FORMER JERUSALEM mayor Nir Barkat, who is believed to be the wealthiest of MKs, has spent a huge amount of money in boosting his political career, but it would seem to have been of little avail, proving that money does not buy everything.
Barkat has long seen himself as a successor to Benjamin Netanyahu as leader of the Likud Party and prime minister but stated several times that he would not push that ambition for as long a time as Netanyahu was in office.
Barkat had envisaged that once Netanyahu was re-ensconced in the Prime Minister’s Office, he, Barkat, would be finance minister. Barring some radical change in negotiations with the Likud’s coalition partners, that dream has gone down the drain, and Barkat, despite his placement among the first 10 in the results of the Likud primaries, may find himself without any ministerial role.
Like most other Likud MKs, he has been careful not to criticize Netanyahu in public and, when interviewed, to make only supportive statements. But there is no doubt that he and other leading Likud figures are disgruntled, especially when they see rookie politicians from coalition parties, who have had little or no experience in the Knesset, receiving ministerial portfolios.
Arye Deri sets a bad example
■ ONE HAS to wonder whether religious studies within the Shas ranks include an in-depth examination of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), in which those who study Pirkei Avot are counseled to build a fence around the Torah. Essentially, this means: Don’t leave the Torah in so vulnerable an environment as to enable its laws to be desecrated and broken.
Arye Deri may be a practicing Jew, but he is not the Torah, and there is no need to build a fence around him in order to protect his political future. What sort of message does it send to pupils in Shas yeshivot and girls’ schools if special legislation is enacted to protect the convicted criminal who is their leader so that he can once again serve as a minister?
A horrible experience Americans suffered from on the light rail
■ IN THE morning program that he co-hosts on KAN Reshet Bet with Asaf Liberman, Kalman Liebskind told of a nasty experience that befell relatives of his wife who are visiting Israel from the US.
They wanted to go to Yad Vashem. While they had been told that the light rail has a stop that leads to Yad Vashem, they had apparently not been told that one cannot pay the fare on board the train. When an inspector came to check on tickets and Rav-Kav cards, they tried to explain that they didn’t know that they couldn’t pay on board, but their Hebrew was inadequate, and the inspector’s English was equally poor. Instead of showing them the pleasant face of Israel and asking someone among the passengers to translate, he forced the visitors to alight. They didn’t know exactly where they were and what to do next. Moreover, they had not expected to be treated in such an insensitive manner. It was quite a traumatic experience.
This does not mean that every inspector is like that. There are some inspectors who work the buses who are well aware that the swipe devices are not always functional and that it is dangerous for passengers to walk from one end of a moving bus to another in order to swipe their electronic ticketing cards in the only working device. Sometimes the inspectors just ignore the fact that cards have not been swiped, or they do the dangerous walking and swipe cards on behalf of passengers.
There’s good and bad in every community, and it is to be hoped that Liebskind’s wife’s relatives realize this and have had positive experiences in other situations in Israel.
Will Avi Maoz keep women out of IDF combat units?
■ CONTROVERSIAL DEPUTY minister-designate MK Avi Maoz, who, it seems, will determine which potential immigrants are sufficiently Jewish to come to Israel under the Law of Return, may also have a say in whether females can continue to serve in combat units in the army.
Maoz, who believes that a woman’s place is in the home and not in the army, may prove to be a greater Achilles’ heel to Netanyahu than Bezalel Smotrich. His views on various issues belong in the Dark Ages, but he will be wielding some degree of influence, and who knows how this may affect female soldiers.
Perhaps seeking to allay fears, outgoing director-general of the Defense Ministry, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amir Eshel, in one of the sessions of the National Security and Democracy Conference that took place at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem this week, recalled that in the 1990s, Alice Miller had caused a stir by demanding to be enrolled in a pilots’ course in the Israel Air Force. When she was rejected, she took her case to court and won. Unfortunately, she was not medically fit to undertake the course, but with her case, she paved the way for other women.
At the time, people thought that the inclusion of women in pilots’ courses would undermine the IAF, Eshel recalled. But the women pilots have proven that they’re every bit as good as the men and, in some cases, even better. Their presence did not harm the IAF, just as the presence of women combat soldiers will not harm the IDF, he said.
Incoming holidays: Birthday of Izhak Ben-Zvi, Hebrew Language Day
■ ONE MIGHT have expected a major national celebration of the 75th anniversary of United Nations Resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine that helped to speed up the creation of the State of Israel. But November 29 came and went without much fanfare.
There will be two additional important anniversaries coming up on Thursday, December 15, and Friday, December 16, but they, too, will be downgraded in the public realm. Both will be celebrated by Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi.
The first will be the birthday of Israel’s second president, Izhak Ben-Zvi and the 70th anniversary of his swearing-in as president of the state. A lecture and tour led by Tirza Rabinovich will give participants an insight into Ben-Zvi’s life, the hut that served as his private living quarters, and the larger hut that was used for presidential purposes. The event at Yad Ben-Zvi begins at 10 a.m.
The following day is Hebrew-Language Day, and it coincides with the 100th anniversary of the death of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who is credited with the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language. This event, beginning at 9 a.m., will also be in the nature of a lecture and tour, led by Oren Zonder. He will introduce participants to people and places that were integral to an amazing revolution which, in a relatively short time, resulted not only in the adoption of a national language, but one that every citizen of Israel could speak to some degree. Today, it has become so important to some people that the Israel Internet Association has mounted a campaign to name websites in Hebrew rather than English.