary festival behind it, is now focusing on International Yoga Day, which will be held on June 21 at the Tahana in Tel Aviv, with the embassy’s deputy chief of mission Dr. Anju Kumar in attendance.

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