Grapevine: A time for reprieve?

A round-up of news from around Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Residents of Jerusalem’s German Colony and other patrons of the veteran Smadar Theater which is one of the oldest movie theaters in Israel, woke up on Thursday morning to the good news that the Smadar, which was supposed to close in December last year but received a reprieve till May 1 of this year, has now received a ten- year reprieve as a result of an agreement signed by the Lev Cinema Network and the Jerusalem Municipality.
The Smadar has a long history of reprieves. The theater will close for renovations after Passover, but will re-open two months later. Now that this has been accomplished, residents of the German Colony, Baka and Katamon are wondering if they can persuade Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that he made a mistake when he decided that the Blue Line of the light rail would go through the German Colony’s main street of Emek Refaim, completely changing the character of both the street and the neighborhood without being of any use to the people who live there. More than 1,700 people signed a protest petition against the light rail going through the neighborhood.
MERETZ MK Esawi Frej is either prescient or he’s been in politics long enough to know that nothing is over until it’s over.
In a Channel One interview just over a week ago, he was still optimistic about the future of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, saying “It isn’t over until it’s over.” At a coalition meeting on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps in response to calls from IBA workers to keep his promise to rehabilitate the IBA, asked Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to give the IBA a six months reprieve on the April 30 scheduled demise to see what can be done to prevent its closure. With regard to the proposed launch of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, Netanyahu, who is himself a former finance minister, said that he could not understand how a NIS 700 million budget was not accompanied by public supervision. The decision to close down the IBA was a huge mistake and there is still time to amend it, said Netanyahu to great applause. On the same night, Channel One economics reporter Oded Shahar said that Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn had it in his power to save the IBA, by emulating one of his predecessors, Labor MK Amir Peretz, who during a previous crisis period for IBA employees had threatened Netanyahu, then-finance minister, to close the airport unless a decision to drastically cut down the staff of the IBA was rescinded. Nissenkorn could do the same or even threaten a national strike, said Shahar. Meanwhile, Kahlon is digging his heels in and says that the IBC will go to air as scheduled, and has told cronies that Netanyahu’s change of heart is a spin in order to transfer blame for the closure of IBA to Kahlon and remove it from himself. Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel, who heads the Knesset economics committee, also believes it’s a spin provoked by what he calls Netanyahu’s obsession to control all the media in Israel. On the other hand, MK Shelly Yacimovich, who is also a member of the Zionist Union and a former head of the Labor Party, says that closure of the IBA would be a grave sin.
CURRENTLY ON a state visit to Vietnam, President Reuven Rivlin will be faced with a tough decision when he returns home and has to consider whether or not to grant clemency to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who in January asked for and was denied a pardon.
On Wednesday night, it was announced that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had written to Rivlin asking him to consider clemency for Olmert, in view of his “unique contribution to Israel’s security.”
Justice Ministry officials are opposed to the idea. Rivlin’s office stated in response to the reports, that neither Shaked’s letter nor the recommendation of the Justice Ministry had reached the president. Even though Olmert’s request for a pardon was denied, Rivlin was well aware that Olmert subsequently intended to ask for clemency, as it has been mentioned several times in both the electronic and print media and was raised in an interview that Rivlin gave to Israel Hayom’s Gideon Alon more than a week ago. Alon asked for Rivlin’s reaction, but Rivlin refused to discuss the matter. Decision making on this score will not be easy for Rivlin. There is no love lost between him and Olmert and when both were in the Knesset, Rivlin was highly critical of him. Many years earlier, when Rivlin had hoped to be mayor of Jerusalem, the nomination and the title had gone to Olmert. Even presidents are only human and it is not certain that Rivlin will be able to put his animosity aside. His argument for not doing so is that Olmert will have served only 14 months of his 27 months sentence and that by July he will have served two thirds of his sentence, at which time he will be eligible for release anyway. On the other hand, it would be a noble gesture to enable Olmert to enjoy the festival of freedom as a free man.
NOTWITHSTANDING REPORTS that attention spans have declined in the digital era, resulting inter alia in shorter items in many newspapers and magazines around the world, and fewer book sales, libraries are growing, and anyone traveling on public transport can testify that fellow passengers are still reading books, newspapers and magazines. Given the fact that libraries are expanding, it is obvious that people are still reading, but are doing more reading on the screen than on the page.
Israel is building a new, much larger and highly sophisticated library in Jerusalem, not far from its present National Library.
The British National Library, which is the oldest National Library in the world, has more than 150 million items from different countries, receives copies of all books, magazines and newspapers published in the United Kingdom and is a multi-lingual research library that also hosts concerts, exhibitions, readings and lectures, is so well patronized that it is in the process of undergoing a £1 billion extension, indicating that libraries still have a very long shelf life. Roly Keating, the Chief Executive of the British Library will this week be the guest of the Israel National Library and will deliver a lecture on Tuesday, March 28 at 2:30 p.m. in which he will outline the work of the British National Library in the world, and the changes which it is undergoing in a digital era as are national libraries around the globe.
FINLAND’S AMBASSADOR Anu Saarela is a member of the core group of women ambassadors who are supporting the ever-expanding Israeli-Palestinian women’s group, Women Wage Peace. Next week Saarela will be hosting an event related to women’s roles and rights. Anne Lammila, Finland’s ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and gender equality, will be in Israel to talk about her work. A veteran diplomat who joined Finland’s Foreign Ministry in December 1983, Lammila is a former ambassador to Mexico, Central America, Cuba and Haiti. She also served as deputy chief of mission in Washington DC.
LATELY THERE has been a baby boom among Israel’s members of the entertainment industry. Popular singer, Sarit Hadad, 38, whose personal life has always been very private, has never made a secret of her love for children, and now she’s going to have her own. At first she denied that she was pregnant, but now admits that there is indeed a bun in the oven. Also expecting yet another visit from the stork are television personalities Eden Harel, 41 and her husband Oded Menashe, 47.
It will be their fifth child and her sixth.
Her eldest son is the product of her first marriage.
WHILE LARGE families are rare in the entertainment industry, they’re quite common among politicians. MK Yisrael Eichler is the father of 14 children. Israel Beytenu defector MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, is one of 12 siblings. Her father, David Levy, was a three-time foreign minister.
Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush is also a father of 12. The late Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, who was a long-time MK, was likewise the father of 12. Former Israel Beytenu MK Anastasia Michaeli, who was the first MK to give birth while in office, gave birth to her eighth child while serving in the Knesset. The wives of several male MKs gave birth while their husbands were in office, but that’s not quite the same thing. Interior Minister Arye Deri is the father of nine, while MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli is the mother of seven.
There are other similar examples, so it can be said quite truthfully that the Knesset is doing its part in contributing to Israel’s demography.
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