Grapevine: A final contribution

A round up of news briefs from around the country.

TOURISM MINISTER Yariv Levin (left) with Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotel Association. (photo credit: Courtesy)
TOURISM MINISTER Yariv Levin (left) with Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotel Association.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Even in death Shimon Peres was still able to contribute. Advertising revenues in financially ailing newspapers soared with the number of condolence notices from organizations and institutions which will continue to pour in this week.
Early last week, as he lay dying in a hospital bed at Sheba Medical Center, it was impossible to be unaware of Shimon Peres or to ignore his influence on Israel’s relations with the world. On Monday of last week, Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, hosting the Ozraeli happening at the Peres Center for Peace, actually spoke Hebrew in sending Peres best wishes for a full recovery.
On Tuesday, both German Ambassador Clemens Von Goetze and Chinese Ambassador Zhan Yongxin each at their individual national day celebrations held in different parts of the campus of Tel Aviv University, mentioned Peres in their speeches. Von Goetze referred to Peres as the man who shaped Israeli policy and contributed much to relations between Israel and Germany, and wished him well in his struggle for his life. Zhan called Peres “a dear friend of the Chinese People” who was highly respected in China for his resolute commitment in pursuit of regional peace and his tireless efforts in promoting Israel-China relations. “We are very much concerned with his current health situation,” said Zhan.
■ THE AUSTRALIAN event was proof of how in a very short time, the Australian ambassador has learned the Israeli way to by-pass bureaucracy.
Unless an Australian prime minister or foreign minister is visiting a foreign country on January 26, Canberra denies Australian ambassadors a budget for celebrating Australia Day.
But Sharma has been itching to show the locals and his diplomatic colleagues just how much fun an Australian party can be. So in September instead of in January, he hosted a promotion of Australia-Israel relations under the hybrid name of Ozraeli – and voila, a budget! He made, the point, again resorting to Hebrew, that this was not a kabbalat panim (reception), but a mesiba (party). Its success could be measured in the number of appreciative e-mails and Facebook comments and photos that were sent even before people went home, plus the many that were sent afterwards.
When people asked Sharma’s wife Rachel Lord what it was all about, and was it really an Australia Day function, she replied that the weather was like it is in Australia on Australia Day. At the bottom of the stairs before entering the huge courtyard, guests were greeted by two musicians playing electric didgeridoos.
For those who may not be aware, a didgeridoo is a long, wooden, Australian wind instrument, developed by the indigenous Australians who were previously known as aborigines. It’s been used as an aboriginal musical instrument for more than a thousand years. The plugged-in sound is not quite the same as the original drone. There was also an exhibition of didgeridoos of different shapes and sizes inside the building. There were probably fewer Australians than Israelis and members of the international community. The Australians included veterans such as Eliahu and Helen Honig, who’ve been in Israel for well over half a century and who together with several other Australian expats now live in the Protea village, which is also home to Reuma Weizman, the widow of Israel’s seventh president Ezer Weizman. There were also Australian expats in their twenties and thirties, and a few visiting Australians, such as billionaire businessman and philanthropist James Packer, who was recognized by several people who wanted to pose for photos with him and he obliged in good nature, even when drag queens Peot Kedoshot (Holy Wigs) asked to be photographed with him.
Toward the end of the evening, he was seen engrossed in deep conversation with Sharma, who earlier had been engrossed in conversation with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who is also a personal friend.
The drag queens were part of the entertainment as a tribute of sorts to the great Australian film Priscilla the Queen of the Desert. Australian entertainers included singer-song writer Ben Goldstein and “mockumentary” comedian, human rights lawyer, actor, and playwright Jeremie Bracka.
His biting humor spares no-one. An example: “Since Bibi got elected, El Al has removed Occupied from all of its toilets.” Or with regard to the possibility that Qantas may be launching direct flights from Sydney to Tel Aviv, Bracka wondered what the poor Jewish tourists would do if they couldn’t stop in Hong Kong to go shopping.
There were signs all over the place warning of wallabies, kangaroos and koala bears that might be on the road, and there were other signs pointing to Sydney, Alice, Sprigs, Brisbane and Ayres Rock. Guests danced to a live band and when they were hungry they gobbled Australian pies with sauce which by and large received a thumbs up sign, though there were mixed feelings about the sausage rolls which were not bad, but not exactly like the ones down under. There was also fish and chips with a sign on the bar stating that Britain not only brought its convicts to Australia, it also brought its cuisine. By the way, Australia is one of the few countries that has three national flags – the familiar one that features six stars and a Union Jack, the Aboriginal flag with a yellow circle over a black and red oblongs, and the Torres Strait Islanders’ flag in green, marine blue, black and white symbolizing land, sea, the islanders, the five major island groups and peace. All three were suspended from a balcony.
■ AT THE 26th anniversary of the Day of German Unity, Haim Katz, minister for Welfare and Social Services, yet again disdained formal attire, and wore a short-sleeved open necked sport shirt instead of a business suit. However, when he spoke people forgot about his abuse of the dress code. Katz spoke of how the wheel of history turns. On May 14, 1945, his parents who had survived Auschwitz were liberated from Bergen-Belsen, he said. And here he was in Israel congratulating Germany on its day of unity, after the Nazis had murdered a third of the Jewish people. But now there is a close friendship between the governments and people of Israel and Germany, he said, and last year they celebrated fifty years of diplomatic relations. Today Germany is facing the challenge of the mass migration of refugees and must adapt to new realties. Katz thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government for their political and security support of Israel.
He also noted that prior to taking his place on the dais he had spent time talking to a group of people who are among the last survivors of Bergen-Belsen. Among the approximately 1,000 guests was Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai who chairs the Israel-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Group. Ambassador von Goetze spoke of the high level of cooperation between Israel and Germany on many different fronts. He also emphasized Germany’s determination to fight against terrorism and to be vigilant in fighting anti-Semitism in Germany and in the 57 member states of the OSCE – the Organization for Security-oriented governmental organization in Europe.
■ ACROSS THE other side of the campus in the Smolarz Auditorium, Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi, speaking at the 67th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, compared two ancient civilizations that are forging a bright future in the modern world, stating that from the very beginning of China’s modern history, Israel stretched out its hand in friendship to the Chinese people, and was one of the first countries to recognize the PRC.
He did not forget to mention the courageous actions of the Chinese people who sheltered thousands of persecuted Jews in their darkest hours at a time when China was fighting for its own survival. Zhan spoke of China’s evolving economy, which thanks to the perseverance of the Chinese people, is the world’s second largest economy, the biggest trader of goods, the third largest direct overseas investor. All these contributing factors have lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty, and pushed China’s per capita GDP up to $8,000, he said. Noting that next year Israel and China will mark the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, Zhan hinted at the celebrations in store, but meanwhile introduced the Beijing Philharmonic Choir that also includes instrumentalists.
Well disciplined, all their body movements were in perfect sync, and their vocal range was amazing. So was their repertoire. All the songs were video illustrated behind them on a giant screen. The video for Flight of the Bumble Bee comprised a delightful animated cartoon, but the other videos showed China’s beautiful landscape and happy, laughing children.
The program included 15 songs and musical recitals. Conducted by Yang Hongnian with Wang Tianyang at the piano, the choir earned enthusiastic applause. The Chinese Embassy, which has outgrown its premises in Tel Aviv’s Ben Yehuda Street, is moving to Ramat Hahayal, which is less convenient but will be more impressive.
■ THE SADDEST thing about the death of Shimon Peres was that he could not personally witness the outpouring of love, respect and admiration from all over Israel and around the world. There were many times during his presidency, in which he remarked about the negativism that he had encountered as a politician, and marveled at how that had changed dramatically after he became president. There were so many people who had their own personal Peres stories, many of which were covered by the media, especially the electronic media with an ongoing series of interviews with people whose lives had in one way or another been touched by him. This included well known figures from the public arena as well as people who were relatively anonymous.
In the latter category is Linda Lipschitz, a former news coordinator at The Jerusalem Post. Lipschitz is the daughter of the late Reginald Levy, a British pilot, who in 1972 became an international headlines hero as the pilot of a hijacked Sabena plane which was commandeered by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September shortly after taking off from Vienna. Levy, who had been part of the RAF Bomber Command during World War II was experienced in remaining cool under fire, and did not panic when two masked men burst into the cockpit, threatening him with both a gun and a hand grenade. In the most legendary epitome of British cool, Levy calmly announced to the passengers via the intercom: “as you can see we have friends aboard.”
The friends included two bomb-wielding women from Black September who threatened to blow up the plane unless 317 Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli jails. Levy’s wife was on board, having intended to celebrate his 50th birthday with him in Tel Aviv. Levy somehow managed to get the message to his crew not to reveal her identity.
He was also able to transmit a coded message to the control tower at Lod Airport, now known as Ben-Gurion Airport. The plane landed at night.
It was disabled by two Israeli saboteurs sent out by Moshe Dayan, and when the Palestinians learned that the plane would be unable to take off again, they threatened to blow it up. Levy spent the night talking to them about every possible subject, in order to deter them from their intention. The following morning the hijackers sent Levy to the airport terminal with some of their arsenal to indicate to the Israelis that they meant business. Levy was personally debriefed by Dayan and gave him the vital information that there was nothing blocking the emergency doors, which meant that an Israeli commando team disguised as a maintenance crew, could access the plane.
Levy returned and told the hijackers that Israel had agreed to their demands but that it would take a little time. Led by Ehud Barak and including Benjamin Netanyahu, who was wounded by a hijacker’s bullet, the commandos entered the plane, killed or disabled the hijackers and rescued the 100 passengers and crew. There was consensus that had it not been for Levy, the outcome of the hijacking operation would have been catastrophic. Speaking modestly, Levy said that he hadn’t done more than his duty as captain of the plane. As a result of his heroism, he developed firm and long-standing friendships with future presidents of Israel, Ezer Weizman (himself a pilot) and Shimon Peres, whose death was an emotional blow for Lipschitz.
“Peres and my father had a long history together,” she recalled last week. “My first Friday night in Israel was at Shimon and Sonia’s home.
Every time my parents visited Israel, Peres would meet with them. My father was very humble and never understood what all the fuss about him was. He always said ‘I was just doing my job.’ “My father was sick and in the hospital for tests. He called me to tell me he had just received a wonderful letter from Shimon, who had heard he was sick, wishing him a full and speedy recovery with prayers from the Holy Land. My father asked me to call Shimon and tell him he would be home in a few days and would reply. My father died suddenly the next day with Shimon’s letter proudly displayed on his hospital bedside table.” After Peres died, Lipschitz read the letter over and over again.
“He made my father very proud and happy,” she said. Familiar from her media background with The Jerusalem Report and later The Jerusalem Post of the many tales of people’s relations with Peres, she said that hers was “just one of the many stories about Peres’s humanity, caring about people and taking the time to show he cares.”
There were also people from the right of the political spectrum who recalled the days when Peres was a keen supporter of settlements and Greater Israel. When several public figures repeated that there is nothing in Israel’s achievements that Peres had not touched, they were also referring to the days when Peres was a hawk before he was transformed into a dove.
■ ONE OF the interesting television interviews was with former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik who had been very close to Peres, and who for three months after Moshe Katsav suspended himself, had been acting president, a role she enjoyed, did well and had hoped to be the first female president of Israel. But when she learned that Peres who had been defeated by Katsav in the previous elections, still had his eye on the presidency, she stepped back to enable him to become the first former prime minister to also serve as president. A school teacher before entering politics, first through the teachers’ union, then through the Jerusalem municipality, serving under Teddy Kollek, and then through the Labor Party to the Knesset and to the Cabinet, Itzik disclosed that Peres, who had been hailed far and wide for his wisdom and the depth and breadth of his knowledge, did not have bagrut (matriculation) and was an autodidact.
■ SHOULD A husband know what’s going on in his own home and share the blame for illegalities attributed to his wife? Tel Aviv Labor Court Judge Hannah Trachtingut thinks he should, though in the past former prime minister Ehud Barak got away with it and his wife Nili Priel took the rap and the fine for illegally employing a foreign worker.
Aviva Weinstein, the wife of former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, found herself in a similar position.
Both husbands claimed not to have been aware that a foreign worker was illegally employed in the house.
However, in the case of businessman Ilan Ben Dov and his ex-wife Keren Michaeli, the judge slapped each of them with a fine, but made them collectively pay more than either Nili Priel or Aviva Weinstein, whose employees had worked for much longer periods. It was in a sense a form of adding insult to injury. Bad enough that they were caught, they employed the foreign worker in question for only three months and that in the view of the judge this meant that they had to fork out NIS 13,000 each, whereas Priel was fined NIS 22,000 for employing a foreign worker for seven months and Weinstein was fined NIS 20,000 for employing a foreign worker for the same amount of time. Just to make matters worse, the charges were filed in 20l2, and only now has the judge handed out a ruling. Under other circumstances, the case might have been dropped due to the expiry of the statute of limitations, but instead the couple – who are no longer a couple – had to part with a total of NIS 26,000. It’s an interesting psychological conundrum that despite the heavy media coverage given to the illegal employment of workers, sex crimes and various forms of corruption, people don’t learn, and still think they can get away with it.
■ THE IBA English News on Channel One has a sizable following which voices loud protests on the occasions when the program does not go to air.
Many of the viewers are people who no matter how many years they’ve been in Israel, have never picked up enough Hebrew to be able to follow the various Hebrew news broadcasts on radio and television.
Now, with the threat of closure hanging over the head of the IBA News, the program’s fans will be devastated, unless they are computer savvy, and can pick up the Channel 2 news in English or I24 which broadcasts in English, French and Arabic, or the English language news videos of various publications, including The Jerusalem Post.
Although the old public broadcasting law made provision for foreign language broadcasts, the current law does not. Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, who is a former chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, tried to introduce the foreign language clause into the new legislation, but did not find sufficient support. Meanwhile, there is still a faint glimmer of hope in that coalition chairman and Likud MK David Bitan intends after the holidays to present a bill for the resurrection of the IBA and the cancellation of its successor, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as Kan, whose chairman Gil Omer said during a Rosh Hashana toast last week that it would be ready to go to air on January 1, 2017. However rumor has it that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also communications minister, would now like to kill off the IPBC, and that Bitan is doing the dirty work.
Shai is willing to work with Bitan to instead resuscitate and revamp the IBA. However, with regard to foreign language broadcasts, he wants to try to get the regulator to approve I24 broadcasts in Israel. At present, it is accessible only on line in Israel, but if efforts to abort IPBC fail, the only solution to having foreign language news about the region and the world is I24, says Shai.
Meanwhile, the American headquartered Jewish Broadcasting Service, which for the time being includes the IBA news in its line-up, has brought English language Jewish television to Israel, but like I24, is accessible only on line.
The JBS Board includes Gaby Rosenberg of G.R. Business Management and Development, Ltd, who for many years was the president and CEO of Jerusalem Capital Studios.
“JBS has an important role in the lives of those who are interested in Jewish issues and in Israel,” says Rosenberg, noting that its viewers include Jews and non-Jews alike.
JBS founding president and CEO is Rabbi Mark S. Golub, recognized by Newsweek Magazine, as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America.
JBS is now available free-of-charge on computers, tablets and mobile phones. Visitors to its website (www. can click on “Watch Live” to access the most current material.
JBS can also be seen on the streaming service Roku. Its website also enables viewers to watch JBS programs on-demand.
“We hope JBS will become part of the discussion of the many challenges facing Jewish life today, serving as a television bridge between the Jewish communities of Israel and the United States,” says Golub.
■ ALTHOUGH ISRAEL’S tourism still falls way short of the number of tourists who flock to other destinations in the Mediterranean, people in the tourist industry remain optimistic that the annual figure will reach five million in the not-too-distant future.
This was the figure mentioned by Eli Gonen, the head of the Israel Hotel Association at the traditional pre-Rosh Hashana toast held at the Tel Aviv Hilton. This optimism may also account for the fact that Israel is continuing to build hotels, which for most of the year are far from full. The hotel boom is being encouraged by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in what could be interpreted as an exaggerated version of the Boy Scouts motto of “Be Prepared.” Levin, who attended the toast, voiced his wish for an upsurge in tourism in the coming year. The event was also attended by many hoteliers and various providers of tourist services. WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2016  THE JERUSALEM POST GRAPEVINE • By GREER FAY CASHMAN US AMBASSADOR Dan Shapiro with his wife Julie Fisher (left), Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma with his wife Rachel Lord and mutual friend Anne Kleinberg (right). (Facebook) PEOT KEDUSHOT drag queens with Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma and his wife Rachel Lord. (Facebook) TOURISM MINISTER Yariv Levin (left) with Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotel Association.
(Courtesy) WELFARE AND SOCIAL Services Minister Haim Katz. (German Embassy