Grapevine: Well past 64

Several members of his peer generation are no less active than President Shimon Peres.

Peres Barcelona (photo credit: יוסף אבי יאיר אנגל)
Peres Barcelona
(photo credit: יוסף אבי יאיר אנגל)
To a 16-year-old, any age over 50 is ancient. When Paul McCartney, now 71, wrote “When I’m 64,” he was only 16.
The song, recorded by The Beatles in December 1966, is one of the enduring hits of the album released in June 1967 under the title Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
If 64 was considered old when McCartney was still an adolescent, imagine what the attitude was to 90. But 90 has become the new 50.
If we look at the lifestyle of Israel’s No. 1 citizen, who goes on enjoying himself and doing the unexpected, that factor becomes obvious.
Several members of his peer generation are no less active than President Shimon Peres. If things keep going in this direction, it will no longer be a traditional blessing among Jews, when wishing someone “Happy Birthday,” to add “Till 120” – because 120 will no longer be regarded as unattainable or even old! Indeed, in the Carpathian Mountains, there are recorded cases of people who lived well beyond 120.
There is always lots of interest and variety in the president’s schedule – and this week was no exception. It started off on a geopolitical note with a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The following day, Peres visited Google’s Tel Aviv campus and helped launch the new Android Code Game Laboratory.
He also inspected various Google projects and even mounted a bike that has a Google Street View device attached to the handlebars.
In his youth, he used to ride a motorcycle.
On Tuesday, the first day of the new school year, he visited the Shalom School in Jerusalem’s Malha neighborhood. There, he was joined by Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely, whose responsibilities include road safety campaigns, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. All donned bright yellow road safety vests and helped first graders to cross the road – though usually it’s the other way around, with schoolchildren helping senior citizens to cross the road.
Then, on Wednesday, Peres met with a German delegation representing 400 German magazine publishers, who presented him with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of his ongoing efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and reconciliation with Germany. On Thursday, he realized the dream of many small boys when he went on a tour of Israel Police headquarters in Jerusalem.
These are only the highlights of his week, as there were many more meetings and tours.
Peres has an insatiable curiosity about almost everything, which makes him one of the most hardworking of public servants. Yet for all that, there will be a cut in his next salary payment. This salary erosion, effective from August salaries onward, also applies to the prime minister, other government ministers, MKs and civil servants.
In this way, at the beginning of the year, the president’s monthly salary was NIS 54,200. From now until the end of the year, it will be reduced by 1 percent to NIS 53,658. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s salary, which was NIS 46,700 at the beginning of the year, is now NIS 46,233; while other government ministers have had their salaries reduced from NIS 41,900 to NIS 41,481. MKs were receiving NIS 38,300 at the beginning of the year but will now be paid NIS 37,917.
However, this is only a temporary measure and all the salaries will be raised again at the beginning of 2014. In fact, they will not only be restored but increased, so that the president will be earning NIS 55,000; the prime minister NIS 47,250; other government ministers NIS 42,393; and MKs NIS 39,054. Obviously, none of them had or will have a problem with the price of cottage cheese.
■ THE MORE political parties there are, the lower the chances of the winner of an election having a significant majority. From the comfortable position that he seemed to occupy six months ago, when there was little doubt that he would serve a second term, Barkat is facing increasing opposition in the race for mayor of the capital.
He may have made a serious mistake in dropping deputy mayor Naomi Tsur from his list. Tsur and council member Edna Friedman have teamed up to form a new party, Ometz – which was officially launched this week. Their list includes a broad social mosaic of religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, Jewish and non-Jewish, immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia, etc. Two of the major issues on the party’s platform are the greening of Jerusalem and the advancement of the status of women. Long before the party was formed, green activists in the capital were campaigning on a regular basis in the city’s Ben-Yehuda Pedestrian Mall. Presumably, Ometz will also receive support from Women of the Wall.
Meanwhile, the in-limbo campaign of Likud candidate Moshe Lion has now become official. On the same day that the Likud internal court, headed by former MK Michael Kleiner, rejected an appeal by Jerusalem Likud member Yair Gabai to disqualify Lion, Tsur and Friedman officially launched Ometz. The day happened to be Tuesday, which in Jewish tradition is a lucky day – because on the third day of the creation of the world, God saw twice that it was good.
Lion also has a demographic mix on his list, though not as broad as that of Ometz. One of the people on his list is fencing champion Vladimir Shklar, who is president of the Israel Fencing Association. It remains to be seen whether he can thrust and parry in the political arena.
■ WHAT STARTED out as the Israeli launch of The Hague Odyssey: Israel’s Struggle for Security on the Front Lines of Terrorism and Her Battle for Justice at the United Nations by lawyer Richard Heideman, after a previous book launch at the National Press Club in Washington, turned into a call for international intervention to prevent the ongoing massacres of whole families of the Syrian people by the Syrian regime.
Heideman, the Washingtonbased trial lawyer who serves as lead trial counsel on behalf of American victims of terrorism, is an honorary president of B’nai B’rith International and a longtime advocate for human and civil rights for victims of violations of those rights, regardless of creed, color or nationality.
He has served in executive capacities on numerous American Jewish and international Jewish organizations, and is a trustee of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem – whose director Alan Schneider moderated the Israel launch of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
According to veteran B’nai B’rith stalwart Avigdor Warsaw, the Begin Center is built on the site of what was previously intended to be the headquarters of the B’nai B’rith World Center. Warsaw had negotiated with Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek for allocation of the land, but in the final analysis, the project had proven too costly and was rejected.
Around that time, Warsaw had a chance meeting with MK Eliahu Ben-Elissar, who told him that the Likud was looking for a suitable site for a permanent monument to Begin and his achievements. Warsaw told him that he had all the paperwork ready for him, and all that was required was a transfer of the building permit.
B’nai B’rith, which on October 13 will celebrate its 170th anniversary, is the Jewish organization with the longest relationship with the UN, said Schneider. It was present at the founding of the UN in San Francisco in 1945, and has been an active NGO at the UN ever since.
Heideman’s book deals to a large extent with the anti-Israel bias of the UN, especially with regard to the West Bank security barrier, which the UN calls an apartheid wall. Heideman vigorously disputes and refutes the UN contention, declaring that it is the right and obligation of every nation-state, including Israel, to protect its citizens.
The barrier was in fact constructed to prevent terrorist infiltration.
Yet following the construction, the UN General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice at The Hague regarding its legality. Heideman argued that in doing so, the UN violated its own charter.
Marc Belzberg, chairman of the OneFamily Fund, which co-sponsored the launch, said that in the 12 years since OneFamily was founded as a support group for victims of terror and their families, it has distributed more than $38 million to more than 3,500 victims and their families.
In explaining how OneFamily came into being, Belzberg said: “I saw terror and could not remain unaffected. I heard terror and could not remain silent. I felt terror and could not remain passive.”
Citing statistics, Belzberg said that 772 children had lost fathers to terrorism, 199 children had lost mothers and 72 children had lost both parents. He lauded the important work that Heideman is doing on behalf of victims of terrorism, and Israel’s right to defend herself against terrorism.
Prof. Yuval Shani, dean of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, said that until its advisory opinion had been sought on the security barrier, the International Court of Justice had never been a major player in the Middle East conflict. “This was its big chance,” he said, adding that the court, in its desire to become relevant, was throwing away the rules of jurisdiction.
Beyond saying that the book was in memory of the victims of terrorism, Heideman made minimal reference to the book itself, but spoke of terrorist acts and human rights violations around the globe – which have barely caused a ripple in world reaction. “The world watched and didn’t care,” he said. “All victims were real people who had the right to be free of terrorism.”
What is happening in Syria and in other countries where people are being massacred is totally unacceptable, he said, as he urged that voices be raised in the name of human dignity and human rights and obligations. World leaders must stand up for the people of Syria, he said, underscoring that terrorism affects people everywhere, not just in Israel.
The Syrian leadership must be held responsible for crimes against humanity, Heideman insisted, and found it incredible that after all the carnage, Syria still sits as a member in the family of nations and on UN human rights committees.
■ THE ISRAEL Coins and Medals Corporation has minted a limited edition of a medal honoring the memory of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir. At a ceremony at the Agriculture Ministry, which is headed by Shamir’s son, Yair, the medal was presented to him and to Shamir’s daughter, Gilada Diament, by Corporation CEO Aviv Katz.
■ AFTER FIVE years in Israel, Simon Hsieh, director of the Information Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv, is returning home tomorrow to take up a senior post in his country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. He will remain there for three-and-a-half years until his retirement.
To say farewell to Hsieh and to welcome his successor, Allen Chenhwa Lou, who arrived in Israel only this week, Ambassador Liang-Jen Chang, the Taiwan representative in Israel, held a luncheon in the capital’s 1868 restaurant. This was in a sense symbolic, because 1868 was the year in which China and the US concluded the Burlingame- Seward Treaty, thus establishing basic principles to ease immigration and restrictions for Chinese in the US, to allow China to appoint consuls to American cities and to limit American interference in China’s internal affairs.
Hsieh, who was a frequent letter writer to The Jerusalem Post, says he will continue to read the paper online, and hopes to stay in touch with editors and journalists whom he got to know over the years.
Although both he and Chang understand a little Hebrew, neither has actually mastered the language.
Cheng’s favorite word is “balagan,” which though it is part of the Hebrew lexicon, is actually a Slavic word commonly used in Russia and Poland. Cheng said there has been “a lot of balagan in Taiwan lately,” in regard to the succession of defense ministers – with three different people in the position in the space of one week!
■ IT’S BEEN a long birthday celebration for former basketball star Tal Brody, who in 1977 led Maccabi Tel Aviv to triumph in the European Cup Basketball Championships, defeating the formidable CSKA Moscow team in the semi-finals along the way. That win was particularly important because at the time, Russia was still Communist and the struggle for Soviet Jewry was a global Jewish mission. In 1977, Brody, in heavily accented Hebrew, coined the phrase: “We are on the map, and we are staying on the map!” In recent weeks, he has been interviewed by several publications, which have highlighted his career as a player, coach, philanthropist and goodwill ambassador for Israel. All of the interviews have been related to his 70th birthday – which is actually today, August 30.
On Wednesday, some of his old Maccabi Tel Aviv teammates, most of whom have remained close friends, as well as some Maccabi Tel Aviv players who came after Brody, held a birthday celebration for him. They presented him with a cake in the team colors, topped with a sugared basketball and the Maccabi Tel Aviv logo. Among those who joined in the celebration were Miki Berkovich, Doron Jamchi, Aulcie Perry, Nikola Vujcic and Moti Daniel.[email protected]