Kabbala comes to Ramallah

PA President Abbas possesses a copy of the Kabbala, a compilation of most esoteric teachings of Judaism.

Shimon Peres plant tree in Canada (photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO)
Shimon Peres plant tree in Canada
(photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO)
Believe it or not, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in possession of a copy of the Kabbala, which is a compilation of the most esoteric teachings of Judaism. He received it this week from Rabbi Yehuda Berg, son of Rabbi Philip Berg, the founder of the Los Angeles-head-quartered International Kabbalah Center. Yehuda Berg and his mother, Karen, were accompanied by Israeli-born American fashion icon Elie Tahari, who migrated almost penniless to the United States in the early 1970s and became a national celebrity. Tahari is among many celebrities, including Madonna, who have become engrossed in Kabbalah studies. Abbas promised the Bergs that he would visit the Kabbalah Center the next time he is in the United States. Who knows? The Kabbala may yet pave the path to peace.
■ THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week that Yair Shamir, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his father, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, would be joining Yisrael Beytenu, preceded the bombshell announcement of a national unity government that put Knesset elections on hold for another year. Even before the entry of Kadima into the coalition became a hot news item, there was talk that Yisrael Beytenu was also courting the grandson of Revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
This led to several electronic media interviews with Gil Samsonov, a second-generation right-wing political stalwart, a former Likud campaign manager, a former chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and currently the owner of an advertising agency. The reason for the interviews: Samsonov is completing his book, The Princes, based on a thesis he wrote at university more than 30 years ago in which he noted that the offspring of Lehi and Etzel activists, some of whom later became Knesset members, would follow in the footsteps of their parents and would also be involved in shaping the destiny of the nation.
Among the princes are Bennie Begin, the son of Menachem Begin, Tzachi Hanegbi, the son of Geula Cohen, Uzi Landau, the son of Haim Landau, Tzipi Livni, the daughter of Eitan Livni, Dan Meridor, the son of Eliahu Meridor, and Ehud Olmert, the son of Mordechai Olmert. Had the proposal to call the election for September 4 been accepted by a Knesset majority, Samsonov would have had to postpone the publication of his book until after the election so that it would not be construed as election propaganda. Now he can publish it whenever he wants.
The political Left also has its fair share of examples of parents and offspring, siblings, cousins and in-laws serving in the Knesset, but none more so than the Dayan family and its extensions. So far the Dayans are the only family to have had three generations of Knesset members, plus cousins and in-laws. Collectively they consisted of Shmuel Dayan, his son Moshe Dayan and Moshe Dayan’s daughter Yael Dayan. Moshe Dayan was a cousin to Igal Hurwitz and Amos Hadar and a brother-in-law to Ezer Weizmann, while the children of Yael Dayan and Yossi Sarid are married to each other.
Yael Dayan’s cousin Uzi Dayan, who is currently chairman of Mifal Hapayis, the state lottery and is a former head of national security, was unsuccessful in his bid to enter the Knesset. Other famous members of the Dayan family include celebrated film maker Assi Dayan, satirist, playwright, author and columnist Jonathan Geffen, who like Uzi Dayan is a nephew of Moshe Dayan’s, and Geffen’s pop-star son Aviv Geffen.
■ EVEN THE most seasoned political journalists can get it wrong. Israel Radio’s Yoav Krakowski, who burst into Reshet Bet’s pre-dawn musical loop during the wee morning hours to announce the coalition deal between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, said that they had hammered out the details at the PM’s residence at 1 Balfour Street.
Although it sounds very fitting for the prime minister of Israel to live in Balfour Street, it was not originally planned that way, and the front door and entrance to the garage of the prime minister’s official residence are at 9 Smolenskin Street, not 1 Balfour, where the side entrance is located.
The voice of news and current affairs anchor Arye Golan, who usually comes on air at 5 a.m, was heard just after 4 a.m. as he, Krakowski and political commentator Hanan Krystal discussed the implications of Israel’s new political reality and whether it had anything to do with Israel’s future strategy visa- vis Iran. Krystal recalled that Menachem Begin had joined the national unity government in 1967 on the eve of the Six Day War.
Although the new coalition deal hit the Knesset like a bombshell, no one should have been surprised.
After all the vacillating Mofaz, who promptly joined Kadima after pledging never to leave Likud, then took a leave of absence after Tzipi Livni won the Likud leadership in 2008 only to quickly do an about-face, had all but announced that he would join Netanyahu when he had vowed to unseat him. While he may have reneged on his own policy, those Kadima MKs who would have surely lost their seats in the next election are grateful for an extra year’s grace and the handsome salary and other perks that go with it.
■ VISITING DIGNITARIES to Israel are often asked to participate in tree planting ceremonies organized in coordination with the Jewish National Fund. But tree planting is a custom practiced in other countries as well. During his state visit to Canada this week, President Shimon Peres planted a tree in the grounds of Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor-general. The Israeli tree joins that of leaders of other nations.
Most visiting dignitaries to Israel plant their trees in the forest adjacent to Yad Vashem or in the Jerusalem Peace Forest, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from the designated site of the US Embassy if and when it ever moves to Jerusalem, but visitors do not plant trees at the residence of the president.
The one exception was Pope Benedict XVI during his visit three years ago. The pope and President Peres planted an olive tree in the Peace Garden at the residence.
■ FOR MOST people in Israel, Wednesday night heralded the traditional Lag B’Omer bonfires, but for European diplomats stationed in Israel, it was Europe Day, which was celebrated in various parts of the country including Mikveh Israel College in Holon where French Ambassador Christophe Bigot and Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp were among the guests of honor.
Acknowledging that there is often disagreement within Europe, especially with regard to solutions to the economic crisis, Veldkamp said that when it comes to Iran, “Europe is strikingly united, and united with Israel or the US.” While Europe was united on the policy of heavy sanctions being imposed on Iran, he said, there were some European countries that were opposed to military intervention. Veldkamp was of the opinion that all options must remain on the table.
“One cannot say on the one hand that Iran under no circumstances can gets hands on a nuclear weapon, and on the other hand take certain options, such as military options, off the table,” he said. This was the Dutch position supported unanimously by the Dutch parliament, he declared. Contrary to popular belief, he emphasized, Israel is not alone in its concerns about Iran.
While celebrating Europe Day with joy, he added, “We do not forget our friends. Israel is home to many – and a home should be safe.”
■ BRITISH AIRWAYS, whose inaugural flight from London to Tel Aviv in 1932 took five days, celebrated the 80th anniversary of that flight with a gala bash at the Ramat Gan residence of British Ambassador Matthew Gould. The first international airline to fly to Tel Aviv, British Airways currently has 14 scheduled weekly flights between London and Tel Aviv – and what initially took five days now takes less than five hours.
Aside from the contributions of modern technology to the considerable reduction of flight time, the flights these days are direct whereas the initial flight went from London via France, Italy, Turkey and Cyprus, with landings for refueling along the way. It didn’t actually land in Tel Aviv, but on the water of the Sea of Galilee. The all-inclusive fare at the time was £64, which in those days was considered a hefty sum.
Passengers received not only meals served with wine but also accommodation in good hotels at all the points of landing. Details of that historic flight were revealed by Katja Selle, BA’s regional manager for Europe and Africa who flew to Israel to join the celebrations co-hosted by the ambassador and his wife, Celia, as BA’s general manager for Israel Yael Katan.
Hundreds of people milled about on the lawns of the residence, among them many of the tens of thousands who have flown the Tel Aviv-London-Tel Aviv route on BA and some who will be flying there soon for the London Olympics.
Also present were representatives of other airline companies, diplomats, Boeing Israel president David Ivry, entertainers Moshe Datz and Aviv Gefen, hi-tech wizard Yossi Vardi who is a frequent guest at the residence, former chairman of Bank Discount Arie Minkevich, International Olympic Committee Member Alex Giladi, and former Strauss Group CEO Michael Strauss. Gefen brought his young son, Dylan, who almost stole the show.
■ IT WOULD not be entirely accurate to say that Israel Museum director James Snyder put Jerusalem on the map. After all, it has been there for centuries – certainly before the dawn of both Christianity and Islam.
But the suave Mr. Snyder has given Israel’s capital much greater prominence on the map by turning the Israel Museum into a far more spectacular national asset than it was before he came on board. In recognition of what Snyder has done for the city, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat will officially make him an Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem at a festive ceremony at City Hall on June 6.
■ GERMAN PRESIDENT Joachim Gauck, who came into office just under two months ago, will pay a state visit to Israel from May 28 to 31.
Gauck became president when his predecessor, Christian Wulff, stepped down at the beginning of the year following revelations of corruption during the period in which he had served as prime minister of Lower Saxony. In the race for the presidency, Wulff had been pitted against Gauck and had emerged victorious. But the presidential office was obviously intended for both of them. A former Lutheran pastor, Gauck was renowned for his anti-communist activities in East Germany prior to the reunification of his country.
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