Grapevine: Seeing red

The greatest display of red was in the traditional headgear worn by a large contingent of Druze dignitaries.

avital mk 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
avital mk 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
REACTING TO the inclusion of outgoing Ben Gurion University president and economics professor Avishay Braverman in Labor's Knesset list, Yediot Aharonot's Sever Plocker wrote an op-ed titled "Folding up the red flag." Indeed, at the Labor Party convention in Jerusalem this week, when winners in the primaries were presented to Labor activists, there was very little "red" in evidence - not even in the flower arrangements that graced the stage. However, Braverman wore a red tie, Gideon Ben Israel, who has the senior citizen's slot, wore a red sweater under his suit jacket and Colette Avital was wrapped in a bright red shawl. But the greatest display of red was in the traditional headgear worn by a large contingent of Druze dignitaries who sat in the front rows and rose to cheer their representative, Shakib Shinan. There were also cheers for Nadia Hilu, who was once tipped to become the first Arab woman to hold a seat in the Knesset, but who was defeated in her initial bid more than a decade ago, and in 1999 failed to get a realistic spot on the Labor list. Thus, the first Arab woman legislator was Hussniya Jabara, who ran on a Meretz ticket and who, in 1999, was elected to the 15th Knesset. Hilu, who in the interim has served the Union of Local Authorities as its adviser on the status of women, came in this time not on a slot reserved for Arabs, but one reserved for women. She's high enough on the list to make it into the Knesset this time around. Lior Strassberg, a former chairman of the national student union who is 27th on the Labor list, had added cause for celebration at the convention. Earlier in the day, he became the father of twins. Former broadcaster Shelly Yachimovic, who is high enough on the list to make it into the Knesset even if Labor scores fewer seats than surveys indicate, has developed a new image to go with her new career, and has colored her previously titian tresses black. ONE OF the anecdotes told at the convention was about David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding prime minister. When the establishment of Dimona was proposed, Ben-Gurion consulted a number of experts in different fields and each came up with reasons for abandoning the project. Ben-Gurion listened to them all then announced: "Today we have decided to build Dimona." Responding to a rush of protest from the assembled experts, Ben-Gurion said: "You may all be experts on different subjects, but I am an expert on experts." The attitude sounds familiar. SHINUI MK Etti Livni, who used to head the Knesset committee on the advancement of the status of women, last week accompanied members of the Mideast Press Club to Ramallah, where she had lunch with Minister for Women's Affairs Zahira Kamal. Kamal told her about the Palestinian inter-ministerial committee that deals with women's issues, and outlined the special quotas that guarantee seats for women in the Palestinian Legislative Council. There are three seats for women when more than 13 members of a party are elected, and two seats when less than 13 candidates of any one party are elected. There are 77 women running in today's election, compared to only 27 in 1996, when quota legislation had not yet been introduced. At that time, only five women were elected. Kamal was confident that this time at least 25 women would gain seats. All parties, including Hamas, have women candidates on their lists, she said. Livni, who admitted there was little likelihood her party would be represented in the next Knesset, said that Palestinian women are better off politically than their Israeli counterparts, because there is no inter-ministerial committee dealing with women's issues in Israel. Nor is there a quota law guaranteeing female representation - though the Labor party, unlike its rivals, does have a quota system. Livni was hopeful that there would be more women legislators in the next Knesset than the 18 there are in the current one. There are a lot of women in Kadima, she said, and if acting party chairman Ehud Olmert follows the path of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he will put women high on the list. Livni described Sharon as a feminist, and said that he had told her many times that women make better MKs than men. "He wanted 30 percent of the people on the list to be women," she said. MANY EVENTS around the world on Thursday and Friday will be devoted to what has evolved into a universal Holocaust remembrance day, emanating from the date of the liberation of Auschwitz. Even more terrible in terms of the tiny number of survivors was Treblinka. One of the handful of Treblinka survivors today is sculptor Samuel Willenberg, who has immortalized some of the characters who met their deaths there. Willenberg will open an exhibition of his Treblinka sculptures at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the presence of Yad Vashem chairman Prof. Szewach Weiss, a former speaker of the Knesset and a former Israel ambassador to his native Poland. Weiss was a child Holocaust survivor. ALTHOUGH SHE would like to be technologically savvy, Bernice Rosenberg, a member of the board of directors of Herzog Hospital, readily admits that she's not. But, as a responsible board member with a long record of involvement with the hospital - the third largest in Jerusalem after Hadassah and Shaare Zedek - she makes a point of reading all hospital reports that are sent to her. One such report was about a video conference between Herzog Hospital and medical teams in other countries, including Jordan, South Africa, Switzerland and Canada. Conference participants from so many distant places were all focused on one particularly unusual case of neuro-geriatrics. The report also mentioned that the conference had been observed by a Rotary club in Canada. Rosenberg, who is a member of the Jerusalem Rotary Club, immediately started thinking about how to combine the efforts of her own club with the across borders work of Herzog Hospital, and how this joint enterprise could plant seeds of peace where politics have failed. She put the idea to the hospital's director-general, Dr. Yehezkel Caine, and to Jerusalem Rotary President Kern Wisman, who were both enthusiastic. Caine, along with Herzog Hospital public relations director Steve Schwartz, came to address the Rotary members last week to explain the workings of the 111-year-old hospital - the first psychiatric hospital in the Middle East. He said that after the world-wide decline in in-house psychiatric care, Herzog converted the newly available space into geriatric wards to provide broad-based care for Israel's rapidly aging population. Most of the people who came to Israel in the early years of the state were young, said Caine, but anyone who was 30 in 1948 is now over 80. In 1991, he said, 8% of Israel's population was aged 65 and over. The proportion is now 11.2 % and by 2010, it is expected to reach 12.2%. However, he said, many of the illnesses experienced by the elderly, particularly of the respiratory variety, are not necessarily age related, and the body of knowledge gained in treating them is applicable to anyone of any age. This is why Herzog Hospital also cares for children, and is in a position to share its accumulated knowledge with others. Up until now, said Schwartz, the video conferencing has been carried out with rented equipment. It would be much more effective if the equipment could be permanently installed. The cost factor, in relation to the cost of medical and educational projects in general, is negligible - around $20,000. Two members of the Jerusalem Rotary Club have already come forward with a 10th of the sum, and other money has been received from a Rotary club in South Africa. Rotary clubs in Toronto and North Carolina are also interested in the project. With so much international enthusiasm, said Wisman, Rotary will provide not only a terminal, as was initially envisaged, but the type of equipment that can turn Herzog Hospital into a hub. As a result of the difficulties that Israel has experienced with terror and victims of trauma, "we have an expertise that we have acquired through no desire," said Wisman, citing other countries which can benefit from this expertise. "We can share from our disaster to make something good happen," he said. The project with Rotary will aid in training, education and research, said Caine. IT'S BEEN party time in the Cohen-Hanegbi family these past few weeks. First, there was the end of December bar-mitzva in Or Yehuda of the Hanegbi twins, Stav and Matan, that was attended by MKs from across the political spectrum. Then there was the 80th birthday festivities of their grandmother, Israel Prize laureate and former MK Geula Cohen. Both celebrations were hosted by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi in his capacities as the father of and the son of. Advancing age has not removed the passionately right-wing Cohen from the public eye. She co-hosts a weekly radio program on Reshet Bet with left-winger Eli Amir, and she heads the organization that perpetuates the writings of patriotic poet Uri Zvi Greenberg. SPEAKING OF patriotism, Uzi Arad, who established the prestigious Herzliya Conference, this year introduced an additional component to the issues of national security and politics that are the focus of the annual conference - patriotism. Arad, who maintains that the measure of national security is contingent on the level of patriotism, conducted a patriotism survey prior to the conference which he presented last week to President Moshe Katsav. According to the survey's findings, patriotism among Jewish citizens is stronger among people on the Right than on the Left. It is also stronger among religious and traditional Jews than it is among secular Jews; and older people tend to be more patriotic than younger ones. The survey also found that patriotism was stronger among people without university education than among those with academic degrees, a factor that prompted Katsav to suggest in jest that patriotism would get a boost if fewer people enrolled in courses. REPORTEDLY AMONG the sponsors of this year's Herzliya Conference was billionaire Arkady Gaydamak. Gaydamak was invited to the conference not only in deference to his largesse, but also in his capacity as President of the Congress of Jewish Communities of Russia. Gaydamak, who is in the eye of the media on a daily basis, is not the only member of his family to attract attention. His son, Sasha, who runs an Ashdod-based company, has been constantly mentioned in the British press since buying into Portsmouth Football Club; his daughter, Katya, who lives in France, is a frequent visitor to Israel and accompanies dad to matches in which his Betar Jerusalem soccer team is playing; and his other daughter, Sonia, who is studying in New York, has not escaped the paparazzi. FOR MORE than 20 years, Yafit Grinberg - better known as "Gimmel Yaffit," the queen of commercials via an advice format on brand-name purchases - and Benny Arad have been a couple without the benefit of wedlock. They never gave marriage a thought until last year, when Arad was severely injured after being hit by a car. Grinberg, who has been married before and whose son and daughter-in-law, Eyal and Maya Grinberg are not only involved in her business, but have presented her with a grandchild, didn't need to be Mrs. anyone. But when her significant other was fighting for his life in the hospital, it suddenly dawned on her that he was a bachelor with no family ties. She swore that if he recovered, there would be a wedding. And indeed there was - a grand affair earlier this month at the Tel Aviv Hilton, with the bride decked out in a veil and a traditional long-skirted white lace wedding gown. WHAT'S COOKING at Hadassah? No, it's not a facetious question. It's the title of a new book conceived by cookbook writer and journalist Sybil Kaplan of Kansas. Kaplan, who used to be named Sybil Kaufman, lived for 10 years in Jerusalem, where she wrote a best-selling cookbook, Wonders of the Wonder Pot, based on the top-of-the-stove pot which was a main utensil of Israeli kitchens until around the mid 1980s. It's still available in some haredi neighborhoods. Always a community-minded, organization person, Kaplan has been actively associated with several groups, institutions and organizations - most pertinently Hadassah, of which she is a past regional president and currently a member of the national board. Almost all Hadassah groups that come to Israel pay a visit to Hadassah College in Jerusalem, where they are treated to meals prepared by young chefs studying at Hadassah's hotel management and catering school. Hadassah members often ask for the recipes to take home. Realizing the potential behind the requests, Kaplan spoke to the powers-that-be at Hadassah College and volunteered to write a cookbook to be used as an ongoing Hadassah fund-raiser. The project has been in the making since last July. A team from the college selects the recipes; a friend of Kaplan's translates them into English, then e-mails them to America, where Kaplan rewrites them in what she calls "cookbookese." "It's been an exciting few months," she said at the conclusion of a visit to Israel this week. The book is due for release around April, and will initially be launched in the US. Kaplan is hoping that there will also be an Israeli launch at Hadassah College, where invitees will not only be able to read the recipes, but also to sample them. HE HAS become so much a part of the Israeli scene that it is difficult to believe that Dr. Johannes Gerster, the representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, is going home after nine years of living and working in Jerusalem. Gerster, who is well-known for hosting lavish receptions, will have his farewell bash this evening, on which occasion invited guests will be introduced to his successor, Dr. Lars Hansel. The event will be hosted by KAF chairman Dr. Bernhard Vogel. Named for Germany's first post-war chancellor, KAF this year celebrates its 50th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of its operations in Israel. FOR THE first time in 37 years, David Levy, three times foreign minister, and eight times deputy prime minister, is unlikely to occupy a Knesset seat. The current Knesset's longest serving MK after Shimon Peres, Levy is outranked on length of Knesset service by Tawfik Toubi, who served for 40 years before stepping down. Levy, who plummeted from 17th to 36th place on the Likud list after having previously been number two, is one of the people tipped to succeed President Moshe Katsav when his term concludes in July 2007. Another front-line runner for the presidency is Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. When Levy first became a minister in 1979, there were many cruel jokes about the former construction worker who had joined the cabinet. Many of these jokes focused on Levy's inadequate command of English. But Levy's late brother, Maxim, in the course of an interview with The Jerusalem Post when he was running for reelection as the mayor of Lod, said that his older sibling understood English very well, but was hesitant about speaking because he did not want to risk making grammatical mistakes. LAST FRIDAY, President Moshe Katsav and his wife, Gila, attended Bank Hapoalim's art exhibition and sale, and were escorted around the galleries by the bank's chief shareholder, Shari Arison. Proceeds from the sale of paintings donated by 500 Israeli artists were well in excess of NIS 1 million, and were directed to Alut, the organization that deals with autistic children. On Thursday of this week, Gila Katsav, who makes a point of visiting facilities that cater to the nation's children, will be visiting two facilities for autistic children to see how the money is spent.