Grapevine: The sound of history

Leading figures in the project include Izzy Mann, who is the unofficial historian of Israel Radio, Arye Orgad, who is both a radio and television personality, and Raya Admoni, an Israel Radio program producer.

CHEMI PERES with Michael Douglas. (photo credit: PERES CENTER FOR PEACE)
CHEMI PERES with Michael Douglas.
(photo credit: PERES CENTER FOR PEACE)
Nothing stays the same. It’s just that when things change gradually, we are less conscious of the transformation.
As yet, there are still many uncertainties in relation to public broadcasting in Israel. Confusion abounds. Will the Israel Broadcasting Authority cease to exist on April 30? Will the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, whose announced launch dates have suffered numerous delays, finally become a proper broadcasting entity on that date, or will it have to suffer yet another delay and wait till the proposed date of May 15? Either way, how many familiar voices will fade from the air waves, and how many familiar faces from the television screen? The eventual closure of the IBA will in many respects be a shock to the system, except in the case of news junkies, who will continue to hear familiar voices and see familiar faces, if the amendment to the Public Broadcasting Law is passed. The amendment calls for a separate news corporation to be established as a subsidiary of the IBC, but not as part of the IBC. The news corporation will be run by the current news people of the IBA’s radio and television news departments, and will absorb those news people hired on a regular basis by the IBC.
Concerned that some of the most historic radio archive material of the IBA may be thrown away, some of the past and present personalities of Israel Radio got together to produce a comprehensive set of CDs with some of the most historic moments in the saga of the nation as recorded by Israel Radio.
Leading figures in the project include Izzy Mann, who is the unofficial historian of Israel Radio, Arye Orgad, who is both a radio and television personality, and Raya Admoni, an Israel Radio program producer.
This has been an extraordinary massive project designed to preserve the voices of yesteryear for posterity. It was initiated in celebration of 80 years of public broadcasting in Israel.
It began with Jerusalem Calling, the radio station established by the British Mandate authorities through its Palestine Broadcasting Service. In Hebrew, the station was called Kol Yerushalayim, and in 1950, two years after the establishment of the state, it became Kol Yisrael, the Voice of Israel.
It has gone through expansions and changes since then, but until the curtain actually comes down on the IBA, almost every program on Israel Radio will contain at least one excerpt from the set of broadcast history.
The set not only reflects important events in the history of the country and the history of broadcasting, but is also by way of a protest that IBC will initially be broadcasting from Modi’in and not from Jerusalem.
All the promos for the set begin with different announcers stating “This is the Voice of Israel from Jerusalem.”
Over the years many familiar voices and faces from Israel Radio and Channel 1 have disappeared due to resignations or death, and listeners and viewers have quickly adapted to replacements or to new programs with new personalities, but there was never so massive a change as the one that will soon take place.
Also, it has to be remembered that prior to the establishment of commercial television, the IBA had no real competition other than Army Radio and Educational Television, which was broadcast on the same channel as Channel 1, then known as Israel Television. The IBA was more or less a monopoly, and enjoyed very high ratings.
Today the ratings have slipped drastically, not because of deterioration in the quality of the programs, but because the popularity cake can be divided into just so many pieces. Today’s viewers and listeners, with the benefit of modern technology, can watch or listen to programs from all over the world. The competition is not only from Israel’s other television and radio stations but also from those around the globe.
We no longer have to stay at home to listen or to watch. We can get it all through our laptops and cellphones – including material from abroad.
Another problem for public broadcasting is that tastes have changed. Public broadcasting is not only a vehicle for news but is also a vehicle for informal education. The kind of programs featured on public broadcasting are seldom seen or heard via commercial broadcasting outlets, which deal more with reality programs, some of which are the worst examples of exploitation.
Be that as it may, for the time being, almost every program on Israel Radio, in one way or another, relates to the set of historic broadcasts which can be purchased at bookstores all over the country. Program anchors interview past and present colleagues or reminisce about those no longer in the land of the living. It’s almost like a wake before a death rather than after it.
■ AMONG THE many protest demonstrations that have been held by IBA workers in recent weeks was one that was held in front of the residence of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who the workers feel has not done enough to prevent public broadcasting from moving out of the capital. Given the fact that the bulk of the IBA’s 1,600 or thereabouts employees live in Jerusalem or its immediate surrounds, their absence through unemployment or redeployment (to Modi’in) will have a serious impact on Jerusalem’s economy.
■ MAY 15, THE possible extension date for the launch of IBC and the closure of the IBA, is coincidentally the date of the 50th anniversary of the first public performance by Shuli Natan of Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold.” Natan has become completely identified with the song, which she has performed at nearly every recital that she has given over the past five decades.
■ DESPITE THE fact that more than a half a year has passed since the death of Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, tributes to him continue to flow. The most recent was in Los Angeles just before the Passover holiday, where the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance held their annual National Tribute Dinner, during which the organization’s Medal of Valor was posthumously awarded to the late president, whose son Chemi Peres accepted it on behalf of the Peres family and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, of which Chemi Peres is chairman of the board of directors.
More than a thousand guests attended the dinner, including actors and heads of the Hollywood film industry, such as Barbara Streisand, who came to Israel to sing at Peres’s 90th birthday celebration, Ice Cube, Michael Douglas, a past recipient of the Genesis Award, and other celebrities. Ron Meyer, vice chairman of Universal Studios, received the Wiesenthal Center’s Humanitarian Award.
In his address of acceptance, Chemi Peres said: “My father left behind a legacy of values, and in a few days we will all sit together around the Passover table and tell the story of the exodus from Egypt.
My father’s legacy, similar to that of the Exodus, teaches us not to be imprisoned by idols or slavery, but, rather, to be dedicated to morality, values and the constant aspiration to be a better person.
“My father was made up of the future; he always dared and never stopped dreaming.
Some people are afraid to dream out of fear of disappointment. My father was not – and I am so proud of him. So in his name I say – dream big.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, founded by Rabbi Marvin Hier, works to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish people in Israel and in the Diaspora, and is making considerable progress with the construction of its controversial museum in downtown Jerusalem.
Former recipients of the Medal of Valor have included prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
■ THIS IS a big year for Arie Vardi, the longtime chairman of the jury of the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, named for the great Polish American classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who also happened to be Jewish. The competition is run by the Arthur Rubinstein International Music Society, and has added significantly to Israel’s cultural life and its international recognition as a cultural center. The competition was initiated 43 years ago, and this is the 15th in the series, which has proved to be a springboard to fame for some of the world’s leading classical pianists. Many more outstanding pianists than the actual number selected for the competition apply, which is indicative of the esteem in which it is held.
The opening concert will be held on April 25 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center with Antonii Baryshevskyi, the winner of the 14th Rubinstein Competition, plus winners of the First Arthur Rubinstein International Youth Piano Competition, which was held last year in Beijing: Suah Ye, 16, from South Korea, Elizaveta Kliuchereva, 17, from Russia, and David Khrikul, 15, from Georgia, who are destined to be the stars of the future. They will be accompanied by the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Yaron Gottfried, in a highly varied program of works by Mozart, Liszt, Barber, Zorman, Bernstein, Ravel and Gershwin.
The finals will be held from May 5 to 11, and there will be performances within the context of the competition nearly every night till then, as 36 contestants – with seven from China, one from Taiwan, a Chinese pianist from England, another from Canada and yet another from the US – vie for the various prizes.
Vardi, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year, and who has been named among the laureates in this year’s Israel Prize awards, will perform his own concert with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frederic Chaslin, at the Henry Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem on Monday night, May 1.