Grapevine: Cielito Linda

'Post’ staff bids farewell to Linda Amar, Peres inks Torah scroll letter, Hatzalah volunteer Gavy Friedson gets municipal award in absentia.

Eliezer Shkedi 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Eliezer Shkedi 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
JERUSALEM POST staff members were usually notified about a birthday party or a farewell via an e-mail message from executive editorial secretary Linda Amar, who also took on the responsibility of providing refreshments and often baked a cake herself.
But when it came to a farewell for Amar, who has left after 29 years at the Post, someone else had to take on organizing the event.
It became the joint effort of reporter Tovah Lazaroff and former Magazine editor Amanda Borschel-Dan. Just to be sure that former colleagues did not miss out on the opportunity to wish Amar well, Borschel-Dan also put a notice on Facebook.
Several people who wanted to come but were abroad or who live too far from Jerusalem to come in on a Friday morning posted their own Facebook comments to the effect that they were there in spirit.
Nonetheless, an incredible number turned up, testifying to the esteem in which Amar is held.
Lazaroff made her delightful top-floor apartment available for the occasion, and many past and present staff members came with their children, ranging in age from 10 years to just a few months. The oldest of the guests was the Post’s most veteran employee, 90-year-old Alexander Zvielli, who climbed the steep flights of stairs and didn’t seem to be remotely out of breath when he got to the top. As for the catering, it would have done any dairy restaurant proud. Amar is so popular that the vast majority of guests contributed to the laden buffets, and no one stinted on either quality or quantity.
A little over a year ago, her friends, colleagues and admirers at the Post opened a Facebook group called “We Love Linda Amar.” The spontaneous fan club was in appreciation of, among other things, her being a problem-solver par excellence, her patience, her willingness to help, her radiant smile and her decency as a human being. Amar’s life has been much entwined with the Post. When she first came 29 years ago, she was hired by Nechama Golomb, then head of the advertising department, where Amar worked for 10 years before becoming an editorial secretary to N. David Gross, the first of eight editors to whom she was a valued assistant. The others were David Bar-Illan, Jeff Barak, Carl Schrag, David Makovsky, Bret Stephens, David Horovitz and the incumbent Steve Linde, with whom she worked briefly as he took over from Horovitz.
Her husband Eli Amar recalled that their wedding invitations had been printed at the Post. In those days, the paper operated a lucrative commercial printing press. Amar’s children were born during her years at the newspaper, and as she said herself it was a place where she had made lifelong friends and even acquired additional family (her brother Steve Leibowitz, the editor-in-chief of IBA English News and a former sports writer for the Post, is married to former features editor and writer Ruthie Blum – a happy union resulting from Amar’s matchmaking skills). Amar worked with Horovitz for longer than with any of his predecessors, and over those seven years, she became his sounding board and relentless chaser of interviewees.
She was also the person who calmed the tempers of occasionally irate readers on the phone. Describing Amar as “the heart and soul of the Post,” Horovitz said she’d regularly had insights and comments that had helped improve his column. “I could not have done my job without her,” he said.
Amar, who does not fluster easily, confessed to being overwhelmed by the surge of affection and described her 19 years as assistant to a series of editors-in-chief as consistently interesting and challenging. She highlighted the period she spent with Horovitz, whose leadership, integrity, decency and ability to motivate had inspired her.“These last seven years have been a gift,” she said.
Galina Weinberg, who has taken over from Amar as Linde’s assistant, promises to keep the Post on the right course in the future.
■ ONE OF the greatest cantors and opera singers of all time was the late Richard Tucker, who came to Israel from the United States to perform free of charge for wounded soldiers.
This coming Shabbat, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue will honor his memory with two other great cantors who occasionally sing opera while leading the service. The synagogue’s in-house cantor Chaim Adler will be joined by Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. There are indications that attendance will be close to that of the High Holy Days, with people actually flying in from abroad to attend the service. For that reason, a special tickets-only section of the synagogue has been reserved for members to ensure that they get a seat. Joining regular congregants this Shabbat will be former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and his wife Sheila.
■ ISRAEL’S FIFTH and ninth presidents, Yitzhak Navon and Shimon Peres, who have been friends and colleagues for more than 60 years, traded reminiscences and compliments last Friday at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater as part of Navon’s continuing 90th birthday celebrations. The Cameri, which put on a special show last year for Peres’s birthday, decided to do so again for Navon.
The two were disciples of founding prime minister and defense minister David Ben-Gurion, though according to Peres, who turns 88 next week, the difference between them was that while he had been Ben-Gurion’s pupil, Navon had been his teacher: Ben- Gurion had decided that he wanted to learn Spanish, and Navon, a teacher by profession who later became education minister, was picked to instruct him.
Navon confessed that he’d had a few trepidations about age when he’d turned 70 and again when he’d turned 80, but as he had approached 90, he became a first time grandfather, which gave him a new lease on life.
■ SINCE TAKING on the presidency, Peres seems to have become increasingly involved with the Orthodox community. He consistently quotes the Ten Commandments as the universal guideline for civilized behavior, consults frequently with the chief rabbis, visits with haredi rabbis and has now written a letter in the El Al Torah Scroll for Israel Unity.
The brainchild of El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi, a former commander of the IAF, the scroll, when completed, will be brought along on flights of national and historic significance, and will also serve worshipers at the synagogue of the airline’s head office. Jewish community leaders around the globe have been invited to participate in this project.
Peres wrote a letter in the scroll at his official residence in Jerusalem, joining Israeli and US rabbinical leaders and yeshiva heads, and the leaders of major Jewish organizations.
Members of El Al’s Matmid Frequent Flyer Club are invited to write a letter of their choice directly through the company’s website and at no cost, which halachically is not quite the same as making the appropriate blessing and working with a Torah scribe such as Yehoshua Wachsenberg, the scribe who helped Peres.
■ JABOTINSKY INSTITUTE director Yossi Ahimeir was in a bit of a flap. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad had been scheduled to deliver the annual Jabotinsky lecture this Thursday night, July 28, but had to back out due to an urgent trip abroad.
Ahimeir had to wrack his brains as to who would be available and most suitable to take over. In a sense, he may have found someone a lot better – Jabotinsky’s grandson, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, whose topic is “Right Does Not Only Mean the Right to Security.”
■ APROPOS OF the Jabotinsky Institute, it has just a published a new edition of Jabotinsky’s letters from 1936 onward, in conjunction with the Zionist Library. Ahimeir, together with Mordechai Sarig, the institute’s new chairman, and Arye Naor, chairman of the institute’s Academic Committee, presented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a copy. The book includes a letter to the prime minister’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, in which Jabotinsky apologizes for not writing an appreciation of Rabbi Nathan Milikovsky, the prime minister’s paternal grandfather.
The reason, explains Jabotinsky, is that for a whole year, he was caught up in political matters and couldn’t focus on anything else.
The prime minister wanted to know whether his father had a copy of the book, and on receiving an affirmative reply, gave a satisfied grin and praised the institute for the work it does in disseminating Jabotinsky’s teachings.
■ OF COURSE, Naor is no less interested in Menachem Begin than in Jabotinsky. He was, after all, Begin’s first cabinet secretary and has written about him extensively. In fact, his most recent work on Begin earned him a citation this week at the annual awards ceremony for works about deceased presidents and prime ministers. The two leaders chosen this year were president Ephraim Katzir and Begin.
Prof. Uriel Bachrach, who worked under the former’s supervision in the IDF’s Science Corps – which Katzir founded – wrote about the history of the Science Division and the contributions of young scientists to national security in the nascent years of the state. The second prize went to scientist and journalist Amos Carmel for his book Ephraim Katzir – the Story of Life.
A citation was given to Grade Tet-1 of the IAF College of Technology, which compiled a digital presentation of aspects of Katzir’s personal life, his scientific work and achievements, and his term as president.
Dr. Udi Lebel, a lecturer in political psychology and political science who also does research into bereavement, memory and memorials, won the Prime Minister’s Prize for his book on Begin, The Path to the Pantheon.
Naor has also authored several books, among them A Government at War and Begin at the Helm, both of which deal directly with Begin’s term as prime minister.
A citation was also given to veteran journalist Shlomo Nakdimon, who was Begin’s media adviser toward the end of the 1970s.
■ IN ADDITION to his family, there were lots of Begin associates in the hall, among them Yehiel Kadishai, his faithful bureau chief; Ambassador Yehuda Avner, who flew with Begin to Washington in 1977 and who has written extensively about him; Nitza Ben- Elissar, the widow of Eliahu Ben-Elissar, the country’s first ambassador to Egypt; and Navon, who succeeded Katzir and became the first Israeli president to set foot in Egypt.
■ WHETHER OR not one agrees with his ultra-right-wing politics, one cannot deny that Itamar Ben-Gvir is a man of principle.
Seeking to beef up the ratings for the upcoming season of Big Brother, the show’s headhunters approached him and asked whether he would be willing to join the residents in the shared household in which everyone’s privacy is invaded.
Ben-Gvir said he needed time to think about it. After a couple of weeks, he met with the show’s producers and said that he had to be guaranteed that he would be able to properly observe Shabbat, including not being filmed; be served strictly kosher food; be free to pray three times a day; and not be asked to dress up in some ridiculous costume.
All this proved a little too much for the Big Brother people, and last week, in somewhat more polite terms, they said thanks, but no thanks.
■ THERE ARE very few things that Felice and Michael Friedson of Jerusalem would not do for their charismatic, 22-year-old, Americanborn son Gavy, who recently completed his army service – but they never figured on picking up an award in his name.
Gavy Friedson – who, in addition to his many talents, is also a paramedic – works as a volunteer with Hatzalah. He began volunteering with Magen David Adom at age 15 and never looked back. While in high school, he also volunteered with the fire department. He’s now been saving lives for seven years, and he answers more than 100 calls a month on his ambucycle, and on his own time, regardless of the hour. He does not allow religion, race or politics to impede his enthusiasm to help where help is needed. One example is Khalil Mousa Arakat, a restaurant employee who suffered a heart attack on the job; Friedson revived him with CPR.
Recently Friedson answered multiple calls from a single address over the course of a week, treating three out of four generations of the same family, from a two-week-old baby girl to her 100-year-old great-grandmother.
Even while in the army, first in a Nahal unit and then in the IDF Spokesman’s Office, he always went back to being a Hatzalah paramedic whenever he was on leave.
He was thrilled when the Jerusalem Municipality notified him that he was getting an award for volunteerism, but missed out on the award ceremony because he was in New York. He’s currently serving an internship there with the prestigious public relations firm of Sunshine Sachs & Associates, whose client list includes Barbara Streisand, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Jon Bon Jovi and the New York Jets.
Tempting though it may be to stay in the Big Apple, Friedson will be back in Israel in the fall to become a freshman at IDC Herzliya, where he will study communications.
■ DERVISH, AN exotic arts and crafts store in the heart of Tel Aviv, has long been a place of pilgrimage for people who don’t follow the herd when it comes to clothes, jewelry and home decor.
It began 45 years ago, when Miriam Mirvish, an anti-Apartheid activist, was given a choice: to stay in South Africa, where she was in danger of being arrested, or to leave.
She chose the latter and moved to Israel, where she was joined soon after by her younger sister Doreen Bahiri, who had been active in Habonim. Six months after Bahiri’s arrival, the sisters headed up to Mount Meron in the Galilee to see the Lag Ba’omer festivities. On their way back, they stopped off in Safed.
Someone suggested that they open an antique shop in the Artists’ Quarter of Safed’s Old City. Still young enough to take risks, they tossed a coin – heads they would do it, tails they wouldn’t. Heads it was, and Dervish was born. The two sisters traveled around the Druse and Arab villages in the North, learning about traditional Arab crafts and jewelry and meeting wonderful people.
But Safed, for all its charm, was not the best place for business, so in 1969 they decided to move the shop to Tel Aviv’s Bogroshov Street. In that location, the quest for merchandise expanded. Early back-packers, the sisters divided up the world – Bahiri went to South America, Mirvish to Southeast Asia, and they shared Africa. Everywhere they searched for and found beautiful items. As far as Israel was concerned, they were pioneers in their field. True, there were examples of North African and traditional Yemenite arts and crafts at Maskit, which had been started by Ruth Dayan to give new immigrant artists and craftspeople a chance to earn an income, but Maskit did not carry as much variety as Dervish.
Eventually the sisters moved their enterprise to Gordon Street, settling in the building between Uri Avnery’s Ha’olam Hazeh magazine and the monthly New Outlook – an ideal place, considering their own politics. In recent years, Dervish relocated to its present address at 21 Dov Hoz Street, close to the many art galleries in and around Gordon.
Mirvish passed away four years ago, but Bahiri continues to carry the torch of love for beautiful crafts and ethnic art. “Most of our clientele is Israeli, and the best customers are the obsessive collectors, lovers of beautiful arts and crafts,” she says. Among them are artists, writers, professors, dancers, psychologists, activists, a mix of former South Africans and native Israelis, as well as several Yemenites.
After every shopping trip, the sisters used to have a party, complete with refreshments featuring Bahiri’s Indian and Middle Eastern delicacies. She has kept up this practice since Mirvish’s passing, and last Friday, in celebration of Dervish’s 45th anniversary, she hosted a party for some 50 people, who relished the cool punch and watermelon but were more interested in seeing the hostess’s latest purchases.