Grapevine: A different kind of facebook

The renewed Israel Museum campus opens, L’Oreal Israel science scholarships are awarded and the 97th anniversary of Begin’s birth is marked.

CURRENTLY ONE of the most controversial figures in the political arena, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is the subject of an art exhibition that will open on August 5 at the Gallery of the Midrasha Art School in Tel Aviv. Curator Doreet Levitte Harten initiated the project after reading on Israel Beiteinu’s Web site that Lieberman represents the quintessence of the good Israeli. She invited 23 of the country’s leading artists to create works relating to the man, his politics and his goals. The exhibition is not a tribute to Lieberman but a protest and a warning against what the artists perceive as the danger of his politics.
The artists use different media – painting, video art performance, photography and sculpture, but the common denominator is a strong negative feeling coupled with an attempt to define Israeli and Israelness in a new and fascinating manner.
The participating artists are Avi Sabah, Ohad Fishof, Uri Katzenstein, Oren Ben- Moreh, Orna Bromberg, Irit Hemmo, Eliezer Sonnenschein, Erez Israeli, Gal Weinstein, Gary Goldstein, Dvir Cohen- Kedar, David Ginton, Dor Guez, Doron Solomons, Zoya Cherkassky, Yair Garbuz, Liav Mizrahi, Moshe Mirsky, Nir Evron, Ido Michaeli, Ravit Mishli, Ronen Eidelman and Roee Rosen. The exhibition closes on September 2.
The big question is: Will Lieberman go to see it? ■ WHATEVER ONE may say or think about Lieberman, there is no denying that he’s fearless. Suspected of accepting bribes from Israel-based Russian oligarch Michael Chernoy and Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff, Lieberman has not severed his friendship with either. On the contrary, he was at Chernoy’s daughter’s wedding last week, and hobnobbed not only with the father of the bride but with several other Russian oligarchs, some of whom specially flew here for the occasion – in their private planes of course.
■ IT TAKES a lot of planning, cooperation and efficiency to organize a grand opening, or to be more accurate reopening, of the country’s most important museum, and for the most part the dedication ceremony for the renewed campus of the Israel Museum went like clockwork. There were three relatively minor problems that were not entirely resolved. One was that the special grandstand built to accommodate the hundreds of guests was not big enough, and a large number of chairs had to be brought out during the ceremony to ensure that everyone could be seated. Another was that there were no railings on the grandstand, and some of the older guests had trouble in climbing the stairs.
And third was the surplus of dignitaries.
Seating was on the basis of color-coded cards, but the seats were not numbered, so those who got to the grandstand first had the best seats. Several past and present VIPs who were used to having seats reserved for them, but had taken their time getting there, found themselves wandering around looking for a place to sit. As a result, someone such as Mordechai Omer, the director and chief curator of the Tel Aviv Museum, barely managed to get a seat in the seventh row, and only because he had come on his own. Otherwise he would have had to look even further afield. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger arrived after the ceremony had already started. There was no vacant seat in the front row, but there was one in the second, and several people had to stand to make way for him.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recalled that as a child, he had played around an oak tree that had been on the almost barren hill where the museum now stands. He and his wife Sarah were very familiar with the museum, he said, because their elder son Yair had for eight years studied painting and sculpture in its youth wing, and like any proud parents they had often come and taken an interest in what he was doing.
President Shimon Peres was among the few people present who had been at the original inauguration and was seen in a film clip of the opening that also featured the museum’s founder, Teddy Kollek, artist Jacques Lifshitz, who had called the museum “a miracle,” and iconic figures such as prime minister Levi Eshkol, president Zalman Shazar and his wife Rachel, Yitzhak and Leah Rabin, David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Abba Eban and Yigael Yadin, as well as philanthropist Samuel Bronfman, whose family has remained dedicated to the museum, and impresario and lyricist Billy Rose.
Peres, in praising museum director James Snyder, commended him for his stubbornness and determination and said he didn’t know how he had managed to double the space of the museum without enlarging the area on which it stands. After the ceremony, guests were invited to explore the renewed facility, one of the most fascinating and eye-catching aspects of which is the expanded and totally revamped Jewish ethnography section.
Among those taking particular interest were Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein and his wife, who inspected everything; Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and his wife, who were particularly interested in the Suriname synagogue which, along with the Cochin synagogue, has been transplanted into the Israel Museum; and singer, songwriter and musician Idan Raichel, who when looking at photographs of the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem, was astounded to see that there are now two-story structures for graves.
■ IT’S BEEN a given for some time that there are more female law students than male. Apparently that’s also the case in the sciences, though many women scientists at postdoctoral level have to wrestle with the challenges of getting married, having children and raising a family, as a result of which many drop out. So said Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz observed at the Tel Aviv Hilton on Monday at the UNESCO and L’Oreal Israel scholarship awards ceremony for women in science. The L’Oreal Corporate Foundation annually cosponsors a UNESCO fellowship program that promotes the contribution of young women to the life sciences. The program identifies and rewards 15 deserving young women scientists from all over the world.
After having been selected from among 14 Israeli candidates 35 and younger, Dr.
Gali Golan of the Hebrew University, whose areas of expertise are chemistry and structural biology, and Dr. Hagar Gelbard- Sagiv of the Weizmann Institute, whose focus is brain research, were pronounced the local winners by Israel Prize laureate and President-Designate of the Israel Academy of Sciences Prof. Ruth Arnon, who chaired the adjudicating panel that was comprised entirely of women scientists. The two young women scientists were each awarded NIS 50,000 and are now eligible to compete in the international contest against candidates from 43 countries.
Aside from attending in his ministerial capacity, Hershkowitz was particularly pleased for Gelbard-Sagiv, who had been one of his students when she was studying mathematics. Hershkowitz is a great believer in encouraging female potential and expressed delight that Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Ada Yonath had also been among the adjudicators. He noted that even though Marie Curie had received the Nobel Prize in chemistry as far back as 1911, Yonath was only the fourth woman (let alone the first Israeli woman) to receive the Nobel Prize in this category. In this context he also noted that Arnon, when she takes up her new position in September, will be the first woman president of the Israel Academy of Sciences.
■ PEOPLE TAKING a night stroll along the promenade of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa beachfront last Thursday, gawked at the hundreds of people seated in an area in front of the IZL Museum, whose exhibits are largely related to the conquest of Jaffa by members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi.
Menachem Begin had been its commander from 1943 to 1948 and, as in previous years, his family, friends and followers gathered to celebrate the anniversary of his birth. Begin was born on August 16, 1913 in Brest-Litovsk, but always celebrated his birthday on Shabbat Nahamu, because that was the day on which he was born.
The 97th anniversary was observed in story and song, with Herzl Makov, director of the Begin Heritage Center, narrating aspects of Begin’s life and Raquellya singing some of Begin’s favorite songs.
Author Galila Ron-Feder-Amit, read excerpts from a biography of Begin she has written, while still photos and videos were shown on giant screens. Those who had never seen Begin with a full head of hair were amazed at how different he looked from the man they remembered. Some of the video footage also contained examples of Begin’s magnificent gift for oratory.
But the footage also served as a reminder of how short public memory can be. Dignitaries who had been part of Begin’s coterie, and whose names had been household words, were also seen on screen, but many in the audience had difficulty remembering who they were and were telling each other that the face was familiar but they couldn’t think whose it was. However no one had trouble remembering Begin. Time and again throughout the screening and the anecdotes there were murmurs of “there’s no one like him any more.”
■ MOST OF the guests who came to the residence of the British ambassador to bid farewell to Sir Tom and Lady Anne Phillips expected to see as large a crowd as at the Queen’s Birthday celebrations and were surprised to find themselves among a relatively small group that Sir Tom said he counted among his special friends and people that he cared about and wanted to thank. Of course there were other farewells before and after, but this was one that was being hosted by, and not for, the couple.
The invitation indicated that they were not expecting gifts because their luggage had already left Tel Aviv.
A veteran member of the British Embassy who has worked with more than half a dozen ambassadors said that Sir Tom was “the best” because none had treated the staff with greater dignity and respect.
Moreover Sir Tom always demonstrated consideration and was quick to express appreciation. Sir Tom’s most immediate challenge in his new position as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he said wryly, was to remember when greeting people to say salaam and not shalom. Asked whether he anticipated that the posting after Saudi Arabia would be to Afghanistan as was the case with one of his predecessors, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Sir Tom said he would go to Afghanistan like a shot if it was offered to him. In fact his last position before coming here was as a special representative in Afghanistan. He had no doubt however that Saudi Arabia will play a major role in the Middle East peace process. He was sorry that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had not been resolved during his period here, and while he was not overly optimistic about the chances for it to end, he expressed the hope that someone will find a way to resolve it.
■ ONE OF the guests at the British residence inadvertently stole the limelight from Sir Tom. South African Ambassador Ismail Coovadia, who had been recalled nearly seven weeks earlier after the Gaza flotilla incident, was hailed by all and became the focal point of attention. But no one was really interested in the political aspects of his absence. What they wanted to know was how many World Cup games he had seen live. It seems that the South African organizers had time to read the newspapers, because they knew he was back in the country and immediately contacted him to offer him tickets – and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. He got to see two games live and watched some others on television.
Ambassador Andrew Standley, who heads the delegation of the European Union and who happens to be a very keen soccer fan, wanted to know if Coovadia was going to get himself posted to Brazil for the next World Cup.
Standley has since gone to California to join his wife Judith who is vacationing with family. Sir Tom and Lady Phillips are taking a three-week break in France with her family before going to Saudi Arabia, and Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi and his wife Nabuko are off to Tokyo where each has aged parents.
■ CLARIFICATION IS the name of the game. Aware of the fact that Bastille Day this year fell during the nine-day period between the 17th of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av, French Ambassador Christophe Bigot made a point of not offending the sensitivities of religious Jewish guests who refrain from eating meat during this particular time. Not only was there no meat in the kosher section, but neither was there meat in the non-kosher buffets.
Apparently some readers mistook last week’s report of the Bastille Day event as criticism of the fact that it was a dairy affair.
There were indeed some complaints voiced by guests who had anticipated meat, but certainly not by this columnist who prefers cheese to meat at any time.
■ IT’S DOUBTFUL that right-wing activist Baruch Marzel was invited to the upcoming wedding of former Miss World Linor Abergil to Oron Chalfon. In 2006, Marzel sent an open letter to Abergil urging her not to her not to marry non-Jewish Lithuanian NBA player Sarunas Jasikevicius. Abergil chose to ignore Marzel’s plea, but the marriage did not last very long. During the period in which they were married, Abergil and Jasikevicius signed a contract with an Israeli company to model underwear. Posters of the scantily dressed couple can still be found in lingerie stores around the country.
However Abergil doesn’t dress that way any more. The former model and actress has given up her low-cut, sleeveless and body skimming dresses for long flowing skirts worn with high-necked, long-sleeved blouses. Now a law student at Netanya Academic College, she has gradually become religiously observant, and conducts a lifestyle that conforms with Halacha. This is more than anything Marzel could have imagined four years ago. Whether he will be equally lucky with super model Bar Refaeli in his more recent entreaty that she not marry actor Leonardo DiCaprio, remains to be seen.
■ ACTRESS AND producer Noa Tishby, writing a refutation in The Huffington Post to claims that Jews control the world, admitted that she was unaware of anti- Semitism until she found it abroad. “I was born and raised in Israel, and only when I started traveling all over the world did I realize that anti-Semitism is alive and kicking,” she writes. “Words cannot describe the shock and horror of this discovery. As far as I was told, anti-Semitism was an ‘old world’ concept from the days of religious persecutions, fascism and racism.
“I was taught we are all equal, Arabs and Jews, blacks and whites, men and women, gays and straight, and we are only measured by our personal merits and achievements.
There is nothing in the mainstream Israeli public educational curriculum which I was raised with that has anything to do with phrases like, ‘Jews are better than...’ or “The world hates us because...’ And yet, I left Israel and realized I was somewhat naïve. Some of the world is teaching their children a completely different narrative.
And this narrative is creeping into mainstream media, not only in radical Muslim circles, but in the US as well.”
■ WHEN THE children of Mordechai and Sally Berkovitch decided to celebrate their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary at the Guest House in Efrat, the guests of honor had no idea before going inside that they were about to reenact their bridal ceremony in front of some 90 witnesses. A wedding canopy had been set up, and their son, wearing his father’s rabbinical headdress officiated. Moreover, seven of the couple’s friends from Carmel College in England and the British communities in which they had lived before making aliya were present to recite blessings. Their son read from a newly written ketuba. He also played a harmonica, performing a melody played at weddings between each blessing.
There was also a ring –albeit plastic – that was placed on the bride’s finger and a glass, also plastic, wrapped in silver foil for the groom to break. One detail that had definitely been missing from the original ceremony was the sight of three generations of offspring wearing T-shirts printed with a photograph of the bride and groom and the words “mazal tov.”