Grapevine: The Herzogs in the headlines

The male offspring of president Chaim Herzog and his wife Aura, who is a personality in her own right, followed in their father’s footsteps, though not entirely.

MK Isaac Herzog 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Isaac Herzog 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
THE MALE offspring of president Chaim Herzog and his wife Aura, who is a personality in her own right, followed in their father’s footsteps, though not entirely.
Whereas Chaim Herzog was an army man, a lawyer, a diplomat, a businessman, an author and a politician; his three sons have divided his attributes, each taking only a portion and then still leaving something for their sister, Ronit Bronsky, who has chosen a different track. Isaac, the youngest of the three brothers, who currently heads the Labor party, was a lawyer in the leading law firm Herzog, Fox & Neeman, co-founded by his father before he embarked on a political career. Michael, the middle brother, who is currently an International Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People’s Policy Institute, had a long and illustrious military career before retiring from active duty in 2010, with the rank of Brigadier General. Joel, the eldest of the three brothers is a businessman and lives in Geneva. It is Michael Herzog, not Isaac, who will be the guest speaker Wednesday morning in the Jerusalem offices of The Israel Project.
In the aftermath of the most recent of the many visits to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Herzog, who is a former negotiator with the Palestinians, will give the media and other invitees an on-record briefing of current developments in the peace talks, with particular emphasis on the parameters of the reported US “framework” agreement.
Herzog has been involved in the peace process for the past 20 years.
Most recently, from June 2009 to March 2010, he served as special emissary to Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, in efforts to re-launch peace negotiations. He has participated in most of Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, Jordanians and Syrians, including the Wye Plantation summit, Camp David summit, the Taba negotiations, and the Annapolis summit and subsequent negotiations.
Interestingly, both Michael and Isaac Herzog have worked in different capacities with former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak. Isaac served as cabinet secretary when Barak was prime minister and Michael was chief of staff in the Defense Ministry when Barak was defense minister.
■ AFTER AN ABSENCE of a few months, the Channel 1 television program The Way it Was, hosted by Yigal Ravid, returned last week and included a segment featuring the last television interview given by founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion shortly before his death towards the end of 1973. In the interview, Ben-Gurion said he was in favor of trading land for peace with the exception of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Fast forward: a group of current high school students, when asked questions about Ben-Gurion, the answers to which should be common knowledge, knew practically nothing about him, and one even had the temerity to ask the interviewer why it was important. That’s one of the calamities of the Google era. But all is not lost, as proved on some of the television quiz shows, in which contestants who don’t look like nerds, display an extraordinary range of knowledge about a huge variety of subjects.
■ ISRAEL TODAY is not exactly what its founding fathers envisaged.
The mythological camaraderie expressed in the writings of Haim Guri, Yehuda Dekel and other poets and authors and journalists of the Palmach era no longer exist.
There is a lack of respect for the environment in which we live. The Nabi Yusha fortress in the Galilee, which is a national heritage site, was the scene of bitter battles in April and May of 1948 in which 28 soldiers lost their lives, some of them while trying to rescue their comrades in arms. The fortress is known as the Koach fortress. Koach in Hebrew means strength or force, but in this case it has a double meaning in that the gematria of koach is 28, which commemorates the number of fighters who fell there. A new museum alongside the Koach fortress is due to open this coming Friday, January 10. The new project called the Reut (camaraderie) Museum was initiated by Yehuda Dekel, the late chairman of the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, and industrialist Stef Wertheimer.
Twelve of the fallen soldiers were from Kibbutz Dafna where Dekel himself had trained for the Palmach.
They were all his friends.
Wertheimer also knew the fallen soldiers. His late wife Ruth had also trained at Kibbutz Dafna. One of the museum exhibits includes the hand written text of Haim Guri’s famous poem Hareut, which was set to music by Sasha Argov and was Yitzhak Rabin’s favorite song. It is almost always played or sung at events honoring Rabin’s memory.
Palmach veterans who will attend the launch on Friday are today in their 80s and 90s. This may be one of their last gatherings as the Palmach makes the final transition from memory to history.
■ FORMER PRIME MINISTER Ariel Sharon was also a pre-state fighter, who distinguished himself in the Haganah, and as early as 1949, was a company commander in the Golani Brigade, and continued from there to an illustrious military career, surviving serious injuries on more than one occasion. It would explain how the comatose Sharon also defied the diagnoses of his physicians who doubted that he would survive up till last weekend.
The attitude of the media with regard to Sharon’s last battle has been nothing short of ghoulish. For the best part of a week, and in some cases longer, television and radio crews have been camped around the clock at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, reporting verbatim, hour after hour, and sometimes with greater frequency, of the minimal changes in his deteriorating condition, the fact that he is never left alone and that members of his family, especially his sons Gilad and Omri, are always on hand. Then we see Omri climbing in or out of his Toyota, and we get an occasional glimpse of the hospital lobby, and an occasional comment from hospital director Prof.
Ze’ev Rotstein – but that’s it. Aside from that, the media has been busy eulogizing Sharon while he is still breathing. And of course there were the inevitable interviews with evacuees from Gaza who will never forgive him for forcing them out of their homes and in many cases, ruining their lives and those of their children. We will never know whether Sharon’s real intention in evacuating Israelis from Gaza, was to mount a battle against Hamas with no civilian Jewish casualties, or to pave the path to peace. Presumably, Ehud Olmert, who took over as prime minister after Sharon’s collapse, was not made privy to Sharon’s real intentions. However, it was Olmert – who this week remarked in the course of an address at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – who stated that Sharon became popular only after he became ill.
Speaking on Chanel 2, Avigdor Yitzhaki – who was director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office during the Sharon administration – declared that Sharon had introduced more economic reforms than any other prime minister and that many of the changes that he initiated are bearing fruit today, for instance the railway line between Beersheba and Dimona. Also, more housing for young families was constructed on his watch as housing and construction minister than at any other time. People who served under Sharon in the army said that they would follow him blindly because he never pulled rank on them, instead talking to them like buddies and eating with them. They never called him General or Commander. They called him Arik.
■ NOT WITHSTANDING THE amazing progress that has been made in cancer research in Israel and other parts of the world, there is so much more that has yet to be learned about the dreaded disease which comes in so many different forms and which is often fatal.
With the aim of advancing cancer research, co-founder of Amdocs and noted Israeli philanthropist Boaz Dotan and his wife Varda have donated $5 million to Tel Aviv University for the establishment of the Varda and Boaz Dotan Research Center in Hematology-Oncology.
The center was recently inaugurated on campus at a festive ceremony attended by the couple’s children, TAU President Joseph Klafter, the head of the center, Prof. Nadir Arber. Many senior TAU faculty and administrative staff were also on hand, including TAU cancer experts Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fanaro, Dr. Pia Ranani and Dr.
Shai Izraeli. Boaz Dotan has for more than three decades been involved in various executive capacities dealing in software systems.
Himself a mathematics graduate of TAU, Dotan noted at the inauguration ceremony that this was the first time that his family has donated to basic research and reached the decision to do so as an outcome of being impressed by TAU’s innovative scholarship. In thanking the Dotan family, both Klafter and Arber emphasized the importance of their contribution to fighting one of the world’s major causes of mortality. “The research of today is the treatment of tomorrow,” Arbir said. In addition to its research, the Dotan Center will host annual seminars and international conferences with the participation of the world’s leading hematology- oncologists, whose collaborative efforts are facilitating greater understanding, treatment and hopefully prevention of blood cancers such as leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma. More than 600 researchers and clinicians from different disciplines on campus and in the seventeen hospitals with which TAU is affiliated are engaged in cancer research through TAU’s Cancer Biology Research Center.
■ ALTHOUGH CHINESE New Year does not fall on the same date as that on the Gregorian calendar, Chinese ambassador Gao Yanping nonetheless decided to host a new year reception at her residence in Herzliya Pituah, where guests of honor included Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Perry and Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Danny Shechtman. In her welcoming address, Gao spoke of how Shanghai had opened its doors to Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust during the Second World War, and noted that China had also suffered from the war in which 300,000 innocent Chinese civilians were cruelly murdered during the Japanese invasion. Although she refrained from directly mentioning Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine, which also includes a number of notorious war criminals, it was obvious that this was what she was referring to when she called for the world to remember history and to uphold justice in post-war years. Under these circumstances, China should be able to empathize with Israel’s objections to streets in the Palestinians Authority being named after terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands.
■ WIDELY ACKNOWLEDGED as the most liberal city in the Middle East, Tel Aviv is also known as the LGBT capital of the Middle East, so it hardly comes as a surprise that the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality agreed to inaugurate a monument to commemorate members of the LGBT community who were persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity. The unveiling ceremony will take place this coming Friday, January 10, at 12 noon at Meir Park (Between King George and Tchernichovsky Streets). Participants will include Mayor Ron Huldai, German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis, former Council Member and head of the monument’s steering committee Adv. Eran Lev, and its scientific advisor Prof. Moshe Zimmerman of the Hebrew University. The ceremony will also be attended by the mayor’s advisor for LGBT Affairs, Council Member Yaniv Weizman, chair of the LGBT Center, TA Council Member Etai Pinkas, and other members of the LGBT community. The monument, shaped in the form of a pink triangle that is reminiscent of the triangle that members of the LGBT community were required to attach to their clothes in concentration camps, was designed by Moria Sekley Landscape Architecture and features short texts in Hebrew, German and English.
Under the Third Reich, homosexual relations were a felony and the Gestapo founded an anti-homosexual unit that compiled a list of nearly 100,000 persons who were alleged members of the LGBT community. An estimated 15,000 of those were sent to concentration camps. In Buchenwald, experiments were carried out with the intention of supposedly curing people from homosexuality. Being a lesbian was a cause for internment in the women’s camp of Ravensbrueck. Speaking ahead of the unveiling ceremony Huldai said: “In addition to the extermination of Europe’s Jews, the Nazis committed many atrocities in an attempt to destroy anyone who was considered “different.” This monument reminds us all how important it is for us to respect every human being. It is only natural that such a reminder will exist in Tel Aviv-Jaffa – a city that warmly embraces all groups and minorities.”
Michaelis noted: “A truly free society is a society that recognizes and respects the individual, irrespective of his race, gender, origin, religion, or sexual orientation. It is this total diversity that makes us equal. It is important that we put up monuments and name streets, in order to remember things that happened in the past. But they must be first and foremost reminders for the future.”
■ THE DAYS of Amir Gilat, the chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority may be numbered.
Gilat, who took up a three-year appointment in July, 2010, was supposed to complete his period of tenure five months ago, but decided that he would remain until at least March of this year. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan did not take any measures to prevent this, but Gilat’s continued presence in the IBA has been a nightmare for veteran IBA spokesperson Linda Bar, who believes Gilat is a misogynist. Initially, she thought that his verbal attacks on her and his attempts to undermine her status were because she refused to carry out tasks beyond her job description and that this was his way of getting even with her. The situation was exacerbated in March 2012 when the IBA opened new offices and Bar did not include a photograph of Gilat in the electronic press release that she sent out, but did include a photograph of IBA Director-General Yoni Ben-Menachem. Over time, Gilat made sure that Bar was not invited to meetings that she had always attended in the past, and when she was present, he either shouted at her or found other ways in which to humiliate her, such as going over her head to put out press releases that she never saw in advance. Bar eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. Her lawyer, Almogit Avital, sent letters of complaint to Gilat, Ben-Menachem and IBA plenum members as well as to other relevant people.
Eventually, an internal investigation was ordered by the IBA’s legal department with which Gilat refused to cooperate. Yaron Rupin, who was charged with the investigation, heard from many IBA staff members who had witnessed Gilat humiliating not only Bar but other female employees.
Gilat did not respond to Avital’s letter.
Gilat has also ridden rough-shod over decisions taken by the IBA plenum and the various IBA committees with the result that several members resigned.
Under IBA regulations, humiliation of female staff comes within the category of sexual harassment.
After several months of investigation into Bar’s charges, the IBA legal department on Gilat’s instructions, decided to start again from scratch, and to appoint someone else to investigate Bar’s claims.
This was too much for Avital, who filed a complaint with the Jerusalem Labor Court, which accepted the findings of the initial probe and on Thursday of last week ruled in Bar’s favor in that there would be no replacement for Rupin and that he be permitted to continue with the investigation.
Bar told The Jerusalem Post that she had been reluctant to take the matter to court, but that Gilat had left her no option.
“I did it not just for myself, but for all the women whose lives he made miserable but who were too frightened to lodge a complaint.”
Whether Gilat will leave of his own accord in March or whether the court case will serve to oust him remains to be seen, but given that he has already overstayed his term, one way or another, his days at the IBA would appear to be numbered.
■ MOST OF the younger audiences attending Yiddishpiel performances do not understand Yiddish at all, or do not understand it well enough to be able to follow what’s happening on stage without referring to the electronic illuminated simultaneous translations into Russian and Hebrew above the stage. Younger audiences usually go to those productions in which their friends are performing. Yiddishpiel has been an excellent springboard for young actors and actresses – especially those from the former Soviet Union – who are trying to break into Israeli theater.
One of the current productions, Dzigan and Shumacher, which was written by B. Michael and Ephraim Sidon and based on the story and material of the two master Yiddish comedians, Szymon Dzigan and Yisroel Shumacher, stars Yaakov Bodo and Dovele Glickman. At 82, Bodo is still a bundle of energy, who can raise a laugh or cause a tear depending on whether he’s playing a comic or dramatic role.
On one particular night last week, the audience wasn’t laughing – and not just because many comedy lines lose something in translation. As technologically advanced as Israel is, it hasn’t yet come up with a foolproof device that prevents technical failures in electric and electronic products.
Something went wrong with the simultaneous translation appliance, and the audience stopped laughing because it didn’t understand the punch lines. The two actors spontaneously began to improvise in Hebrew until the translations were restored, and got quite a few laughs in the process.
■ AUTHOR, ARTIST, graphic designer and teacher Iris Fishof will have the Israel launch of her latest book Jewelery in Israel: Multicultural Diversity 1948 to the Present at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan on January 15. The event is being hosted by Shenkar’s Department of Jewelry Design, where Fishof has been a lecturer since 2005. In the book, which required years of research, Fishof traces the integration and fusion of Eastern and Western jewelry design traditions which resulted in innovative creations. She also deals with the influences that inspired the artists. Fishof, who studied Art History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem subsequently worked from 1983 to 2003 as Chief Curator of Judaica and Jewish Ethnography at the Israel Museum. Some of the experience and knowledge that she gained there is reflected in her book.
■ TEL AVIV restaurateur Frida Hecht, who rose to national celebrity status through her participation in the TV reality show Big Brother, has closed her restaurant on Ben Yehuda Street, after a 14 year run. Up until three years ago, Hecht’s business was doing reasonably well, but then Big Brother got in the way, and she wasn’t on hand to control her business operations, rival establishments opened up nearby, money became tighter, her clientele decreased and her debts increased. It was obvious to her that if she remained in the restaurant things would get a lot worse before they got better – if at all.
There really was no option other than to quit. Hecht wrote on her Facebook last week that she could not believe that she would get up on Sunday and not have to cook.
She did go to the restaurant to complete her packing, but she neither served nor prepared any meals.
■ CONTROVERSIAL ACTRESS and television anchor woman Tzofit Grant, who is the wife of football manager Avram Grant, is the presenter in a radio and television commercial for the Histadrut in which she urges all employees to become unionized. There was a time when unions were very strong in Israel, but over the past 20 years, with only a few exceptions, unions lost their strength, and it became increasingly easier for employers to downsize their staff without having to fork out huge sums in severance pay. But what goes around comes around, and unions are once again gaining in strength as workers battle for their rights.
The television commercial is short, sweet and effective showing all the staff spontaneously gathering behind a colleague who is about to be fired. When the CEO looks up and sees them all in front of him, he realizes that if he goes ahead with his plan, there will be a general strike if not a complete walk out.
He instantly changes his mind about the dismissal. Even without the text that follows, the message is loud and clear: organized unity is strength. Sometimes, it’s the shortest path to social justice.
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