Grapevine: Welcome home

The return of the embassy personnel was made possible due to the close cooperation that took place during a 24-hour period between Israel and Jordan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs the security guard from the Israeli embassy in Amman Jordan who was stabbed by a terrorist (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugs the security guard from the Israeli embassy in Amman Jordan who was stabbed by a terrorist
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earned several brownie points on Monday night with the return home of personnel from the Israel Embassy in Jordan, headed by Ambassador Einat Schlein. The group, which included wounded security guard Ziv, who in self-defense killed two Jordanians, crossed the Allenby Bridge into Israel late on Monday night. Netanyahu spoke to them by phone and welcomed them home.
The emotion in Schlein’s voice was palpable as she thanked the prime minister, and the security guard was equally emotional, telling Netanyahu that after they had spoken earlier in the day, and Netanyahu had assured him that he would get him out of Jordan, he felt that the whole of Israel was behind him. Netanyahu asked whether Ziv had been in touch with his girlfriend, and when told “not yet” suggested that Ziv take a little vacation time.
The return of the embassy personnel was made possible due to the close cooperation that took place during a 24-hour period between Israel and Jordan, and followed a telephone conversation between Netanyahu and King Abdullah.
■ TRAVELERS THROUGH and visitors to Ben-Gurion Airport may have taken note of the voice of celebrity cook and television personality Gil Hovav urging them not to leave their luggage unattended. Now they’re going to hear the voice of another television personality, Gilad Adin, because the Airports Authority believes that a change is as good as a holiday.
Hovav, who had volunteered his services to record the announcement, and never earned a single agora for doing so, had actually initiated his participation in airport security because he was infuriated by the incorrect use of the Hebrew language by the person who had made the recording before him. Initially, the authority’s people scoffed at him, but saw the merit in his other argument that people are inclined to listen if the announcer identifies himself – especially if the announcer is a well-known personality.
Hovav is actually a fourth-generation wellknown personality. His great-grandfather Eliezer Ben-Yehuda revived Hebrew as a spoken language. His grandfather Itamar Ben- Avi was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew journalism. His parents, Drora and Moshe Hovav, were leading figures in Israel Radio, especially his father, who was of Yemenite background and could perfectly pronounce the Hebrew gutturals.
Gil was a print media journalist before embarking on a career in television. He is also a bilingual public speaker and an author of cookbooks as well as books on other subjects. Proper use of language is in his genes, though he writes on his Facebook page that according to an article by Natan Efrati, his great-grandfather was ridiculed and humiliated by Shai Agnon, Chaim Nachman Bialik and Moshe Leib Lilienblum. While Hovav acknowledges that these men were the cultural giants of their times, he sees no reason for them to belittle his great-grandfather.
But they were not only ones who denigrated him. The rabbis of his great-grandfather’s generation were outraged that the holy tongue be defiled by use in everyday speech, and placed a pulsa d’nura curse on him and his family unto the third and fourth generations. In Hovav’s perception, it didn’t work.
He has no hard feelings about being replaced by Adin and wished him the best of luck.
■ JUST AS residents of Jerusalem’s German Colony are today fighting city hall in the attempt to prevent the light rail from running through Emek Refaim, the main street of the neighborhood, so, more than a decade ago, there were stormy protests against decisions to build hotels in the area. The protesters feared that high-rise buildings would change the architectural character of the street famous for its single- and double-story Templer houses.
Sometime in the 1980s there was a proposal to construct a seven-story Four Seasons hotel. The plan was approved in 2001 but never came to fruition. However, a somewhat grander Isrotel proposal has definitely come off the ground. The first Isrotel project in the capital, the Orient Hotel, was under construction for four-and-a-half years, and was officially opened on Sunday of this week, having previously missed target dates in 2015 and 2016, which is not at all unusual in Israel, and even though it’s now going through its running-in period, there are still a few construction requirements to complete.
Located between Emek Refaim and Bethlehem Road, it was wisely built behind an old existing structure designated for preservation and beautifully restored to former glory. Because of its positioning, the Orient does not unduly disturb Emek Refaim, as it is set well back from the road, in addition to which most of its incredibly spacious public areas are below ground level, so as not to give the neighbors too much cause to complain about the skyline.
From a tourist standpoint, the Orient is conveniently close to the First Station, Emek Refaim eateries, Yemin Moshe, Mishkenot Sha’ananim and the Old City. Although it has eateries of its own, it is a saving grace for Emek Refaim restaurants and coffee shops, which have lost customers to restaurants and bars in the First Station.
Jerusalemites are notorious for being late to almost everything, but considering that the hotel was once a source of controversy, and that it is now a very impressive building in which decorative tradition has been successfully blended with tomorrow, invitees and a few gate-crashers arrived well before the time stated on the invitation.
Following the affixing of the mezuza by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin recalled how the late David Lewis, the patriarch of the Lewis family from London, had always wanted to build a hotel in Jerusalem. In Levin’s estimation, the hotel is not only a commercial project but a Zionist enterprise, like the Isrotel project in Mitzpe Ramon, which turned a desert area into a tourist center.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is delighted with the ever-increasing number of hotel rooms in the capital, said that eight years ago, the Lewis family came to Jerusalem to look for a site, and a little over four years ago laid the cornerstone for the hotel. “Now we can see what a wise decision that was,” he said. Eight years ago, according to Barkat, there were 9,500 hotel rooms in the capital. Today, there are around 12,000, and within the next four years there will be 17,000.
What this means is more business for Jerusalem, more hope and more ambassadors, he said. He wasn’t referring to the diplomatic community but to the many tourists who will spread the good word about Jerusalem to the world.
Julian Lewis said that he could vividly remember when the cornerstone was laid on January 29, 2013. It was a windy, rainy, cold day, and as he stared at the huge hole in the ground, he tried to imagine what it would look like when the hotel was completed. It took a lot of grit, determination and hard work to make it happen, he said, and he is particularly grateful for the cooperation, advice, help and support that he received from the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality.
Anyone who tours the hotel will agree with Lewis’s assessment of architect Yehuda Feigin, whom he called a creative genius. Feigin was also the project architect for the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria, and together with his sons Dov and Yoel, has designed luxury hotels throughout the country. Feigin received many congratulatory comments throughout the evening, as did Adi Moshe, who was responsible for a large segment of the interior decor.
Lewis said that he hopes that the Orient will be “a beacon of hospitality.” He is happy to be involved in promoting Jerusalem, which he said “is a very special city.” One of the reasons that he decided to build in Jerusalem is that “the world is full of misconceptions about Israel.” He is very troubled by “the things said about Israel by people who have no experience of Israel and swallow the propaganda they are fed.”
In its 18 facilities, Isrotel employs some 5,000 staff members of different national, ethnic and religious backgrounds and will continue to do so in Jerusalem, where “Palestinians, Jews, Arabs and Christians will be working together in peace and harmony, and will demonstrate every day that people can work together and overcome their differences – and that coexistence is the only way forward.”
■ ISRAEL’S FIRST president, Chaim Weizmann, complaining about his largely ceremonial status, famously said that the only thing into which he could poke his nose was his handkerchief – this despite his seminal role in influencing what has become known as the Balfour Declaration, which eventually led to the establishment of the State of Israel. While the president has minimal authority, he does have his finger on the pulse of what is going on in the country and receives regular reports from the prime minister, the various branches of national security, the Israeli-Arab leadership, academics, et al. Despite his lack of power, his support of various groups and projects carries a lot of weight.
Not satisfied with that, President Reuven Rivlin last Thursday decided to change the rules and to act against the wishes of the foreign minister, who also happens to be the prime minister, and to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Admittedly, the conversation was at Erdogan’s initiative, but Netanyahu didn’t want it to take place, and the prime minister, as head of government, is supposed to be the person who calls the tune. According to media reports, Netanyahu did not want to risk Turkey insinuating itself as a Middle East mediator.
There are some who say that Rivlin went ahead with the conversation out of a sense of national responsibility. There are others who say that he was looking for an opportunity to annoy Netanyahu. It is no secret that there is no great love lost between the two, though at public events in which both participate they treat each other with the utmost respect.
Whatever the reason for his defiance of the prime minister’s wishes in a matter of great sensitivity with regard to the endeavors of the Foreign Ministry, he has set an unhealthy precedent, because who knows how he will act when he has future disagreements with Netanyahu?
■ ON THE other hand, Rivlin can be commended for reducing harassment and ostracism of members of the LGBT community who have enjoyed his support since the time that he was speaker of the Knesset. In the near future, Rivlin will visit the LGBT Center in Tel Aviv in commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the attack at the Youth Bar, resulting in the murder of Nir Katz and Liz Troubishi. As part of the visit, Rivlin will meet with the heads of LGBT community organizations from across Israel, and will hear from them what challenges currently confront the LGBT community. The visit was scheduled for Wednesday, but the President’s Office announced that it was postponed and he will instead be comforting the mourners of the Halamish attack.
In the past, Rivlin has hosted representatives of the LGBT community at the President’s Residence, but this time he will not only have to listen to their personal stories of coming out of the closet, of the fear of disclosing their sexual orientation to their families and friends, of acceptance in some quarters and rejection in others, but will also hear of their profound sadness at the death of one of their most high-profile representatives, Amir Fryszer Guttman, who died on Sunday following a drowning accident on Saturday in which he saved his young niece but was unable to save himself.
Guttman had only recently filed a NIS 5 million lawsuit against Ichilov Hospital, where he had been misdiagnosed with cancer and had received intensive chemotherapy. Now there is talk that his family will be claiming greater damages, on the grounds that the treatment he received weakened his system and caused his collapse in the sea on Saturday.
■ IT’S HARD to believe that only three months ago, Vered Pelman, Kan’s radio and television reporter who covers the Jerusalem police beat, was one of the Israel Broadcasting Authority staff whose career options were in limbo. Pelman came to the protest demonstrations carrying her baby. Fortunately, under the arrangement in which the majority of Kan’s editorial staff were refugees from the IBA, Pelman was included.
She is a hard worker, but more so since the terrorist attack on the Temple Mount in which two Druse border policemen were killed. Over the past week and a half Pelman has been working more than double time, providing constant updates on the overall security situation in Jerusalem’s Old City, and she’s not just repeating what the police spokesman told her. She’s a field reporter who goes out at all hours and in all weather.
Many of her colleagues would not like to change places with her. In fact, they could not help but admire her, and several anchors expressed that admiration on air. Veteran radioman and Grecophile Yaron Enosh, who hosts a regular Friday afternoon program, went one better, and not only complimented Pelman but also interviewed her. Few things are more rewarding than the acknowledgment by one’s peers of devotion to duty and a job well done. Everyone wished Pelman a restful weekend, but she was ready for it to be otherwise – and unfortunately, it was.
■ ALSO BURNING the midnight oil is Kan’s key political reporter Yoav Krakovsky, who can be heard at all hours of the day and night providing updates and commentaries on Israel’s internal and external politics.
■ WHEN IRRESPONSIBLE people voice complaints to the effect that Arabs are not doing community service, such charges come close to slander or libel. There are Arab volunteers in emergency response organizations such as Magen David Adom, Hatzalah and ZAKA.
Sliman Kawas, a resident of Julis, who was an MDA ambulance driver in the Nahariya station, was killed in a car accident in 1984. His family, in collaboration with MDA, initiated two EMT and ambulance drivers courses in his memory in the village of Julis. His two sons were among the first to enroll in the course. A new youth volunteers course will soon begin in Julis as well. Rahamim “Mimi” Sidis, manager of MDA’s Asher region, said that it is very important to commemorate Sliman’s memory, and he was most appreciative of the effort made by Sliman’s children to walk in his footsteps. Efforts are being made to have an ambulance stationed at Julis at all times, he said. Sliman’s son Sahar Kawas said that since his father’s death in a car accident in 1984, the family had never left MDA, and had attended MDA memorial services for him every year.
About six years ago, Sliman’s son suddenly collapsed in the street on his way home from work. A relative performed CPR on him, until the MDA team took over, ultimately saving his life while taking him to hospital. Doctors told his family that it was doubtful that he would recover. But after two weeks in a coma, he miraculously woke up – and today he’s strong and healthy. But the incident did inspire him to join MDA and enroll in the EMT course.
Sliman’s daughter Lubna Kawas said that her mother often spoke of the unique connection that her father had with MDA. “He felt as though it was his mission, and he devoted his life to saving the lives of others. Throughout our lives, our father served MDA, and I was very proud of him. Together with MDA we were able to establish an EMT course in Julis in his memory,” said Lubna.
■ SECOND-GENERATION RESCUERS and healers can also be found in the Jewish community. Yehiel Oering is a second-generation ZAKA volunteer. His father, Bentzi, heads ZAKA Jerusalem and is an iconic figure on the streets of the capital, present at every incident and terrorist attack for the past two decades. But when fire broke out last week in a Jerusalem apartment building, forcing the evacuation of residents, Bentzi could not respond to the call, as he was sitting shiva for his mother.
Yehiel, with more than a decade of ZAKA experience, drove to the scene: “As someone who has grown up in a house of hesed [performing good deeds], it was clear to me that I had to leave the shiva house and help,” he said.
Yehiel was photographed rescuing a young child from the blaze – a scene reminiscent of one of his father rescuing a baby from a suicide attack in 2002. That image was one of the defining images of the second intifada.
■ AS FOR United Hatzalah, this is not a two-generation story, but just an indication that miracles still happen. Volunteer EMS personnel were called to the scene of a serious traffic accident that occurred on Hama’apilim Street in Herzliya. A private car had been hit by a train and thrown some 20 meters from the site of the impact. United Hatzalah EMS volunteers from across the city rushed to the scene as did police, fire and rescue crews and ambulance services. Emergency crews anticipated the worst upon arriving at the scene and seeing that the car was a total loss. United Hatzalah’s Chen Ben Ami was among the first responders to get to the site. They all braced themselves for a fatality and the need to extricate the body from the crushed vehicle that had been pushed quite a distance from the impact by the force of the train.
To everyone’s surprise, the driver had sustained only light injuries and was fully conscious and even able to walk. She was treated and transferred to an ambulance, which took her to a hospital for further evaluation. The car was a write-off. The driver got a second chance.
■ IT WASN’T quite a Bollywood conference, but it certainly had a Bollywood overtone when 20 Indian CEOs spent two days in Israel this week. Most were media moguls from the advertising and TV/movie industry, including Pradeep Guha, managing director of 9x Media; Monica Tata, vice president, International Advertising Association, India Chapter, and COO, BTVi; Neeraj Roy, president, IAA India Chapter and managing director and CEO of Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd; Janak Sarda, director, Deshdoot; and Abhishek Karnani, director, Free Press Journal.
They came as part of a scouting trip to look at Israel’s latest technologies in the Internet of things, VR and ad tech. Some of the companies whose representatives they met were: Lumos Global (solar power technology), Mobileye (global leader in autonomous driving technology), Curio (immersive publishing platform provider), Nanorep (virtual assistant and chatbot solutions) and Playbuzz (publishing platform).
Roy, who led the delegation, is known as the global leader and creator of the mobile Bollywood industry – now a major element of mobile entertainment and content in India’s biggest media segment. Ralph Simon, also part of the delegation, is known in some circles as the “father of the ringtone” and is a major player in the digital entertainment industry. All attended the OurCrowd India-Israel Relationship conference at the InterContinental David Tel Aviv hotel, where total attendance was in the range of 300 people.
Topics discussed included opportunities for tech investing, collaboration between the two countries, as well as providing an opportunity for Israeli stakeholders to meet top CEOs from the Indian media, marketing, digital and advertising fraternity.
■ SPIRITUAL LEADERS are becoming increasingly involved in nonspiritual matters. As Israel continues to endure punishing heat, and electricity use for air conditioners, fans and freezers nears record levels, Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders will come together on Wednesday at the Jerusalem Press Club in Mishkenot Sha’ananim at 11 a.m. to urge people of all faiths to curb climate change.
Rabbi David Rosen, AJC international director of interreligious affairs; Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; and Kadi Iyad Zahalha, who heads the Muslim Shari’a Courts in Israel will deliver their urgent message. The rare interfaith event will focus on the critical role of faith leaders in increasing public awareness about the moral obligation to address what many consider to be the most serious problem facing humanity today: environmental sustainability and climate change.
The event is organized by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, which works to catalyze a transition to a sustainable, thriving, and spiritually aware society through the leadership of faith communities. According to Rabbi Yonatan Neril, the ICSD director and event moderator, “We can only address climate change by religious figures taking a leading role in helping to reorient humanity.”
■ IT’S ANOTHER version of the old story of being able to lead a horse to water but being unable to make him drink. Despite legislation making the use of cellphones illegal while driving or riding a bike, few people take notice. They also defy regulations that say that bicycle and motorbike riders must wear protective helmets.
Eli Groner, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, is disturbed by the number of road fatalities, which on Monday of this week stood at 224 since the beginning of the year, compared to 212 for the same period last year. If this rate continues, the number of traffic accident deaths by the end of this year will be in excess of 400.
Groner attributes many of these accidents to the illegal use of cellphones. Too many drivers and riders are too busy talking, texting or reading, instead of keeping their eyes on the road.
Current affairs radio anchor Yaakov Eichler pointed out this week that although more than 200 people have been killed this year on the roads, the carnage barely rates a mention in the media.