Grapevine September 7, 2022: A slight misrepresentation

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier raise a toast at a state dinner in Berlin.  (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier raise a toast at a state dinner in Berlin.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

When congratulations are in order, rivalries should be temporarily put aside in the spirit of goodwill. The English edition of Haaretz is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the story of how this came about was written by prizewinning journalist Allison Kaplan Sommer, a former editorial staff member of The Jerusalem Post, like most of the original nucleus of Haaretz in English. Just as Ezriel Carlebach, the former editor-in-chief of Yediot Aharonot led a breakaway in 1948 and founded Maariv, which is now part of The Jerusalem Post Group, David Landau, the former managing editor and internationally respected diplomatic and political correspondent of the Post, who was the first Israeli journalist to interview Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, led a breakaway from the Post in 1990 following serious disagreements with the paper’s former management.

With all the goodwill in the world, one cannot allow a certain paragraph in Kaplan Sommer’s article to pass without comment. “Haaretz English edition represented the first time that diplomats, new immigrants, foreign journalists and anyone else living in Israel who couldn’t read Hebrew could access a window into the internal Israeli conversation through a newspaper that crackled with criticism and debate.” What did she think they were reading up till then?

The Post, originally published as The Palestine Post when it was launched on December 1, 1932, is this year celebrating its 90th anniversary. Its impact was such over the years that what used to be the Journalists’ House and the headquarters of the Government Press Office in Jerusalem was named Beit Agron; a nearby street was named Agron Street; and Gershon Agron himself, the Post’s founder, was elected mayor of Jerusalem in 1955, remaining in office until his death in 1959.

Landau, when managing editor of the Post, used to exhort reporters to correct anyone who referred to the paper as a foreign media outlet. “The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli paper in English,” he insisted.

 THAI COOKING workshop in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. Thai Ambassador Pannabha Chandraramya is in the brown jacket.  (credit: DOR PAZUELO) THAI COOKING workshop in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. Thai Ambassador Pannabha Chandraramya is in the brown jacket. (credit: DOR PAZUELO)

Indeed, interviews with government officials, cultural icons and businesspeople were mostly conducted in Hebrew, which means that the Post was for years the main source of information for anyone with a good command of English and a poor or nonexistent command of Hebrew.

Today there is so much information available, in print and online, that news junkies have a hard time in deciding what to read where. Some publications have a paywall, which to some extent is a deterrent and will push readers toward a publication that doesn’t have one, but the paywall is actually much cheaper than a newspaper, and the websites are constantly updated.

Another leading journalist who broke away from the Post was former editor-in-chief David Horovitz, who went on to establish The Times of Israel, which in February of this year celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Among other media outlets that publish only in English, or in English, Hebrew and possibly other languages, are Ynet, Globes, Arutz Sheva, Hamodia. I24, Israel Hayom, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and more. In addition, the websites of British, American, Canadian, South African and Australian Jewish media outlets publish news about Israel at more or less the same time as the Israeli outlets, which means that people in Australia often get Israeli late night news early in their day, while Israelis are still asleep.

What is even more frustrating for Israelis working in English for Israeli media outlets is that they often see articles in the foreign outlets that they have not read in any of the English-language outlets in Israel. More than The New York Times, digital media contain all the news that’s fit to print for those who have the time and the patience to read it.

Germany and Israel

■ STATE DINNERS in Germany are more formal affairs than they are in Israel. When he hosts a state dinner in Jerusalem for a visiting head of state, President Isaac Herzog wears a business suit, as does the guest of honor. But in Berlin this week, Herzog wore a black tuxedo and bow tie, as did his host German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and all the male guests.

When Herzog met with Steinmeier earlier in the day, he mentioned that in recent weeks each of them had received the credentials of the other’s ambassador.

As it happens, Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Ron Prossor and Germany’s Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert are good friends and renewed personal acquaintance at the Berlin airport, although they are in frequent telephone and social media communication. Prosor has a slight advantage in that he is fluent in both German and English. Seibert is fluent in English, but he still has a lot of catching up to do in Hebrew.

Reforming kashrut

■ WHILE MANY rabbis in the United States and Israel, not to mention the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the haredi parties in the Knesset, oppose all the reforms proposed by Deputy Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, there are many Orthodox rabbis who go along with his proposals for more honest and transparent kashrut reforms that inter alia would change the status quo on certification, and would remove the kashrut monopoly from the Chief Rabbinate.

In the National-Religious media last week, a full-page advertisement was published in support of Kahana’s proposal that all items certified kosher bear the stamp of the local rabbi. According to the advertisement, too many people connected with kashrut certification treat this issue as a business rather than as a matter of religious observance.

The 75 rabbis who endorsed the proposal have no objection to the existing mehadrin certification, which is of a higher standard than that of the Chief Rabbinate, but insist that the certification of the official local rabbi in the town or city of the production plant be included with any certification printed or stamped on the product. The 75 rabbis are from all over Israel, including the disputed territories.

Bringing Thai food to Jerusalem

■ EVEN THOUGH leaders of many countries are still hesitant about moving their embassies to Jerusalem, ambassadors are increasingly holding events in Israel’s capital.

The most recent was the effervescent Thai Ambassador Pannabha Chandraramya, who joined forces with chef Tali Friedman to introduce authentic Thai cuisine to Jerusalem’s famed Mahaneh Yehuda market.

Friedman has an atelier in one of the alleyways of the market, which could easily be missed if one didn’t know it was there. The white door with the metal door-knock and the electronic panel, to enable those who know the code to enter, is sandwiched between two food stalls, and is not immediately visible.

Friedman, an experienced chef, who trained in Jerusalem and Paris and who has worked with some of Israel’s most celebrated chefs in top hotels and restaurants, runs her market rooftop enterprise as a cooking workshop, to which she invites people to join her in preparing six inspiring dishes concocted from the fresh produce that is readily available at the market. She is also willing to learn more herself, and the opportunity to have a professional Thai chef come to her premises was one that she did not want to miss.

Guests, including other chefs from the market, climbed several flights of stairs to get to the rooftop atelier, which overlooks the sights, sounds and aromas of the market.

The event, which the Thai Embassy listed as The Flavors of Thailand Under Jerusalem Sky, was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Eylon Levy, the international media adviser to Herzog, who took time out from sending press releases related to the president’s visit to Germany.

Chandraramya brought chef Sawalee Eldar, a lecturer at the Bishulim Culinary School and owner of Thai Kitchen in Herzliya, to prepare four specific Thai dishes, using both Thai ingredients and local market produce.

The four dishes were Pla Neau, which is a spicy marinated beef salad, Hor Mok He, which translates as steamed curried mushrooms wrapped in banana leaves, grilled fish in crushed salt with a spicy Thai dipping sauce, and Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango. The presentation included the exquisitely sculpted vegetables for which the Thais are famous.

Friedman said that the event had been planned long before but was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was very glad to have other chefs from the market take time out from their restaurants to attend the workshop conducted by Eldar, and joked that they had been busy writing down everything that Eldar said.

Lion told the ambassador that he hoped that she would have many more events in Jerusalem, and toasted the success of the venture with Israeli wine produced by Jerusalem Wineries.

Remembering Arik Einstein

■ PRESUMABLY, EVERY top-ranking recording star leaves a tape or a record that has never been released. That was the case of Arik Einstein, who died in November 2013, but whose mellow voice is still heard on radio at least two or three times a month.

Einstein was an extremely popular singer, not only with the general public but among the members of Israel’s entertainment industry. A year after his death, more than 40,000 people crowded into Tel Aviv’s Ganei Yehoshua to join in a tribute with more than 20 of Israel’s best-known singers and musicians in belting out the best known of Einstein’s songs.

Among those performing were Yoni Rechter, Korin Allal, Yehudit Ravitz, Miki Gavrielov, David D’Or, Shem Tov Levi, Rita, Shalom Hanoch and Karolina.

At another upcoming tribute to Einstein scheduled for October 11, many of the same people will once again be singing his songs, plus one that was never on any of his albums, but was recorded with Levi in 1997. It was recently discovered in the archives of a recording company, and could well become a hit after it is aired.

New stories for the new school year

■ AT THE start of the school year, newspapers feature a variety of stories about first graders and their first day at school – the excitement, the fears and, in the case of celebrities or national dignitaries, photographs of them as young children and their recollections of their initial forays into the classroom.

Yediot Aharonot came up with something a little different from the norm – a photograph of four generations of a family from Afula, in which the youngest member, Ofek David, was entering the same schoolroom in which his great-grandmother, his grandmother and his mother had studied. The school is now celebrating its 95th anniversary.

Israel Hayom found something even more interesting and different from the norm at Tel Aviv’s Ironi Dalet. As a high school student 36 years ago, Uri Lass was more interested in playing in a rock band than in his classroom studies, and was warned that if he continued to absent himself from his lessons, he would be expelled. Finally, at age 17, he dropped out of school without a bagrut (matriculation) certificate.

After completing his mandatory army service, he thought that it was perhaps worthwhile to complete his bagrut. After that he went to university and studied literature and political science, and from there he followed in the footsteps of his mother and became an educator.

Last week he returned to Ironi Dalet, not as a student but as the school principal, although when he first entered his old classroom, he automatically went to the desk at the back of the room, before realizing that his place was in the front, facing the students, not the teacher.

Basketball raises funds for Israeli ambucycle

■ THE LEGAL profession is not an easy one. Lawyers work very hard on behalf of their clients – but even so, it’s not all work and no play. For instance, last Sunday night a number of leading law firms in Israel participated in a fundraising basketball tournament designed to raise money for the purchase of an ambucycle (a motorcycle equipped with all of the EMS equipment found on an ambulance, aside from the bed and backboard) for United Hatzalah. The ambucycle was dedicated at the end of the evening.

The event, which was spearheaded by attorney Jeremy Lustman, head of the DLA Piper Israel group, was held at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv. As part of the tournament, in which representatives from United Hatzalah as well as high-ranking members of the legal industry in Israel participated, attorneys and interns from the leading law firms competed for victory and made a contribution toward the ambucycle.

Among the firms that took part were: Barnea & Co., Gornitzky GNY & Co., Gross, Yigal Arnon-Tadmor Levy, Naschitz, Brandes Amir Co., Fischer (FBC & Co.), and Furth, Wilensky, Mizrachi, Knaani – Law Offices. The winning team was that of the office of Naschitz Brandes Amir & Co., which defeated the lawyers from the Gornitzky GNY & Co. office in the finals. Amit Gershon from the Naschitz office was crowned the most valuable player of the tournament.

The trophy was presented by Tamir Goodman, a former Israeli-American basketball player who was selected for the list of the best 25 basketball players in the state of Maryland and was even called the “Jewish Michael Jordan” by Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s basketball magazine.

At the end of the evening, the participants, who together managed to raise approximately NIS 120,000, held a ceremony to unveil the new ambucycle that was purchased with the money raised and will now be used by volunteers of the organization throughout Tel Aviv and the surrounding area in order to save lives.

A United Hatzalah representative explained that the advantages of an ambucycle include reducing the amount of time it takes for a first responder to arrive and begin treating an injured or ill person. The vehicle assists in this process by allowing the responder to weave through traffic, especially in congested urban centers, and is used by the volunteer to save lives at any time of day or night.

Lustman, who could not resist mounting the ambucycle, expressed pride in having initiated and taken part in a true and courageous partnership for the sake of society in Israel and the saving of human lives.

“The ambucycle donated by the money raised from the tournament illustrates the great social involvement that prevails in Israel in general and among the various law firms in particular. Thanks to this mutual collaboration, the new lifesaving vehicle will streamline emergency medical response and will be used by United Hatzalah volunteers when every second matters the most,” he said.

United Hatzalah president Eli Beer, in thanking the Israeli branch of DLA Piper and its partners, underscored that “saving lives is a responsibility that is shared by everyone: medical professionals, passersby, as well as businesses, companies and corporations.”

A smashing new take on a traditional Jewish wedding custom

■ EVEN THOUGH the vast majority of Jewish bridegrooms break a glass under the canopy to seal the marriage, not every bridegroom understands what it symbolizes. It is to remind the groom, on what is designated as the happiest day in his life, how fragile everything around us is in reality and how the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem affected the future of so many Jews.

For centuries, the Jewish marriage was largely a male-dominated affair, with the bride treated almost as though she were a chattel. It was the groom who said “Behold, thou art consecrated to me in accordance with the Law of Moses and of Israel,” while she said nothing. He provided the coin or the ring, and he was the one who broke the glass. In Orthodox circles, the only role of the bride under the wedding canopy is to circle the groom seven times before the ceremony continues and the union is finalized.

In recent years, taking their cue from the non-Jewish environment around them, Jewish brides and grooms have been giving each other rings and have exchanged vows. Now there’s an additional new custom in the quest for gender equality.

When Ayelet Sperber and Yoav Jacob tied the knot at Ein Yael in Jerusalem this week, they wanted gender balance in more than just their ages. Both are 26.

The bride served in the prestigious 8200 Intelligence Corps, where male and female soldiers are definitely treated as equals, and the groom served in Unit 9900, which is likewise a unique military intelligence unit. She is a Hebrew University graduate, and he is studying at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. They wanted their wedding ceremony to be as gender balanced as possible within halachic parameters, and therefore decided that they would both break a glass.

The bride’s mother, Liv Sperber, conceived the idea for creating a single glass piece with two goblets, one at each end, for them to break. Completely unique, and really too beautiful to break, it was designed and fashioned by glass artist Ola Brenner, and the young couple broke it together.

Hebrew-to-English translation goofs

■ ANYONE WHO is reasonably fluent in Hebrew has chortled more than once over the English Facebook or Google translations of Hebrew posts, some of which are automatic, and appear even when not needed, or perhaps for the benefit of Facebook friends. The mistakes are easy to understand, though in an era of advanced digital technology, someone should have found a means for greater accuracy.

Part of the problem is that several words in Hebrew have more than one meaning, as do words in English, for that matter. For instance, the word “kaved” means liver, but also translates as heavy.

A restaurant in Tiberias that featured a bilingual menu translated hazeh off as fowl’s chest instead of breast of chicken, because hazeh is both chest and breast, and off is both fowl and chicken.

Still with the birds, the proper name Yona, which is both male and female, also means dove or pigeon. When Yona Bartal, the close aide to the late president Shimon Peres, wrote her book of anecdotes, which in Hebrew is called Yona al Shatiah Adom, Facebook translated it as Pigeon on a Red Carpet.

Incidentally, the book, which has had a lot of favorable publicity and reaction, will be launched on September 19 at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

Benjamin Netanyahu's autobiography

■ IT’S HARD to tell whether the release of a new Hebrew book, Bibi, the autobiography by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is part of his election campaign or part of the membership campaign by Shibolet Press. Each has a vested interest in the book being published at the present time.

The book is part of the Shibolet Library, which is the outcome of a partnership between Tikvah and the Sella Meir Press. Subscribers to Shibolet receive five to 10 new books annually, at prices below market price. All their books are available in major Israeli bookstores.

Netanyahu wrote his autobiography in record time, taking only nine months in which to do so. This poses several questions. Why did he write it now? Why so fast? And what was his intention?

The explanation he has given is quite plausible, even though it should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. He wrote it during the pandemic. Although he is very healthy, he is in the at-risk age group. He will be celebrating his 73rd birthday next month. Nonetheless, there was a possibility that he might not be around to finish the book, if he didn’t apply himself immediately. In addition, as opposition leader, he has more time at his disposal than when he was prime minister. Aside from that, like anyone who has risen to the pinnacle of success, he wants to leave a legacy about his views on the future of the state, the history of his family and its role in the evolution of the Zionist enterprise.

Netanyahu comes from a very large family. His father had many siblings, and Netanyahu has many cousins, some of whom have distinguished themselves in their respective fields – so he has more than his own personal story to tell. He is also extremely proud of his father, the late Benzion Netanyahu, a world-renowned historian, who died in April 2012 at the age of 102, and who had a profound influence on his son.

Whatever the reason for the book being launched at the present time, there is no doubt that it will make for interesting and interested reading – perhaps more outside of Israel, once it is translated into English.

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