Grapevine: Top security

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Street sign for the road on which the prime minister's residence lies. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Street sign for the road on which the prime minister's residence lies.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

MANY IN the Israeli public were highly critical of former prime minister Naftali Bennett for his decision not to occupy the official Prime Minister’s Residence on the corner of Balfour Street and Smolenskin Street in Talbiyeh. When Yair Lapid became prime minister, he could not occupy the building even if he wanted to because tentative moves toward renovation had begun, so he moved to a nearby apartment building. It was actually an apartment of convenience for when he had to stay in Jerusalem overnight. He didn’t really live there, and security was minimal.

It will be quite some time before incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is both a previous and future occupant, will be able to move back. Meanwhile, he will be using his private Gaza Road residence, which is less than a 10-minute walk away. Yet despite the fact that the official residence is unoccupied, security is back in place and without warning.

For just over a year and a half, residents of the area and their guests could walk freely and drive their cars through both streets with little trouble other than passing through permanent security barriers. But as of this week, all that is history. Even residents who are getting a ride home in someone else’s car can no longer simply produce their ID cards, have the car searched and continue on their way. Permission for the car to pass has to be secured in advance.

This does not make much sense because it was a condition that was not imposed when Netanyahu lived in the residence. But he’s not going to be living there for several weeks if not months, so why clamp down on security now?

A view of the house of the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem. June 07, 2002. (credit: NATI SHOCHAT/FLASH 90)A view of the house of the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem. June 07, 2002. (credit: NATI SHOCHAT/FLASH 90)

Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman visit Jerusalem

■ VISITING JERUSALEM with their children last week were New York businessman Daniel Mintz and his wife, Meredith Berkman, a retired journalist, who is currently engaged in exposing the dangers of allowing representatives of the tobacco industry to enter schools under another guise.

Mintz and Berkman are both keenly interested in biblical archaeology and funded the Ophel excavations. During a previous visit to Jerusalem several years ago, the couple noticed that the Ophel area was full of rubble and no work was being done. They approached famed archaeologist Eilat Mazar, an expert in biblical archaeology, and work was subsequently carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the company for the Development of East Jerusalem, and archaeology students from the Hebrew University. The excavations produced a number of valuable finds. Mazar, who had been battling an illness for a long time, died in May 2021, at age 64.

More than a decade has passed since Mintz approached Mazar, and excavation methods have been updated. Almost every week, something from antiquity is discovered to prove the Jewish claim to this land.

During his most recent visit to Jerusalem, it was suggested to Mintz that cyber technology could be used to discover remnants of ancient civilizations at a much faster pace than methods currently in use. He agreed that this was possible; however, while it might be more efficient, it would take all the excitement out of excavation finds for professional and amateur archaeologists.

Israel Experience CEO steps down

■ NOTHING IS forever and Amos Herman, CEO of the Israel Experience, which specializes in educational tourism with a view to encouraging aliya, is stepping down. The Israel Experience is a subsidiary of the Jewish Agency.

During the years in which he worked with the Israel Experience, Herman initiated several important projects, one of which was bringing physicians to Israel and persuading them to embark on a special course designed to supplement their knowledge and enable them to qualify for an Israeli license to practice medicine.

Health Ministry and media reports indicate that Israel suffers from a severe shortage of physicians and nurses – not necessarily because people don’t want to enter the medical profession but because they fail their psychometric exams. Some who fail don’t give up on the dream and study abroad, often staying in the countries in which they qualify.

The fact that some such people have also become outstanding physicians is a good argument for abolishing psychometric tests. To counter the exodus of people who want to study medicine, Herman came up with the idea of bringing in people already qualified but not in accordance with Israeli standards, which is why they have to take a relatively short course. These new immigrant doctors and nurses have made a significant contribution to Israel’s hospitals and health clinics.

A farewell was held for Herman last Monday at Kiryat Moriah, where it was emphasized that he has spent 30 years in the service of the Jewish people and the Zionist movement.

Was Moshe Lion trying to prove something with his bereavement notice of Rabbi Drukman?

■ WHILE RABBI Haim Drukman was a great, respected, admired and beloved man, as witnessed by the throngs who attended his funeral despite the rainy weather, one has to ask why a bereavement notice for him in the Hebrew media, signed by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion on behalf of the municipality, the city council and the residents of Jerusalem, was twice the size of the second largest bereavement notice on the page.

The advertisement placed by the government was a quarter of the size of that placed by the Jerusalem Municipality, and the text was much more meaningful.

What was Lion trying to prove with such a large advertisement? Was it part of his campaign to be re-elected? And if so, was it a way to circumvent his campaign budget?

People who care deeply about the city’s future should keep a more watchful eye on the municipality’s expenditure or lack of it and should, for instance, ask why so many cracks and potholes on the roads and the pavements, including in upmarket neighborhoods, are being ignored and are becoming more dangerous the longer they are left unattended.

Whatever happened to Moshe Kahlon?

■ POLITICIANS MAY leave the government and the Knesset, but their interest and involvement in politics do not leave them. Moshe Kahlon, a former government minister who in 2013 took a break, returned in 2014 and became finance minister in 2015, announced in 2020 that he was retiring from politics.

Kahlon, who lives in Haifa, is now being urged to run as mayor in the upcoming elections in October 2023. He is giving the matter his consideration. Former health minister Haim Ramon, who was forced to resign because he gave a kiss to a female soldier who all but thrust her face into his, has remained a political commentator and analyst, whose opinions are frequently sought by print and electronic media.

In the current issue of The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune, Ramon, a former deputy prime minister and veteran Labor Party leader, explains how Benjamin Netanyahu was able to orchestrate a decisive victory for a right-wing coalition, despite all the obstacles that lay in his path.

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