Grapevine: An anniversary missed

It is a particularly significant anniversary year because the New York-born Elkins was for 17 years the BBC’s voice from Jerusalem, and this year marks the half-century of the reunification of Jerusalem.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu, late former president Shimon Peres and French President François Hollande. Interpreter Gisele Abazon stands behind Peres and Hollande. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu, late former president Shimon Peres and French President François Hollande. Interpreter Gisele Abazon stands behind Peres and Hollande.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
There are so many important anniversaries in 2017 that some simply fall between the cracks. This may well be the reason why the Foreign Press Association in Israel did not notice last month that the centenary of the birth of Michael Elkins, one of its most illustrious late members, was on January 22.
It is a particularly significant anniversary year because the New York-born Elkins was for 17 years the BBC’s voice from Jerusalem, and this year marks the half-century of the reunification of Jerusalem.
Elkins was working for CBS and the BBC when the Six Day War erupted. He was in the Knesset on June 6, the second day of the war, and heard whisperings that Israeli fighter planes had dealt the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian air forces a bitter blow.
Elkins understood that this meant that Israel would emerge from the war victorious, and he telephoned CBS and BBC to give each of them the scoop. CBS refused to broadcast his report, unconvinced that little Israel could do a David and Goliath encore. However, the BBC did broadcast what turned out to be a world scoop.
Elkins severed his connections with CBS and stayed with BBC until his retirement in 1982.
He was also the correspondent for Newsweek.
In the final years of his life, he worked for The Jerusalem Report, founded in 1990 by Hirsh Goodman, who was also its editor-in-chief.
It became a sister publication of The Jerusalem Post in 1998.
Another reason for remembering Elkins in 2017 is that it is the 70th anniversary year of his meeting in 1947 with Teddy Kollek, whom he joined in procuring and smuggling illegal arms to the Hagana.
Elkins died of a heart attack on March 10, 2001, after a rich, varied and always interesting life on three continents, having served in Europe with the American forces during the Second World War, and remembering his long-forgotten Yiddish when liberating the death camps.
■ ONE OF the most heartbreaking yet heartwarming events that President Reuven Rivlin has hosted in the period of just over twoand- a-half years since he took office was the symbolic appointment of attorney Limor Solomon as a judge in the juvenile court.
Due to her struggle with cancer, Solomon will never be able to fulfill the role. She had been in regression for some time on the day that she was notified that she would be elevated to the bench.
It was one of the most thrilling moments of her life, but her joy was short-lived. Only a few days later, she learned that her cancer had returned, was aggressive, and was rapidly spreading through her body. Much as it pained her to decline the honor of becoming a judge and realizing one of her dreams, she could not in good conscience accept a role that she was incapable of executing.
Her story came to Rivlin’s attention, and he decided that he wanted to do something for her that would somehow compensate for her loss. Because her illness was at an advanced stage, Rivlin knew that whatever he did would have to be on a modest scale. So he invited Solomon and her immediate family to come to participate in a symbolic judicial appointment.
To give the ceremony a greater sense of authenticity, Solomon, who came with her parents and young daughters, was accompanied by Courts Administration director Judge Michael Spitzer, who at the regular appointments ceremonies introduces the new judges and reads out the curriculum vitae of each.
Rivlin termed the event an “alternative appointment” and told Solomon how proud he was to be able to give this to her in appreciation of all that she had done in her legal career, and how much pride she had given to her family. The pride that he felt in her, he said, was minuscule in comparison to the pride her family so rightly felt in her.
He praised her for the care and devotion she had given not only to her own children but to children at risk during the years in which she served as a legal counsel for the National Council for the Child, and as a lawyer representing juvenile offenders being tried on criminal charges. He was certain that she would have been a judge of compassion in the juvenile court, based on her record of professionalism and her devotion to youth. These two aspects had earned her a judgeship. Barely able to speak, Solomon thanked the president for the honor that he had accorded to her and her family.
Later Rivlin said that of all the appointments he had made, this was one that affected him the most emotionally.
■ ON THE subject of minors, singer and actor Yehoram Gaon, who hosts a current affairs program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet on Fridays, last Friday promoted Orr Shalom, which is one of several organizations that operate youth-at-risk facilities for youngsters who have been removed from parental care by social workers and placed in foster care.
At the present time, more than 1,400 abused or neglected children across Israel live in Orr Shalom homes or with families associated with Orr Shalom.
The most difficult challenge is to get foster families to accept siblings. Orr Shalom, in the realization that it is sufficiently traumatic for children to be separated from their parents, regardless of how unfit their parents might be, does its utmost not to separate siblings from each other, but such efforts are not always successful, and foster families usually prefer to take only one child at a time.
Gaon’s call was to families who are willing to take two or even three or four children together, so that what remains of a family cluster will stay intact – at least during the childhood years.
■ YNET, FOLLO WED by other media outlets, reported that former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is serving a 27-month prison term in Ma’asiyahu Prison, was denied family visits for a month as a penalty for aggressively insolent behavior. Olmert reportedly stepped in to assist a fellow prisoner in Ward 10 who was having a hard time with a prison guard, was critical of the system and used language deemed to be unseemly. As a punishment, Olmert was denied access to family members for a month, but no effort was made to prevent his legal advisers from visiting him in prison. The incident reportedly took place some three months ago. Prior to that, there were no complaints about Olmert’s conduct, and he did not face any disciplinary action.
■ THANKFULLY , THE minor stroke experienced by opposition leader Isaac Herzog last Friday night turned out to be a matter of slight discomfort rather than cause for worry.
What is perhaps of greater significance was that Herzog was taken to the hospital from his mother’s home, where he had been for the traditional Friday night dinner. Despite all his political commitments, Herzog always has time for his mother and is a very good and attentive son.
■ BEFORE LEAVING for London on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a leaf out of the book of British Prime Minister Theresa May. Netanyahu said: “About the regulation law, I am constantly hearing fake ultimatums. I am not bothered by this.
There are people who are busy with empty briefings to the media and on social networks, while I am busy with running the country. And as I run the country, I think only about our overall national interest and act accordingly. If I have anything to tell you, you will know about it soon enough.”
Last week, May, responding to Jeremy Corbyn’s attack on her visit with President Donald Trump after the latter had issued his entry ban on people from seven Muslim countries, declared: “He can lead a protest – I’m leading a country.”
As luck would have it, Netanyahu, who had planned to be back in Israel before the vote, didn’t make it in time, and the regulation law, or the arrangements law as it is also known in English, was passed, even in the knowledge that it may prove to be a major headache for Israel both inside and outside the country.
■ HUNDREDS OF invitees are expected to flock to the Dorya Event Halls in Kiryat Gat on February 12 for the wedding of Oren Hazan, the bad boy of the Likud, to Rinat Kotkowski, to whom he proposed less than a month ago.
■ AMONG THE many radio programs edited or hosted by Izzy Mann, who is the unofficial historian of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, is one on nostalgia, in which he takes listeners back in time to people, places and events that were once headline news and have faded from public memory.
For a younger generation, much of the content of this program is simply unknown history.
For instance, today’s young people were born into and raised in a cellphone era. Talk to them about switchboards, dialing a number, using telephone tokens (called “asimonim” in Hebrew) when using public phones, or calling overseas through the international telephone exchange, and most will be completely bewildered.
Tell them how, as recently as 40 years ago, the average Israeli had to wait years, not months, to get a phone, and today’s young people will be incredulous.
Mann recently broadcast an archive tape from1958 when David Ben-Gurion, received the first telephone in Sde Boker and placed a phone call to Tel Aviv. There weren’t too many other places he could call, because most of the population did not have phones.
Mann told the story that 10 years earlier, before the proclamation of independence, when Chaim Weizmann was head of the World Zionist Organization, Ben-Gurion happened to be in the Jewish Agency building and heard Weizmann’s voice reverberating through the corridors. Thinking that something must be amiss, Ben-Gurion asked what was going on and was told that Weizmann was speaking to London. “Can’t he use the phone?” asked Ben-Gurion.
■ SOME POLITICIANS and statesman, when visiting other countries, often have English or French as a common language with their hosts. However, in most cases, protocol requires the presence of an interpreter. The reason, explained Gisele Abazon, one of Israel’s most popular interpreters, is that both the host and the guest may have a low level of French or English, and without the help of an interpreter, the nuances of language, especially in diplomatic dialogue, may be lost.
While waiting this week to exercise her talents in the conversation between Rivlin and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Abazon explained that it’s not enough to be totally fluent in two or more languages. One also has to be aware of accents that result in changing pronunciation of well-known words.
When interpreters are working in a booth and not in a face-to-face environment, there are often two – one interpreting from the language of the host country, and the other from the language of the guest’s country. Of course, at multinational conferences, there may be as many as five or six interpreters.
Abazon was once sharing a booth with someone who was interpreting from English, and the speaker was Shimon Peres, whose vocabulary was rich, whose grammar was slightly flawed, and whose pronunciation was quite often unique. He made some comment about what sounded like “flakes” but had no relationship to the rest of the sentence.
The other interpreter couldn’t figure it out and desperately looked to Abazon for help.
The word was actually “flags,” but Peres pronounced it “flex.”
There is a difference between interpreting and translating. Interpreting includes translation, but it is sufficient to give the gist of what was said without necessarily going into a word-for-word translation of something that is virtually unimportant.
However, there are interpreters who take the liberty to go in the opposite direction. Abazon had an anecdote about David Levy during one of his three terms as foreign minister. Levy deliberately kept his responses brief so that the interpreter would not have to wade through long paragraphs. But contrary to the usual procedure, he noticed that the interpreter was making much lengthier remarks than he had done. When he commented on this, the interpreter’s outrageous reply was: “Yes, I’m also saying the things you should have said.” Needless to say, the self-styled reformer of Israel’s foreign policy was ordered out, never to return.
■ MANA GERS OF five-star hotels constantly rub shoulders with the rich and the famous who come to stay or to attend events. Some hotel managers get somewhat blasé over the frequency of such meetings, but Hilton director for Israel Ronnie Fortis was anything but blasé when he greeted Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avci, who arrived in Israel to attend the IMTM tourism fair. Fortis, who is also general manager of the Tel Aviv Hilton, was delighted to have Avci stay there, because it has been such a long time since any Turkish minister stayed at the hotel.
Avci’s presence is yet another sign of the growing re-normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel. Among other things, Avci came to Israel to attend the opening of a photo exhibition on Turkish-Israeli relations.
■ ANOTHER ASPECT of normalization with Turkey will be the presence of Turkish Ambassador Mekin Mustafa Kemal Okem at the Ra’anana Music Center, Etzion Street 48, Ra’anana, on Tuesday, February 14, for a fund-raising happening for Kids Kicking Cancer/Heroes Circle-Israel.
Kids Kicking Cancer was founded in the United States by Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, whose first child died of leukemia at the age of two. The nonprofit’s children are given a renewed sense of self-esteem by volunteer martial arts therapists who help them to regain a sense of control over their lives; become empowered partners in their own healing; push away the message of pain; provide inspiration and light to others, including children facing other life-threatening illnesses; face the challenges; and see themselves as victors and not as victims.
The event will be chaired by international martial arts champion and black belt holder Danny Hakim, who is the founder of Budo for Peace and the Israel branch of Kids Kicking Cancer. The Turkish ambassador’s son is a member of Budo for Peace in Turkey.
Also attending will be Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, who will present the opening address, and there will be a special appearance by retired judoka and Olympic bronze medalist Arik Ze’evi.
The musical entertainment will be provided by the LGT Young Soloist’s Orchestra from Zurich, a multinational ensemble comprised of gifted string soloists aged between 13 and 22, and conducted by Alex Gilman.
These extremely gifted young musicians regularly play at major concert halls in New York, Moscow, Beijing, Singapore, Vienna and Dubai, and have been awarded more than 80 first prizes at international music competitions. This will be their first appearance in Israel. The event has been heralded as an evening of music, inspiration and caring.
■ FOLLO WING A news item in Sunday’s Post announcing that ILT V would be broadcasting news in English nightly at 10 from Sunday to Thursday on YES and HOT , the phone at IBA English News was ringing almost nonstop with anxious viewers who prefer to watch their English-language news at an earlier, more convenient hour, wondering what’s happening as the Israel Broadcasting Corporation is scheduled to be taking over from the IBA at the end of April.
There are unconfirmed rumors floating around that the IBC will be taking over the radio, but that television will continue under the auspices of the IBA till late in 2018. In a country in which the temporary is permanent and the permanent is often temporary, it’s anyone’s guess.
Officials at the IBA acknowledged that the rumor was going around but suggested that the spokesmen for the Finance and Communications ministries would be more knowledgeable. As the whole issue has been under wraps due to more pressing matters occupying the attention of the finance minister and the communications minister, who is also the prime minister, asking their spokesmen seemed to be a rather pointless exercise if people in danger of losing their jobs could not supply an answer.
However, at IBA News in English, the mood was very upbeat, despite a revolving-door situation in which there have been several staff changes over the past 18 months, with some people going to ILT V, i24 and the Post, to name just a few of the options that were available.
The current IBA News team includes editor Efrat Battat, co-anchor and reporter Laura Cornfield, who is now among its most veteran members, a new anchor, Yael Shir, who worked with NPR in the United States, and a new reporter, Sam Sokol, who used to be the Jewish world reporter at the Post.
Other former Post staffers on the team are co-anchor and reporter Arieh O’Sullivan and reporter Margot Dudkevitch. All claim that they are going strong and expect to be around for quite some time.
Meanwhile IBC, under its KAN call sign, has announced that it has acquired two satirical TV shows. One is called The Wars of the Jews, and is a political panel show pitting people from opposite sides of the political divide against each other. The second show, The Jews are Coming, is a rerun of the program that appeared on Chanel 1. Both are due to be shown from the beginning of May, but it is not certain whether they will be only online, as are all of KAN’s digital programs to date, or whether they will be on television.
■ TWO OF several Israeli actresses in the 40-plus age group who relocated to Hollywood when they were considerably younger are on a frequent commute between the US and Israel. They haven’t forgotten their Israeli roots, but find living in Hollywood more comfortable and more rewarding for their careers.
Each returns for modeling assignments and for film and TV roles, though Ayelet Zurer, 47, who for 11 years was the Golbary house model, sued the company a year ago when it decided to break its contract with her on the grounds that she was too old and losing her looks.
Noa Tishby, at 41, has retained her looks, and after a hiatus of a couple of years has been rehired by Michal Negrin, for whom she was the house model for three years before they took a break from each other.
Tishby will model Negrin’s Spring/Sumer collection for 2017. For her, the assignment is a good excuse to bring her infant son, Ari, to spend a little time with his relatives in Israel.