Grapevine: Less than happy birthdays

President Moshe Katsav will celebrate his birthday December 5 with much less pomp then last year.

grapes 88 (photo credit: )
grapes 88
(photo credit: )
ON TUESDAY, December 5, President Moshe Katsav will mark his 61st birthday. Last year, he celebrated his 60th with pomp and circumstance - in a Who's Who-filled event. This year, the mood is different. Whether he steps down or is allowed to complete his term, which officially ends at the end of July, Katsav's days as president are numbered, and the search for a successor is in full force. Some of the people whose names were put forward in recent weeks have decided for a variety of reasons that they don't want the job. One of the few who is still determined to run is Labor MK Colette Avital. If successful, she would become Israel's first woman president. But there is another potential female candidate testing the waters to see if she could garner enough support: the seventh-generation, Jerusalem-born Michal Moda'i, widow of the late Yitzhak Moda'i, whose credentials as a leader in her own right are impressive. She is president of the Council of Women's Organizations; a former president of World WIZO, and currently an honorary one; a member of the executives of the World Zionist Organization and World Jewish Congress. Meanwhile, the Comme il Faut Group, which combines fashion and food with social justice, is circulating a petition formulated with various women's organizations, calling for a woman - no names specified - to be elected as Israel's next head of state. The campaign headquarters are located in Beit Ahoti, 70 Matalon Street, Tel Aviv; telephone: (03) 687-0545. Calls for his suspension aside, Katsav is continuing with his presidential duties, and this week attended both the Ashdod Jubilee celebrations and the Ben Gurion memorial day ceremony. BEFORE HE died just over a month ago, Robert Rosenberg, poet, journalist and one of Israel's Internet pioneers, told his wife, Silvia, that he wanted his friends to get together for a party to celebrate his life, rather than mourn his death. Coincidentally, what would have been his 55th birthday more or less coincided with the 30th day after his death. His relatives and friends had not been able to say the customary goodbye, because there had been no funeral. Rosenberg, who had been ill for a long time, but kept working almost till the end, had willed his body to science. Although hordes of people had shown up at his home during the shiva period, it was not the same kind of get-together as that which took place Saturday night at the Shablul Jazz Club at the Tel Aviv Port to celebrate the man and his work. Together with Michael Eilan, Rosenberg had founded the The Jerusalem Post's local supplement, In Jerusalem. The two had later gone on to create LINK, which promoted Israel business and technology, and after that Koldoon, an online database devoted to Israeli venture capital and technology. Rosenberg was ahead of his time in recognizing the potential of communications technology. He persuaded many Post colleagues to buy their first PCs, which were infinitely more expensive than they are today. He also established the Ariga (Weave) Web site to promote business, pleasure and peace in the Middle East, writing every day for the benefit of countless readers around the world, some of whom became his cyber friends. Rosenberg and Eilan maintained a dialogue through poetry, starting every morning with a poem that each had written. At the memorial event, Eilan read two of these aloud. Others were read by other attendees, including Itay and Keren Frost, who were working with Rosenberg to translate his works into Hebrew. The professionalism of Rosenberg the journalist, who had the ability to concentrate on his work and josh around at the same time, was discussed by Hanna Brutman, the widow of noted press photographer Andre Brutman, with whom Rosenberg had worked on numerous assignments; and Roy Isacowitz, a former Post news editor and Tel Aviv bureau chief. Looking as ethereally beautiful as ever, Silvia Rosenberg spoke eloquently about her husband, his life's work, the books he'd written, the poetry he'd published (and that which remained unpublished) and the importance of Ariga, for which she is seeking sponsors to enable it to continue with the help of volunteer writers and editors. The huge crowd included former colleagues from the Post and Haaretz, as well as drinking buddies from bohemian hang-outs, such as Tel Aviv's legendary Caf Tamar. The "birthday party" was emceed by cookery queen, friend and former Post colleague Phyllis Glazer. It concluded with a wonderful musical tribute by rock singer Libby, who sang two songs: Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" and Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz." Libby said Rosenberg was "rocking out with Janis in heaven." Among those present were: Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal; cartoonist Yaacov Kirschen and his wife, artist Sali Ariel; Hanan Sher; Michal Yudelman; Amy Ducas; Vivian Eden; Charlotte Halle; Ruthie Meisels, whose late mother, Martha Meisels, was for many years the prize-winning consumer affairs reporter for the Post; Batsheva Tsur; Margery Greenfeld Morgan; Rachel Neiman and Faye Bittker. Some had not seen each other for years, making Rosenberg's birthday/memorial party not only a celebration of his life, but a reunion - which is exactly what he would have liked it to be. MUCH IN demand as a special guest at the national day events of former Soviet bloc and satellite countries, Shimon Peres attended the Romania Unification Day celebrations. These normally take place on December 1, but were held earlier this year, to enable outgoing Romanian Ambassador Valeria Mariana Stoica to make her farewells. Stoica, who was a political appointee, proved during her six-and-a-half year plus tour of duty in Israel that she also had diplomatic skills. She returned to Romania on on Friday to take up her new appointment as adviser to President Traian Basescu. Although she invited the diplomatic community to her farewell at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, most of the guests were Romanian expatriates. These included prominent figures from Israel's business community, such as Yuli Ofer, Bruno Landsberg, Rubin Zimmerman and Avi Golan, the former managing director of The Jerusalem Post. While graciously receiving Peres, and walking around the banquet hall with him, Stoica - who was wearing a large gold, ruby-encrusted crucifix - was impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (not Irineos, who is still recognized by Israel despite his ouster by the Church, but Theophilos III, who was elected in August, 2005, and who has the support of the World Council of Churches). When Theophilos and his retinue arrived, Stoica bent forward to kiss his ring, as did several other people. Theophilos arrived just as Peres was leaving, and the two shook hands. In his address, Peres observed that women were taking over the world, and cited Stoica as an example. He applauded not only her professional qualities but also her personality. He also congratulated her on her country's becoming a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007. Stoica told the Post that the strongest memory she will carry with her is of the people of Israel. She the crowd that Israeli citizens of Romanian origin can be an important bridge for better understanding and cooperation between the two countries. Stoica's departure reduces the number of female ambassadors in Israel's international community to eight: Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Kenya, Lithuania, Moldova and Poland. (Incidentally, Costa Rica's Noemy Baruch last week moved her embassy from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan, and El Salvador's Suzana Gun de Hasenson this week moved her embassy from Jerusalem to a new office building in Herzliya Pituah.) "THERE ARE some speeches you want to make and some you have to make. This is one I want to make," said British Ambassador Tom Phillips as, on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, he conferred the Order of the British Empire on Delta founder and chairman Dov Lautman. Phillips said that he gathered from the buzz that the queen had chosen the right person. Indeed, close friends and leading members of Israel's business community - who have been associated with Lautman in one of his many capacities in: the Israel Manufacturers Association, the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations, the Peres Center for Peace, Dor Shalom, the Abraham Fund, the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies, the Boards of Governors of Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Universities, and other organizations and institutions - were as delighted as his family. Among those gathered at the ambassador's residence to share the moment with Lautman were: Chaim Topol, Dan Propper, Gad Propper, Michael Federmann, Alice Krieger, Michael Strauss, Dov Gottesman, Alfred Akirov, Itamar Rabinovich, Yossi Vardi and several other well-known figures. Phillips commended Delta as a leading private label manufacturer with global sales of $600 million - with the UK accounting for a third. Delta, with its substantial demographic mix of employees in its main Israeli plant, serves as a model for Jewish-Arab coexistence. Lautman was awarded the OBE in recognition of his valuable services in strengthening the economic links between Britain and Israel. This includes setting up a manufacturing plant in Scotland and providing many jobs. As Phillips presented the medal and ribbon to Lautman, a loud cheer rang out, followed by ululation and cries of "Bravo!" Lautman recalled the early days, 38 years ago, when he first went to London with a few samples of lace underwear, which he took to Marks & Spencer. Today, M&S is Delta's major market in the UK. Lautman said that he felt very much at home in London, as do many Israelis of his generation. He was 12 years old, he said, at the end of the British Mandate, and recalled that his father had said at the time: "We waited 2,000 years for independence, but why did it have to happen in my lifetime?" Lautman quipped that he had been asked to request of the queen that she restore the Mandate. IF YOU'VE admired some of the clothes seen in the TV series Sex and the City - or if, more recently, you've salivated over some of the stunning creations in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, you may get a chance to meet the person who conceived the garments. Famed New York stylist Patricia Field, will be in Israel next week as the guest of Ruthie Leviev-Eliazrov, general manager of the Ramat Aviv Mall, who has invited Field to the December 4 launch of the Treasure Trove of Brand Names. One of the country's classiest shopping centers, the Ramat Aviv Mall - which features the output of many local and international designers - tries to epitomize what Field represents. THE ISRAELI Union of Performing Artists - known by its Hebrew acronym, EMI - on Wednesday evening will inaugurate a new award to be given annually in recognition of unique contributions to Jewish culture. The initial recipients are all members of the Yiddishpiel Theater Ensemble. EMI Chairman Yaccov Mendel will present the awards at the conclusion of tonight's performance, at ZOA House, of Last Love, adapted from the story by Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer. The three honorees are Yaacov Bodo, who is celebrating 50 years on stage; Yankele Alperin, who, at 85, continues to act, translate and adapt plays and songs; and Yiddishpiel founder Shmuel Atzmon, who remains its overall director, artistic director, actor and adapter of works from other languages and media. The awards are particularly meaningful, considering the fact that Yiddish theater was once illegal in Israel. INVITING INTERNATIONAL forces to Gaza will benefit Sderot, according to Meretz leader MK Yossi Beilin, who believes that such a measure will be far more effective than intensifying IDF operations in the area. "Violence doesn't help," he told members of the Foreign Press Association at a meeting in Jerusalem, where he circulated his new permanent status plan. Beilin, who views his role as that of someone who has to" nag "every Israeli government towards peace, referred to a survey indicating that philanthropist Arkady Gaydamak rates higher than Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the popularity polls, by remarking: "Anybody is more popular than he is." APROPOS GAYDAMAK, he was a guest on Yair Lapid's talk show on Channel 2, where he pointedly remarked on the fact that even though Olmert has been in politics for some 30 years, most people are still unsure about how to pronounce his name. Gaydamak took over the running of his own interview, and in his typically candid manner, told Lapid that he'd brought him onto the show not to hear Gaydamak's views, but to increase Lapid's ratings. FOR YEARS, the Israel Democracy Institute has been the chief advocate for a constitution. The gauntlet was also taken up by MK Michael Eitan when he became chairman of the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee and initiated the Constitution by Consensus Project. Now, there are some new players in the field who are not happy with the draft prepared by the IDI. The Institute for Zionist Strategies, whose mission is to help insure that Israel remains a Jewish and viable state, has prepared an alternative draft of the constitution for consideration by the Knesset. The alternative draft was explained to a group of English-speaking IZS supporters at the Jerusalem home of venture capitalist Jon Medved and his wife, Jane. Medved is chairman of the IZS Forum for Policy and strategy. Authors of the alternative draft, Joel Golovensky, who was a partner in a Manhattan law firm before moving to Israel nearly 20 years ago, and who has practiced and written about law in Israel, and Prof. Moshe Koppel of the department of computer studies at Bar Ilan University - whose publications include such titles as Determining an Author's Native Language by Mining a Text for Error; Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging and New Methods of Attribution for Rabbinic Literature, explained the difference between their Jewish-oriented draft and that of the IDI. The question of whether a constitution is good or bad for the Jews is irrelevant, said Golovensky, "because, like it or not, we're getting a constitution perpetrated by the Supreme Court." This, in his view, is not good for the Jews, and a better alternative would be a constitution adopted by the Knesset. Koppel, who for three years participated in the group - headed by Michael Eitan - said that he had been amazed to discover that "the Knesset is so understaffed that anyone who walks in off the street and volunteers is welcomed with open arms." FRIENDS OF former Baha'i representatives in Jerusalem, Daun and Rick Miller, who left eight years ago, were pleased to see them again last week, when the couple came to Israel on a Baha'i pilgrimage visit. SWEDISH AMBASSADOR Robert Rydberg, who often surprises people with the fluency of his almost accentless Hebrew, did so again last week on television, when he appeared as Sigal Shahmon's guest and talked about Sweden in a language that most Israelis understand. ISRAEL PRIZE laureate David Rubinger, who for decades worked as a photographer for Time-Life and documented some of the most significant events in Israel's history, has launched into a new career - at the age of 80. Rubinger has been holding a series of exhibitions in London, England, Portland Oregon and now in his native Vienna in Austria, where he has been selling signed photographs of some of the great people and moments in the saga of modern Israel. He is also in demand as a public speaker, and recently completed a soon-to-be-released biography, titled: 60 Years Behind the Lens. The text was written by Ruth Korman, who has also arranged some of his exhibitions. Jerusalem-based Rubinger, who sold his archive to Yediot Aharonot, and who has a regular column in the Yediot local weekly, Yerushalayim, called "City of David," says that in all the years that he worked for Time-Life, he never received as much public feedback as he does for "City of David."