Grapevine: A contractual arrangement

A round-up of news from around Israel.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN signs his ‘contract’ with Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN signs his ‘contract’ with Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Generally speaking, people who practice the tradition of selling their hametz before Passover go to their local synagogue to contract the rabbi or some other official as their agent. However, when it comes to the No. 1 citizen of the state, the rabbi, even if he happens to be a chief rabbi, comes to him. Thus Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar this week came to the President’s Residence so that President Reuven Rivlin could appoint him as his agent.
In signing the bill of sale, Rivlin included not only all the hametz in the President’s Residence in general and his private quarters in particular, but also the leaven in the home that he actually owns in another part of the city. At the conclusion of the signing ceremony, the chief rabbi blessed the president to live to a ripe old age.
■ IT’S DOUBTFUL whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon anticipated the avalanche of opposition that came down like a ton of rocks on their compromise solution to the public broadcasting crisis. It seems that everyone is either getting on the public broadcasting bandwagon or is being denied access to it.
Only after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit gave the green light to the compromise solution was it learned that his deputy Avi Licht was against it, and was therefore kept out of the loop.
Licht, who is one of Israel’s leading experts on electronic media, was among the key proponents in the decision to disband the Israel Broadcasting Authority, even though an agreement for reform had been signed by the government and other relevant bodies.
Hika Ginosar, the chairman of the Jerusalem Journalists Association, in trying to save the IBA from extinction, said to Licht that it was widely acknowledged that the IBA had been mismanaged, but most of the management people had been political appointees.
Would it not be a better idea, asked Ginosar, to dismiss the 10 or so people concerned rather than to dismiss close to 1,600 people? Licht was apparently unconvinced.
IBA News staff, who last week were grateful to Netanyahu for having saved their jobs for them, are now back in limbo due to opposition to the compromise agreement; a labor dispute declared by Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn; an investigation by the state comptroller as to the means by which it was decided to ax the IBA; appeals to the High Court of Justice; the intervention of the Israel Press Council; and a whole bunch of other concerns.
Just think of all the time, money and efforts that have been wasted. If the government representatives had honored the agreement for reform, millions of shekels would have been saved, not to mention the traumatic experiences of hundreds of workers in both the IBA and the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation.
It’s amazing that a nation that so frequently shoots itself in the foot on so many different issues is not only not limping but is actually thriving.
■ TOURISM MINISTER Yariv Levin, who was involved in attempts to solve the public broadcasting crisis that threatened to bring about an election, said at the opening last week of the annual convention of the Israel Hotels Association at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem that the prime minister had telephoned him and asked him to come to discuss issues related to the crisis, but that Levin had told him that he had a more pressing obligation to the Hotels Association.
Levin asked the many hoteliers present whether any of them was looking for a buyer for his hotel, because he had a list of Chinese hotel chains that were looking to enter the Israeli tourism market and would be only too happy to be able to acquire several Israeli hotels. At the rate that Israeli enterprises are being sold to Chinese investors, Israel may soon become the Hong Kong of the Middle East. It’s certainly beginning to look like Hong Kong, with the number of ever higher highrise buildings that are constantly changing skylines around the country.
The convention witnessed the changing of the guard with longtime president of the Hotels Association Eli Gonen stepping down to make way for his successor, Amir Haik, whose previous positions include director- general of the Industry and Commerce Ministry, director-general of the Israel Export Institute and director general of the Manufacturers Association.
Gonen, who served as president for 17 years, and before that was director-general of the Tourism Ministry, said that since becoming part of the tourist industry, he had learned to appreciate the people who work in it and their significant contribution to the national economy.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Eilat Mayor Yitzhak Halevi received special citations in recognition of their contributions to the expansion of the hotel industry. Other honors were distributed to Rafi Weiner, CEO of Tamaris Hotels, and Ivan Zivi, representing a family-owned hotel network in Netanya.
Among the hundreds of people attending the convention were cousins Michael and Ami Federmann, David Fattal, Avi Ella, Lior Raviv, Smadar Nimrodi, Roni Pivko, Rafi Sadeh, Ronnie Fortis, and Avi Dor, who represent the leading hotel chains, and of course the new general manager of the Waldorf, Avner On.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR David Quarrey is seldom seen at diplomatic events hosted by his colleagues from other embassies, the reason being that he’s so busy hosting events at his own residence in Ramat Gan. It’s almost a genetic feature of British diplomacy in Israel with lunches, dinners, lectures, et al. taking place if not exactly around the clock then certainly from early morning till late at night.
Two recent events were an arts and culture gathering at the embassy, which is hardly surprising considering the wide-ranging interest that the ambassador’s partner, Aldo Henriquez, takes in Israel’s arts and culture scene.
The other noteworthy event was an exclusive dinner in the garden of the residence to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the UK Israel Tech Hub’s activity.
Among the guests at the arts and culture event in honor of a delegation of British museum and gallery directors such as British publisher Neil Blair and Maria Balshaw, the director of Whitworth and soon to be the director of Tate, were prominent figures such as well-known art collector Igal Ahouvi and his significant other, supermodel and TV hostess Galit Gutman; Noam Semel, outgoing director-general of the Cameri Theater; and choreographer Renana Raz. During the evening, guests enjoyed a performance by the Jewish Arab women’s choir Rana, which has become a favorite after-dinner treat, not only because they sing so well but because they are living proof that there can be harmony between Jews and Arabs, and Jews, Muslims and Christians, in this very contentious part of the world.
Guests at the fifth anniversary dinner of the UK-Israel Tech Hub included UK Minister of State at the Department for International Trade Lord Mark Price, chairman of the Innovation Authority Avi Hasson and its new CEO, Aharon Aharon, chairman of the UK Israel Tech Hub Haim Shani, director of the UK Israel Tech Hub Naomi Krieger Carmy, artist Eyal Gever; CEO of CET Gila Ben-Har; senior vice president of investment bank Jefferies Ken Rumph; director of Smarter Mobility at Arup Tim Gammons; and Benny Zeevi, managing general partner at DFJ TelAviv Venture Partners.
■ FORMER US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is the recipient of the 2017 Guardian of Zion Award, which is conferred annually by Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies.
Bolton will come to Israel in May to receive the award and to deliver the Distinguished Rennert lecture. His topic, “The Old Jerusalem or the New Jerusalem,” is timely, in view of the fact that this is the 50th anniversary year of the reunification of Jerusalem.
A longtime friend of Israel who has spoken in Israel’s behalf at international forums, including in Israel itself, Bolton has consistently advocated that it is possible to negotiate only from a position of strength. “He has done his utmost to guarantee that both Israel and the United States would be in such a position,” said Rennert Center director Prof. Joshua Schwartz, in making the award announcement.
“Israel has the land, they believe in their land and their capital is Jerusalem,” declared Bolton, on being notified of his latest honor.
“It is my great privilege to be considered someone who has done anything to warrant being called a Guardian of Zion,” he said. “I look upon this award with great pride and hope that we will soon see Jerusalem, Zion, receive the status it so much deserves.” The inference is, of course, related to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
During his tenure at the United Nations, Bolton’s was a prominent voice on the need for the Security Council to take strong action against terrorism and international proliferation of arms of mass destruction. He continued his efforts to prevent North Korea and Iran from gaining deliverable nuclear weapons.
Along with France’s ambassador, Bolton led the Security Council to approve a unanimous resolution to end the Second Lebanon War, to authorize UN peacekeepers and to create an arms embargo against Hezbollah.
He was also a strong advocate for human rights, arranging the Security Council’s first deliberations on Burma’s human rights abuses and engineering the council’s approval of more than 20,000 UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan.
Prior to his appointment, he served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security as well as in a number of additional positions during his career in public service. He is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies was established at Bar-Ilan University in 1995 by US Jewish community leaders Ingeborg Hanna and Ira Leon Rennert as an expression of their heartfelt commitment to the preservation and advancement of Jerusalem’s unique heritage. Integrating studies in the history, archeology, geography, demography, economy and sociology of Jerusalem, the Rennert Center has become the foremost academic center in the international academic community engaged in the study of aspects of Jerusalem’s past and present.
■ TURKISH AMBASSADOR Kemal Okem was among fellow ambassadors and other diplomats who attended a model Seder at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv co-hosted by the World Jewish Congress-Israel, the Israel Project (TIP) and the Israel Council on Foreign Relations.
Other heads of foreign missions included Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz, Netherlands Ambassador Gilles Beschoor Plug and Rwanda’s Ambassador Joseph Rutabana.
Altogether, some 80 diplomats savored the flavor of Passover.
Many foreign diplomats serving in Israel are invited to people’s homes for Seder, and for those who have arrived in Israel since last Passover, the three organizing bodies thought that it would be a good idea to acquaint them with some of the traditions of the holiday.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Seder will be conducted in the same way at wherever they have been invited, but at least they will have an inkling of what’s going on. Not every family observes the same customs. Some don’t read the second half of the Haggada. Some don’t sing the Hallel or the other Seder night songs. If the guests are waiting to eat matza balls in chicken soup in a household that doesn’t eat gebrochts, they’re going to be disappointed. If they go to a Kurdish household, they may not find regular matza. Long before Western Jews came up with the idea of look-alike but tasteless “bread” for Passover, the Kurds had Passover pitot, which are actually quite tasty. They also eat rice, peas and beans, which are Passover no-no’s for Ashkenazi Jews. Gefilte fish is not on their menu.
Be that as it may, the diplomats were caught up in the spirit of the festival, with the Seder led by Israel’s immediate past ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, who also happens to be a native English-speaker and a religiously observant Jew. To create a more authentic atmosphere, he brought along three of six children – two boys and a girl. Conducting the model Seder with aplomb, he offered helpful explanations as to the Seder rituals and some stories and anecdotes as well, which made for an extremely pleasant evening for novices and veteran Seder-goers alike.
Prior to the official start of the event, guests mingled and snacked and posed for photos with “Pharaoh,” “Moses” and “Miriam” against a backdrop of the pyramids or the splitting of the Red Sea. This set a jovial tone for the evening. Diplomatic representatives other than the ambassadors came from the embassies of the US, France, Denmark, Nigeria and Hungary. Also present was actress Anya Buckstein.
Guests were welcomed by TIP’s vice president Lior Weintraub and WJC-Israel director- general Laurence Weinbaum. In keeping with the truly convivial atmosphere, Weinbaum asked if anyone knew what someone who likes the bread of affliction is called. The answer: a “matzo-chist.”
One of Taub’s sons sang “Ma Nishtana,” and the other led the crowd in a jolly rendition of “Ehad Mi Yode’a?” (Who Knows One?).
The excellent musical accompaniment, which made the evening even more festive, was provided by Beit Tefilah Israeli, which performed crowd-pleasers such as “Dayenu” and “Halleluya,” with everyone joining in.
Before the partaking of each of the traditional four cups of wine, a distinguished Israeli figure was called upon to say a few words.
The four Israelis were ambassador Mordechai Palzur, the most experienced diplomat present at the event and a member of the board of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which operates under the auspices of the WJC; Prof.
Dina Porat, also an ICFR board member, head of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University and also chief historian of Yad Vashem; Moshe Friedman, CEO of KamaTech, a startup accelerator for ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs; and Yaron Keinar, CEO of Hinam, an organization aimed at promoting tolerance in Israeli society.
Former MK Shai Hermesh, the chairman of WJC-Israel, said, “The WJC is thrilled to share with members of the diplomatic corps the rich traditions of Passover. We know that breaking matza around the Seder table will be an especially enriching and memorable experience for all our friends.” According to Weintraub, the combination of foreign ambassadors and Israeli guests seated together around the Seder table allowed for unique interaction and a glimpse into Israeli tradition and society.
■ AMONG THE thousands of people attending the AIPAC conference was a small delegation from Judea and Samaria (Yesha), which included Dudu Saada, the executive director of the B’Sheva communications group, which caters primarily to the National Religious community. During a lunch break, they hosted a gathering for supporters at a nearby small hotel. Saada said that the delegation expected 15 to 20 people to turn up, but instead the reception hall was crowded beyond belief with supporters of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and opponents to the boycotting of products from the area. Because the hotel wasn’t kosher, the delegation brought Yesha-produced food and wine for refreshments.
It was a strictly Yesha event in every sense of the word.
■ IN THE cycle of life, tragedies tend be to be followed by joys, and joys are seldom so complete as to not be overshadowed by past tragedies. That was the case of the Meir family of Otniel, in which Dafna, the mother, was attacked in her home by a terrorist, with whom she struggled in a battle that she lost as some of her children watched. Dafna Meir had been an extraordinary woman and an amazingly attentive mother, despite her many duties and obligations beyond her household.
After her death, her husband Natan did all that he could to make life as normal as possible for their children, but it was difficult not only because of the emotional rift, but because so many organizations wanted in one way or another to adopt the family, which, with all the good intentions in the world, gave the family an unnatural lifestyle. But then, on the day after attending a memorial service for her mother, the eldest daughter, Rnana, became engaged to Or Cohen, who proposed to her on the Mount of Olives. A month later, in fact only a little over a week ago, Natan Meir decided to move on with his life and became engaged to Zohar Morgenstern. Joy has once again penetrated the walls of the Meir home. A few weeks earlier Dafna Meir’s biography was published under the title What will happen if I die tomorrow? (Hebrew). It was written by journalist Yifat Erlich, and is based on material found in Dafna’s email account.
■ SATIRICAL TELEVISION shows such as Wonderful Country and Back of the Nation are often merciless in the manner in which they poke fun at public figures, and some public figures get more spoofing than others.
Case in point was in the last pre-Passover broadcast of Back of the Nation in which the victim was Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.
Program anchor Lior Schleien took more time than he usually does to do his own shtick at the end of the program. Usually, it’s just a brief humorous monologue without any of his team present. This time it was more than a monologue – it was a roasting of the most memorable and humiliating kind. Schleien said that the question he is asked most frequently is why he comes down so heavily and so often on Lapid. Schleien happens to be super-intelligent and super-knowledgeable.
Unfortunately, Lapid has a habit of distorting historical facts, sometimes to the extent of being embarrassing. Schleien showed a video of Lapid in a pre-campaign meeting with Yesh Atid supporters in Netanya, at which he presented a seven-point program which he suggested should become part of Israel’s foreign and domestic policies. Schleien stopped the video after each point and tore Lapid’s argument asunder, pointing out not only factual mistakes but grammatical ones as well.
■ ON SUNDAY night, Shimon Sebag announced on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet that his organization, Haifa-based Yad Ezer LeHaver, would be distributing 600 food packages to needy families at the beginning of next week in time for Seder night.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which works closely with Yad Ezer LeHaver, on Monday sent 10 staff members to Haifa to work with 15 Holocaust survivors in packing the boxes. Not all elderly survivors are needy or infirm, and many of those who are still capable of working helped to pack wine, matza, meat and generous amounts of other food items for the Seder meal. The Holocaust survivors who worked side by side with ICEJ staff members are residents of a retirement home operated jointly by ICEJ and Yad Ezer LeHaver.
■ PRIOR TO every Jewish holiday, retailers come up with fantastic bargains. Retailers who want to attract a crowd also have a special event, such as a collection launch at some stage of the sale period, and manage to entice celebrities to attend. Israelis are celebrity crazy, and if they see a bunch of them in any given place, they make a beeline for that store or restaurant.
That’s what happened when Galit Gutman, Maya Dagan, Yarden Harel, Dafna Lustig and Maya Ashkenazi were seen at the showing of the new Pandora jewelry collection at the Cassis restaurant on the Jaffa beachfront. In the most positive sense, it was a way of killing two birds with one stone. It attracted people to the restaurant, and since Pandora signs were all over the place, everyone chasing the celebrities was also aware of the jewelry.
■ EVEN THOUGH they may not know his name, Amir Moshe, the CEO of the H&O chain of stores, is about to become the hero of well-endowed fashion-conscious women who have great difficulty in finding chic outfits in their size. H&O has secured the Israeli franchise for the Canadian DEX brand, which specializes in large sizes, up to extra, extra, extra large, whereas the few Israeli companies and stores that stock large sizes seldom go beyond XXL, and the larger the size, the less fashionable the garment, with the exception of those designed by Sasson Kedem, whose career as a designer was launched by the frustrations of his wife, who wanted to wear stylish clothes, but couldn’t find anything that fit. The problem is that not every large-sized woman can afford to buy a Sasson Kedem garment. H&O caters to a clientele of average financial means.
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