Grapevine: Women in service

Of all of the country’s ministries and the establishments for which they are responsible, the Foreign Ministry has the best record vis-à-vis appointing women to topnotch positions.

Wide view of the Knesset (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Wide view of the Knesset
The appointment of Einat Shlein as Israel’s first female ambassador to an Arab country has received world wide publicity, though there have previously been women in high ranking positions in Israeli embassies in both Egypt and Jordan. However, Shlein will be the first to reach the pinnacle position as head of mission when she takes up her role next year, pending approval by the cabinet.
Of all of the country’s ministries and the establishments for which they are responsible, the Foreign Ministry has the best record vis-à-vis appointing women to topnotch positions. Admittedly the Health Ministry, headed by Yael German could argue that there are many women among leading medical specialists, nevertheless not a single hospital is headed by a woman. The Science, Technology and Space Ministry can boast that there are many preeminent women scientists including Nobel Prize laureate Ada Yonath; Ruth Arnon, who is the first woman president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem; and Orna Berry, who was the first woman to serve as Economy Ministry chief scientist and is a director in several science and technology enterprises. But the Foreign Ministry has a much longer and broader history of putting women at the helm. In June 1948, only a month after the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, Golda Meir was appointed as the state’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union. The country’s first and so far only woman ambassador to the United Nations was Gabriela Shalev. In addition there have been two female Foreign Ministers, Golda Meir and Tzipi Livni and two female heads of protocol: Miriam Shomrat and incumbent Talya Lador-Fresher.
■ APROPOS WOMEN in high office, Orna Barbivai, the first female major general in the IDF, retired from the army earlier this month. Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz promised that she would not be the last women to reach such high rank, but Gantz himself will soon complete his tenure, and there is no guarantee that whoever comes after him will follow through on his pledge.
■ OTHER THAN his wife broadcaster Geula Even, it is unlikely that anyone will ever know the true reason for the announcement by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar that he intends to take a break from politics. And even Even may to some extent be kept in the dark. But the announcement has paved the way for Even who was suspended earlier in the week by Channel 1 news director Ayala Hasson-Nesher following a stormy argument over whether Even could interview Likud politicians, to return to her role as anchor of the nightly current affairs program The Supplement. Following an angry exchange with Hasson-Nesher, Even had walked out of the studio an hour before she was scheduled to broadcast, and others took her place for the rest of the week. It just proves that with all the best intentions in the world, politics cannot be kept out of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and will seep into the new public broadcasting service that is meant to replace the IBA, and which Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who caused the slow and painful death blow to the IBA, has declared will be free of political interference. No way.
It’s a frustrating exercise when friends and acquaintances of two people hosting events on the same night have to decide which one to go to or whether to give both a miss.
This was particularly the case in the diplomatic community on Tuesday when a number of diplomats were invited to receptions hosted by Mexican Ambassador Federico Salas in honor of the 204th anniversary of Mexico’s independence; and Hungarian Ambassador Andor Nagy in honor of the visit to Israel by Erno Rubik, the inventor of the world famous Rubik’s Cube. Among the diplomats at the Hungarian reception were Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp and Serbian Ambassador Milutin Stanojevic. The latter has been engrossed with Rubik’s Cube since he was a teenager and brought it with him to the reception. Veldkamp is also quite familiar with it and brought along one belonging to his son Simon, who he says, is “a fanatic player.” Both ambassadors made sure to get their cubes autographed by Rubik.
■ MOST OF the Latin American diplomatic community was present at the Mexican residence, and seen among the European diplomats were Slovenian Ambassador Alenka Suhadolnik and Austrian Ambassador Franz Josef Kuglitsch. Japan’s new and very friendly Ambassador Shigeo Matsutomi, who last week presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin, was also in attendance with his vivacious wife Kaori. Representing the government was Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who spoke of the importance that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attaches to enhanced relations not only with Mexico but the whole of Latin America.
Netanyahu had asked every minister to contribute towards the strengthening of relations, said Ariel, who from the steps of the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituah, invited his Mexican counterpart Jorge Carlos Ramírez Marín who is secretary for territorial and urban development to come to Israel on an official visit. Ariel and Salas each referred to the highly successful state visit to Mexico last year by former president Shimon Peres, who took with him an 80-member business contingent, many of whose members have embarked on ventures with Mexican companies.
Salas emphasized that the visit by Peres and the business delegation to Mexico coupled with Israel’s creative representation at the Guadalajara Book Fair, showed the world that Israel is cultural, vibrant, intellectual, creative and artistically dazzling, which is a different perspective, he said, than that that dominates the media.
Ariel spoke of the Free Trade Agreement that was signed by Israel and Mexico 14 years ago, and said that since then trade between the two countries had increased by 300 percent.
However, a great deal of commerce and business potential still remains untouched, he stated. He was very pleased to report that in February this year, Israel had been accepted as an observer nation of the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade conglomerate that is comprised of Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica.
■ THE OUTPOURING of affection and concern for soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge, especially for lone soldiers has not dissipated. The most heart-warming evidence of this was the aerial convoy that began arriving Thursday at Ben-Gurion Airport and is continuing Friday with a total of 21 El Al flights from New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, St.
Petersburg, Kiev, Moscow, Paris, London, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Israel’s national carrier has been involved in many historic flights such as Operation Magic Carpet, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon, to name but a few but never before has it flown in 125 parents of 77 lone soldiers from more than half-a-dozen countries.
In tribute to these lone soldiers, El Al in partnership with the Israel Hotel Association is bringing the parents on a gratis round trip to Israel where they and their soldier sons and daughters are to be treated to an on the house five-day stay in hotels that are IHA members.
In the past, the Jewish Agency or one of the soldiers’ welfare organizations have brought the parent(s) of one soldier for an emotional surprise reunion around Independence Day, but a gesture of the magnitude of that undertaken by El Al and the IHA is without precedent and a really wonderful way of demonstrating appreciation to the soldiers and to the parents who let them leave the nest knowing of the risks involved.
The first flight carrying parents of lone soldiers arrived from Moscow on Thursday morning.
■ SPORT HAS long been recognized as an equalizer and a vehicle for social integration and community development.
So it’s not surprising to learn that in 1997 the Hapoel Tel Aviv Football Club established Mifalot Hinuch, an educational enterprise as its social responsibility project. The aim was to utilize the potential and power of soccer as a means of building more active, compassionate and cohesive communities as well as to teach life skills to children with special needs, facilitate the integration and inclusion of fresh immigrants, create bonds of friendship between Israelis and Palestinians and provide assistance to children at risk living in disadvantaged or isolated communities. So far, some 30,000 children have been helped.
No organization of this kind can function successfully without financial support, so there is a group of Friends of Mifalot Hinuch and some 120 of them got together this week for a Red Night (red being the team’s color). The group, with the cooperation of Sotheby’s, held their annual art auction at the Kfar Shmaryahu residence of Gili Mazan and Yossi Morgenstern, who for the third consecutive year have hosted the event in their home. Artists whose works were auctioned included Misha Rapoport, Sigalit Landau, Gidi Rubin (whose grandfather was the famed artist and diplomat Reuven Rubin), Maya Gold who is a die-hard fan of Hapoel, Spencer Tunick and Zadok Ben-David who all donated their creations that in total were sold in the range of NIS 1 million.
Ben-David’s work as always, fetched the highest price of the evening. Again as always, he refused to receive any remuneration.
Three works by Melanie Daniel and Talia Israeli were donated from the collection of Avi and Udi Angel. Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, who is the chairman of Mifalot Hinuch was the moderator for the evening.
Among those in attendance were Sammy and Tova Segol, Udi Angel, Roy and Michal Vermus, Dori and Yael Klagsbald, David Fuhrer, Efi and Galit Schneidman, Irit and Moshik Teumim, Shabtai and Yael Shavit, Michal and Yuval Rakavy, Boaz and Varda Dotan, Yael Almog, Zvi and Orna Agmon, Susie Propper and many other well-known figures who consistently contribute to a number of charitable endeavors.
■ COMMUNITY SINGING has been a popular pastime since before the establishment of the state, and despite all the changes that have occurred in the country, the popularity of community singing has not diminished – perhaps because music and voices raised together in song speak to the heart. Even politicians, including ministers like to let their hair down at such events and on Friday of last week, no less than four ministers made their way to Be’eri, a kibbutz in the northwestern Negev near the Gaza Strip to join hundreds of people who had come to sing.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who came with her husband Naftali Spitzer, is a veteran of these kibbutz sing-alongs, and takes to the stage like a duck to water. Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri was on hand with his trumpet, which he played quite often when he was head of Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency. Peri played with the band that consisted largely of accordion players.
The other ministers were Finance Minister Yair Lapid who came with his wife Lihi and his son and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
Looking out at the vast audience Lapid remarked that after the cease-fire went into effect everyone was looking for a victory photo. Moving his arm in a broad motion, as if to trace the panorama of faces in the crowd, Lapid declared: “This is the greatest picture of our victory.”
■ A BRIDAL canopy at the Avenue Banquet Hall is awaiting the arrival Thursday of former Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini and his bride Ravit Dom, who is changing her status from life partner to wife. The two met in the 1990s when Dom served as a legal adviser to the Histadrut.
In 2006, when Amir Peretz, Eini’s predecessor decided that he preferred politics to labor relations, Eini appointed Dom as his campaign manager.
Three years later, Eini divorced his wife, Anat, and a year after that Dom divorced her husband, attorney Gil Fidel. Three years ago, Eini appointed Rom to head the network of Amal vocational schools. After leaving the Histadrut early this year, Eini had a brief hiatus before his appointment in August as chairman of the Israel Football Association, succeeding Avi Luzon.
■ ONE IS never too old to dream, and if one dreams hard enough, regardless of one’s circumstances, the dream may come true, says Rabbi Kalman Samuels, co-founder of Shalva – The Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel.
Samuels has a 38-year-old son, Yossi Samuels, who since babyhood has been blind and deaf as the result of a faulty vaccine, and who in recent years has been unable to walk. It was Yossi who inspired his parents to open a therapeutic center for children with similar disabilities who needed to be in a place where people cared. Samuels, who was invited to The Jerusalem Post toast to the New Year, spoke of how Yossi had overcome some of the obstacles in his life but that his big and seemingly impossible dream was to ride an elephant. Recently, someone took him riding on an elephant in Thailand, and this was not the only dream he had that became a reality.
So the wish that Yossi’s father imparted to the management and staff of the Post was to keep dreaming.
■ THE KNESSET some time ago enacted legislation whereby the identities of public figures under investigation must be shrouded in secrecy for a certain period after facts surrounding the investigation are made public. Thus it was only natural when it was reported earlier this week that a former minister had been detained and questioned over allegations that he had accepted millions of shekels in bribes, the public could not be blamed for thinking that the person in question was former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. But it wasn’t.
It was a considerably younger minister, in the person of former tourism minister Stas Meseznikov who came under frequent media criticism during his term of office. The fact that his name could not immediately be released cast aspersions on all other former cabinet members. Perhaps there should be an organization or an institution that looks into illogical legalities, and brings them to the attention of the Knesset so that they can be reviewed and amended.
■ THERE ARE numerous British expats living in Israel who are personally acquainted with the family of the late British award-winning singer-song writer Amy Winehouse, whose 31st birthday would have been celebrated this week had she not died tragically in July 2011. Like so many people in the industry who fall victim to drugs and alcohol, Winehouse died of alcoholic intoxication.
Beyond the hype of show business are real people with real neuroses and real likes and dislikes.
With the help of Winehouse’s brother Alex, the Jewish Museum in London held a successful exhibition under the heading of Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait. The exhibition is coming to Israel and will be displayed at Beit Hatfutsot – the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv from October 19, 2014 to May 7, 2015.
The opening will be attended by British Ambassador Matthew Gould and his wife, Celia, in addition to many former residents of London, as well as Israeli Winehouse fans. The exhibition includes photographs and personal memorabilia such as her guitar, her record collection and the iconic clothes for which she was famous. Winehouse said that for her being Jewish was not about lighting candles and making a blessing but about being together as a real family. It is not yet known whether her parents, Mitch and Janis Winehouse, will come to Israel for the opening of the exhibition.
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