Grapevine: Those were the days

Movers and shakers, how Israeli people shape the places of this country.

IN FRIENDLIER times during a visit to Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Benny  Gantz who was then military attache, Jeremy Isacharoff who was then deputy ambassador and his wife Laura Kam (photo credit: LAURA KAM)
IN FRIENDLIER times during a visit to Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Benny Gantz who was then military attache, Jeremy Isacharoff who was then deputy ambassador and his wife Laura Kam
(photo credit: LAURA KAM)
■ THERE WAS a period in which current political rivals Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz were not sniping at each other and undermining each other’s reputations. There was a time in which there was mutual admiration, as dredged up by one of Israel’s television stations this week, and photographed by Laura Kam, the wife of Jeremy Issacharoff, who at that time was deputy ambassador at the Israel Embassy in Washington, and is currently Israel’s ambassador to Germany. The Washington image was captured during one of Netanyahu’s visits to the US when Gantz was military attache. Here’s a thought. Although both Netanyahu and Gantz have said that they will not sit with each other in the same government, though Gantz has said that he will sit with Likud without Netanyahu, there is plenty of evidence that what may be said before an election does not necessarily transpire afterwards. Regardless of which of the two may be tasked by President Reuven Rivlin to form a government, if the other joins the coalition, it will give a whole new dimension to the disparaging antisemitic remark about the Benjamins by Rep Ilhan Omar (Dem. MI).
■ IN THE weekend edition of Yediot Aharonot last Friday, there was a long article about man in the shadows, master spy, hijacker and assassin Rafi Eitan by Ronen Bergman, who is arguably Israel’s best informed cloak-and-dagger journalist and the author of Rise and Kill First, a hugely documented factual page turner about the secret history of Israel’s targeted assassinations. Bergman met many times with Rafi Eitan during a 13-year period and derived a lot of information from him that was conveyed on condition that Bergman would not publish it under after Eitan’s death. The first time that Eitan killed anyone, he was only 17 years old. He killed a lot more people before he dropped out of the intelligence network to become a successful international businessman and later a member of Knesset and government minister.
It was he who had recruited Jonathan Pollard, who after providing Israel with sensitive information, was denied promised asylum by the Israel Embassy and spent 30 years in prison. Eitan’s big regret was that with all his connections, he could not secure Pollard’s release. When Bergman asked Eitan why the Americans had been so intransigent with regard to Pollard, yet after a relatively short time released people who had committed greater crimes, Eitan’s take on the subject was that the American intelligence community wanted to send a specific message to the American Jewish community and if Pollard was permitted to leave America to settle in Israel, he would be received here as a hero. They did not want someone who in America had been branded a traitor, to receive a hero’s welcome in Israel.
■ WEDNESDAY’S GRAPEVINE carried an item about the Institute for National Security Studies holding a 7 a.m. briefing for diplomats and journalists on April 10 on the outcome of the elections. Now it seems that they’re not the early birds aiming for election brinkmanship. Media Central in Jerusalem is also holding a briefing for journalists, but not quite as early. They’re waiting till 8 a.m. on April 10, when they promise to give participants final results and analysis in a phone conference with broadcaster Yoram Deckel, who the people at Media Central regard as Israel’s “top political expert.”
Deckel, who is a former head of Army Radio and is now working for the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, for which he previously worked when it was the Israel Broadcasting Authority, in which capacity he was also Washington Bureau Chief for Israel’s Channel 1 television station, and can these days be seen and heard on Kan 11, and is also heard on Reshet Bet Israel Radio. Deckel has covered the last seven general election campaigns, for which the final results were not out when promised. One suspects that the same will happen next week, but we live in hope.
■ DATE FLEXIBILITY for anniversaries in Israel appears to be contagious. Europe Day is officially on May 9, but head of the European Union delegation in Israel Emanuele Giaufret and his team are holding their Europe Day reception on May 15 – and it may have something to do with Brexit, but it is definitely to do with the upcoming elections to the European Parliament on May 23 and 26. So on the same night as Europe Day, the Delegation of the European Union will also host a EUlectrovision party.
It should also be noted that the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv runs from May 14 to 18, so during that period, there will be lots of European celebrations collectively and individually by EU member countries.
■ EVEN THOUGH most countries have their own search and rescue operations, emergency medical responders and providers of humanitarian aid, it is heartwarming to see that other countries are looking at Israeli initiatives such as ZAKA, United Hatzalah, Save a Child’s Heart and Israaid as models to emulate. One such example is Brazil, whose president Jair Bolsonaro and his entourage, during their visit to Israel, this week met in Jerusalem with United Hatzalah CEO Moshe Teitelbaum, who explained how the organization works, emphasizing how its cost-free system has democratized access to emergency health care. Bolsonaro was impressed with the organization’s lifesaving model and technology as well as its network of volunteers. Of particular interest was how the technology allows volunteers to respond to emergencies and begin treatment well in advance of the arrival of ambulances.
Bolsonaro instructed his representatives to study the method and see if the model could be adopted in Brazil. Teitelbaum’s presentation took place as part of an official event arranged by the Israeli government during which eight Israeli innovative organizations and startups were chosen to speak about their work. Teitelbaum presented Bolsonaro with a silver statuette in the shape of the ambucycles that enable United Hatzalah volunteers to respond quickly and to get to places that are inaccessible to ambulances.
United Hatzalah recently opened a chapter in Colombia and is working toward spreading its EMS model around the world so that more lives can be saved, Teitelbaum said later. After the official meeting, he sat down again with some of Bolsonaro’s people including government ministers who had come to Israel with him and it was obvious to Teitelbaum that they were genuinely interested in adopting United Hatzalah’s model in Brazil.
■ ALSO sparking interest abroad, are Israeli television series, whether in the original Hebrew or in translation or adaptation. Currently taking audiences by storm in various parts of the world is the award winning critically acclaimed Netflix series, Shtisel, whose star Michael Aloni will be in London at a JNF UK fund-raiser on Sunday, April 7. The series has been so popular in London, that tickets to Sunday’s event were sold out within 24 hours and a second event had to be organized on the same date in response to the high demand.
Aloni will take audiences behind the scenes of the set, divulging a few secrets along the way as well as sharing an insight into how he prepared for his character Akiva Shtisel. The following day, JNF UK is organizing a visit to the sixth-form students of Yavneh College in Borehamwood. Popular Israeli TV personality and actor Yaron Brovinsky will be accompanying Aloni to the UK to interview him and host the events. A select number of VIP ticket holders will have the chance to meet the Aloni and Brovinsky at a private party after the event.
All proceeds will go towards Yad Tamar – one of JNF UK’s life-changing projects in Israel that helps cancer patients by providing them with a network of volunteers to help with their needs and easing their lives as much as possible. This process is conducted through their HUG model (Helping, Understanding and Giving) which pinpoints key areas of support provided to cancer patients.
■ JUST AS there were groundless fears that television would put an end to cinema, there were also fears that digital two-minute-read items would put an end to newspapers and books. There was a temporary lull in cinema during which many movie theaters closed down, but then there was a revival, and what we have today are banks of cinemas that are quite well patronized. There has been a downturn in the newspaper business, as people read their news on screen, but that, too, will change, just as we are witnessing a gradual turn-back to the tactile book as distinct from reading our literature on Kindle. But whether on Kindle, or traditional book form, people are still writing books, and people are still reading books. In Israel, there are book launching events nearly every week. Most are in Hebrew, but here comes one in English.
Toronto-born Matti Friedman, author and journalist, who has been living in Israel since he was 17, has served in the IDF, and has written for numerous publications including The Jerusalem Post, will launch his latest book, Spies of No Country – Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem on Wednesday, April 10. He will discuss the book, which focuses on the first four spies for Israel before the state was declared. All were born in the Middle East, came to the Land of Israel at a young age and were integrated into the Arab division of the Palmah. Because of their backgrounds, they were able to pass themselves off as Arabs, and were accepted as such by the Arab community. Friedman will talk about them at his book launch.
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