Grapevine September 25, 2022: It’s in the book

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 BENJAMIN NETANYAHU attends a conference in Jerusalem, last week.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU attends a conference in Jerusalem, last week.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Is there a new trend in Likud for authoring autobiographies? Hot on the heels of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s recently released autobiography is one by former minister Israel Katz, almost by way of a birthday present to himself. Katz celebrated his 67th birthday on September 21.

Prior to the Likud primaries, Katz viewed himself as a potential successor to Netanyahu when the latter steps down, is voted out of office or is convicted of any of the charges for which he is currently standing trial. With a reputation for being a Likud bulldozer, Katz, who has served as agriculture, transportation, intelligence and atomic energy, foreign and finance minister, seemed to have a fairly good chance, but slipped back on the list after the results of the primaries were published. The son of Holocaust survivors, he grew up on Moshav Kfar Ahim, and has worked as a farmer. He has been a member of Knesset since 1998.

His book, Hako’ah La’asot (The Power to Do), is to some extent a work of self-aggrandizement, but that’s to be expected from someone who is still politically active, and is willing to share everything you ever wanted to know about him. Whether the book will help him politically, remains to be seen.

ONE OF the sad things about politics is that so many former legislators who were great movers and shakers in their time fade into social oblivion once they are no longer ministers or members of Knesset. This was patently obvious last week in the KAN 11 documentary about women who broke down walls. Among the former female MKs was Israel Prize laureate Shulamit Aloni, who founded the Ratz Party, which later became Meretz. Among other women politicians who made an impact were Nava Arad, Ora Namir, Colette Avital, Anat Berko, Naomi Blumenthal, Naomi Chazan, Geula Cohen, Yael Dayan, Sarah Doron, Tamar Eshel, Marcia Freedman, Zehava Galon, who has returned to politics, Yael German, who is currently Israel’s ambassador to France, Tamar Gozansky, Haika Grossman, Beba Idelson, Dalia Itzik, the first and so far the only woman speaker of the Knesset, Faina Kirschenbaum, who is currently serving a prison sentence, Sofa Landver, Limor Livnat, Masha Lubelsky, Shuli Moalem, Stav Shaffir, Ayelet Shaked, Marina Solodkin, Pnina Tamano-Shata, Aida Touma-Suleiman, Shelly Yachimovich and even Haneen Zoabi, among many others. 

Golda Meir is of course at the top of the list. She was not the only woman in the first Knesset, but she was the only woman who became prime minister, though Tzipi Livni came close and at least managed to follow in Golda’s footsteps as foreign minister. Many former male legislators are in the documentary footage, though without the identifying captions, it is doubtful that many viewers would know who they were – and not all of them are identified. Some people manage to cling to fame till their dying day, and even afterwards, their names frequently crop up in the media. Others who were once powerful personalities, sink into near anonymity. Fame and power are more often than not ephemeral.

 Prime minister Golda Meir, accompanied by her defense minister Moshe Dayan, meets with soldiers on the Golan Heights after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  (credit: REUTERS) Prime minister Golda Meir, accompanied by her defense minister Moshe Dayan, meets with soldiers on the Golan Heights after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (credit: REUTERS)

■ PARDES, THE full name of which is The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, last week celebrated its 50th anniversary, which kicked off in the outdoor area of the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, overlooking the Old City and the panorama beyond.

Based in Jerusalem with programs around the globe, Pardes is open, inclusive, diverse and intellectually challenging.

Although it was natural at the anniversary event for people to reflect on the past as a means of assessing where Pardes stands in the present, Pardes President Rabbi Leon Morris preferred to look to the future.

“Jewish life in the Diaspora has changed significantly since 1972,” he said. “When we consider our next 50 years, the nature of Jewish identity will be quite different than it currently is. The future will include far more hybridity and fluidity in Jewish life.”

When we consider our next 50 years, the nature of Jewish identity will be quite different than it currently is. The future will include far more hybridity and fluidity in Jewish life.”

Leon Morris

Dr. David Bernstein, the Dean Emeritus of Pardes, is held in such esteem that it was decided to honor him with something of great Jewish value that is close to his heart.

A holy ark that holds the Torah scrolls was named for him in the Werthan Beit Midrash of Pardes’s future home, Beit Karen. Nothing could be more suitable in recognizing Bernstein’s lifelong commitment to Jewish education, the teaching of Torah and the significant contributions he made to Pardes during his tenure.

Among the various speakers were Pardes founder Rabbi Michael Swirsky, former Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Mark Freedman, chairman of the North American Board of Pardes, and Leah Rosenthal, the longest serving member of the Pardes faculty.

Long in advance of the festivities, their start had been planned to take place at the President’s Residence, but because President Isaac Herzog had to fly to London to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the venue had to quickly be changed.

However, Herzog did not want the Pardes people to be completely disappointed and he sent a video-taped congratulatory greeting.

The celebrations were live streamed on the Pardes Facebook and were also downloaded onto YouTube, so that Pardes enthusiasts who could not be there in person were still able to indirectly participate.

Video technology

VIDEO TECHNOLOGY, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and streaming enable people living in different countries and time zones to communicate with each other face to face without leaving home. President Herzog has found this to be very useful in conveying greetings to organizers of events that he could not attend, or in participating in conference discussions in other countries, such as for instance Australia. Herzog was in Australia before he was president, and as a former chairman of the Jewish Agency, is familiar with the various components under the umbrella of the Zionist Federation of Australia. But on Wednesday, October 19, it will not be exactly a Zionist conference in which he will be participating via Zoom, but a bilateral conference on innovation in which some of the other participants will be Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese plus more than 30 Australian and Israeli thinkers including inter alia Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon; Gladys Berejiklian, the managing director of enterprise and business – Optus; Prof. Eyal Zimlichman, the transformation and innovation officer at Sheba Medical Center; Prof. Bronwyn Fox, chief scientist CSRIO; Jonathan Medved, founder and CEO OurCrowd, along with other Australians and Israelis of note.

They will be discussing energy tech transition and climate change, in which Herzog is particularly interested; cybersecurity risks and response; the digital health revolution; decentralized finance – crypto and risk; and digitizing supply chains in a services-driven economy.

It would be reasonably safe to say that Herzog, more than any of his predecessors, uses video communication.

But it was a live affair on Tuesday of last week, when he and his wife, Michal, hosted the annual pre-Rosh Hashanah reception for heads of diplomatic missions and honorary consuls. Earlier on the same day, Herzog traveled to the Golan Heights to raise a Rosh Hashanah toast with soldiers who are guarding Israel’s northern border.

■ ISRAELI ACTRESS Niv Sultan, who recently starred as Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan in the widely watched television series Tehran that involved Israeli espionage in Iran, through the use of advanced technology, is currently engaged as the first Israeli presenter of the Elvive beauty products that are part of the L’Oréal Paris brand.

Just a few days before the Elvive photo shoot, she celebrated her 30th birthday, but didn’t make a big deal out of it. She and her husband, Maor Schweitzer, went out for dinner to a Tel Restaurant.

As yet, the couple who were engaged for two years before they married in March of this year, have not found time for a honeymoon, and are planning for the right moment to take off for Thailand for a better late-than-never honeymoon.

Of her role as the Mossad espionage agent, Sultan, in an interview with The Natural Aristocrat, said she loved portraying Tamar because she was a real person, not the cliché of the Mossad superhero, of Mossad agents saving the world. “Yes, she’s brave, but she’s also scared, makes mistakes, falls in love, and misses her dad… That’s the beauty of her.”

■ WE ALL have memories of family and friends which are stored somewhere in our subconscious, but for singer and Israel Prize laureate Yehoram Gaon, it all came to the surface last Tuesday when he visited the National Library in Jerusalem, and for the first time, with the assistance of former state prosecutor and current Rector of the National Library Shai Nitzan, looked at the archive of his father, Moshe David Gaon, an educator, journalist, researcher and poet.

He was also shown the archive of Haim Hefer, who was a prolific lyricist, and who wrote the lyrics for many of the songs in Gaon’s repertoire. The visit to the National Library almost coincided with the 10th anniversary of Hefer’s death. He died on September 18, 2012. In Hefer’s archive, Gaon found the original text of “Hineini Kan” (I am here), one of the songs for which Gaon is best known. Perusing both archives was a very emotional experience for him, and also in some respects a sad one, because his father had never received the recognition that he deserved.

There are many great people in the world whose accomplishments go unrecognized and unrewarded. There is no real explanation for it. The only compensation is the knowledge that it is recognized by a higher force.

May that Higher Force inscribe us all in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy and peaceful new year in the year ahead and the years to come.

Shana tova.