Grapevine: Maybe back in harness?

Now that she’s exiting from her role as a public figure will Shelley Yachimovich stop paying astronomic sums to have her hair straightened, and go back to her natural curly mop?

Elisha Banai (photo credit: RAFI DELOYA)
Elisha Banai
(photo credit: RAFI DELOYA)
The good news is that Merav Michaeli may regain her Knesset seat in the upcoming September elections with the departure of Avi Gabbay, Tal Rousso and Shelley Yachimovich. The question is: now that she’s exiting from her role as a public figure will Yachimovich stop paying astronomic sums to have her hair straightened, and go back to her natural curly mop?
■ DESPITE THE anticipated decline in female legislators in the next Knesset, there is some promising news ahead with regard to greater representation of women in the global decision making process. Former US President George W. Bush in an interview with Fox News predicted that the day will not be long in coming when women will lead the peace movement. Women Wage Peace, and women involved in other peace-oriented organizations and institutions will be thrilled if this becomes a reality. Through the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, are involved in an ambitious plan to train women from the Middle East, Africa and Asia for future leadership.
■ THE LAUNCH of almost any new fashion store includes a bevy of celebrities who come to see and be seen. It’s important for the store owners to have passersby recognize the celebrities participating in the launch, and it’s important for the celebrities to keep themselves in the public eye. Among the celebrities who last week attended the launch of yet another Factory 54 pop-up store under the Hugo Boss brand name were Roy Sandler, Lianna Chayoun, Omer Hazan, Meir Suissa, Ortal Amar and Elisha Banai, a third-generation entertainer from the ranks of the famous Banai family. A songwriter, singer, musician and composer, he is the grandson of the most famous Banai of them all – the late Yossi Banai. Elisha is the son of singer Yuval Banai and actress Orly Zilberschatz. His great uncle Gavri Banai, of Blind Scout fame, earlier this month celebrated his 80th birthday and is still going strong. At the launch of the new store, it was the entertainers’ turn to be entertained by hip hop artists Noroz and Swissa.
■ IT’S TOUGH when your job takes you away from your family, especially if you’re an actor on tour. There are not too many breaks in the schedule to allow you to go home to see your loved ones. But for Sasson Gabay, currently touring America with the prize-winning musical production of The Band’s Visit, there’s a happy compensation. His son Adam is also in the cast, and as the tour will continue well into 2020, father and son will be seeing a lot of each other. In an interview which he gave in the US, Gabay said that he had loved theater for as long as he could remember, but as a child his focus was on listening to plays on the radio because he couldn’t afford the price of a ticket. Now, ironically, people buy tickets to see him.
■ IN SOME organizations, presidents, after completing their terms, gradually bow out. Not so Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. When Rhoda Smolow, who is currently national secretary of Hadassah, takes over her new role as national president at the beginning of next year, outgoing national president Ellen Hershkin will be around to give advice and to help in any way needed just as her predecessors did before her. Smolow, who will be the organization’s 27th national president, has been a member of Hadassah for just under four decades. Previous national presidents remain involved and are very visible at Hadassah national conferences on major Hadassah missions to Israel and as Hadassah representatives in other Zionist organizations. One of the most active and visible is Marlene Post, who served as the 21st national president and is also a former past president of Hadassah International. She has also been and some cases still is an executive and/or board member of the American Zionist Movement, the Jewish Agency, Birthright, the Confederation of United Zionists, the World Zionist Organization, State of Israel Bonds, the UJA federation of New York – and more.
■ TAKING THEIR cue from the success of Zikaron BaSalon, (Memory in the Living Room) in which Holocaust survivors tell their stories to people gathered in private living rooms, members of the LGBT community will at the end of this month be telling their stories to mark the 10th anniversary of the murder on August 1, 2009 of Liz Troubishi and Nir Katz, who were among a group of young people hanging out at Bar Noar, a meeting place for gay teenagers in a Tel Aviv basement apartment. The masked killer, dressed in black, entered the premises and began firing wildly. In addition to the two youngsters who were killed, 10 were wounded.
The killer escaped on foot and succeeded in evading a police manhunt. The police investigation dragged on for years.
Reaction to the hate crime was widespread with protest demonstrations and expressions of condemnation by president Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nitzan Horowitz, the current Meretz leader who was then the only openly gay Member of Knesset, prominent legislators and other public figures. Even the Shas Party which for religious reasons is anti-gay, condemned the attack, saying that this was not the way to express opposition to the LGBT community.
In a sense, the killer achieved the opposite of what he intended. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that gays were welcome in Tel Aviv and that the city would fight to protect their rights. Since then, Tel Aviv has become the gay capital of the Middle East, there has been ever wider acceptance of members of the LGBT community and the fear of coming out of the closet has dissipated. Orthodox parents by and large no longer disown their gay progeny and have instead become supportive as have many other parents who join in annual gay pride marches around the country and in solidarity demonstrations. The hate on the part of some people has not ended, as happened almost exactly to the day six years later, when 16-year-old Shira Banki, who was not gay but who was marching in support of her friends in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, was stabbed by Yishai Schlissel, a crazed ultra-Orthodox Jew who had managed to get past police security. But even without hate, and on the basis sheer ignorance, there still prominent personalities who iare prejudiced against the LGBT community, as for instance the recent political and social faux pas by Education Minister Rafi Peretz. He subsequently retracted his remarks, but they remain on record in media archives.
This will not be the first time that members of the LGBT community will be telling their stories in people’s living rooms. It will be the third consecutive year. One of the venues will be the home of Ayala Katz, whose son Nir was murdered 10 years ago. Among the speakers who will be participating in living room talks will be survivors of the 2009 attack, including Yonatan Box, 26, who is permanently confined to a wheelchair as a result of his injuries.
■ PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has several historic achievements to his credit, especially on the diplomatic front, but diplomatic ties are not always permanent, and it’s possible that some of these achievements may unravel in the course of time. But if attempts to limit the tenure of a prime minister to two or at the most three terms, are successful, Netanyahu will have at least one historic achievement that will remain permanent, and that is beating the record of founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion as the longest serving prime minister of Israel. As it is, Netanyahu who will turn 70 on October 21, is already past retirement age, although unlike some other professions, there is no mandatory retirement age for politicians. If Shimon Peres had not been elected president just a few weeks short of his 84th birthday, he would have remained in the Knesset indefinitely. As it was, he was just two weeks shy of his 91st birthday when his seven-year tenure as president concluded.
■ REFUGEES CONTINUE to occupy headlines in the global media. One doesn’t have to be downtrodden to be a refugee. There are numerous refugees in the world who managed to bring a large portion of their wealth with them to their refuge or to quickly acquire fame and wealth in their new home. But that does not stop them from yearning for their old home while lamenting over what has happened to their native countries. One such person was the famous Austrian Jewish novelist, playwright and intellectual Stefan Zweig, who went into self-imposed exile in Brazil in 1936. He lived well in Brazil, and his writing and his fame continued to flourish, but beneath the veil of contentment was acute misery over what had happened to the Europe that he once knew.
Unable to bear the thought of the destruction of Europe, he committed suicide in 1942. One of the countries now coping with refugee problems is Germany, which is striving to rid itself of the stain that Adolf Hitler put on its character. German actress and film director Maria Schrader, though not Jewish, frequently deals with Jewish subjects in her films – and does so sympathetically. Perhaps this is another form of German restitution. Her well-received film Stefan Zweig-Farewell to Europe, will be screened on Monday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Goethe Institute, Weizmann Street 4, Tel Aviv. The dialogue is in German with English subtitles. Entry is free.
The film examines what it means to be a refugee, and deals in depth with the difficult decision faced by so many people around the world about whether to speak out against tyranny or to remain silent, and perhaps try to escape.