Grapevine: Technology at any age

A roundup of news from around Israel.

Miri Regev
There’s a popular misconception that people of the third age cannot cope with new technologies. There are plenty of people who have reached retirement age (or passed it) who have backgrounds in computers, engineering, science and mathematics, for whom new technologies pose no problem, or at worst are a temporary challenge. Even without such backgrounds, if shown how to operate the latest cellphone, PC, vacuum cleaner and any other technological marvel, most mentally alert senior citizens can learn. Perhaps their learning process is a little different and a little slower, but they do manage.
Nonetheless, Zionist Union MKs Nachman Shai, 70, and Itzik Shmuli, 37, are concerned as to whether technology will conquer senior citizens, or whether senior citizens will prove that they can master technology. The two head the Knesset Lobby on Technological Challenges for Senior Citizens, which deals with issues such as automatic switchboards that confound senior citizens who are seeking a human voice; digital banking; and inability to access one’s email.
To learn more about the difficulties experienced by senior citizens in accessing technological systems, or alternately in succeeding to operate them, Shai and Shmuli will host a meeting at the Knesset on February 20. Shmuli not only takes care of the needs of senior citizens but is a hands-on parliamentarian in personally trying to solve numerous social welfare problems, and is frequently called on by radio anchors to help listeners who have telephoned the station to air their grievances at being stymied by bureaucracy.
■ PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only person in Israel to receive text messages from US President Donald Trump. Loretta Weinberger of Ra’anana received a message from Trump a few days before his inauguration.
Weinberger is not a politician, but she had created something that Trump wanted.
She happens to be a songwriter who, under her professional name of Loretta Kay Feld, had written a song called “Gonna Keep America Singing.” Trump thought it was a perfect backdrop for his campaign slogan about making America great again, and texted a request to her, in which he asked permission to play the song at his inauguration.
He not only did her the honor of choosing her song but also invited her to come and attend.
Weinberger readily consented to the song being played, but the invitation came at too short notice for her to be able to cancel existing commitments and to make all the necessary arrangements. In a technological age in which total strangers can gain some form of access to us through Facebook, email, Twitter and other forms of social media, it was not all that difficult for Trump to access Weinberger’s cellphone, and although she has had strangers make contact with her before, the face of the last recognizable stranger in the world that she expected to see on her screen was the man who at the time was president-elect of the United States of America and is now president.
Weinberger, who came to Israel from England eight years ago, wrote the song in 2013, after which she received a letter on White House stationery from president Barack Obama. Three years ago the song was performed at the residence of then- US ambassador Dan Shapiro during the Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations.
Even though she was unable to attend Trump’s inaugural, which she watched with great interest on television, Weinberger will nonetheless get to meet him.
When he learned that she would be unable to come to Washington in January, but that she hoped to be there in the spring, he invited her to come to meet him and his family.
■ ONE ISRAELI whom Trump would not like to meet is comedian, actor and musician Tal Friedman, who is Israel’s king of spoof. Friedman, who delighted television viewers during the 11 seasons in which he appeared on Channel 2 in the Keshet satirical production A Wonderful Country, is back again after a three-year hiatus, and each week will do a different send-up of Trump, depending on the president’s most recent tweets or politically incorrect indiscretions.
It is not yet certain whether Friedman will relate to Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with Trump, which is more or less around the time that A Wonderful Country begins its new season, going to air on February 20.
It’s just as well that Trump doesn’t understand Hebrew, because a translation, no matter how good, will take some of the bite out of the skit. Unlike Israeli political figures who know how to laugh at themselves, and were mightily amused by the impersonations of Friedman, Eli Finish and Tuvia Tzafir, Trump is not amused when he is the target of the roast, and was most unhappy with Alec Baldwin’s take on him on Saturday Night Live.
Baldwin got Trump’s hand movements just right. Trump might have gone along with that, but not with Baldwin’s remarks about groping women that went somewhat beyond the text in the embarrassing video released during Trump’s election campaign, in which he bragged about how his fame enabled him to do anything he wanted to women.
■ THIS MUST be one of the most embarrassing months in Netanyahu’s life. With criminal investigations hanging over his head, headlined almost daily in the Israeli media and frequently reported in the world media, it has not been easy for him to meet with his counterparts from other countries.
When he was in London to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May, he had to stand for a minute or two in front of the closed door, before it was opened to admit him. He looked really uncomfortable waiting.
His meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in the shadow of Belgian prosecutors wanting to charge certain Israeli politicians and army officers with war crimes was likewise an uncomfortable situation. And now, barring any unforeseen barrier, he’s off to Singapore to meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and from there to Australia to meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
All of his government peers are aware of Netanyahu’s predicament and he knows that they know. Perhaps that’s the reason that he and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon went to have hummus in a Jerusalem restaurant last Wednesday. But it’s getting harder and harder to play the business as usual game.
■ WHILE PLANS are already being made in the event that Netanyahu is charged with corruption and has to step down from office, the possibility remains that this will not happen, despite all the negative publicity.
In that case, there is likely to be a struggle between Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Transportation Minister Israel Katz.
Levin wants to take responsibility for air traffic away from the Transportation Ministry, arguing that since international flights bring in tourists and take out tourists, responsibility for them belongs to the Tourism Ministry. It is unlikely that Katz will be willing to give up any part of his power base, which indicates that on top of everything else, Netanyahu will be faced with yet another challenge. The last thing he needs is to make enemies within the party, and someone is going to be angry whichever way the struggle ends.
■ THE YET-TO-BE-LAUNCHED Israel Broadcasting Corporation has received another blow – this time from Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who has stated that she does not think that it should be permitted to launch at the end of April, because it does not reflect the cultural diversity of the country. Regev, speaking on Israel Radio to Yoav Krakowski and Yaron Avraham, said that the IBC should be closed down and that the Israel Broadcasting Authority should be rehabilitated.
The question is whether she was reflecting her own views or those of Netanyahu, who in the past voiced a similar opinion.
Regev has not been sympathetically reported by IBA journalists, so unless she is carrying out the prime minister’s bidding, it seems a little strange that she, of all people, should be advocating in favor of the IBA.
The powers that be at IBC chose not to respond to Regev’s remarks.
With not much time left before the ax falls one way or the other, some enterprising communications reporter should do a time line on public broadcasting in Israel.
The overall story is almost beyond belief, with the chopping and changing of politically motivated decisions and the irresponsible manner in which politicians play with people’s lives. People still employed by the IBA are uncertain about what the future holds for them, as are people employed by the IBC. The only ones who can look forward to some form of employment security are those IBA people who have contracts with the IBC, to move from one to the other, once the transition goes into effect.
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