Grapevine: Honorable Mention

During the intermediate days of Passover, stories are replaced by song at the annual Song of the Sea Jewish Music and Culture Festival.

UK Ambassador Matthew Gould 311 (photo credit: UK Embassy in Israel (YouTube))
UK Ambassador Matthew Gould 311
(photo credit: UK Embassy in Israel (YouTube))
■ WHATEVER THE reason for the phenomenon, the general impression is that more ambassadors speak with greater frequency from the platforms of Tel Aviv University auditoriums than from those of any other university. Case in point was on Monday when both British Ambassador Matthew Gould and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro were at TAU at around the same time, speaking in different parts of the campus.
Gould’s topic was “Israel and Britain: A tech partnership waiting to happen,” while Shapiro talked about expanding the Israel-US partnership in a changing Middle East. Both Gould and Shapiro are very media conscious and media savvy. Besides representing countries figuring prominently in the history of the State of Israel, both also happen to be Jewish, which puts them in high demand not only on the academic circuit.
The two are simply flooded with invitations from various organizations and individuals, and have made numerous friends since taking up their respective positions. Sometimes one gets the feeling that they’re competing with each other for media attention. The only other ambassador who comes anywhere near to getting a similar degree of media exposure, although for different reasons, is French Ambassador Christophe Bigot.
■ NOTWITHSTANDING POLICE investigations and allegations of corruption, it’s business as usual for Shlomi Lahiani, the fun-loving mayor of Bat Yam, who by outward appearances is afraid of neither police nor press. In fact Lahiani seems to thrive on publicity, and is due to appear in the current season of Channel 2’s Dancing with the Stars.
However, the dancing mayor might be deprived of his opportunity to demonstrate his ballroom prowess to the masses. Ometz, the anti-corruption watchdog group, has written to the Second Broadcasting Authority demanding that Lahiani be dropped from the program on the grounds that it is educationally unacceptable. A person who police have recommended should be charged with criminal offences, such as the acceptance of bribes and money laundering, should not be allowed to appear on a program watched by tens of thousands of people, it argued.
The letter also refers to the recent prohibition placed on Knesset members who want to take part in the show. Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon barred the participation of Kadima MK Nino Abesadze, stating that it could lead to a conflict of interests and thereby set an undesirable precedent. Irrespective of the allegations against Lahiani, Ometz states in its letter that the prohibitions placed on an MK should also apply to a mayor.
■ TWICE A year, all roads lead to Givatayim. During the intermediate days of Succot, Yossi Alfi’s marathon story-telling gatherings, in which guest panelists from a myriad of ethnic and professional backgrounds share their experiences, attract audiences from far and wide to the Givatayim Theater.
During the intermediate days of Passover, stories are replaced by song at the annual Song of the Sea Jewish Music and Culture Festival, which this year promises to be bigger and better than ever because it is part of Givatayim’s 90th anniversary celebrations.
A joint initiative of the Givatayim Municipality and the Givatayim Theater, with the support of the Mifal Hapayis Council for Culture and Art, this year’s festival, taking place from April 8 to 11, will feature Berry Sakharof and Rea Mochiach, Shlomi Shaban, Etti Ankri, Dana Berger, Alma Zohar, Yair Dalal, Amir Lev, Lolik, Ariel Horowitz, Guy and Roy Zuaretz, the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra of Ashdod with their soloist and poet Lior Elmaleh, Ben Sanoff, Shuli Natan, Mirel Reznik, Freddie Barak, Roni Somek, Maurice El Médioni, Hamadregot (The Stairs), Yaman Ensemble and Gila.
The multicultural, four-day event will include 12 musical performances, lectures and discussions on current affairs, on topics such as faith, the exclusion of women, Judaism and democracy, Judaism and social justice, spiritual leadership and political leadership, and others. There will also be Israeli films dealing with various aspects of Jewish and Israeli culture, as well as a theatrical performance. The festival will open with a colorful outdoor parade led by the nationally and internationally popular Marsh Dondurma Band – a 15-member Jewish-Balkan band of wind instruments and drums.
This will be the fifth Song of the Sea festival in Givatayim. Mayor Reuven Ben- Shahar says that it was initiated to demonstrate the harmony between the religious and secular sectors of Givatayim’s population.
“Jewish culture is much more than recognition of whether an individual is religious or secular. Jewish culture is a long list of norms, values and history dating back thousands of years, which is what holds us together as a nation – starting with art, tradition, Jewish pluralism and many other issues that give our nation its special veneer,” he says.
Yossi Cohen, the new manager of the Givatayim Theater, concurs.
“The festival represents an appropriate response to the tension between various sectors of society and proves once again that there is a broad common and cultural denominator,” he says.