Grapevine: In their own write

President Shimon Peres hosts female lovers of literature at panel of female writers.

President Shimon Peres with female writers panel 370 (photo credit: Marc Nieman/GPO)
President Shimon Peres with female writers panel 370
(photo credit: Marc Nieman/GPO)
Because HE will not be in Israel on March 8, which is International Women’s Day, President Shimon Peres paid tribute on Wednesday to Venus (as distinct from Mars) by hosting some 200 mostly female lovers of literature plus a panel of four women who have made their marks as journalists, novelists, poets and script writers. Journalist Shiri Artzi acted as moderator.
The others were novelist and playwright Yochi Brandes, journalist, poet and novelist Dorit Rabiniyan and editor and satirist Mika Almog, who happens to be the president’s granddaughter.
When introduced, Almog quipped, “My invitation said, ‘Come to the panel, but don’t come on Seder night.’” When asked by Artzi, Almog’s grandfather readily admitted to reading every word she writes in her column in Haaretz.
Peres was not the only man with a microphone at his disposal. Also present was lyricist, playwright and translator Dan Almagor, who is a professor of literature and who likes to dabble in the history of the country. Almagor, who had been doing research on the image of women in Hebrew poetry, mentioned a couple of feminist poets but noted that the most feminist poetry was written by a man – Yehuda Leib Gordon – more than 150 years ago. When Peres was asked to name his favorite literary heroine, he unhesitatingly replied Hannah Szenes, whom he had known personally.
They were at a seminar together, he recalled, and described her as a parachutist of extraordinary courage and a poet of great sensitivity. Peres also analyzed three iconic classics in which women are the main characters – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Peres drew the conclusion that male writers know nothing about women. The panelists disagreed, and unanimously credited David Grossman as a male writer who in his writings can completely take on a woman’s persona.
Almog said she looked forward to the day when discussion would shift from the differences between men and women to talk that was simply about people. Peres, who has long promoted the concept of treating women as equals, said that he had been present when David Ben-Gurion told Golda Meir that she was the only man in his government.
Looking around her, Golda had responded: “That’s no big deal.”
■ EARLIER IN the week, in the course of a tour of the area under the jurisdiction of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, Peres, always mindful that he used to be a kibbutznik, joined children and farmers in harvesting the tomato crop and was pleasantly surprised when told by farmer Zion Cohen that they had decided to name a tomato after him.
Possibly remembering when rotten tomatoes had been thrown him in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park during the Mimouna festivities in 1981, Peres was visibly moved to be honored with a tomato instead of being its target.
■ IF A show gets applause on its opening night, it’s a good sign, but it’s not necessarily a true sign because opening night carries with it a certain magic and goodwill. Maybe that’s the reason that the new musical, Ah Jerusalem, had two premieres instead of one. Some 20 minutes before the second show, producer/director and script writer Bernie Kukoff emerged from inside the theater to be instantly showered with hugs and kisses, the first one coming from his wife, Lydia, who has been a solid, supportive presence during the period it took to get the show on the road. The Kukoffs have been regular visitors to Israel for years and have many friends here.
If the hugs and kisses were warm before the show, they were more so afterwards from members of a highly appreciative audience that had laughed in all the right places and applauded after every song and even after some of the dance routines, especially after male lead Nitzan Sitzer briefly demonstrated his abilities at break-dancing and doing the splits. His parents, who have been to many rehearsals and who know the production inside out, probably applauded the loudest because they knew that their son had been so ill earlier in the day that they had taken him to a hospital emergency ward. But on stage, no one would have known. The consummate performer, living by the actors’ motto that the show must go on, continued to keep up appearances at the reception after the show as he mingled with the audience, receiving compliments and congratulations on all sides, as did Roni Yacobovitz, who plays his wife, and Miri Fraenkel, who plays his daughter.
Sitzer moved to Israel six years ago after spending a long time in Colorado and acting Off-Broadway. His proud mother is Israeli and said that her son had demonstrated his thespian talents from the time that he could walk. His first stage appearance was in Houston, Texas, when he was only three. The senior Sitzers have another child in the US, and a third in Japan. Nitzan Sitzer, who has appeared live and on television, is also a writer in addition to being an actor, singer, story-teller, mime and a voice behind many animated productions.
Now that Ah Jerusalem has successfully taken off, he wants to come back to Jerusalem’s Beit Shmuel with his own one-man show, Pichefkess, which has received favorable reviews elsewhere and can be seen on YouTube.
■ ON JUST about every street in Israel during Purim one could see people carrying cellophane-wrapped baskets adorned with colored ribbons and filled with assorted chocolates, candies, cookies, dried fruits and wine. The family of the late Dr. Martin Jerome Lee went one better, and presented five sets of ceramic vests and protective helmets to the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization. They also held a large Purim feast in his memory to mark the first anniversary of his passing.
Martin Jerome Lee, PhD, who served as CEO of Savyon Diagnostics in Ashdod, moved to Israel with his wife, Chavi, in 1999 after retiring as CEO and laboratory director of Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory in Asheville, North Carolina.
He held seven US patents and authored 38 scientific publications. He passed away at the age of 69, five years after suffering a debilitating stroke. According to Chavi Lee, who lives in Jerusalem, the family selected ZAKA as the beneficiary of a donation in her husband’s memory because, “everyone who lives in Israel has seen the ZAKA volunteers at work.
His family wants to remember him by contributing to ZAKA, a lifesaving rescue and recovery volunteer organization which Martin dearly admired and respected for its tireless dedication and contribution ‘on the front line’ of the Jewish State of Israel.”
ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav accepted the gift on behalf of the five ZAKA volunteers who will receive the protective vests and helmets, noting that during the recent hostilities in the South, ZAKA volunteers were particularly vulnerable, as the organization did not have enough protective gear for all of them.
“This donation will certainly help protect and save lives – those of the ZAKA volunteers and those who they try to help under fire,” he said.
■ THE HEBREW media has recently given a lot of attention to the various forms of mistreatment of senior citizens.
One person who appreciates senior citizens is Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who for Purim sent huge bouquets of flowers and letters of appreciation to a roster of honorary citizens in a gesture of appreciation for the dedication they have demonstrated in helping to enhance educational and recreational facilities for the city’s children and their families – a contribution, he wrote, that has been made only by the most caring citizens.
Sharing the flowers and the sentiments with the Friday Brunch Club at Café Neto in the city’s famed Dizengoff Center were honorary Tel Aviv-Jaffa citizens Sara Shapiro, Tamar Arieli, Zivia Green, Dalia Shatz and several others who meet there regularly. Regulars at the centrally located Dizengoff Center, such as the members of the Friday Brunch Club, occasionally catch sight of colorful and controversial former MK Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, one of the co-founders of the mall, who often comes down the stairs from his office and strolls through the corridors to meet and greet friends and acquaintances.
■ CELEBRATED AMERICAN lawyer, jurist and political commentator Alan Dershowitz who is an articulate and ardent defender of Israel, is in high demand as a public speaker. Dershowitz, who will be one of the keynote speakers at The Jerusalem Post’s annual Fighting for the Zionist Dream conference in New York on April 28, has also been named keynote speaker at the Gateways 15th anniversary benefit at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom on March 7. The benefit is in support of Gateways’s latest initiative. The Brownstone Experience, located in the city’s East Village, is a new vibrant educational and cultural center for collegiates and young professionals worldwide.
Honorees at the event will be real estate entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist Kevin Bermeister, who will receive the City of Jerusalem Award for his vision and commitment to build and develop Jerusalem with the launch of the Jerusalem Development Fund and Greg Gurevich, a founding partner of Maritime Capital, LLC, who will receive the Young Leadership Award in The Brownstone Russian Division for his passion and commitment to create new opportunities for Russian Jewish Youth to participate in Jewish life and for his support of the Brownstone Mission. Founded by Rabbi Mordecahi Suchard, Gateways, which is dedicated to Jewish continuity, works to nurture and sustain Jewish identity, strengthen a connection to Israel and empower participants to make informed decisions about their Jewish future.
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