Grapevine: A time to remember

PROMINENT PEACE activist, journalist, former MK and before that, a military commander, Uri Avnery celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday.

PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES and beekeepers 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Yazel Shavit Communications)
PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES and beekeepers 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Yazel Shavit Communications)
To honor the memories of the close to 3,000 people who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund in conjunction with the US Embassy will hold a memorial ceremony at 4 p.m. today, Wednesday, September 11, at the 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem’s Arazim Valley.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and KKL-JNF world chairman Efi Stenzler will be in attendance, together with other dignitaries.
The 9/11 Living Memorial was erected in 2009 by KKL-JNF, in partnership with JNF-USA, with the help of generous contributions by the Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub Foundation and the Edward Blank family of New York. It is known to be the largest memorial site outside the US commemorating the 9/11 victims.
■ PROMINENT PEACE activist, journalist, former MK and before that, a military commander, Uri Avnery celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday.
As a teenager, Avnery was a member of the Irgun, but became disillusioned with its tactics and gradually moved to the opposite side of the political spectrum. As the editor-in-chief and part owner of the nowdefunct scandal magazine Haolam Hazeh, which deftly combined searing political commentary with shockingly candid gossip, he trained a new breed of investigative journalists and photojournalists. In fact, a good many of Israel’s leading journalists and press photographers either got their start with him or began working for him early in their careers – a factor that helped springboard them into key positions in other media outlets.
Avnery is believed to be the first Israeli to have sat down with Yasser Arafat, meeting in Beirut in July 1982 during Operation Peace for Galilee. Avneri and his late wife, Rachel, established the Gush Shalom movement in 1993. He continues to attend peace demonstrations and write regularly in the Israeli and international press.
With his mane of white hair and white beard, the slim-figured, straight-backed Avnery has the stereotypical appearance of a latter-day prophet. At 90, he still has the zest and energy of a young man.
■ ALSO CELEBRATING a birthday this week was Chaim Topol, who is arguably Israel’s bestknown actor worldwide.
Although several Israelis have succeeded on stage and screen abroad, it is doubtful that any of their names have become as familiar as Topol’s to audiences around the globe. For Topol it was not yet a milestone birthday; he turned 78 on September 9.
■ WHILE JEWS believe that Rosh Hashana is one of the most important festivals on their calendar, Rabbi David Stav, who for a while was the leading Ashkenazi candidate for chief rabbi, says it is a universal holiday because it celebrates the creation of mankind. Since all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve, it is a holiday that belongs to the whole world.
■ WHAT IS the best Rosh Hashana present one can give their parents? As far as wellknown restaurateurs Marcel and Suzanne Hess are concerned, their son, Doron, literally took the cake.
Three-and-a half years ago, Doron Hess and his sister, Daliah Wolf-Hess, took over the running of the family business, a Jerusalem-based restaurant.
Their parents had taken early retirement but were always ready to come in and help, especially when they were throwing a party in the eatery. Doron and Daliah are seventh-generation expert sausage makers. Their father has won many prizes in international culinary contests, and has been billed in Israel and his native Switzerland as the “Sausage King.”
Now, in addition to the various sausages and other delicacies on the menu, there is a strong likelihood that the restaurant will develop a large pastry section.
The reason: Doron, who was born in Basel, Switzerland, has just become engaged to a young lady from Basel by the name of Esther Gilgen. The Gilgen family is famous in Basel for its patisserie empire. It looks as if the main course is marrying the dessert, which will undoubtedly result in additions to the Hess restaurant menu.
The family’s sausage-making enterprise was founded in 1795 by Nathanel Hess, who set up shop in Zwesteen, near Frankfurt in Germany. One of his descendants moved the business to Basel in 1929, and yet another descendant transferred it to Israel in 1999. Strangely, Doron chose a dairy restaurant in which to pop the question. He took Esther to the Gan Eden restaurant on Mount Canaan in the Upper Galilee.
The Gilgen family is one of the oldest Jewish families in Basel, and in addition to its pastries, is also famous for its chocolates and delicatessen. Additionally, the Gilgen Family Foundation provides for the sick and the needy, ensuring they receive assistance in a way that does not compromise their dignity.
■ EVERY NOW and again, receptions hosted by President Shimon Peres have a value-added aspect, via an agricultural, hitech, or defense industry exhibition.
This gets minimal if any publicity, because the president usually makes some newsworthy statement that overshadows anything else related to the reception.
That’s what happened last week on Rosh Hashana eve, when Peres held his annual reception for members of the diplomatic corps. In addition to the usual refreshments served in the garden of the presidential compound, there was also a honey display outside the entrance to the reception hall.
Organized by the Israel Honey Council, the exhibition featured many different kinds of honey plus large platters of sliced apples, so that the diplomats could sample the apple and honey that is one of the symbolic entrees into the New Year.
Also present were beekeepers in their protective gear, and cute little girls dressed in yellow honeybee costumes. Several of the ambassadors commented on the variety of available honey in Israel, and some paid more attention to the charmingly shy little girls.
The beekeepers present represented three generations of honey developers. According to the Honey Council, 3,000 tons of quality honey were produced this year from nectar collected from some 100,000 beehives throughout Israel, by approximately 500 professional beekeepers.
Aside from giving them the first taste of a sweet year to come, Peres made a point of thanking the assembled diplomats for the sympathy, understanding, goodwill and support which they and their countries have provided to Israel, in their wish to bring peace to the Middle East in general and to Israel and the Palestinians in particular.
Entertainment was provided by Ahinoam Nini accompanied by guitarist Gili Dor, who also harmonized with her singing of “Salaam,” which they performed with great gusto. When Nini asked the diplomats to join in with a rhythmic hand clap, the one who demonstrated the greatest enthusiasm was US Ambassador Shapiro. After all, Salaam, or shalom, is what the Americans are promoting.
Outside the President’s Residence, the traffic situation was sheer bedlam. As a rule, when the president has large receptions, guests park their cars on Radak Street, which leads directly to the entrance of the residence. But last Tuesday morning, extensive construction work was being done on two buildings on Radak, and parking was impossible – with the result that cars with white CD number plates were parked two and three deep on Hanassi Street, causing major obstruction to the regular traffic flow.
■ TIMING AND coordination are everything. The Jerusalem Press Club, which held its Rosh Hashana toast on the same day that Peres hosted his holiday reception, had invited a large representation from the diplomatic community. Yet not a single ambassador showed up, though there may have been some diplomats of lesser rank.
The problem was that the president’s reception was in the morning and the JPC reception in the early evening. Unless one had business in the capital, no ambassador was going to hang around Jerusalem for a toast.
Had the JPC moved its event to lunchtime, it might have fared much better in terms of diplomatic representation. In the end, the only vehicle with white CD license plates that was seen in the parking area belonged to the EU – and the driver was not necessarily a guest of JPC, and could have parked in the Mishkenot Sha’ananim complex for any number of other reasons.
There were, however, quite a lot of journalists and retired journalists, Foreign Ministry personnel and MK Isaac Herzog, along with representatives of the Jerusalem Foundation, which owns the complex in which the JPC is located.
Dan Meridor, a former government minister and former international chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation, who is currently chairman of the JPC’s advisory board, addressed the guests. He said that in his travels around the world, he had seen press clubs – but none could rival the location of JPC, which is just opposite the walls of the Old City. The Jerusalem-born Meridor recalled that as a child, he used to look across at what was then Jordan. He noted that the area in which they were standing is now so calm and beautiful, in contrast to the turmoil around Israel’s borders.
Meridor commended JPC director Uri Dromi for doing a great job in founding and organizing the JPC, where journalists can come and listen to a variety of opinions and not just to a spokesperson. Dromi was delighted to report that even though the JPC has officially been in existence for only a few months, it was unanimously elected by the International Association of Press Clubs to host the association’s convention next April.
This week, the JPC hosted part of the 50th anniversary convention of the Israel Press Council, which is headed by retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner. The convention, attended by representatives of press councils from 28 countries, opened at the Tel Aviv Hilton on Monday night with Peres as the guest of honor. The president voiced his pride in Israel’s free press, saying it was able to report freely and fearlessly because Israel is an island of democracy in the Middle East.
■ TOMORROW, THURSDAY, Peres will have a working meeting with Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, who is currently serving his fifth term since his initial election in 1996.
Grímsson has an Israeli wife, Dorrit Moussaieff, who comes from a long dynasty of Bukharan jewelers who settled in Jerusalem.
When Moussaieff was 13, her immediate family moved to London.
After divorcing designer Neil Zarach, she married the widowed Grímsson in May 2003. A jewelry designer, businesswoman and contributing editor to British society magazine Tatler, Moussaieff was almost the cause of as diplomatic incident during a previous visit in May 2006, when she tried to enter Israel on a British passport. As an Israeli citizen, according to law, she must enter and depart from Israel with an Israeli passport. Moussaieff, it turns out, didn’t have one.
■ IT ISN’T true that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.
When their 23-year-old daughter, Esther, was killed by Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade terrorists in March 2002, Nachman and Ruchama Klieman and other members of their family were devastated. Originally from Chicago, the Kliemans moved to Israel 36 years ago. For many years, the affable Nachman was a spokesman for El Al. Esther was a teacher of children with Down syndrome, and was on her way to work when the terror attack took place. Even before her death, Nachman had decided to quit his job at El Al, and afterwards, he thought the most positive next step he could take was to become a spokesman for Israel, warning the world of the dangers of terrorism. Despite the daily sorrow over the loss of Esther, the Klieman family continued to live as normal a life as possible.
But then tragedy struck again: In July 2009, their youngest son, Gavriel, died suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 26 years old.
At the time of his death, Gavriel had been working to turn a passionate dream into a reality. A firm believer in Israel’s creative talents, he wanted to give Israeli arts and crafts people an international showcase for their wares.
He knew that not all artists have the temperament for marketing and sales, and decided to do it for them through a website showcase that would feature “Designed and Made in Israel” to the world. Unfortunately, although he started working on the website, he never got to realize his dream.
Thinking of the best way to perpetuate his memory, his family, primarily Nachman and his older son, Dov, decided to live Gavriel’s dream. In partnership with the Israel Forever Foundation, they recently created UBoutiques, which are featured on English and Hebrew websites and promote the works of more than 200 designers, artists and artisans living and working in Israel.
The Kliemans want to ensure that whatever is featured is a topquality Israeli product, and together with their staff have made it their business to get to know the artists and artisans personally.
Their virtual marketplace includes Judaica for the home, jewelry, art and gift items.
The Kliemans are pleased to have embarked on a venture that not only memorializes Gavriel, but also creates awareness that Israel’s forte is more than just hitech – with the country excelling in aesthetic creativity.
■ BOTH ELECTRONIC and print media carried reviews of the year gone by, but on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, there was also a gloomy outlook for the future – specifically with regard to the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Preempting the projected demise of the IBA, if Communications Minister Gilad Erdan succeeds in closing it down in order to revamp it, current affairs anchor Arieh Golan delivered a heartfelt eulogy in which he mourned not only the impending death of the IBA, but also the death of solidarity in the media. By and large, he said, the colleagues of the 2,000 IBA employees who will lose their jobs have not voiced any protest – nor for that matter has the Histadrut labor federation.
“No one gives a damn,” lamented Golan, who also denied allegations that the IBA is the voice of the administration.
“If that was true, why would the administration want to closed us down?” he queried.
The IBA was around for a long time before commercial broadcasting outlets such as Channel 2, which will this year celebrate its 20th anniversary, and later Channel 10, arrived on the scene. Rivka Michaeli, Yaron London, Moti Kirschenbaum, Dan Shilon, the late Ehud Manor, and even Yair Lapid and Shelly Yacimovich, along with many others, achieved celebrity status when public broadcasting was the only show in town.
Commercial television with its reality shows is in business only for the money, declared Golan, whereas public broadcasting performs a service. Although he did not list them, there are several programs on Reshet Bet with social welfare agendas, which reach out to the public and help correct social injustices. Such programs do not exist on commercial television, although they do exist to a lesser extent on radio, on the IBA’s Channel 1.
Fish is among the traditional foods on the Rosh Hashana menu. In signing off, Golan expressed thanks for the fish, observing that “not all of them reeked from their heads.”
It’s possible that Golan’s eulogy for the IBA may have been premature.
Although Erdan has appointed a committee to look into what the ails the IBA, and to suggest on the basis of its findings how the IBA can be restructured at less cost to the government and with a considerably reduced staff load, there is no guarantee that he can do much beyond studying the recommendations.
There will be a lot of legal procedures to complete before the IBA can be closed down. Moreover, there is the possibility that the government may not run its full course.
In the very week that Erdan announced the appointment of the committee, there were news reports that the police had begun probing what has been dubbed “Bibi Tours,” in response to allegations that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his previous ministerial and legislative positions, had his international travels and luxury accommodations paid for by wealthy businesspeople who may later have sought favors from him. If police findings should lead to the filing of criminal charges, the prime minister, like his predecessor Ehud Olmert, wil l be pressured to step down, after which there will be new elections.
Then, in all probability, someone other than Erdan will receive the Communications portfolio.
Erdan’s predecessor in office, Moshe Kahlon, who introduced several reforms during his own period as communications minister, has come out on the side of the IBA. While acknowledging that reforms are necessary, Kahlon would not take as drastic a step as temporarily closing down public broadcasting.
Kahlon has made no secret of the fact that he’s returning to politics and aims to be Israel’s next prime minister.
While talk about the possible closure of the IBA is worrying to a lot of people, I24 News, the new English, French and Arabic news channel, has selected SatLink Communications, a leading teleport, content management and HD playout center, for the global distribution of its broadcasts. I24 News, which broadcasts 24/7, will utilize SatLink’s comprehensive satellite and fiber distribution network to relay its trilingual channels across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, plus occasional use coordination with the UN building in New York, and to Gaza and Ramallah. SatLink will also provide various services to I24 News, which was launched in July and broadcasts on three separate channels.
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