Grapevine: Breaking the ban

Today's roundup of the stories you may have missed.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan and his sons  (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan and his sons
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
It’s extraordinary to note the level at which the media has ignored the gag order on investigations related to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former chief of staff Ari Harow. So much for court orders and their repercussions.
If it was merely a matter of reporting leaks, that would be bad enough, but certain figures in the electronic media are playing judge and jury and condemning Netanyahu, even though he has yet to be charged and tried. Worse still, when interviewing MKs who are either trying to defend Netanyahu or asking for the investigation to be allowed to take its proper legal course, the interviewers argue aggressively, don’t permit the interviewee to finish a sentence, and continue to make the case against Netanyahu as though they were state prosecutors. In a sense, they are using their platforms on electronic media as vehicles for incitement. This is taking freedom of expression a step too far.
Lobbyist Odelia Carmon worked with Harow in the Prime Minister’s Office and went to great pains on television to say what a nice guy he is and to emphasize that he was never involved in office politics, “because he’s an outsider – an Anglo Saxon.” What exactly does that make Ron Dermer, Mark Regev, Michael Oren and Eli Groner?

■ ANOTHER ANGLO Saxon, this time in the Foreign Ministry, is vice director-general and Ambassador-designate to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, who will be leaving Israel on August 27 to take up his new post, and is due to present his credentials on August 29.
Though not terribly keen to be leaving the country, Issacharoff is nonetheless looking forward to the challenge of being Israel’s key diplomatic representative in Germany. At the time of going to press, the ministry had not yet announced a successor to Issacharoff in his current job.
Yet another Anglo, who on Tuesday joined Issacharoff in the reception line for new ambassadors at the presentation of credentials at the President’s Residence, is Mark Sofer, the ambassador-designate to Australia. Sofer was on hand for the ceremony in which his opposite number, Chris Cannan, presented his credentials.
Cannan, who has been in Israel for nearly two months, was accompanied by his 10-year-old twin sons, Nicholas and Alexander, who live in Brussels with their mother, but who specially came to Israel for their father’s great day.
Almost every ambassador, no matter how experienced, is excited and a little nervous when presenting credentials, and Cannan was no exception. After presenting his letters of credence and those of recall of predecessor to President Reuven Rivlin, he instantly made his way to the reception line, ignoring Rivlin’s outstretched hand.
Guinea’s nonresident ambassador and former freedom fighter, Amara Camara, was so excited that he simply handed the letters to Rivlin without saying a word. The custom is for the ambassador to state his or her title and to announce that he or she is presenting the letters of credence and recall.
Both Camara and Talla Fall, the ambassador of Senegal, who is also nonresident, spoke in French through an interpreter, but it was later discovered at the traditional vin d’honneur reception at the King David Hotel that each speaks fluent English and that they could have conversed with Rivlin without the benefit of an interpreter. But as so often happens in diplomatic circles, representatives insist on using the language of their country rather than a common language familiar to them and their interlocutors.
■ THE MEDIA, sad to say, is also impeding any chance that Teva has of financial recovery. Among the reports published about Teva and its need to reorganize and to institute mass dismissals in the various countries in which it operates was the fear that Israel will run out of medications produced by Teva and will have to import from abroad. Regardless of its current problems, Teva is not a dwarf. It remains a giant, and there is very little likelihood that Israel will run out of Teva products.
It was heartening this week to read an interview in Yediot Aharonot in which former Teva president and CEO Jeremy Levin, who is currently involved in researching biotech devoted to rare brain diseases, said that he had not sold a single one of his Teva shares. Levin, who resides in New York, was fired in 2013 when he wanted to introduce an efficiency program similar to that which is currently in the early stages of implementation.
This is not the first time that Teva stocks plummeted and later recovered. It could happen again, especially if stock market investors take advantage of the low price of Teva shares at the present time and buy big.
■ NETANYAHU IS scheduled to meet Wednesday with a Republican congressional delegation led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Netanyahu met on Monday at his Jerusalem office with an 18-member delegation of Democratic congressmen led by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
The two delegations, comprising 53 members of the United States House of Representatives – mostly freshmen – are visiting Israel in order to gain firsthand knowledge of the US-Israel relationship and critical issues facing American policy- makers in the Middle East. Among other things, they are learning about regional strategic threats and how recent events may impact on the future of the region.
Since their arrival, they have been meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, military officials, academics, journalists and everyday citizens, in addition to visiting historic and strategic sites, as well as the border areas leading to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The trip is sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit, charitable foundation affiliated with AIPA C.
■ ON AUGUST 5, 1942, famed Jewish educator, soldier, writer, physician and champion of children’s rights Henryk Goldszmit, better known to the world under his pen name, Janusz Korczak, led a group of close to 200 Jewish orphan children to Treblinka, where on August 7 they met their deaths. There has been a dispute among historians as to the exact date, but suffice it to say that this week marks the 75th anniversary that is observed not only by Jews but also in Poland.
Even at the height of postwar antisemitism in Poland, Korczak was regarded as a national patriot and hero. The orphanage that he headed was not like those terrible institutions that one reads about in Victorian novels. This was a place in which children from poor or fatherless families were loved and given a good education. When he led them to the Treblinka death camp, he did not want them to know what their fate would be, and had them dress up in their best clothes and carry a favorite book or toy. Korczak, because of his fame, had a chance to save himself, but opted to remain with the children.
Memorial events marking the 75th anniversary of Korczak’s death were held over the past week in Poland and Israel and other places in which Korczak is revered.
On August 2, as happens every year, a memorial event was held at the Treblinka death camp in which almost nothing remains of what there was. The permanent monument to the people who were murdered in Treblinka are stones of different sizes commemorating the Jewish communities that are no more. These communities were scattered all over Poland, and included small villages in which half the population had been Jewish and large cities such as Warsaw in which every third person had been Jewish. This year also marked the 74th anniversary of the revolt against the Nazi oppressors in Treblinka, which eventually led to the closure of the camp, where about 900,000 Jews had been murdered.
Over the past year, Ada Willenberg, her daughter Orit, and Alon Goldman – chairman, the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel, and vice president, the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants – have worked to promote the establishment of an education and commemoration center in Treblinka, to which many Jews from Czestochowa were deported in six transports between September 22, 1942, and October 7, 1942. Nearly all were murdered in the gas chambers.
Ada Willenberg, though born in Warsaw, is the widow of Czestochowa-born Samuel Willenberg, one of the people who led the revolt and who later joined Polish resistance fighters. Willenberg, who died in February 2016, was regarded as a Polish hero and received many decorations from the Polish government.
The Polish government representative at the Treblinka commemoration was Deputy Minister of Culture Jaroslaw Sellin, with whom Goldman and Willenberg spoke for a long time. It was officially announced by Sellin that responsibility for the death camps would be transferred from local and provincial levels to the national level, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture.
Sellin also understood the need for the education and commemoration center and promised to promote its establishment, which is important for Poland no less than it is for the Jews who survived and their descendants.
The ceremony was organized by the Institute for Jewish History in Warsaw, headed by Prof. Pawel Spiewack, with the participation of about 150 people and representatives of the US, German and French embassies, as well as Israel’s Ambassador Anna Azari, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich and Polish Undersecretary of State Wojciech Kolarski, who read a letter from Polish President Andrzej Duda.
■ ISRAEL RADIO’S Reshet Bet on Saturday had a morning program on Korczak, presented by its resident historian, Yitzhak Noy, who happened to have been born four months before Korczak went to his death. Noy is a very knowledgeable individual on a broad range of subjects, but has the habit of needing to prove that he knows more than the experts. He kept interrupting guests and disturbing their train of thought, to the extent that some listeners may have wondered why he bothered to bring on guests at all. Unfortunately, this has become a habit with most of the presenters and anchors on Reshet Bet under the Kan administration.
A notable exception is current affairs program host Yaakov Eichler, who is unusually polite and gentle with his guests. Another is Vered Yiftachi Green, who hosts the late-night news of the day review.
Shlomo Maoz, a former economics editor of The Jerusalem Post, has apparently been instructed to be abrasive and screams at the listeners who phone in and is extremely impatient with them, closing the phone line as they speak, though he did have a brief period in which he was patient and polite. Similarly, Jojo Abutbul, who also hosts a phone-in program, answers the questions of the people on the other end of the line before they ask them, and doesn’t give them a chance to voice what’s on their mind.
Another aggravating fault of most of the program hosts on Reshet Bet is that they mumble the name of whoever it is they may be interviewing, and then don’t repeat the name even at the end of the interview, so someone who may have missed the beginning has no idea who was talking, unless they recognized the voice of a wellknown personality.
One of the exceptions here is Yaron Enosh, whose weekly Friday afternoon program is almost back to what it was under the auspices of the late lamented Israel Broadcasting Authority. Enosh repeats the names of his guests several times throughout the program, and after a long absence, last Friday brought back book detective Itamar Levy, who searches for old, often out-of-print books that listeners are eager to find; and Danit Peled Harpaz, the actress, playwright and director, who is known to listeners as Gitzia Kohana, a Polish-Jewish stereotype, who promotes the concept of negative thought.
Enosh, a Grecophile, who has been hosting his programs since 1993 and introducing listeners to Greek music, Greek folklore and Greek personalities, both Jewish and non-Jewish, is, like Eichler, a nonaggressive broadcaster, whose mellow voice is a soothing introduction to the Sabbath.
■ ALMOST EXACTLY four years to the day on which he presented his credentials to president Shimon Peres, Danish Ambassador Jasper Vahr is being feted this Thursday by the Foreign Ministry, which is hosting a farewell luncheon in his honor.
Vahr is one of several ambassadors who are winding up their assignments in Israel this summer. Some have already left.
■ IN SWEDEN, Israel Embassy staff wanted to give their outgoing ambassador, Isaac Buchman, a memorable send-off at the conclusion of his term of service and provided him with a hot-air balloon ride over Stockholm. Buchman later wrote on his Facebook page: “We made it not only up but also down. Loved every minute of the almost one-hour ride above this beautiful city Stockholm. This was an amazing farewell gift from the amazing staff of the embassy. Thank you all for the years we spent together and for your ongoing support.”
As one of his final acts before leaving Sweden, Buchman had a gay pride flag stretched out across the fence of the embassy, in identification with Sweden’s gay pride week.
■ FOR THE first time in her long career, songstress Rita, who is a big hit in her native Iran despite the fact that she lives in Israel, has produced an album in Hebrew without the input of her ex-husband musician and composer, Rami Kleinstein. The launch was at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Rita’s mother, Sharona Yahan-Farouz, from whom Rita inherited her talent, was present, as was Rita’s younger daughter, Noam, but older daughter Meshi Kleinstein, with whom Rita shares a duet in the album, had a gig of her own that night and was unable to attend. But she did send kisses and good wishes.
■ AUGUST IS one of the busiest months of the year for Israeli entertainers, who are appearing in festivals all over the country.
Some of the events are free of charge in order to enable whole families to attend, but at other events, prices charged are truly prohibitive, and one wonders how the public can afford to attend them. There is lots of publicity about how senior citizens living on a meager pension have to choose between food and medications, but far less is reported about much younger people living on the basic wage are nonetheless finding the means to attend some of the mega concerts by international and local performers. It would be really interesting to learn whether they starve in the interests of culture.
Among the free events in Jerusalem that are sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality is a tribute to Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s fifth president and a multigenerational native son of Jerusalem, with Yehoram Gaon, a former member of the city council and one of Jerusalem’s best-known entertainers, even though he no longer lives in the capital. Gaon was the moderator at a tribute to Navon and the launch of his biography, shortly before Navon’s death in 2015.
■ IN THE week of Tisha Be’av, Kan 11 screened a documentary in which various mainly religious figures were interviewed on issues of intolerance. The problem was that the interviewers were on occasion more intolerant than the interviewees, especially with regard to the Eda Haredit, an ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist movement that is headquartered in Mea She’arim.
However, they were extremely tolerant with Rabbi Menachem Bombach, who was born and raised in Mea She’arim, and has pleasant memories of growing up there, but also happens to be an advocate of secular education for those young men who are not suited to daylong Talmudic study and discourse and who need secular subjects if they want to find well-paid jobs in mainstream society.
Despite strong opposition in both Mea She’arim and in Betar Illit, where he lives now, the interviewers could not get Bombach to say anything negative about Mea She’arim or to speak out against anyone in particular who is opposed to his views. He did relate, however, how frightening it was when he was physically attacked and filthy diapers were thrown at him from balconies in the neighborhood as he walked through Mea She’arim.
The difference between Bombach and his interviewers is that he understands what lies behind the opposition to his ideas and knows that it will take time before people are willing to compromise and meet him half way.
Meanwhile, he continues to function as director of the Torah Academy in Betar Illit, where secular subjects are taught in addition to religious studies.
Bombach himself is living proof that the two can coexist. He studied at the Vizhnitz Ahavat Yisrael yeshiva and the Mir yeshiva, after which he founded and directed the Lezion Berina High School, which was awarded the Religious Education Prize. He also initiated a preparatory program for haredi students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and directed the youth department of the Betar Illit local authority. Currently, he leads the Berditchev Hassidic community in Betar Illit and is the head of its seminary for young people, which he also founded.
His main areas of interest are education, managing education systems, and intercultural dialogue. On a secular level, he has a BA from the Moreshet Yaakov Religious College of Education and an MA in public policy from the Hebrew University. As far as the Torah Academy is concerned, he is supported by the Schusterman Foundation.
The Torah Academy is an educational model that gives children from mainstream hassidic homes the opportunity to acquire the skills to become economically self-supporting while remaining rooted in Torah study and values.
The Torah Academy is the first boys high school in Israel to offer an integrated program for the hassidic community. Graduates will have the qualifications to move on to colleges and universities to acquire higher education, and from there will be able to pursue careers that are in accordance with their skills, talents and interests.
■ THE NEW school year is just around the corner, and parents who have had to take their children to work with them in such places as children are permitted on to the premises, or who have had to run around to stationery stores to buy school supplies, will soon be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Not all parents can afford to buy new school bags for their children or even new textbooks, let alone electronic devices, and therefore many philanthropists and charity institutions come to the rescue so that children from economically underprivileged families will also have new acquisitions for the new school year.
Among the people who provide such things on a regular basis is Eli Soglowek, chairman and CEO of the food-processing enterprise, who every year provides new schoolbags for first-graders and scholarships for university and college students who study subjects essential to industry, and whose parents do not have the economic resources to help them. Students who receive the scholarships are studying mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial management, etc. Gabi Naaman, head of the Shlomi Council, thanked the Soglowek family for its continuing support for education at all levels.