Grapevine: Remembering Yoni Netanyahu

Documentary 'Follow Me?' tells the story of PM's brother's commitment to famous Entebbe rescue mission in which he was killed.

Remembering Yoni Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Remembering Yoni Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
■ PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are known to be film buffs, and when security was not quite as tight as it is now, they would occasionally sneak into a Jerusalem cinema after the lights had been turned down and would leave just before the end of the movie so that no one would recognize them.
They can’t do that anymore, but they can watch movies in their own home or in the homes of relatives and friends.
Follow Me?, the movie that they watched last Saturday night at the Herzliya Pituah residence of US Ambassador Dan Shapiro was of particular personal interest because it was about Netanyahu’s older brother Jonathan, better known as Yoni, who led the famous Entebbe rescue mission in which he was killed.
The documentary tells the story of Yoni Netanyahu’s commitment to the mission. Also among those who watched the film were Ido Netanyahu, the youngest of the three Netanyahu brothers, along with other Netanyahu relatives and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife Nili. In preliminary remarks, the prime minister recalled the traumatic experience of telling his parents that Yoni had been killed in Entebbe. Netanyahu said that the older he gets, the more he appreciates Yoni’s special character, which was a rare fusion of humanity, leadership and limitless dedication to the state. “There isn’t a day that I don’t think about him,” said Netanyahu. Shapiro expressed his appreciation to the Netanyahus for accepting his invitation, sharing some of their memories of Yoni and talking about his legacy.
■ “THIS IS a lady ambassador with balls,” a member of Israel’s hi-tech community said admiringly of petite Chinese Ambassador Gao Yanping who had just delivered a lesson in good manners. The occasion was a reception at the Dan hotel in Tel Aviv for a hi-tech delegation from Changzhou led by the city’s Mayor Yao Xiodong. The crowded reception room in which the event was held is notorious for its problematic acoustics, and the situation is always exacerbated by the number of guests who persist in talking regardless of who may be delivering a speech.
The fact that Gao was speaking primarily in Chinese was not an excuse because everything she said was translated into Hebrew and shown on a mega screen. As the ruckus grew ever louder, drowning out Gao’s voice to the extent that those positioned near her could barely hear her, she switched to English and told the crowd reprovingly that even though they found it more exciting to talk to each other, if they paid attention to her remarks they could learn a lot about China, about China-Israel relations and even about themselves.
There was temporary silence but the noise level rose once again during the address by Yao, who emphasized the advantages of economic cooperation between Israel and China, both of which managed to maintain stable economies during a period of global economic instability. The event was co-hosted by the PTL Group of Companies, Matrix, the Israel Management Center and Cukierman and Company Investment House in the presence of Minister for Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon. Representatives of the host companies spoke warmly of their business dealings with China and also spoke enthusiastically about the fact that 80,000 students are studying for hi-tech professions in Chasngzhou.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is winding up a week-long visit to China, was feted by Gao, who hosted a dinner in his honor prior to his departure. Gao told him that his stay in China would deepen his understanding of China’s development and of opportunities to broaden and deepen Sino-Israel relations. Liberman spoke of the significance that Israel attaches to its relationship with China and said that during the visit, which is his first, he hoped to promote greater cooperation and bilateral exchanges in diverse fields.
■ THE IRISH are known for their blarney, but not at St. Patrick’s Day receptions – at least not those hosted by Irish ambassadors to Israel. While most national day receptions hosted by members of Israel’s diplomatic community include a speech by the ambassador and a speech by the minister who has come to deliver the greetings of the Israeli government, the Irish prefer to just let people have a good time with the help of Irish beer, plenty of food and good music throughout the night.
Like his predecessors, Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilley chose not to make any speeches and, while he was more than delighted that Minister for Homefront Security Matan Vilnai was coming to the reception on behalf of the government, the message that went out from the Irish embassy to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (which arranges government representation) was “No speeches, please.” Whether he’s a minister or in opposition, as is currently the case, one parliamentarian who always shows up is MK Isaac Herzog, who accompanies his mother, Aura Herzog. The MK’s grandfather, Isaac Halevi Herzog was chief rabbi of Ireland, and during his period of service there, his two sons, Chaim and Yaacov, were born. Both sons became ambassadors for Israel. Chaim was sent to the United Nations and Yaacov to Canada. Both also served the State of Israel in many other high-ranking and sensitive positions. Chaim Herzog was Israel’s sixth president.
■ THESE DAYS almost everyone has something to say about Iran. Two visiting German politicians have urged Israel and the world to desist from taking the military option that would curtail Iran’s nuclear program and to instead take tougher economic sanctions and to also try to engage in dialogue not only with Iran, but also with Hamas.
Speaking last week at the Hebrew University under the joint auspices of the Heinrich Boll Foundation and The Israel Council on Foreign Relations, Jurgen Tritten, a former minister of the environment and currently co-chair of the Alliance 90/The Greens in the German Bundestag and Kerstin Muller, former minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently spokeswoman for Alliance 90/The Greens warned that military intervention might fuel a “selffulfilling prophecy” that would cause even greater instability in the region than has been generated by the Arab Spring.
Both Tritten and Muller spoke not only from a German perspective but primarily from that of the European Union.
The EU has to deal with new forces in the Arab world, especially Islamist groups and parties, said Muller, who warned against isolating such groups.
“We must have dialogue with them,” she said.
While acknowledging that “Iran is the most important issue and challenge for the EU,” Muller advocated caution as the world becomes “more one-dimensional and is moving towards military intervention.”
Muller is inclined to give Iran the opportunity to live up to the promises that it had made to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton. Rather than military action, Muller wants the EU to talk with Israel and the United States about alternative options. She was fearful that with all the talk about a possible military strike, Iran may decide to build a nuclear bomb – a decision which may not have yet been taken, she said, as she envisaged what could happen to Tel Aviv if that dire decision eventuates.
■ TOURISM MINISTER Stas Misezhnikov last week greeted his French counterpart, Minister Frédéric Lefebvre who was in Israel to discuss ways in which to strengthen tourism ties between France and Israel.
While in Jerusalem, Lefebvre, who was accompanied by French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, signed a document outlining new work plans.The document was a continuation of the tourism agreement between Israel and France that was signed in Paris in November 2011. The plan places special emphasis on information exchanges, including matters relating to professional training.
The countries will collaborate on matters related to cuisine, preservation of historical and cultural sites, rural tourism and initiatives for development and leveraging small tourist-oriented businesses in Israel and France. France is the thirdlargest source country for incoming tourism to Israel, and in 2012 the Ministry of Tourism will invest more than NIS 12 million in marketing tourism to Israel from France.
Lefebvre visited various Israeli sites and also got a glimpse and a taste of Israel’s culinary training at the Dan Gourmet School, which trains young chefs to take their places in the kitchens of the hotels in the Dan chain. The visit was to promote cooperation between the Dan Gourmet School and a leading culinary arts institution in Paris. Lefebvre and Bigot were taken on a culinary tour by Haim Spiegel, who heads the Dan chain’s food and beverage department and Dan Gourmet general manager Raviv Schwartz, who introduced them to both experienced and trainee chefs and to what was being prepared in the kitchen. Lefebvre is a hands-on minister who likes to be involved in all aspects of the tourism industry so that he can help facilitate better connections between French touristoriented establishments and their counterparts abroad.
■ ISRAEL’S GOVERNMENT ministers are very busy these days meeting with representatives of foreign countries, especially those celebrating milestone anniversaries of their diplomatic ties with Israel.
Among these is the Republic of South Korea, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its diplomatic relations with Israel and, in an effort to develop this relationship even further, has signed an agreement for the establishment of an Israel Korea Collaboration Fund in the realm of science and technology.
A special delegation came from South Korea for the signing ceremony and was accompanied by Korean Ambassador Kim Il-Soo to a meeting with Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz. On the evening prior to the signing ceremony, the delegation was hosted at the home of Korean Honorary Consul Amichai Orkabi, where one of the other dinner guests was Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman, whom the Koreans were thrilled to meet.
■ GENDER NOTWITHSTANDING, love conquers all. Even though they do not have rabbinic approval, gay marriages are on the rise in Israel and many are conducted as much as possible according to the customs embodied in Jewish tradition. Case in point was the marriage of Naor Amos Shimoni, 27, to Liron Arazi, 30, which took place at the Novo banquet hall at the Port of Tel Aviv in the presence of some 300 guests. The ceremony was conducted under a bridal canopy and, in the absence of a rabbi, the honors were performed by Amir Faye Guttman, who took his role very seriously. The 35-year-old entertainer is celebrating the second anniversary of his own gay marriage to Yanai Fischer.
Both grooms looked exceedingly happy.
■ IT’S NOT every day that a bunch of Cornell alumni living in Israel find themselves in court. They were neither plaintiffs nor defendants, but had come to hear fellow Cornell alumnus Steve Adler, former president of the National Labor Court and currently a visiting lecturer at Cornell, and current NLC president Nili Arad speak about the activities of the court and compare the rights of Israelis to those of Americans.
Arad, who spoke in Hebrew, sought to dispel the public’s misconception that the Labor Court deals only with strikes.
“That’s what they read about all the time in the newspapers, but they don’t really know what the Labor Court is,” she said. While the Labor Court does in fact deal with the a lot of strikes, it also deals with every aspect of employeremployee relations, with national health laws and with the rights of the individual beyond the workplace. The Labor Court is socially oriented and is “a social platform for the State of Israel,” said Arad. “If you want to receive your rights in any sphere – you name it – this is the address.
According to Arad, the Labor Court has greater authority than any other court; a decision by the NLC cannot be appealed in the Supreme Court. Despite media reports that the public has lost faith in the court system, the Labor Court, according to Arad, remains popular and when in session is always full, with people sitting there from morning to night. One of the reasons that the wooden benches are so hard and uncomfortable, she quipped, is in the hope that people would be disinclined to settle in.
The judges in the Labor Courts work much harder than any lawyer, she said. There are five district Labor Courts in Israel plus the NLC serviced by 60 judges who deal with a collective annual case load of 44,000 files. Arad recommends in almost every case that the two sides go to mediation rather than depend on a court ruling that may be more difficult for them to accept than any compromise they might agree on.
Americans don’t appeal to a Labor Court to settle disputes because America has no Labor Court. Adler, who spoke in English, noted that whereas Israel is a welfare state with laws that benefit its citizens, America is not, which is why 50 million people in America have no health insurance coverage.
In Israel funerals are free.
In America they’re very expensive.
Pregnant women in the workplace have many more rights in Israel than they do in America. Education is also much more expensive in America, he stated, citing Cornell tuition fees at around $50,000 a year compared to the $7000 – $8,000 charged by Israeli universities.
Adler also mentioned the partnership between Cornell and the Haifa Technion in applying for a tender issued by New York City for the construction of a hi-tech campus that will turn Manhattan into a Silicon Valley, giving dramatic impetus to the city’s economy.
The Cornell-Technion team won the tender, and the first phase of the campus will open next year.
■ ALTHOUGH THERE is a specific date for International Women’s Day, there are so many events focusing on the numerous aspects of women’s roles in society that the entire month of March has been designated as Women’s Month. This evening, March 21, filmmaker Amy Kronish will show images of women in Israeli and Palestinian film within the framework of the film and discussion series on contemporary issues on Israel and the region that is being held by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel at ICCI’s Educational Center, 43a Emek Refaim, Jerusalem. The films will focus on women rooted in the land and discussions will be on issues of security and what women can do to reach across the divide.
■ JABOTINSKY INSTITUTE executive-director Yossi Ahimeir never misses an opportunity to promote Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s philosophy. It seems that no subject escaped the attention of the Revisionist leader, including that of the status of women. Last week the institute launched a new edition of Jabotinsky’s book, The Image of Women in Jabotinsky’s Eyes.
The original edition was published 49 years ago and, according to Ahimeir, the contents are particularly relevant today..
Discussants at the launch included Education Minister Gideon Saar, retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, scholar of Jewish mysticism and journalist Dr. Mor Altshuler and author Galila Chen-Feder-Amit. Saar noted that he had quoted Jabotinsky at the appointments ceremony of the Council for Higher Education, which has never previously included as large a ratio – almost 50 per cent – of women as it has now. He said that he was determined when making the appointments to give women more than just a token voice.
Israeli society does not come anywhere near Jabotinsky’s ideal, said Dorner, who noted the ongoing lack of equal gender representation. She was proud of the role played by the justice system in the advancement of the status of women in Israel. Women leaders are not a novelty in Jewish history, Altshuler underscored, citing Biblical heroines, specifically Deborah, on whom she based the bulk of her remarks.
■ WOMEN ALSO featured in one of the regular literary events hosted this week by President Shimon Peres at his official residence. These events usually consist of a panel discussion between the president and a select number of his guests. On this occasion, with a handful of exceptions, the guests in the audience were all women. The panelists. all mothers and daughters, included Supreme Court Justice Edna Arbel and her daughter, oncologic gynecologist Dr. Sagit Arbel-Alon, who is also a poet; television news presenter and reporter Lucy Aharish, who was the first Arab news presenter on mainstream television, with her mother Salwah Aharish, who sent all three of her daughters to regular Israeli schools and taught them not to judge people by creed or color but by character, while always remembering their own Arab culture; actress/model Yael Abecassis and her mother, singer/actress Raymonde Abecassis; and best-selling novelist Yehudit Rotem and her daughter, journalist Tamar Rotem. They discussed mother- daughter relations as well as how mothers and daughters are portrayed in literature, also recalling some of Israel’s bestknown female poets.
Though Peres said that he felt somewhat out of place among the women, he read from the works of his two favorite female poets, Leah Goldberg and Yona Wallach, and said that it was a pity that Goldberg had been denied the most creative thing in the world – to produce life. She had never married and never been a mother, but was extremely attached to her own mother.
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