They were Israel's beautiful couple - good looking, successful and filled with joie de vivre. They had made enviable careers on stage and screen, and she was also a highly sought-after model. They did so well in Israel that Aki Avni and Sandy Bar could not be blamed for thinking that they had the star quality to make it in Hollywood. However, they discovered that having talent and looks was not enough. Although they managed to get work here and there, their dreams were not coming true, and the bread on the table was the result of commissions from Israel. Worse still, Bar was doing better than Avni, though at the time of their marriage he had been the bigger celebrity of the two. Rumors began to spread that they were on the verge of separating. But while there may have been some strain in the marriage, it looks as though all the rumors were nothing more than idle gossip. After six years in Hollywood, where they failed to get the recognition they craved, Avni and Bar are back in Israel with their son Liam and are looking for a home. Meanwhile, they're staying with Avni's mother. In Israel, they are still considered celebrities. Bar is under contract to be the spokesperson for Hamashbir; and Avni, who has been traveling back and forth between the US and Israel to appear in films and television series, is being welcomed home with open arms by production companies. Avni and Bar haven't quite relinquished the Hollywood dream, but it's no longer an obsession. They will continue to travel to America for auditions but will be based at home where, they have decided, they belong. THE CLOSING ceremony of the Beijing Olympics takes place today. The Olympic message of friendship and fraternity through sport found expression in many ways in different countries. In Israel, the folk dance Web site Rokdim (Dancing) decided to feature as its dance for the month of August Nirkod Le'Shalom (We'll dance for peace) to the words and music of Aura Levin-Lipski. The Australian singer and composer, who lives in Melbourne, would have been thrilled under any circumstances to have her work selected for this purpose, but it was particularly poignant because she recorded the song with her late mother, Vera Levin, who inspired her love for music. The song, which has been translated into 16 languages, expresses the idea that all the dancers of the world are one family, dancing for peace. Levin-Lipski, who has sung and played guitar in several countries around the world, has made it her life's work to translate and transliterate Hebrew and Yiddish songs, which appear on her not-for-profit Web site Hebrew Songs.com. She also publishes Israel Dances.com and tries to be in Israel for the annual Karmiel Dance Festival. People from around the globe contribute to the Hebrew Songs.com Web site, often providing not only comments but also lyrics. The site is invaluable to people who love Hebrew songs but had been unable to master the lyrics because they can't read Hebrew. REGULAR LISTENERS to Israel Radio's Reshet Bet are familiar with the husky voice of the station's military correspondent, Carmella Menashe. In the two decades that Menashe has covered the military scene, she has inadvertently become a walking Western Wall for soldiers and their families. Any soldier who has been humiliated by a senior officer or who has otherwise been mistreated in the army knows that the only person who will listen with compassion and an understanding ear is Menashe. If she feels strongly about the injustice done to the soldier, she will doggedly follow the story, investigating every detail, questioning officers and often broadcasting her findings. As a result, she has become the conscience of the IDF. Because of her influence, numerous flaws in the conduct of IDF officers have been disclosed and amended. In recognition of this, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has offered Menashe the opportunity to be the official rather than an unofficial ombudswoman of the IDF. If she decides to consider Barak's offer, Menashe will not be the only candidate, and the final decision rests with Barak alone. Much as Menashe is respected and to some extent feared by the army's top brass, they might prefer someone who has been in uniform for a long time. POLICE LAST week arrested a man who has been harassing Israel Television's political commentator and reporter Ayala Hasson. The man was in the habit of calling her on her cell phone following her appearances on Mabat and threatening her with kidnapping or worse. The man, who is politically affiliated with the extreme Right, was questioned under caution and admitted to making the phone calls. He was subsequently released on bail and warned not to call Hasson ever again. JAZZ MUSICIAN and mystic healer Fred Johnson, who has completed a series of workshops and concerts in Israel, will return next month for a megaconcert in Shuni on September 11. During his stint in Israel, Johnson performed with some of Israel's leading jazz musicians and gave several benefit concerts for various youth-related causes. BELOVED SONGWRITER Nachum Heiman, who founded the society for the preservation and advancement of Israeli music - which seeks out long-forgotten compositions and recordings - visited the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem last week to begin work with Gershon Stav on a serious musicological study of the songs of Betar. He has already collected the songs of the early pioneers and the Palmach, along with whatever historical information he could gather in relation to these songs. He will do the same with the Betar collection.