Grapevine: The politics of romance

The Hebrew media has been obsessed in recent weeks with the romance of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and television anchor woman Geula Even.

Efi Stenzler 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Efi Stenzler 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Hebrew media has been obsessed in recent weeks with the romance of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and television anchor woman Geula Even.
Sa’ar, a father of two, was recently divorced from his wife, Shelly, after 22 years of marriage.
Even, a mother of three, split up from her husband, Amit Oberkovitz, a senior executive with the Israel Electric Corporation a few months ago, after 20 years of marriage.
Sa’ar and Even have been hounded by paparazzi and were finally caught on camera holding hands at a concert a couple of weeks ago. More recently, she accompanied him to a Saturday morning talk show. But now the situation has been exacerbated by a controversial decision on the part of the powers-that-be at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which last week named Even and political reporter Ayala Hasson as coanchors of the Knesset elections broadcast.
Hasson, who is also a Thursday radio anchor and a Friday night weekend magazine anchor on television, tends to inject her own opinion into reports, but more problematic is the fact that Even has a conflict of interests. Considering Sa’ar’s ranking on the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list, he cannot be ignored as an election night interviewee.
The Ethics Committee of the Israel Broadcasting Authority met this week to discuss the problem after receiving several requests to have Even replaced on Election Night. Opinions among committee members were divided as to whether Even was sufficiently professional to put her emotional interests on the back burner, but there was consensus that as things stand, the situation doesn't look good.
■ SPECULATION is rife as to whether US President Barack Obama will come to Israel in June to join in the 90th birthday celebrations of President Shimon Peres, which will be held in conjunction with the fifth Presidential Conference on Facing Tomorrow that brings together past and present world leaders as well as prominent figures in hi-tech, business and academia.
Although Obama visited Israel and called on Peres during his first presidential campaign, he has not visited since taking office, whereas his predecessor, George W. Bush, attended the inaugural Presidential Conference and Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, who was no longer in office but still enormously popular, was among the attendees at the 80th birthday celebrations for Peres, which were jointly organized by then-president Moshe Katsav, prime minister Ariel Sharon and deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert.
It’s interesting to see what happened to them in the interim as compared to what happened to Peres. Clinton wowed the audience of luminaries assembled in Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium when he joined singer Liel Kolet along with a choir of 40 Jewish and 40 Arab youngsters in singing “Imagine.” The performance has been preserved for posterity on YouTube.
Peres has brought his birthday forward by two months. He was born in August, but gravitates in his celebrations between August 2 and August 16. Perhaps his birth certificate, though not as controversial as Obama’s would help to clear up the mystery of the correct date.
This year’s Presidential Conference will take place on June 18-20 at the Jerusalem International Conference Center, with an emphasis on the human factor in shaping tomorrow. The conference theme was taken from Peres’s own philosophies: the beliefs that people tend to underestimate their own abilities to influence change and that leaders should govern less and serve more.
Several organizations and institutions have timed their annual meetings to coincide with the Presidential Conference so that members can participate in what is widely regarded as a historic event.
Peres is currently the oldest head of state in office, and it is presumed that his 90th birthday celebration will attract presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers from most of the countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations, thereby guaranteeing that the occasion will be an international leadership summit. It would be a real coup if Queen Elizabeth II of England, who four years ago conferred an honorary knighthood on Peres, was to at long last pay a state visit to Israel. But that is highly unlikely.
Peres receive an early birthday present in his January salary, which will be increased to NIS 53,457 per month.
■ AT THE opening on Sunday at the President’s Residence of the Foreign Ministry’s fourth annual Heads of Israeli Missions Conference, photographers and television camera crews focused primarily on Yossi Gal. Israel’s ambassador to France and a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Gal sat on the ministry’s appointments committee, which was allegedly influenced by then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who wanted to appoint Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, to the position of ambassador to Latvia. Ben-Aryeh has been convicted of breach of trust for passing classified information to Liberman about police investigations pertaining to the latter. It was believed in some quarters that the appointment to Latvia was Liberman’s way of rewarding him.
Liberman did not report the incident and on Sunday was charged with fraud and breach of public trust. Gal can either corroborate or deny statements made by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as to what Liberman did or did not do. Ayalon has given two conflicting versions of the story.
■ AS TOUGH as things are for Liberman at the moment, there was a certain joy and comfort for him last week when his granddaughter, Hoshen Lev, was with a group of kindergarten children who toured the Knesset. The big hug she gave him temporarily put everything else in the category of secondary importance. Liberman is among the speakers listed to attend the 51st general meeting of the Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce at the Dan Panorama Hotel tomorrow. Other politicians who have indicated that they will also address the 800 business people attending include: Shelly Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni, Yuval Steinitz and Yair Lapid.
■ KEREN KAYEMETH LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund world chairman Efi Stenzler branched out from planting trees to celebrate with one of the most important seeds he has ever sown – his daughter, Shir Stenzler Kligler, who not only completed her law degree with outstanding results, but was also accepted as a member of the Israel Bar Association.
■ AFTER BEING all but ignored for decades, the English-speaking electorate to the Knesset is gaining in importance and attention.
Almost every English-speaker among the would-be MKs in the January 22 election is attending English language parlor meetings, panel discussions and Saturday morning cultural events in which they are interviewed by a leading personality. The Jerusalem Post is conducting a number of such events in conjunction with Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel and the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, including one tonight at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv.
In Jerusalem this evening, the Israel Democracy Institute is hosting a panel discussion on “Do Israel’s Religious Parties Have a Future?” Although the discussions will be in Hebrew, journalists attending the event can schedule interviews in English with MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem, chairman of Am Shalem; MK Tzipi Hotovely, Likud; MK Uri Orbach, Bayit Yehudi; Rabbi Shai Piron, No. 2 on the Yesh Atid Party list; Rabbi Yitzhak Levy, Israel Diamond Institute’s head of implementation and a former education minister and National Religious Party MK; and Prof. Yedidia Stern, IDI vice president of research.
Next Tuesday, the Israel Project in conjunction with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will host a pre-election foreign policy debate at the Truman Institute on HU’s Mount Scopus campus at 10 a.m. with Naftali Bennett, who heads Bayit Yehudi; Amram Mitzna of the Tzipi Livni Party; MK Isaac Herzog, Labor; Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael Beytenu; and Ya’acov Peri, Yesh Atid. The debate will be in English, and there will be subsequent events in English hosted by various bodies before January 22.
■ HE HAS been announcing for some time that he will be leaving his job as director of Mishkenot Sha’ananim – but Uri Dromi is not really going very far and will in fact be operating under more or less the same umbrella as before. After establishing the Jerusalem Press Club, which will open officially in June under the auspices of the Jerusalem Foundation., Dromi is – for want of a better expression – moving downstairs.
The Jerusalem Press Club is located in the premises of what was the original Montefiore Restaurant, which operated in Yemin Moshe and which, in its time, was considered to be the best that the capital could offer in haute cuisine. Dromi hopes to give the press club no less prestigious a reputation.
The building will have every state-of-theart facility that an electronic or print media reporter could want. It will have a well stocked bar and cafeteria, plus a view that few places in Jerusalem can match. It will be open not only to journalists but also to diplomats and decision-makers. It will host lectures, media conferences and press briefings and will also provide privacy for interviews or, alternately, the backdrop of the walls of the Old City or nearby Arab villages for stand-up reports and interviews. How this will affect Aryeh Green, the director of Media Central, which has more or less been doing the same job in downtown Jerusalem in less space and without the historic scenery, is yet to be determined. After five years in his previous post, Dromi, who is himself a journalist and a former director of the Government Press Office during the Rabin and Peres administrations, is all set for new challenges, if not exactly new horizons.
■ FIVE YEARS seems to be a benchmark period for moving on. Many local and foreign media representatives who cover events at the President’s Residence will miss assistant spokesperson Meital Jaslovitz, who, after five years of asking dignitaries to pose for handshakes with Peres, travelling abroad with the president, learning to switch time zones without falling asleep on the job, writing press releases and becoming au fait with all the latest electronic gadgets and social apps, has decided to look for something new.
The last five years, she says, have been an unforgettable educational experience that she would not have missed for anything, but she figured that as she’s getting married sometime this year and changing her status, she may as well go all the way. Meetings with Jewish communities abroad in the course of her work with the president have given her an appetite for strengthening relations between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, but she has yet to decide on her particular niche. With all the connections that she’s made over the past five years, she would certainly be a good facilitator and could easily represent one or more overseas Jewish organizations or institutions in Israel.
■ HAD SHE not passed away a year ago, songstress Yaffa Yarkoni would have celebrated her 87th birthday on December 24.
Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 12 years prior to her death, her condition began to seriously deteriorate in 2007, worsening to the extent that not only could she no longer recognize anyone, but she could no longer sing or even hum a melody.
And yet, in her life time she recorded more than 1,400 songs, 400 of which were children’s songs. She and fellow diva Shoshana Damari were known as the songstresses of the wars because they never hesitated to go out into the field during wartime to sing to the troops. To mark the first anniversary of Yarkoni’s passing, her family organized a concert of her bestknown songs at Reading 3 on the Port of Tel Aviv with many other singers, including her grandson, Yishai Suissa, who sang along with her when he was a child. This time he sang a duet with Corrine Allal.
Among the other performers who presented their own interpretations of songs made famous by Yarkoni were Ahinoam Nini with Gil Dor, Shula Chen, Esther Rada, Galit Giat and Ravid Kahalani. The event was so successful that Yarkoni’s family plans to make it an annual tradition so that the songs she sang will not be forgotten.
Her own renditions will not be forgotten either. There is more than enough archive footage available to provide “fresh” material for screening every year. There was also a screening last Friday.
■ ATHLETES HANG up their running shoes or their football cleats when they retire, but it isn’t certain what sportscasters hang, since their tool of trade – the microphone – does not belong to them. For all that, veteran sportscaster Danny Dvorin was given an emotional farewell on both Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet and Channel 1 on Saturday as a host of broadcasting, political and sporting personalities joined together in wishing him well and saying that listening to sportscasts won’t the same without him.
Over the past four or five years, several of the IBA’s longtime leading lights have retired – among them Haim Yavin, Daniel Pe’er, Dalia Mazor and Sari Raz – but none was given quite the kind of farewell that Dvorin received after 43 years of, in his own words, being paid to work on his favorite hobby. Among the politicians who wished him well were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and MK Roni Bar-On; among the sports people, Haim Revivo, Eli Ohana, Mickey Berkowitz and fellow broadcaster Bonni Ginsburg – who, like Dvorin, is a former soccer player – and, naturally, all the sportscasters of Israel Radio and Channel 1. Over and over again, Dvorin was praised for his professionalism, for his vast knowledge and for being a gentleman who refrained from castigating onair a player who missed the ball or the goal or an athlete who didn’t live up to expectations and came in last in the race.
The farewells continued until Monday, which was officially his last day of work, and he still managed to broadcast some sport- related news. It was also the last working day at the IBA for another veteran broadcaster, Gaby Yinon, who worked as a news reader and presenter of jazz and classical music programs .His voice was also heard on commercials, which he will presumably continue with on a freelance basis.
Over the next few months there are going to be a lot of farewells at the IBA.
■ THERE WERE quite a number of Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) veterans, including Rafi Eitan and Gad Sharon, among the hundreds of people who attended the opening of the exhibition by artist Naftali Bezem at the Tel Aviv Museum last week.
It transpires that Bezem, who is now 88, worked for both security organizations during the 15 years that he spent in France and supplied them with false passports when necessary. There were also several Yekkes, most notably industrialist Stef Wertheimer, who came to take pride in one of their own.
Bezem, like Wertheimer, was born in Germany.
■ WHEN HE was in Beit She’an this week for the laying of the cornerstone for the renewal of the Jezreel Valley Railway, which operated from 1905 to 1948, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also met up with former Foreign Minister David Levy, who hosted Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz in his home. Levy’s daughter, MK Orly Levy, was also present as was his son, Jackie, who is the mayor of Beit She’an. Work on the new railway track is scheduled for completion in 2016.
■ IMMIGRANT ARTISTS from Western countries who are living in the north of Israel have joined forces to produce a group exhibition under the title “From There to Here” which will open on January 5 at the Lady Roslyn Lyons Gallery on the campus of Ort Braude Academic College in Karmiel.
The venture, featuring 15 artists, is jointly sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Jewish Agency, JNF-KKL and the Ort Braude Academic College of Engineering in Karmiel