Grapevine: Thanks for the memories…

Israelis say farewell to television, radio and stage personality, art expert and wine connoisseur Meni Pe’er, who died on Wednesday.

Meni Peer seen here with child actress Anisa Jones from the American sitcom ‘Family Affair’ in Israel in 1972. (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)
Meni Peer seen here with child actress Anisa Jones from the American sitcom ‘Family Affair’ in Israel in 1972.
Members of Israel’s entertainment industry are meeting far too frequently in cemeteries, and this morning will gather at the Hayarkon Cemetery in Tel Aviv to say farewell to television, radio and stage personality, art expert and wine connoisseur Meni Pe’er, who died on Wednesday. At Pe’er’s request, a saxophonist will play “Summertime” at the funeral.
Pe’er died on a day when an advertisement appeared in the Hebrew press announcing that a memorial service would be held for Dudu Dotan, who died of a heart attack while vacationing in Turkey 13 years ago. The service for Dotan, who was chairman of the Israel Union of Performing Artists, will be held on Friday – the day of Pe’er’s funeral – at the Ramat Hasharon Cemetery at exactly the same time.
Close friends such as Yigal Shilon – who was with Dotan in Turkey and a friend since boyhood to Pe’er and Dudu Topaz, who committed suicide in 2009 – will be hard-pressed to decide as to whether to honor Dotan or Pe’er.
Adding to the ironies on Wednesday was a Cellcom press conference in which the cellphone company – which is celebrating its 20th anniversary – announced its sponsorship of a tribute concert to Arik Einstein, who died in November 2013; and the dedication of a movie auditorium at Cinema City Glilot to the now-defunct but still popular long-term comedy trio HaGashash Hahiver (“The Blind Scout”) – one of whose members, Yisrael Poliakov, died in October 2007.
The dedication was held within the framework of Israel Film Day, with movie theaters across the country screening Israeli films competing in the upcoming Ophir Awards – with the ceremony to be held in Ashdod on Sunday, September 21. It was the second time in less than a week that Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Moshe Edery, one of the must multifaceted and involved people in Israeli cinema, had come together with loads of entertainment celebrities at Cinema City.
The public response to Israel Film Day – which was held in tribute to filmmaker Menachem Golan, who died last month – was incredible. Theaters throughout the country were packed from one screening to the next, with many film buffs going from one movie to another.
At NIS 10 per ticket, it was the best cultural bargain in town, proving that when prices are reasonable, the public is more than willing to pay. Certainly at Cinema City Jerusalem, and probably elsewhere, when tickets to any particular show were sold out, people took whatever was available just to be part of the festivities.
It might prove to be profitable all around if such film days were held once a month.
■ The star-studded tribute concert to Arik Einstein will take place at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park on October 7, one night prior to Succot, and is saturated with entertainment options. Among the performers will be Kobi Aflalo, Corrine Alal, Mosh Ben-Ari, Carolina, Maor Cohen, David D’Or, Arkadi Duchin, Micky Gavrielov, Shalom Hanoch, Josie Katz, Yitzhak Klepter, Shem-Tov Levi, Mashina, Monika Sex, Yehudit Ravitz, Yoni Rechter, Rita, Danny Robas, Peter Roth, Danny Sanderson, Berry Sakharof, Shlomi Shabat, Micha Shitrit, Avraham Tal, Dudu Tassa and Ninet Tayeb – which means it will be a very long evening. Most of the artists performed together with Einstein at one time or another, and will sing some of his most popular songs.
■ Einstein's death was unlike those of Pe’er; Sefi Rivlin, who died last year of cancer; Naomi Shemer, who died of the disease in 2004; Yossi Banai in 2006; Amos Lavi in 2010; Shmulik Kraus in 2013; Assi Dayan this past May; and Golan – who had all been ill for some time. Rather, Einstein’s demise caught everyone by surprise, as did the death of Ehud Manor in 2005. Even though she was at an advanced age, the death of Shoshana Damari in 2006 was also unexpected – much more so than that of Yaffa Yarkoni, who passed away in 2012.
Just as members of the entertainment industry come out in force to honor their dead, the Israel Broadcasting Authority memorializes the people who were on its payroll. Pe’er was associated with the IBA in one way or another for a large portion of his life. In addition to reporting his death on radio and television in nearly all of its newscasts on Wednesday, the IBA – in its post-midnight loop until dawn on Thursday – ran several of Pe’er’s interview programs.
Among the many people frequently interviewed by Pe’er was President Reuven Rivlin, who wrote on his Facebook page that the former’s passing was both sorrowful and painful. Rivlin recalled the numerous in-depth interviews he had given to Pe’er, who he wrote was a genial interviewer who respected his interviewees, “even those who were fans of Beitar like me, while he was a fan of Hapoel Tel Aviv.” Rivlin praised Pe’er for his ability to incorporate humor into serious content.
■ On a much happier note, Rivlin will this coming Tuesday, September 9, celebrate his 75th birthday, but without the pomp and ceremony of the 90th birthday celebrations of his predecessor, Shimon Peres – who was in Rome yesterday to update his good friend Pope Francis on the peace prospects between Israel and the Palestinians in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.
Also on Tuesday, paparazzi, relatives, friends, fans and loads of celebrities will flock to Ga’ash for the wedding of Ninet Tayeb to Yossi Mizrahi. Tayeb, who was previously in a long-term relationship with actor Yehuda Levi, to whom she was engaged in November 2012, broke the engagement last August. At the time, rumors circulated that the split was caused by Levi’s pressuring Tayeb to settle down and have a family, while she wanted to pursue her highly successful career. But she went public about her romance with Mizrahi very soon after, and when she stands under the huppa on Tuesday, will be wearing a maternity wedding dress – something that has become quite fashionable among entertainers and fashion models in recent years.
It is not unusual for Tayeb to become romantically involved while still in a relationship with someone else. She had a boyfriend in the army when she took up with actor Ran Danker in 2004, a year after winning the first season of the long-running talent show A Star is Born.
While still living with Danker she took up with Levi, who at the time was seriously involved with actress Efrat Boimold.
Before that he was dating Yael Bar-Zohar, who has since married actor and singer Guy Zo-Aretz, who happened to co-star with Tayeb and Danker in the television soap opera Hashir Shelanu (“Our Song”).
■ The Bavli family, which has been associated with the Foreign Ministry for the past 60 years, has severed its relationship – not because of political disagreements, but because diplomats these days are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. In a letter addressed to ministry colleagues, Ofer Bavli, a third-generation diplomat and grandson of the famous Hannah Bavli, Israel’s queen of etiquette, explained he was leaving because he could not afford to stay.
It was a painful decision, he said, because he had been born into the Foreign Service. His grandfather Yitzhak Bavli had been a diplomat. His father, Mickey Bavli, had also been a diplomat, who following his retirement was asked by the UN to serve as the Israel representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It was almost natural for Ofer Bavli to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, but he was unable to support his family on a Foreign Ministry salary, he wrote.
Bavli is only one of several experienced, talented, multilingual and well-qualified diplomats who have left or are moving out of Foreign Ministry employ. Budgetary cuts have become so severe that ministry retirees were informed this week they will no longer receive the gift vouchers that were distributed in former years for Rosh Hashana, nor will they receive the small pocket diary that came with the vouchers. Tough times, especially when the defense budget requires all the spare cash the government can muster.
Apropos the Foreign Ministry, President Rivlin will next week for the first time receive the credentials of new ambassadors to Israel, and will greet the envoys of Georgia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Japan and possibly Swaziland.
■ Anxieties expressed by native English speakers at the possibility the language may disappear from the Israeli airwaves are not without foundation – but the final decision on the future of English, as far as the public broadcasting service is concerned, has yet to be taken.
When asked whether the English-language IBA News on Channels 1 and 33 was to be canceled, IBA spokeswoman Linda Bar said no final decision had been made, but an assessment was, and total cancellation was unlikely. The problem, she added, was that the program has low ratings.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the IBA in general has low ratings; and since the entry of Yona Wiesenthal as editor in chief, Channel 1 has become much more news-oriented, with more news bulletins than ever before. Although Wiesenthal is apparently disinterested in English and does not see the IBA as being part of Israel’s public diplomacy initiatives, he should be aware that there is always something to be learned from history.
The initial push for the establishment of an English-language division of the IBA was in the mid-1980s, when the late Uri Porat was director-general of the IBA and Nissim Mishal was head of Channel 1, then known as Israel Television. Anyone in Israel, especially diplomats who wanted to watch TV news in English, automatically turned to Jordan.
The idea of an English-language news service was accepted in principle, but it took several years before it became a reality. Porat was succeeded by Aryeh Mekel, who had worked as a journalist in the US and fully understood the need for an English-language news service.
Yosef Barel, who headed ITV at the time and later became IBA director-general, was also strongly in favor. Dalia Itzik, who was a Labor Party representative on the IBA management committee, also pushed hard for it.
The cost of the service was hotly debated within the various institutions of the IBA, and it was gradually agreed there should be a proper department for English, with Barel in charge. Between January 1989 and March 1990, seven launch dates were announced and missed; IBA News eventually went on-air in October 1990. The reason it missed the January 1989 target was because at long last, the Russians were coming, and there were certainly more Russian speakers in the country than English speakers – so pressure was brought to bear to have a Russian service instead of an English service. Then someone came up with the idea of broadcasting English on Channel 2, which was still in its trial operation and working under the umbrella of the IBA because it was not yet a legal entity.
Today, Channel 2 does broadcast in English via the Internet, as does Arutz Sheva and i24. The Jerusalem Post also has daily video news broadcasts on the Internet, as do several other media outlets.
Over the years, there have been various attempts within the IBA to divest itself of English, but large-scale protests organized through AACI and other English-language organizations saved the day. Whether protests will work in the future remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, some former media people who are now MKs – such as Nachman Shai, who is a former reporter and IBA chairman, as well as having held executive positions with Army Radio and the Second Authority for Television and Radio – are lobbying intensely for English at a time when the Palestinians, including Hamas, have soared to new heights in their English-language public diplomacy.
Wiesenthal should remember that objectivity does not necessarily cancel out patriotism.
■ No one knows for certain how much influence, if any, Sara Netanyahu wields on the affairs of state.
There have been countless media reports about the prime minister’s wife’s likes and dislikes of people, her alleged tantrums, the loyalists who report to her about anything and everything in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the extent to which she has her finger on the pulse of appointments and dismissals. The latter allegations surge into public consciousness whenever some highly talented, highly qualified person who was on the short list for an appointment within the Prime Minister’s Office or another entity over which the office has control, is suddenly dropped like a hot potato. Later, the public is informed by the media that the person in question made a disparaging remark about a member of the Netanyahu family.
How much truth there is to all this may one day be divulged by a secretary, housekeeper or bodyguard, who can bypass the secrecy pledge and declassify whatever information they have, through a growing number of secret apps that enable people to anonymously post items online without fear someone will trace their identity. One can only imagine how much joy hatemongers are deriving from the prospect.
One of the current rumors concerning the prime minister’s wife runs completely counter to one of the most important clauses in a recently passed bill, which calls for the dismantling of the IBA and the establishment in its stead of a new public broadcasting service, completely free of political influence or interference.
According to the rumor, which comes from several sources within the IBA, Sara Netanyahu is doing her utmost to have former IBA chairman Amir Gilat appointed as an adviser to the team responsible for liquidating the IBA and establishing its replacement entity.
Aside from the interference aspect, many within the IBA are both fearful and furious at the possibility that this could eventuate. Gilat made a lot of enemies during his three-and-a-half year tenure, and there are many who blame him for bringing the IBA to ruin. While there was a lot of waste and infighting over the years, not to mention hot disputes between the IBA chairman and its director- general over content and the body’s growing deficit, there are some who say no previous chairman rode roughshod over the management board, plenum and director-general as did Gilat.
Some IBA employees say that if Gilat is allowed to become adviser, he will block the paths of people with whom he has had disputes, and they will not be able to join the new public broadcasting service.
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