Grapevine September 14, 2022: The irony of change

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, in the Herzog Room of the residence of the British Ambassador.  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, in the Herzog Room of the residence of the British Ambassador.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

After having been the crown prince for nearly all of his lifetime, it is ironic that King Charles, who is married to a divorcée, should sit on the throne. His great uncle Edward VIII had to abdicate because he had decided to marry a divorcée. Had he remained on the throne, Charles at best would be a duke, and Edward, who was childless, would have been succeeded by his brother Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, who outlived him by two years, and whose son, in turn, would have been the heir to the throne.

Although the British public has now begun to accept Camilla, the true love of Charles, as queen, the reason that Charles married his first wife, Diana, was that at the time of their marriage, it was still imperative that the future king should marry a virgin.

But the current first in line to the throne did not marry a virgin. Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, lived together before they were married – a factor that, in today’s world, is no longer relevant. The two are so popular that a large swath of the British public would have preferred for William to leapfrog to the throne over his father’s head.

When Charles and Camilla married, there were reports in the British press that she would never be known as Queen Camilla. Well, now she is queen consort. Queen Elizabeth more recently approved of her, and on official occasions, Camilla stood on the royal balcony with Elizabeth and Charles.

Although his mother never came to Israel, Charles, as prince, did come – first for the funeral of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, then for the funeral of Shimon Peres, and most recently for the World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Moreover, there is an oak tree in the grounds of the President’s Residence that was sent from Britain, which Charles and Reuven Rivlin, who was then president, helped to plant.

 Queen Camilla and Britain's King Charles attend the Accession Council at St James's Palace, where he is formally proclaimed Britain's new monarch, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Britain September 10, 2022. (credit: VICTORIA JONES/POOL VIA REUTERS) Queen Camilla and Britain's King Charles attend the Accession Council at St James's Palace, where he is formally proclaimed Britain's new monarch, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Britain September 10, 2022. (credit: VICTORIA JONES/POOL VIA REUTERS)

At the time, Rivlin said to Charles that now that he had come to Israel officially, Israel was waiting for a visit from his mother. That never eventuated.

The most recent visit by Charles was the only official one of his three, but having broken the ice, the question now remains: Can Israel expect an official visit from King Charles III?

It should be noted that Charles has a special relationship with Holocaust survivors, several of whom were his teachers when he was a schoolboy, and others whom he encountered during his years at Cambridge University.

His detractors may be surprised to discover that Charles will be a far better monarch than was generally thought. After all, his whole life has been steered by duty to the nation, and in this regard, he has pledged to follow his mother’s dedication. As it was, in recent years, he took over many of her duties, and is thoroughly familiar with what is required of the sovereign. He also happens to be a very good speaker, and has been blessed with a fine voice.

Obviously, he cannot reign as long as his mother, but, given his genes, he may reign for as long as 30 years, unless he decides at age 80 or 90 to abdicate in favor of his older son.

The king’s maternal grandmother died in 2002 at the age of 101. His father died in April 2021, two months shy of his 100th birthday, and his mother lived to be 96. She had been in good health up until the time that she was widowed, after which her health began to deteriorate.

German Ambassador Steffen Seibert

■ ON THE subject of longevity, none of the senior citizens to whom German Ambassador Steffen Seibert is restoring their German citizenship is below the age of 80, and most are considerably older. It was particularly moving for the ambassador to present a document attesting to German citizenship to 101-year-old Benno Erteschick, who, 84 years ago, fled from his native Wiesbaden and, like so many Jews, lost his German citizenship. Seibert said that it had been an honor to meet Erteschick and his family.

Mourning of Queen Elizabeth II 

■ MEMBERS OF the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association had been looking forward to their annual gathering this week at the residence of British Ambassador Neil Wigan to hear British-born Andrew Abir, deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, speak about “The Return of Inflation? Challenges for Monetary Policy.” The event had to be postponed till October 6, due to the passing of Elizabeth.

The mourning period will not be over till after her funeral on September 19. It has not yet been announced when the coronation of Charles will take place, but a suitable date would be November 14, which is the date of his birthday. Considering that he is the oldest person to take his place on the throne of England, it would be appropriate to celebrate both his birthday and his coronation on the same date.

Prince Harry's return

■ NOW THAT his father is king, it will be interesting to see whether Prince Harry will return to England and resume his royal duties, especially as he has apparently mended fences with his brother. The two princes and their wives have been estranged ever since Harry moved to America, and he and his wife made several comments that were embarrassing to the royal family.

His tell-all book is supposed to be released in the coming weeks, and may be the deciding factor as to whether his family will reach out to him with open arms or whether he will be banished forever.

Hersog's visit to the British ambassador 

■ ALTHOUGH HE is a walking encyclopedia of his long and impressive pedigree on all sides of his family, there were some things in his family’s relatively recent history that President Isaac Herzog did not know till last Saturday night, when he went to the residence of the British ambassador to write a tribute to Elizabeth in the condolence book.

After he and his wife had finished writing in the book, the ambassador led them to a guest room known as the Herzog Room. The president was surprised. He had visited the residence on other, happier occasions, but no one had ever thought to show him the room named for his father, Chaim Herzog, who was Israel’s sixth president.

On one of the walls is a photograph – taken in March 1993, toward the end of the senior Herzog’s second term – of his audience with the queen.

On the back of the photograph is a handwritten note by his wife, Aura, in which she wrote that this was the first time that Israel’s national anthem had been performed by the Coldstream Guards.

Chaim Herzog was later quoted in the media as having said afterward that this was the best performance of “Hatikvah” that he had ever heard, and that he had been surprised when the commander of the Guards, when inviting him to inspect the troops, did so in flawless Hebrew.

According to Aura Herzog’s note, when the presidential couple later had lunch with the queen, Her Majesty, as a special gesture to the outgoing president, made sure that his plate bore the emblem of the Armored Guards Division, one of the military units in which Herzog had served during the Second World War.

In his memoirs, Herzog recorded another anecdote related to the luncheon. His wife had told the queen about the family’s connection to the biblical King David. The family traces its roots to Rabbi Ezekiel Katzenelenbogen of Hamburg in the 17th century, who claimed descent from Rashi, who himself claimed descent from King David. The queen remarked that the royal family also claims descent from the House of David, to which Aura Herzog responded: “Welcome to the family.”

Bnot Brak

■ FASCINATION WITH the world of ultra-Orthodox Jewry continues unabated, the latest source of interest being the new reality show on Hot, Bnot Brak, which premiered last Sunday, and to a large extent proves that the fears of the ultra-Orthodox leadership about allowing their people to also have a foot in the secular camp are groundless.

In much of ultra-Orthodox society, there is no television in the home, and digital devices, such as a PC and a cellphone, are programmed to be “kosher.” The income in many households is earned by the wives, so that their husbands can pursue their Torah studies, and the wives, who often work in hi-tech, are able to work from home so that they can keep an eye on the youngest of their many children.

That is gradually changing. Young ultra-Orthodox families go out together, with the husband wheeling the baby carriage. The wife and children are fashionably, albeit modestly, dressed, and the husband is wearing an elegant business suit. The digital devices that they have are not always programmed to be “kosher,” and social media is not quite as much a part of their lives as in secular circles – but it’s definitely there.

The focus on Bnot Brak is on five perfectly groomed ultra-Orthodox, but very modern businesswomen, each in a different profession, who are influential players on social media. They are immaculately groomed. Their makeup is perfectly applied. Their wigs look so natural that it’s almost impossible to tell. They are producers of large Bnei Brak families, which continue to live an insular existence, while Nana Halperin, Esti Socolowski, Yael Silverman, Simi Hershkop and Ofra Shimoni have moved away geographically, but not in terms of religious observance.

The series may help to deflect the bias of secular viewers, who often have a misplaced and misinformed, negative attitude toward the ultra-Orthodox.

Yair Lapid's Germany visit

■ FOR MORE than half a century, Israeli presidents and prime ministers traveling to countries in Europe in which there were forced labor or death camps during the Second World War have taken with them Holocaust survivors either from those countries, or who were incarcerated in those countries.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid was no exception when he went to Germany this week, even though it was a lightning visit. On arrival he tweeted:

“I just landed in Berlin for a diplomatic visit. With me are Holocaust survivors Pnina, Avraham, Shoshana, Yisrael and Zvi. As we stepped off the plane, a German military honor guard welcomed the survivors and their family members. This is their victory.”

As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Lapid is perhaps more sensitive to the issue than some of the state’s previous prime ministers, most of whom, with the noted exceptions of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, were not the offspring of Holocaust victims or survivors.

Lapid was not the only prominent Israeli to visit Berlin this week. Singer-songwriter and actor Idan Amedi, who starred in the Netflix series Fauda, was in the German capital at the same time, to perform at Berlin’s weeklong Days of Jewish Culture festival, which illustrated the diversity of Jewish culture and Jewish history in Germany, with a view to overcoming misconceptions about Jewish stereotypes. The festival was attended by non-Jews as well as Jews, and thus created a platform for dialogue.

Amedi viewed his performance as yet another triumph for this Jewish people. “To play and to sing in this place in Hebrew, our mother tongue, before an audience of Germans and Israelis who live here, is a great victory and the realization of a dream,” he said.

Malka Leifer

■ THE SEXUAL abuse case of Malka Leifer, the Israeli principal of a religious girls’ school in Melbourne, continues to drag on, even though Leifer was extradited to Australia in January 2021. Her trial was postponed more than once, and the current new date is set for February 7, 2023, in the Victorian County Court.

Israeli and Palestinian women come together 

■ A LARGE representation of Israeli and Palestinian women who are affiliated with Women Wage Peace and Women of the Sun, last week filled the spacious living room at the residence of Norwegian Ambassador Kare R. Aas to seek ways to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a peaceful manner that will be beneficial to both sides.

Aas moderated a panel discussion with Yael Braudo, Amal Rihan and Suheir Freitekh. A few male supporters were also present.

Women from both sides get together for lectures, panel discussions, dinners, demonstrations against violence, marches for peace and more.

Abraham Accords' second anniversary 

■ THE SECOND anniversaries of the signing of the Abraham Accords and International Peace Day are just under two weeks apart. On the latter day, the Diplomats’ Club of Israel will host its annual Diplomat of the Year award ceremony, and in view of increasing normalization in relationships between countries of the region with Israel, this year’s recipient is the of Bahrain Ambassador Khaled Yousif al-Jalahma. An additional presentation will be made to Abderrahim Beyyoudh, who heads the liaison office which is the diplomatic mission of the Kingdom of Jordan. This will be the first time that Diplomat of the Year awards to heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Israel will be presented to representatives of Muslim countries.

Design Holon Museum 

■ CONSIDERING THAT he grew up in Holon, the most natural place for a retrospective exhibition of the creations of iconic Casablanca-born and Shenkar-educated fashion icon Alber Elbaz is the Design Holon Museum – this despite the fact that Elbaz spent nearly half his lifetime in Paris, where he succumbed to the coronavirus pandemic in April 2021 at age 59.

Never forgetting his origins, Elbaz, who was the most famous Israeli fashion designer in the world, frequently returned to Israel to visit his family, to see what was happening at Shenkar and to maintain contact with the friends of his youth.

An international legend in his lifetime, Elbaz’s impact on fashion was wide-ranging and transformative. He influenced a peer generation of designers. Future designers, even if they never hear his name – which is unlikely – will continue to be influenced by his legacy.

In his lifetime, he steered clear of retrospectives, preferring to look forward rather than backward. But now that his creative genius has been laid to rest, a large cohort of his admirers, though geographically apart, joined forces to put together The Dream Factory – the largest fashion show that Israel has ever known – in tribute to and in appreciation of Alber Elbaz.

The celebration of his life and work takes up every corner of the museum. The exhibition – curated by Ya’ara Keydar in consultation with creative director Katy Reiss, who worked with Elbaz for 15 years; and Shelly Wertheim, who was his teacher at Shenkar and guided him professionally for 20 years – will be on view from September 15 till the end of February 2023.

The gala opening took place on Monday night with the participation of Michal Herzog, the wife of the president, members of the Elbaz family, Elbaz’s partner, Alex Koo, and many notables.

Within the context of the exhibition, ensembles from the Love Brings Love fashion show tribute initiated by Koo, and featuring creations by 46 of the world’s most famous fashion houses, will be shown in a multimedia format.

For anyone interested in fashion and loving fashion, this exhibition is an absolute must. Opening hours are from 10 a.m., Monday to Saturday, inclusive, though closing hours are at a different time each day. Because a very large attendance is expected, tickets have to be ordered in advance. Details are available on the museum’s website.

The world of fashion 

■ ANYONE WHO thought that fashion creativity has been exhausted and that there is nothing new left to see, is completely mistaken, as evidenced not only in Holon but also in the Fashionably Naive exhibition, the product of an extraordinary collaboration between GINA Gallery of International Naive Art and several fashion designers, led by Yaron Minkowski, one of Israel’s top-level designers who has returned in full force after a two-year hiatus.

About a year ago, Minkowski, whose studio on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street is next door to GINA, approached Maayan Israeli – the gallery’s artistic director – and suggested a joint exhibition that would explore the mutual influences and interactions between naive art and the world of fashion.

They each reached out to potential collaborators in their respective fields. Minkowski approached designers he thought might be interested in a collaborative naive art project, while GINA Gallery issued a call to naive artists worldwide, inviting them to paint their ideas on what fashion is and what role it plays in their lives.

Fashion is present in naive paintings, whether they portray rural or urban life, and they often provide much information about the artist and his or her environment.

 FROM LEFT: Fashion designers Yaron Minkowski, Michal Negrin and Hila Maoz.  (credit: SHAI BEN EFRAIM) FROM LEFT: Fashion designers Yaron Minkowski, Michal Negrin and Hila Maoz. (credit: SHAI BEN EFRAIM)

Artists responding to the call came from Israel, Ukraine, Colombia and many other countries.

Fashion designers have long been inspired by naive art, and the project helped to fuel new creativity. Minkowski’s meticulous and rich handcrafted textile work, consisting of clothing sets, was inspired by the strong colorfulness of artworks from South and Central America.

Gal Ulman’s choice of Israeli artist, Zoe Sever, who typically paints urban scenes from Tel Aviv as his inspiration; Michal Negrin, the multifaceted designer who is a grand-niece of founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, and jeweler Dori Csengeri, were each influenced by the joy, colorfulness and optimism that characterize naive art as the starting points for their respective works, yet their designs are remarkably different.

 FROM LEFT: Maayan Israeli from GINA gallery, Yaron Minkowski and his wife, actress Pazit.  (credit: SHAI BEN EFRAIM) FROM LEFT: Maayan Israeli from GINA gallery, Yaron Minkowski and his wife, actress Pazit. (credit: SHAI BEN EFRAIM)

This collaboration is a first for GINA Gallery and for these designers, but it is by no means the first time that fashion is influenced by the art world. Throughout the 20th century, iconic designers created several important collections inspired by canonical artists. In 1949, Christian Dior created a collection inspired by impressionist artist Claude Monet; in 1965, Yves Saint Laurent created a collection inspired by modernist Piet Mondrian; and in 1991, Gianni Versace was inspired by pop art artist Andy Warhol. These are only a few examples of the interactions between art and fashion.

Fashion is a way in which people express themselves. It is a means of visually telling others about ourselves without using words. Fashion can reflect social status, economic situation, conservative mindset versus free and nonconformist thought, and more.

Fashion functions as an agreed-upon language and, just like our spoken languages, varies among countries, religions and cultures, but in all of them it serves as an unwritten code, widely understood and recognized in that particular society.

Fashion can be groundbreaking and innovative – both in its design and in the use of advanced materials and techniques – and it can also preserve ancient traditions and crafts that are slowly disappearing.

Hungarian wine tasting 

■ HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR Levente Benko, together with Ofer Bar-On of Havit Hungarit, importers of Hungarian quality wines, is introducing a monthly Tuesday wine tasting at the Hungarian Embassy, with a view to familiarizing Israelis with the best Hungarian wines. Up to 15 wine lovers and wine professionals will be hosted at any given time.

People interested in tasting Hungarian wines should register with the embassy, providing their full name in English, email address, ID number and cellphone number. Participation is free of charge, but preregistration is a must. Further details are available from the Hungarian Embassy, (03) 545-6661. The tastings begin on September 20, and will continue on October18, November 15 and December 20.

An untimely announcement 

■ FORMER DEPUTY mayor of Tel Aviv Tzipi Brand will celebrate her birthday on November 1, and is running for election. No, not the Knesset, but for mayor of Tel Aviv. Brand, who recently resigned, after Mayor Ron Huldai tried to fire her, is running against him in the next mayoral election.

The timing of her announcement could cost her votes. Huldai is this week sitting shiva for his brother Shai, so Brand’s announcement could have waited till next week. But she is obviously very angry with Huldai, and declared that the only way that he can deal with the severe situation in the city is to silence people who criticize him.

Since his failed attempt to gain support for his bid to become an MK, said Brand, Huldai had left the city on automatic pilot. (The allusion was to one of his former careers as a commander in the Israel Air Force.) Brand charged that Huldai never returned to form, and recalled that when Huldai established his party to run for Knesset, he said that his time with the municipality was over. She is taking him at his word and says that the city needs a new spirit.

Yahrzeit of Sheldon Adelson 

■ IN JANUARY of this year, close to the first anniversary of the death of resort developer and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by the Adelson family, published that the family is donating $40 million to the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center for the construction of a cancer treatment center.

Sheldon Adelson, who died from complications related to the treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, had planned some time before his death to make this donation, and his family followed through.

The cornerstone for the 20-story building was laid this week at a ceremony in which Dr. Miriam Adelson, who now heads the Adelson family, joined Sourasky CEO Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who trained in the building that had previously stood on the site of the new facility. The structure of the Adelson tower will be built in two stages over a five-year period.

[email protected]