Grapevine: Positives and negatives

One has to wonder why the Israeli media is so negatively disposed toward Sara Netanyahu.

Sara Netanyahu (photo credit: Courtesy Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer)
Sara Netanyahu
(photo credit: Courtesy Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer)
One has to wonder why the Israeli media is so negatively disposed toward Sara Netanyahu that even when she’s devoted the day to doing good deeds, they get buried (if reported at all) in the middle of a story about a woman who hurled verbal abuse at her when she stopped for a bite to eat in a Petah Tikva mall.
Happily, The Jerusalem Post chose to focus on the positive rather than the negative and showed the prime minister’s wife in a delightful photograph with seven-year-old Rachel Attias, the sole survivor of a car crash last month in which her parents and six siblings were killed.
Netanyahu, who is a qualified child psychologist, works at the Jerusalem Municipality Psychological Services. Last Thursday she took time out to visit with Attias and to look at some of the child’s family mementos.
Netanyahu also paid a call on the family of Danny Hayat, one of the firefighters who lost their lives in the Carmel Forest blaze in December 2010, and also spent time chatting with child cancer patients at the Sheba Medical center at Tel Hashomer. In other countries, the media reports on the social welfare activities of the wives of presidents and prime ministers, but when it comes to Sara Netanyahu, the focus is almost always on scandal.
The media was also unkind to Leah Rabin and to Ofira Navon, but wrote positively about Gila Katsav, who used to love reading to tiny tots.
■ ANOTHER MEMBER of the Netanyahu family was also in the eye of the camera on Thursday – but much later in the day. Yair Netanyahu, the PM’s elder son, was spotted at the Madonna concert, hand in hand with his current girlfriend.
As for Madonna, she presented her audience with not just a show, but a piece of political wisdom, the gist of which is that there will be no peace in the Middle East until people learn to respect each other.
■ CONTROVERSIAL RABBI Shmuley Boteach, whose syndicated column was suspended from The Jerusalem Post during his election campaign, is in Israel this week for a family wedding despite the fact that the New Jersey’s Ninth District primary was held on Tuesday. Accompanied by three of his nine children (Mendy, who is a Chabad emissary in Frankfurt, Germany, Chana, who is serving in the IDF and Sterna, who is a student at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women in New York), Boteach called in at the Post’s editorial offices on Sunday to discuss his campaign platform and the possibility that he could be the first rabbi to serve in Congress.
Mendy Boteach, his father said proudly, has been nominated to West Point military academy by Congressman Steve Rothman. Although Mendy meets with all the requirements for acceptance, there is one problem to overcome – his beard. West Point cadets must be clean shaven, and Mendy, has a beard for religious reasons.
Shmuley Boteach’s campaign is based on the restoration of family values.
His own parents divorced many years ago, and the divorce rate in America is constantly rising. In a preventive measure, Boteach wants to make family counseling tax-deductible. Very few politicians would fly out of the country just before an election and remain out of the country on election day.
Boteach explained that if he was promoting family values in his run for Congress, he had to live by them, and that was why he was in Jerusalem for a family wedding and not at home in Englewood, New Jersey.
■ “IT’S A small exhibition of a great story” said Assia Reuben, the public relations director of Beit Hatfutsot – the Museum of the Jewish People.
Reuben was the emcee at the ceremony that preceded the opening of the permanent Mahal (volunteers from abroad) exhibition, which, though small, serves as a reminder of the foundations of the Israel Defense Forces.
Yes, the Hagana, Etzel and Lehi were also part of the nucleus of the IDF, but most of 4,500-plus Jewish and non- Jewish volunteers from 58 countries who flocked to Israel in 1948 were properly trained veterans of the allied forces who had fought the Nazis and were now ready to fight for the survival of the nascent state.
Most of the people who filled the auditorium were Mahalniks, plus an occasional non-Mahal spouse, some Beit Hatfutsot and media representatives and a couple of diplomats.
British Ambassador Matthew Gould and US Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Goldberger sat riveted as 92-year-old World Machal chairman Smoky Simon, who served as a combat pilot in the South African Air Force and was among the founders of the Israel Air Force, described the situation at the beginning of the War of Independence when the world left Israel to face six Arab armies alone and supplied the Arabs with equipment and ammunition while denying the same to Israel.
The Mahal volunteers, said Simon, brought their invaluable World War II experience and skills to fight in all branches of the IDF. In July, 1948, he recalled, enemy forces occupied 70 percent of what was then Israel. Mahalniks smuggled aircraft, artillery and other equipment and ammunition from all over the world in what Simon called “the most noble smuggling operation in history.”
Beit Hatfutsot CEO Avinoam Armoni, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief Education Officer Eli Shermeister each spoke of what Israel owes to Mahal and of the eternal legacy of volunteerism that Mahal has bequeathed to Israel. Shermeister noted that what Mahal started is being continued by young people who come to Israel every year to serve as lone soldiers in the IDF. Every Mahalnik made a significant contribution to Israel’s defense and security, and many kept on contributing throughout the years.
Rivlin was not the only speaker who cited the late Al Schwimmer as an example.
Another example is David Teperson, 85, the founder of the Mahal Museum, who became a colonel in the IDF and as one of the longestserving reservists, fought in a campaign with his son and served in a unit with his grandson. Teperson, known as “Migdal” (tower) because of his height, was among the many Mahalniks in attendance.
Stanley Medicks, Chairman of UK and Scandinavian Mahal and one of the movers and shakers in the quest for permanent representation at Beit Hatfutsot, paid tribute to Hilary Gatoff, who made a documentary film about Mahal in which she interviewed many of the volunteers.
She sent the film to Medicks, who was so impressed that he felt the volunteers deserved to be commemorated in the Museum of the Jewish People. When he discovered that Gatoff was connected with the museum, it paved the way for what he said was a dramatic story that should be told.
■ “THIS IS the best Italian ambassador we’ve ever had, and I’ve known them all,” said Avi Pazner, a former Israeli ambassador to Italy, as he stood among the hundreds of people who crowded onto the lawn of the residence of Italian Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo and his wife Stefania at the Italian National Day reception, which was also their farewell after four intensive years in Israel.
Thinking for a moment, Pazner said that former ambassador Giulio Terzi, who is now Italy’s foreign minister, had also been an excellent ambassador and that it was impossible to decide who was better. “The Italians always send us their best diplomats,” said Pazner.
Also on the lawn was walking history in the person of 92-year-old Lea Hertom, whose family was expelled from Jerusalem to Rome nearly 2,000 years ago. Hertom, who was born in Ancora, Italy, grew up in Bologna and now lives in Jerusalem’s Beit Hakerem neighborhood. Though diminutive in size, she is totally independent, straight backed, with a determined walk, a clear head and a terse yet friendly manner of speech devoid of hesitancy.
When she first came to Jerusalem many years ago, she enrolled in university but abandoned her studies after she got married and spent the next 24 years raising a family.
She gave birth to five children, four of whom survived.
After the children had all grown, she worked in a printing establishment until her husband, Rabbi Menachem Emanuel Hertom, was called to be a rabbi in Venice and then in Turin. Rabbi Hertom published three volumes of festival prayer books based on the traditions and customs of all the Jewish communities in Italy. A fourth book was underway when he died in Jerusalem and his widow completed it as a memorial to her husband.
Addressing the crowd from the balcony of the residence, Mattiolo first called for a minute’s silence for the victims of the earthquake in Northern Italy and thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government of Israel for the instant offer of assistance.
Mattiolo said that bilateral relations between the countries they were the best they could possibly be and that he and his wife would always remember their years in Israel.
He reiterated Italy’s belief in Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and condemned “recurring outbreaks of anti-Semitism when they come under the insidious guise of anti-Zionism.” He also said that Italy had been a front-runner in European sanctions against Iran and that he was eagerly waiting for the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who represented the government, said that Israel greatly appreciates Italy’s friendship and looks forward to working with Terzi. He mentioned how the recent visit by Prime Minister Mario Monti had served to cement the already excellent relationship and added that economic and security relations between the two countries continue to prosper and flourish.
He also expressed Israel’s solidarity with the people of Italy in the face of the earthquake and thanked Mattiolo for the vital role he played in bringing Italy and Israel closer together. “We know that Israel touched your heart and that you will always be our friend,” said Sa’ar.
■ IT WAS a family affair when singer Shlomo Artzi received an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa this week. He was capped and gowned by his sister, playwright and author Nava Semel. Another member of the entertainment industry who received an honorary doctorate this week was singer, actor, radio and television host and current affairs commentator Yehoram Gaon, who received his honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University. Gaon, who returned to his current affairs program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet last Friday after a long hiatus, told of his own eye-witness account of discrimination, not against Eritreans or Sudanese, but Jew against Jew.
Gaon had been in the Ramat Aviv Mall when a bearded man wearing the garb of the hassidim was denied entry by the security guard. When Gaon inquired as to the reason, the security replied that people who look like him make diners in the coffee shop feel uncomfortable.
As far as he personally was concerned, the security guard told Gaon, he would allow the hassid to enter but he was under orders from management to keep hassidim out of the building. The main reason was that customers did not want to be approached and asked to don phylacteries.
“But this man doesn’t have any phylacteries with him,” Gaon pointed out to the guard,” who shrugged and said that he was merely obeying orders. Gaon recalled in his radio broadcast that the same thing had been said in relation to Jews in another place and in another context – and he could not help but compare the two. The Hebrew media was quick to seize on the story and Monday’s papers already featured illustrated stories of Chabad hassidim being turfed out of the Ramat Aviv mall. Who was it that said that anti-Semitism is everywhere?
■ THERE ARE of course exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of professional basketball players, including NBA hoopster Omri Casspi, are taller than average.
Thus when members of Israel’s national basketball team, including Casspi and other players, some of whom who flew in from Europe, went to Beilinson hospital for a comprehensive medical checkup, they towered over the staff. The nurse who measured Casspi’s height had to stand on a stool to do so, and even then it was a challenging feat.
■ FORMER DIPLOMAT and prime ministerial confidante Ambassador Yehuda Avner, whose best selling book, The Prime Ministers, is being adapted for both documentary and feature films, has added another feather to his bow. Avner just returned from a month in the US with an additional title – no, not a new book, but an appellation.
In addition to being addressed as Ambassador, as he is in the US, he will now also answer to “Dr. Avner” after receiving an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University.
Though Avner, who delivered the keynote address at YU’s 81st commencement ceremony, is no stranger to the US lecture circuit, he could not quite contain his excitement.
It is natural for anyone receiving an honor to want to be surrounded by members of his or her family, so the robing ceremony was an emotional thrill for Avner because his son Danny flew to New York from Israel to perform it, remaining in the US for barely 24 hours.
YU President Richard Joel described Avner’s book as one of the most important of our times on the birth and growth of Israel, by one who personally witnessed it. He also spoke movingly of Avner’s contribution to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. A religiously observant Jew, Avner devised an 10 “commandments” for the realities of our times, which he offered to YU’s graduation class of 2012: 1. When an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.
2. Stand tall in the knowledge that every tyrant in history who has ever sought our destruction has himself been destroyed.
3. Protect Jewish dignity and honor at all cost. Life is holy, but there are times when one must risk life for the sake of life itself.
4. Never raise a hand against a fellow Jew, no matter what the provocation.
5. Give the enemy no quarter in demolishing his malicious propaganda.
6. Whenever a threat against a fellow Jew looms, do all in your power to come to his aid, whatever the sacrifice.
7. Never pause to wonder what others will think or say.
8. Be forever loyal to the historic truth that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and Jerusalem its eternal capital.
9. Love peace, but love freedom more.
And 10, which is really number one: V’shinantem l’vanecha. Build Jewish homes not by the accident of birth but by the conviction of our eternal Torah.
■ IT WASN’T a Dutch treat in the conventional meaning of the terminology, but it was in terms of social and international networking. Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp last night hosted a welcome reception for Netherlands Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Maxime Verhagen, who is in Israel for the opening of a gas seminar, the opening of a metropolitan food security seminar, a ride in an electric BetterPlace car, a visit to MS Technology, meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and Minister of Industry Trade and Labor Shalom Simchon and the viewing of the Dutch-funded scanner at Allenby Bridge plus the signing of a letter of intent concerning the Allenby scanner.
Any ambassador has his work cut out when escorting one minister, but today Veldkamp will also be escorting Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal, who will be coming in from Jordan. Rosenthal will join Verhagen for part of their visit, but will also have a separate program of his own.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had been scheduled to come to Israel this week cancelled his trip because of the cabinet’s caretaker status.
Rosenthal will also visit the Palestinian Authority hopes of influencing a resumption of the peace process.
■ NOT ALL ambassadors continue with innovations introduced by their predecessors.
They often come in to their new roles as if the slate had been wiped clean. Austrian Ambassador Franz Josef Kuglitsch is an exception to the rule. The Red-White Clubbing events introduced by his predecessor, Michael Rendi, proved to be an effective means of bringing young Israelis with Austrian roots into the orbit of the embassy’s activities, to help strengthen the bridge of Austrian-Israeli relations. Kuglitsch is continuing the clubbing nights at his residence in Herzliya Pituah, and is hosting the next one on Thursday, June 7. Austria’s Federal Minister of Justice, Beatrice Karl, will be the guest of honor.
■ ONCE UPON a time, no one knew who would be attending a conference, a seminar or a lecture. Gartner Israel, however, is utilizing modern technology to feature on its website not only the names but also the portraits of people who have RSVPed to the morning networking event that will take place on June 11 at the Daniel Hotel, Herzliya Pituah.
The invitation-only event designed for CEOs, senior marketing professionals and VCs will provide insights into Gartner programs and initiatives that could assist with companies’ strategic planning and growth. Lectures will be followed by opportunities to network with speakers and with other attendees.
Speakers include: Shlomit Harth, country manager, Gartner Israel, Michael Yoo, senior VP, marketing, hi-tech and Telecom programs, Gartner, and Nancy Shapira-Aronovic, account executive hi-tech vendors, Gartner Israel. Yoo, who came to Israel for the occasion, is the guest speaker.
■ IT MIGHT have something to do with all the negative publicity about the salaries of directors of development and other high-ranking officials of organizations that are allegedly not for profit, or it could have something to do with concerns over how money is best spent during a global economic crisis, but whatever the reason, philanthropists are much more wary these days about where their money is going and how it will be spent to maximum effect.
Several Israeli philanthropists have established a roof organization called Midot, in which philanthropists discuss strategies for the effective spending of their donations. A bunch of them got together this week to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Midot at the Azorei Chen home of Raya Strauss Ben- Dror and her husband Shmuel. The guests included Yoram Ariev, Reuven Agasi, Hanoch Barkat, Nirit and Mike Avner, Yael Almog, Israel Makov, Nehama Bork, Ronen Barel, Dori Dankner, Tali and Amram Aharoni, Erez Vigodman, Avi Zeevi, Zvi Ziv, Yehudit Yovel-Recanati, Michael Kogan and his wife Irena Nevzlin Kogan and Dubi Arbel.
■ BIRDS OF a feather flock together, so it was small wonder that in welcoming Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Marga, Romanian-born Truman Institute chairman Moshe Arad, who is a former Israel ambassador to the United States, praised the work done in bilateral relations by Romanian Ambassador Edward Josiper and suggested that he remain in Israel longer, to which Marga responded that Josiper’s stay would in fact be prolonged. Josiper expected to go home in August but has not yet been told how long he will be staying – to the delight of his family, who love living on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Marga was very happy to be back at the Hebrew University, where the Truman Institute is located. A philosophy professor and former rector of the University of Babes-Bolyai, Marga had just a little over a month earlier been a visiting scholar at the Hebrew University when he was summoned to Bucharest to take over the portfolio of foreign minister.
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