Grapevine: Historical postmarks

'HIZBULLAH HAILS move, cancels kidnapping' read a headline prepared for retiring Post reporter David Rudge.

hizbullah flag 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hizbullah flag 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
'HIZBULLAH HAILS move, cancels kidnapping' read the headline on the mock front page prepared for David Rudge, who for just under quarter of a century was The Jerusalem Post's man in the north covering events on the Lebanese border, in Druze and Arab villages and in all the towns and cities across the Galilee. Rudge decided to retire while he still had time to enjoy life. Unlike other reporters who have one or two beats and focus on specific subjects, Rudge had it all, because the north was his personal kingdom, occasionally invaded by people such as defense reporter Arieh O'Sullivan, who recalled at a farewell party for Rudge in Jerusalem, that Rudge had written about the advisability of Israel pulling out from Lebanon three years before it actually happened. REGARDLESS OF changes in ownership and the veering of editorial policy from left to right to center, what remains constant in The Jerusalem Post is respect for the wisdom and experience that comes with age. People past retirement age have remained employed under every Jerusalem Post regime, thus enabling Alexander Zvielli to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his employment at the paper, which in the same week celebrated its own 73rd anniversary and the 79th birthday of another veteran staffer, Meir Ronnen, who has been at the paper for 56 years. Zvielli, who has worked as a printer and head of the archives department - and who currently writes a regular archive column - is what Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz called "the absolute collective memory of this place." Indeed, Zvielli is something in the nature of a walking Internet, with no need for a double click. His power of recall is phenomenal and young reporters find it more convenient to pick his brain than to search the Web. Reviewing some of the highlights of Zvielli's life at the Post, Horovitz noted that he had once saved the life of the Post's second editor, Ted Lurie. Horovitz expressed the fervent hope that Zvielli wouldn't have to do that for the present incumbent. Judy Siegel, another veteran Post staffer of almost 33 years standing, observed that Zvielli deserved an entry in the Guiness Book of World Records, and said that he shows the same enthusiasm for the job at 84 as he probably did at 24. An avid reader of Zvielli's "From our Archive" column, Siegel said she found it very refreshing. One can read that 50 years ago Shimon Peres did this or said that, and it's still the same today, she said. Ronnen quipped that for years people had been saying that if the Post were ever to fold, he would be the one to turn the lights out. But in such a dire eventuality, it wouldn't be him, it would be Zvielli. BEFORE HE became bureau chief of Time magazine from which he is long retired, Marlin Levin, like hundreds of other young journalists who came to Israel from English-speaking countries, worked at The Jerusalem Post. He was there in 1948, when the building was bombed, and is one of the few living survivors. So is Mordecai Chertoff, the uncle of US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The elder Chertoff worked at the Post in 1947-48. In September 1947, he chanced to meet a newly-arrived young ex-GI and his wife on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. When his new acquaintance expressed a desire to work in journalism, Chertoff immediately hauled him off to meet the paper's founding editor, Gershon Agron, who hired him on the spot. Levin remained at the Post for the next 12 years, but after the War of Independence, Chertoff returned to the US, where he became a well-known Conservative rabbi. Back in Israel this week on a visit, Chertoff got in touch with Levin, and the two - along with Levin's wife, Betty - had their first reunion in 57 years. For three hours they reminisced about Agron, his successors, Ted Lurie and Lea Ben Dor, Monty Jacobs, Hugh Orgel, Ruth Cale, Mike Eskolsky and others with whom they had worked to keep the paper going despite the shelling, the lack of food, the electricity outages and all the other discomforts of the 1948 siege. Chertoff plans to return to Israel next year, at which time he and Levin will host a get-together of Americans who were in Israel in 1948. JOURNALISTS ARE divided in their opinions about whether Shelly Yehimovic has done anything more sensational than Uri Dan in openly supporting Amir Peretz while she was still a working member of the fourth estate. Uri Dan has been the mouthpiece for Ariel Sharon for the better part of half a century. And let's not forget Eitan Haber, who wrote just as glowingly about Yitzhak Rabin and later became his bureau chief before returning to journalism after Rabin's death. Haim Zissovich, who used to work with Yehimovic when both were employed at Israel Radio, and who now anchors Educational Television's Media File, discussed the issue with a panel of journalists, including former journalist Aviv Bushinsky, who worked initially at Army Radio, then went to Israel Radio before becoming the spokesman for then prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Bushinsky recalled that even though he did not join or speak out on behalf of any party, he was given a thorough roasting by the media and told that he could never return to any party or to journalism. Things have changed rather radically since then. FEW VISITING dignitaries demur when asked to include the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in their itineraries. Thus, when Marshall Islands President Kassai Hesa Note was on a state visit to Jerusalem last week, he did what has become the almost obligatory tour. Note and his entourage happened to be standing in front of a photograph of Rabbi Herschel Schechter, then a US army chaplain, speaking to a group of teenage Buchenwald survivors in the immediate aftermath of the liberation. Coincidentally, one of those survivors, Czech-born Moshe Avital, who now lives in Westchester, New York, was also at Yad Vashem at the same time, and with his wife, Anita, was also viewing the photograph. Avital, who is a veteran educator, could not resist telling the president the story of Buchenwald from a personal perspective, and pointed to himself as a young boy. Note, who had never knowingly met a Holocaust survivor before, was enthralled. He embraced Avital, who told him that one of his books on his Holocaust experiences, Not to Forget, Impossible to Forgive, was available in English from the bookshop at Yad Vashem. Note immediately declared that he wanted a copy. Someone was dispatched to fetch it and Avital was duly asked to inscribe it. Note questioned him intently about his experiences during and after the war. The youngest of 11 siblings who were separated from each other during the war, Avital was in six different camps, the last of which was Buchenwald. After the war, he came with Aliya Bet to Eretz Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He learned that three of his sisters and a brother had also survived and were living in the US. When one of his sisters was about to get married, Avital traveled to New York for the wedding. His family prevailed upon him to stay in the US and catch up on the education that he missed as a boy, as well as to enroll in a cantorial studies program. His father had been a cantor. Avital and five brothers had been in the cantor's choir. Avital was torn between being with his family and fulfilling his commitment to Zionism. He went back to Israel, but he kept up a correspondence with Anita, whom he had met in America. It did not take too long before he went back to the US to marry her. He pursued his studies and was for many years the head of the Jewish Agency's Education and Culture Department in the US. The Avitals have three children - one of them of living in Israel - and 11 grandchildren. "We started a new dynasty," says Anita Avital. IT'S NEVER too late to right an historical wrong. Former members of Betar in Poland never understood why Betar was omitted from the narrative of the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. After all, some had served in the Polish Army; most had received military training; and all were highly disciplined in keeping with the values of the movement. Holocaust survivors Chaim and Chaya Lazar in their various memoirs attempted to rectify the injustice that had been done to Betar, as did a handful of other survivors who wrote of their experiences, but in general, the world remained oblivious to Betar's role. When former foreign minister and defense minister Moshe Arens read Lazar's book, Metsada shel Varsha (The Massada of Warsaw) - which details the valiant stand taken by Betarim - he couldn't get the story out of his mind, and two years ago began researching it himself. Most of the reports of the uprising were written by three of the leaders who survived - Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman and Zivia Lubetkin, who were members of the Dror Hehalutz movement, and Marek Edelman, the Bundist, with whom Arens met in the course of a visit to Poland last month. These reports were of the rebellion led by the Zydowska Organizaia Bojowa (ZOB) - the Fighting Jewish Organization - under the leadership of Mordechai Anielewicz. But there was another group who also fought: Zydowski Zwiazek Wojsowsky (ZZW) - the Jewish Military Organization - comprised mainly of Betarim. Because their leaders had been killed and the records of their exploits remained sealed during the Communist rule of Poland, their courage and heroism was known to a limited few. Today, the archives are open and the unsung heroes can gain their rightful place in history. Last week, Arens shared some of the knowledge he has amassed with an audience of veteran Revisionists, people mostly in their eighties, who filled the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv. Many of his listeners were Holocaust survivors who later told him how grateful they were for his efforts. There had been attempts to unite the operations of the ZOB with those of the ZZW, said Arens, but these had failed owing to major ideological differences. There was no coordination between the two groups, he said, adding that even when it was obvious that the Germans intended to kill all the Jews, the animosities that divided Jews did not wane. Arens was happy to report that the Warsaw municipality has agreed to put up a monument to Pawel Frankel, who was one of three leaders of the ZZW. Arens said that when Edelman met Frankel, he remembered him with amazing clarity. CELEBRITIES GALORE and prominent personalities from the business world crowded into the Camelot Club in Herzliya for the 10th anniversary of Radio 103FM. The station's top stars - such as Didi Harari, Natan Zahavi, Nissim Mishal, Merav Michaeli, Iris Kol and Varda Raziel Jacont - were there, but the one who excited the most attention was Yossi Siyas, who broadcasts live from Miami for three hours each day, and who specially came home to join in the festivities. Siyas, his wife and their seven children moved from Jerusalem to Miami (where an eighth child was added to the family), because he "could not make ends meet" on the salary he was earning from Israel Radio. Entertainers who showed up at Camelot included singer Zahava Ben, whom Siyas discovered and launched on his radio program. During the evening, Ben dedicated a song to him - Melech Amiti [a true king] - because in her eyes, she said, he is the true king. Siyas has a his tory of helping people in trouble. While in Israel, he also appeared on Yehoram Gaon's Good Evening Israel show on Channel 2, where he had an emotional meeting with a baby who might not be alive were it not for him. The baby's mother had been carrying twins. There were complications that necessitated her going to Belgium for treatment. If she didn't go, she risked losing the babies. The family didn't have enough money and the prospective father turned to Siyas for help. Through Siyas' vast network of faithful listeners, the necessary funds were raised in an amazingly short time. The mother turned up on Gaon's show with one of the babies in her arms, and handed the pink-blanketed bundle to a visibly moved Siyas. ISRAEL'S OFFICIALS apparently have trouble pronouncing the English word "corps." It happened again this week when Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim represented the government at a lavish party - hosted by Thai Ambassador Kasivat Paruggamont - in honor of the 78th birthday of King Bhu mibol Adulyadaj. Addressing the crowd, that included a large portion of the diplomatic community, Boim referred to the "diplomatic corpse." What's always wonderful about Thai functions is the incorporation of culture, especially the decorative art of sculpting vegetables to make them look like flowers, and an exhibition of traditional dancing. Performer Podjamarn Wanhamphroh was absolutely exquisite. This year, to add to the bilateral bonhomie that spans 51 years, the ambassador also brought in internationally acclaimed Israeli concert pianist Gil Shochat, who recently performed with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. Shochat played the anthems of both countries and followed up with a Chopin recital. It would have been a much better experience had all the guests and staff not kept talking and clinking crockery during the performance and speeches. In speaking about the close and cordial relations between Israel and Thailand, the ambassador noted that when the tsunami disaster hit southern Thailand, "Israel was one of the first countries to send assistance." WHOEVER COMMISSIONED a recent telephone survey on the influence of Russian millionaires on Israeli life should consider rephrasing the survey's loaded questions. With the exception of the first question, asking the people polled to name Russian millionaires, the rest were slanted in a derogatory fashion. The survey seemed to be directed against Arkady Gaydamak - who has thrown his cap into the political ring - and fellow Russian tycoon Vladimir Goussinsky. The survey may not have had anything to do with politics per se. Roman Abramovich, the owner of the British Chelsea soccer team, has shown an interest in buying a piece of the action of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Owners Moshe Teumim and Sami Sagol have been actively searching for investors in the hope of reducing the club's multimillion- shekel debt. If he does decide to invest, Abramovich cannot purchase more than a 49 percent stake. Under UEFA rules, an individual cannot own 51% or more of the shares in two clubs that are engaged in the same competition. He does have the option, however, of investing via a third party, which may explain why he was accompanied to the practice match last month by Lev Leviev, whose financial interests include diamonds, minerals, real estate, tourism, communications and fashion. Leviev is also friendly with Gaydamak, with whom he conducted business in the past. On a related topic, beware of an Internet scam purporting to represent incarcerated Russian millionaire Mikhail Khodorovsky, and offering all kinds of bogus financial incentives.