Grapevine: Sitting for Biden

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden is flanked by President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the welcoming ceremony upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport last week. Biden declared: ‘You need not be a Jew to be a Zionist.’  (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden is flanked by President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the welcoming ceremony upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport last week. Biden declared: ‘You need not be a Jew to be a Zionist.’
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

To TV viewers, the sight of US President Joe Biden having an animated conversation with Holocaust survivors Dr. Gita Cycowicz and Rena Quint was moving – and seemed very natural, especially when Quint told Biden that she liked to see him walking hand in hand with his wife because she and her late husband, Rabbi Emanuel Quint, used to walk hand in hand. But in truth, both women had been instructed to stand like statues and not say anything at all.

Biden urged them to sit as he approached them and bent to kiss them and maintain eye-level contact.

“We had to answer him when he spoke to us,” Quint said later.

A figure well known in Jerusalem for her outstanding hospitality and involvement in various organizations, she later received congratulatory messages.

Having eluded all variants of the coronavirus over the past two years, Quint tested positive two weeks before Biden’s arrival, and thought that she would miss out on meeting him. But after a week in isolation, she was given the all-clear.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden delivers remarks on Friday at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, pledging support for the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network.  (credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS) US PRESIDENT Joe Biden delivers remarks on Friday at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, pledging support for the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network. (credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS)

■ PEOPLE LIVING in or near King David and Agron streets are invariably inconvenienced by the visit of an American president for whom security precautions are always tighter than for any other head of state. The Biden visit was no exception, but the inconvenience extended far beyond the usual temporary highway closure between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the other routes traveled.

A report by Rafi Gamish in Kol Ha’Ir states that at midnight on Tuesday, Herzl Boulevard residents received a phone call from the police telling them that if they did not move their cars immediately, they would be towed away. But Biden did not arrive in the capital till Wednesday at 5 p.m. – 17 hours later.

When those residents, who presumed that the midnight call had merely been a reminder, responded there was no problem and the cars would be gone by 7 a.m, they were informed that if they didn’t move them immediately, they would be gone in the morning. People who were asleep or unable to answer their phones did indeed have their cars towed.

As for the closure of King David and Agron streets, it did not end with the conclusion of Biden’s visit. They were among the streets closed on Monday night between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. so that night run participants would not have to be concerned about motorized traffic.

On the same date, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., there was a memorial conference for 22nd anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Yosef Kapach, the great Yemen-born authority on Halacha who had been a judge in the Rabbinical Supreme Court. Presumably some of those attending had difficulty getting home.

Obsession with security in Israel has generally become more intense with regard to officials, but less so with regard to the public.

June 30 marked the tenth anniversary of the passing of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir – who as a long-term former Mossad agent, was deeply conscious of security, but as prime minister, walked almost freely in the street. Shamir used to take a brisk, daily constitutional walk around the area surrounding the Prime Minister’s Residence on the Rehavia-Talbiyeh seam. He was accompanied by a bodyguard on foot, and another trailing him in a car.

How different the situation is today, and how much more so when the prime minister’s official residence was occupied by Benjamin Netanyahu. He was never seen on the street, but instead entered his bulletproof car inside the prime ministerial compound. Depending on the direction in which he was going, traffic was stopped for up to 20 minutes on Azza Road and along Keren Hayesod. The same happened when he was coming home – and he was always escorted by six or seven security vehicles.

■ JERUSALEM POST senior contributing editor Herb Keinon will be the guest speaker on Sunday, July 31 at the Rosh Hodesh Menachem Av function of the Jerusalem Anglo Women’s Rosh Hodesh Lunch Club, at Beit Knesset Shimon Hatzaddik, 4 Ben Baba, San Simon. His topic? “As Israel hurtles to yet another election, is this the country we prayed for?”

Women interested in attending should email [email protected] by Tuesday, July 26. The fee of NIS 50, payable in cash, includes a light kosher catered lunch.

Keinon has written extensively on diplomacy, politics and Israeli society. He has been at the Post for 37 years, some 20 of them as the paper’s diplomatic correspondent.

During this period he had personal access to leading political figures from all parties, covering major events that shaped the nation for more than three decades. He has traveled extensively with Israel’s prime ministers on their trips around the world and has interviewed dozens of Israeli and world politicians, statesmen and decision-makers.

■ JERUSALEM’S LOSS was Tel Aviv’s gain. Internationally celebrated master shoe designer Stuart Weitzman was in Jerusalem as a guest of the Bezalel Academy for Art and Design, and was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the Bezalel campus last Friday morning.

But President Biden was still in the area, which meant that traffic barred from what was considered the security zone would be chaotic elsewhere in the city, and it would be difficult for people to get to the talk in time, if at all. The solution was to take the lecturer to the Kaufman auditorium in the main building of the Tel Aviv Museum.

Weitzman, 81, went into the footwear business when he was very young. In the late 1950s, his older brother Warren joined their father Seymour in opening a shoe manufacturing factory in Haverhill Massachusetts, which operated under the brand name of Seymour’s Shoes. In the early 1960s Stuart, who had a keen eye for aesthetics, began to design shoes for the family firm.

Whether flat-heeled court shoes, spike heeled, ankle-strap sandals, wedges, or comfortable but elegant low heels, Weitzman’s designs were always feminine and flattering to the foot.

He subsequently founded his own company, which went from one success to another with loyal customers in many parts of the world.

It’s no wonder that he was famous for providing one-of-a-kind “million-dollar” footwear for film stars who had been nominated for an Oscar at the Academy Awards.

Several film stars and celebrity singers wore his shoe designs all year long. They were simply in love with his creativity.

In January 2015, he signed a deal with Tapestry Inc., which acquired his company for approximately $570 million.

Unlike Stuart, who entered the family business, the two daughters that he and his wife Jane Gershon raised did not follow in their father’s footsteps, though they were happy to wear shoes that bore his brand.

Rachael Sage is a singer and songwriter who has released 14 solo studio albums; their other daughter Elizabeth is a film critic and author of books for children.

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