Grapevine: When age doesn’t matter

The politics of pension in action.

A general view shows the plenum during the swearing-in ceremony of the 20th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem March 31, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A general view shows the plenum during the swearing-in ceremony of the 20th Knesset, the new Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem March 31, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
JUST BEFORE the Knesset went into summer recess, there was yet another installment of the ongoing debate about retirement age for women, in which even great fighters for equality urged that retirement age for women remain at 62 or 63 and not be raised to 64 or – heaven forbid – equal to that of men, which is 67. Their arguments are based on women homemakers who have never held a job outside the house and would have to wait longer to receive their senior citizens’ pensions if the retirement age is raised.
On the other hand, employers who want to fire women in their early 60s have the excuse of retirement age, which doesn’t really make sense, because in Israel, as in many other parts of the world, women tend to live longer than men, and if they are good and dedicated workers, there is no reason to get rid of them.
One of the few places in which there is equality of retirement age for men and women is in the law courts, where retirement age has nothing to do with gender, but with having reached the age of 70. Yet these days, 70 is not exactly old, and even when it was, there was something unfair about judges having a longer lease on working life than other people. Pensions are, after all, paid on the basis of years worked and salaries earned. Professions in which a person’s age does not necessarily make him or her a candidate for retirement include entertainment, the arts and journalism, although there are also physicians and scientists who also work beyond retirement age. Authors and visual artists are generally freelancers, so there is no retirement age for them, and many continue to be prolific well past the age of 70.
French Armenian singer Charles Aznavour, who is due to appear in Tel Aviv at the end of October, is 93 years old. Among the other past-retirement age entertainers who have appeared in Israel in recent years are Tom Jones (77); Mick Jagger (74); Cliff Richard (76), who may celebrate his 77th birthday when he performs again in Israel in October; Paul McCartney (75); Enrico Macias (78); Rod Stewart (72); Paul Anka (76); Elton John (70) – and that’s just a short list.
On the local scene, singers and actors over retirement age include Yehoram Gaon (77); Boaz Sharabi (70); Israel Gurion (81); Chava Alberstein, who will be 70 in December; Lea Koenig (87); Gila Almagor (78); Rivka Michaeli (79); Liora Rivlin (72); Ze’ev Revach (76); and Tuvia Tzafir (71), among many others, including classical musicians who have not been mentioned here.
As far as journalism is concerned, Shalom Kittal, who will be 70 in December, was brought back to Reshet Bet as a guest anchor in the final months of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and then stayed on with Kan, where he now has permanent broadcasting slots. Dan Maragalit (79), who was fired two months ago from Israel Hayom, is now writing for Haaretz; Moshe Arens (91) has a regular column in Haaretz; Yaakov Ahimeir (79) continues to present world news on Kan 11 and also contributes to the print media; Ron Ben Yishai (73), the intrepid military correspondent, continues to write for Yediot Aharonot. Gabi Gazit (70) broadcasts on 103 FM, as does Natan Zahavi (70), who also writes for the weekend edition of Maariv. Aryeh Golan, who continues to be the early morning anchor on Reshet Bet, is also 70, and these days is frequently seen on television as well. And of course there’s Noah Klieger (90), who continues to write on Holocaust-related subjects and on sport for Yediot Aharonot. Authors and artists are largely self-employed, but amongst the senior citizen authors still writing are Sami Michael (90); Aharon Applefeld (85); Eli Amir (79); Amos Oz (78); and A.B. Yehoshua (80).
There’s no age limit on politicians and statesmen. President Reuven Rivlin, who was an MK up until taking office in July 2014, will celebrate his 78th birthday next month. When Rivlin’s predecessor, Shimon Peres, was sworn in as president, he was 83 years old and continued to serve for seven years, tirelessly traveling throughout the country and abroad. The world may well belong to the young, but it also belongs to the not-so-young.
■ IN THE spirit of better late than never, Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, on Sunday hosted what could be termed a judicial dinner in honor of the 80th birthday of former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak. However, the celebration was a little out of date. Barak turned 80 last September 16. Even going by the Hebrew calendar, the date of the dinner was way off the mark, given that Barak was born on the day before Rosh Hashana. It could be said that the dinner was held in advance of his 81st birthday, but then 81 is not a milestone number, except for people who count in multiples of nine.
Still, it was an opportunity to bring some of Israel’s leading legal minds together. Also present were Barak’s wife, Elisheva, a former vice president of the National Labor Court, and three of Barak’s successors: Dorit Beinish, Asher Grunis and present incumbent Miriam Naor, who will step down in October when she turns 70. Beinish, Grunis and Naor all came with their spouses. Rivlin was not exactly the odd man out at the dinner that he hosted; he was a practicing lawyer for many years before giving his attention to politics full-time.
■ EVEN THOUGH it had been advertised on Friday as taking place, in a subsequent advertisement on the front page of The Jerusalem Post on Monday, organizers of the annual Tisha Be’Av nighttime walk around the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem announced that a final decision as to whether the police would authorize the walk would be given at the last minute. Because of the doubt and the security issue, the evening prayers and the recitation by David Matar of the Book of Lamentations was scheduled for 9 p.m., instead of immediately after nightfall as had been the case in bygone years. As always, the assembly place for the service was in Independence Park directly opposite the US Consulate.
A handful of regulars who hadn’t noticed the time change showed up at 8 p.m. and were dismayed at the absence of the usual crowd. Nadia Matar, the chief organizer, arrived while it was still daylight, bringing with her numerous large national flags and placards with the names of overseas supporters who were virtually participating in the walk. Matar voiced the hope that next year they would participate in person. Close to a hundred police from different units were in the park when Matar arrived.
She and her partner in Women in Green, Yehudit Katsover, have a long and excellent relationship with the police, but Matar thought that such a huge number was far too many and speaking through a bullhorn told them that they were loved and appreciated, but that more than half of them could leave. They applauded her, and indeed more than half did leave.
At 8:30 p.m. a few more people came drifting in, but it seemed that this 23rd annual gathering was not going to draw as large a crowd as in the previous 22 years. In the final analysis it was almost, but not quite, as large, yet in some respects it was a different crowd. Many of the Americans and Brits may have been deterred by the uncertainty and didn’t come, but a large number of French immigrants came to demonstrate their solidarity with Jerusalem, and Matar, who was making all the announcements as things developed, went seamlessly from Hebrew, to English to French to ensure that everyone present knew exactly what was going on.
She explained that the police had authorized the walk, but had asked that it not begin before 10.15 p.m. The late start had obviously been anticipated and a large screen had been put up for the purpose of showing two video clips, one of Jerusalemites talking about their yearning to be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, and the discomfort they felt at an Arab presence there; and the other of former MK Geula Cohen talking about how her proposed Jerusalem Law was passed on July 30, 1980.
Cohen had been motivated by a desire to ensure the territorial integrity of greater Jerusalem, and the fact was that Mayor Teddy Kollek was preparing a Jerusalem bill that would be proposed by a member of the Labor Party. Cohen had been informed of this by Labor MK Uzi Baram, and she wanted to get in first. The problem was that she had no political support. Even Dr. Joseph Burg, the head of the National Religious Party, would not support her, saying the time wasn’t ripe.
She spoke to Likud MK Dov Shilansky, who agreed with her, but asked if she had support. She answered that no one would dare not vote in favor of a law declaring that united Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel and the seat of the president of the State, the Knesset, the government and the Supreme Court. Cohen’s confidence had not been misplaced. People from the far Left abstained, but not did vote against, and the law was passed.
The following day, said Cohen, she received a letter from Kollek saying that as result of the new legislation, four embassies were leaving Jerusalem for Tel Aviv. Cohen’s response was: “Let them be in Tel Aviv, so long as we’re in Jerusalem.”
■ WHILE SHE was in New York last week, Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev not only attended the opening night of To the End of the Land, directed by Hanan Snir in a joint production of the Cameri and Habima theaters based on the critically acclaimed novel by David Grossman, but also visited the graves of the last two Lubavitcher Rebbes, Yosef Yitzhak and Menachem Mendel Schneerson, where she said a prayer and lit a candle.
Whatever her intentions may have been, Regev was roundly roasted by Lior Schleien on Channel 10’s satirical show Back of the Nation. Schleien contended that prayer is a very personal and intimate thing and one doesn’t take along a video photographer when one goes to pray at the tomb of a rabbinic leader. A confessed atheist, Schleien also made some other deprecating remarks that would not go over too well in Chabad circles, but his main target was Regev.
Grossman had earlier taken a verbal shot at Regev at the cocktail reception following the performance of the play. It was not the first time that he had publicly criticized her.
In June of this year, Grossman said that Regev does not understand her job and gives priority to Jewishness and Israeliness over freedom of expression. Even though Regev had publicly complimented him in New York, calling him “one of our best writers,” Grossman was not placated. In his own address, Grossman told Regev that she was mistaken in demanding loyalty from the people contributing to Israel’s cultural output. Regev was not exactly thrilled to hear this and replied that all she had asked for was that there be no anti-Israel incitement. Then in a much quieter tone than she usually employs, she suggested to Grossman that they continue their quarrel in Israel and refrain from it in New York.
■ IT’S SAD that the restraint that Regev was able to muster in New York could not be contained in Israel. From insults traded during the week of Tisha Be’av between Regev, coalition chairman David Bitan, former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and the invective of lawyer Yoram Sheftel, who is appearing for Elor Azaria, it would seem that nothing has been learned from the saga of the destruction of the Temple. History is simply repeating itself, but with different players and a revision of the script.
■ CHANGES IN Jewish life can have impact on the Hebrew language. For instance, this week at the pre-Tisha Be’av study session at the President’s Residence, Naama Kelman, who is a Reform rabbi, was listed in Hebrew as Rabba, whereas Esti Rosenberg, who happens to have a wonderful pedigree as the daughter of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and the granddaughter of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, was listed as Rabbanit, although she is a noted scholar in her own right and heads the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for women.
On a completely different issue related to changes in Jewish life, imagine a headline that states “The rabbi had painted toenails.” Actually, that’s not a big deal when the rabbi is not only a woman but also the Dean of Hebrew Union College. Kelman, who was wearing sandals, displayed a superb pedicure with beautifully shaped and painted toenails.
■ WHEN HE came to Israel last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought with him a valuable gift in terms of cultural and spiritual heritage – a Torah scroll with case and crown from the Paradesi Jewish community in Cochin, which is one of India’s most ancient communities. The scroll was presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who gave it to the Foreign Ministry for safekeeping.
Last week, the gift was transferred from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to its new home, Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People. Although the chances are high that it is a permanent home, it may not be, because the Paradesi Jewish community has declared that it is proud to lend the scroll – which is one of five – to the Paradesi Jewish community in Israel and to the Jewish people of Israel to conserve and sustain the proud heritage of the Paradesi Jewish community. In expressing its appreciation to Modi and the government of India for facilitating the transfer of the Torah scroll, the Paradesi Jewish community underscored “the benevolent protection bestowed on them and other Jewish communities in India by the rulers of India and their fellow Indian citizens.”
The Torah scroll was commissioned long ago by Baghdad-born tycoon Shabdai Koder in memory of his wife Miriam, who passed away in 1908. Among those attending the presentation ceremony were Shmuel and Alia Koder, representing the Paradesi Jewish community; Yaakov Finkelstein, the Israel Consul in Mumbai; Dan Tadmor, the director general of Beit Hatfutsot, and the museum’s chief curator, Dr. Orit Shaham Gover. While Beit Hatfutsot has the Torah scroll, the Israel Museum has the wonderful Kadavumbagam synagogue from Cochin, which it restored in 1996, and Moshav Nevatim in the Negev has the Chin Jewish Heritage Museum and Synagogue.
Last month a group of Indian media moguls came to Israel to check out Israel’s Internet technologies and next week Bollywood dance group Sugar & Spice, along with singer Mickey Singh, will perform at the opening of the Karmiel Dance Festival. They will also be performing in Modi’in and Petah Tikva.
■ A DELEGATION headed by Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Edward Goodale visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation on Sunday and was sufficiently impressed when learning about YaLa, the Young Leaders Facebook-based movement that promotes dialogue and engagement as a means to securing a productive, safe and peaceful region, that Goodale spontaneously announced that Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would participate in the program, which was launched by the Peres Center in 2011 at the initiative of Peres Center honorary president Uri Savir.
With almost a million committed participants from all over the Middle East acting as ambassadors for peace and dialogue, the future looks somewhat brighter than the past, despite the ongoing turmoil in the region. Among the peace ambassadors are young people from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq who dialogue with each other through social media.
Goodale said both the Peres Center and the YaLa project were inspirational. He was accompanied by Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Levitt, former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, representatives of the Canadian Embassy in Israel and Canadian expat and leading businessman and partner in a private equity company Jonathan Kolber, who is a member of the board of directors of the Peres Center.
■ AWARD WINNING author and journalist for The Jewish Press Harvey Rachlin looked for what turned out to be more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack when he tried to trace exact iconic quotes that for decades have been attributed to Golda Meir.
Rachlin was willing to believe that Meir had said something similar that had been paraphrased and linked to her name in perpetuity, but intensive research failed to produce either the so-called original quote or its adopted version. Meir is not the only person who has been cloaked in misquotes and false quotes which have stuck like glue in the annals of history.
Rachlin was specifically searching for the context in which she allegedly made the following quotes:“Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us” and “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”
In his research, Rachlin found these quotes surfacing many times in various writings about Israel’s only woman prime minister, but nowhere did he find a speech made by Golda in which either of these quotes appeared.
Nonetheless, they will continue to be repeated as part of her legacy. The latter quote came to mind this week with regard to Elor Azaria and the unnamed soldier from the Oketz unit who neutralized a terrorist in Halamish without killing him. Instead of admiring the soldier who presented the security authorities with a live prisoner who could be questioned, many Israelis mocked him, saying that this was the Azaria effect. Now every soldier would be afraid to shoot to kill. The brave soldier who stopped a terrorist in his tracks without killing him was considered by some to be a coward, while Azaria who had killed a terrorist who had already been neutralized was considered a hero.
This perversity of thought did not allow room for consideration that the soldier who refrained from killing saw no reason to take the law into his hands and to kill when he had the opportunity to do otherwise. He allowed the law to take its course. If a good word is to be said for Azaria, who made conflicting statements about killing a terrorist who had already been incapacitated, it is that unlike his family, which has gone bananas, he is taking his punishment like a man.
■ WHILE FRIENDS of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) national board member and major supporter Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl were at a groundbreaking ceremony in the northern Galilee last week for a new memorial center for fallen Druse soldiers, 25 children and siblings of fallen IDF soldiers visited the Chicago area as part of the Friends of the FIDF LEGACY program. The youngsters attended a 10-day recreation camp and were given what was for them an unforgettable experience.
“These brave children – whose parents have made the ultimate sacrifice for Israel and Jews around the world – have been through so much,” said FIDF National Board Member Morris Silverman, who hosted a pool party for them at his and FIDF supporter Lori Komisar’s Winnetka home. Silverman and Komisar have been FIDF LEGACY hosts for the past eight years.
“We wanted to show them how grateful we and FIDF are for the sacrifices they and their families have made,” Komisar said. “Bringing these incredible kids here to make lifelong friends, meet the community, and share in the uniquely American experience of summer camp is a wonderful way to help them heal from their tremendous loss.”
Meanwhile, in Israel, the Sabans, who are funding construction of the FIDF Druse Soldiers Heritage Center, were able to shmooz at the groundbreaking ceremony with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman; Sheikh Muwaffak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druse community in Israel; and former Member of Knesset Shachiv Shanan, the father of Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Kamil Shanan, one of the two Druse police officers killed by terrorists at the Temple Mount on July 14.
“The Druse community’s reputation is always connected to terms like ‘bravery,’ ‘sacrifice,’ and ‘sanctity of life,’” said Saban. “To this day, hundreds of Druse soldiers have given their lives protecting Israel. The FIDF Druse Soldiers Heritage Center is the very least we can do to show our gratitude and admiration for their sacrifices. The Druse community deserves its own place that will be a source of pride.”
The new heritage center will highlight Druse contributions to the IDF and the State of Israel, and will also serve as both a rest and recreation resource for active-duty and discharged soldiers as well as a memorial for fallen Druse soldiers, thus being a source of comfort and pride to bereaved families. The building will include a lobby, a 500-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, a heritage room, classrooms, offices and a dining hall.
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