Grapevine October 26, 2022: With a little help from his friends

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 GRAYEVSKY TOOK one of the last photographs of late president Shimon Peres. (photo credit: NOA GRAYEVSKY)
GRAYEVSKY TOOK one of the last photographs of late president Shimon Peres.
(photo credit: NOA GRAYEVSKY)

Is the media indirectly or possibly deliberately helping the election campaign of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu? The time of the publication of his autobiography can hardly be deemed coincidental. Be that as it may, the inordinate amount of publicity it has received in terms of reports, reviews and analyses has given Netanyahu far more media coverage than received by any other leader of a political party. Yes, they have all received extensive coverage, but nothing anywhere as near as that accorded Netanyahu.

Shimon Peres's son not voting Labor

■ HE MAY have continued his father’s legacy in the quest for regional peace, but Chemi Peres, the son of Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, will not be voting Labor. Kadima, the party his father joined in 2005 following his defeat in the Labor leadership election, no longer exists, and even if it did, there is no guarantee that Chemi Peres would vote for it. Instead, he is voting for the National Unity Party, headed by Benny Gantz, because he believes that Gantz and his colleagues will succeed in introducing change.

German Unity Day overboard guest list

■ THERE ARE always hundreds of invitees at German Unity Day receptions, but it seems that German Ambassador Steffen Seibert who was hosting his first German Unity Day reception in Israel, really went overboard with his guest list. The large terrace, the spacious lobby and the huge main hall at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv were all packed with people.

 ITAY LEVENSHTEIN, new deputy CEO of Ran Rahav Communications and Public Relations. (credit: NATI LEVI) ITAY LEVENSHTEIN, new deputy CEO of Ran Rahav Communications and Public Relations. (credit: NATI LEVI)

Representing the government was Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who said that he had especially wanted to meet Seibert, and as he was not sure that he would have another opportunity as a minister, he was therefore happy to have this chance to do so.

Another reason that he wanted to represent the government at the event was that, as an MK, he had previously chaired the Israel-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Committee and had formed a particularly warm relationship with his German colleagues.

Shai also noted that, outside of Israel, Germany has the fastest-growing Jewish community. “The other is Dubai.”

German ambassadors to Israel, in their Unity Day addresses, never fail to mention the grim past and the need to remember it while working together toward a brighter future. Seibert was no exception and compared the Russian incursion into Ukraine with Germany’s totalitarian era that preceded the Holocaust.

With reference to German Unity Day, which was the outcome of what he termed “a peaceful revolution,” Seibert said that 84 million people had found their way to freedom and democracy.

Praising the courage of the people of East Germany who had taken to the streets, Seibert said that they did not know at the time whether they would have freedom.

He hopes that the Russian people would one day be rewarded in the same way.

Without the Monday demonstrations in East Germany, he said, the Communist government might never have been toppled.

“Again we live in dramatic times and no happy ending in sight yet,” he continued.

Seibert emphasized the importance of Germany’s friendship with Israel, saying that today it is more important than ever.

Shai, like Seibert, referred to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, declaring: “Never would we have believed that, 80 years after the Second World War, we would see similar signs in the 21st century.”

He added that it is the responsibility of all nations that stand for liberty and democracy to mobilize.

For several years now, German mayors have been inviting former residents who fled Nazism, and Holocaust survivors who lived in their cities, to return to visit with their children and grandchildren. Such visits are fully or partially funded by the various cities. Those in former East Germany could not issue such invitations before Germany was reunited.

 OUTGOING IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi. (credit: SHAI YEHEZKEL) OUTGOING IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi. (credit: SHAI YEHEZKEL)

Leipzig, which had been reduced to squalor, was in eastern Germany, and it was not until the 1990s that its former residents were able to visit and be reunited with family members.

Tel Aviv resident Hannah Gidoni, who was born in Leipzig in 1923, and who managed to escape via Hungary just in time to avoid the war, had nonetheless endured discrimination and antisemitism before she fled. But in many cases, despite whatever humiliation and injustices one might have suffered in the place of one’s birth, one’s heart remains there even when one is physically far away. Gidoni returned to Leipzig for the first time in 1992. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to bring Germany and Israel together through a variety of projects. Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung came to Israel to specially celebrate German Unity Day with her and her extended family at the ambassador’s Unity Day reception.

It was not only to celebrate Unity Day that he came. It was also to confer honorary citizenship on Gidoni, in appreciation for all that she has done to cement bilateral relations.

Jung was unable to contain his emotions as he spoke of her. He also spoke of the revival of Jewish life in Leipzig, noting that the Jewish community, which is in excess of 100,000 people, is active and second in size only to Berlin.

Leipzig itself has been transformed into a vibrant city with numerous cultural events and tourist attractions. Jung also underscored the importance of Leipzig’s relations with Israel.

Herzog greeted Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama prior to his departure to US

■ INTERIM GOVERNMENT and November 1 elections notwithstanding, dignitaries keep arriving in Israel as if it was business as usual. On Monday, just a few hours prior to his departure for the US, President Isaac Herzog greeted Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, and on the same day, Prime Minister Yair Lapid met in Jerusalem with Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands.

Discussions in both cases focused on regional developments, the strengthening of bilateral relations, the challenges of climate change, the Iranian threat and the repression and oppression of the Iranian people and, of course, the war in Ukraine.

Israel's best-known public relations figure to expand business interests

■ WHILE MANY business enterprises are downsizing, Rani Rahav, who is arguably Israel’s best-known public relations figure, keeps expanding his business interests, so much so that he now needs a deputy CEO and personal assistant. To that end, he has announced the appointment of Itay Levenshtein, who will head the strategic development unit of the Ran Rahav Communications and Public Relations Group.

Levenshtein has considerable experience in the field and has held various executive positions throughout his career, beginning with the IDF Spokesman’s Office.

Since its establishment in 1991, when Rahav was little more than a one-man show, the company has grown to be one of the largest of its kind in Israel, with more than 50 employees, who specialize in strategic consultancy, crisis management, capital markets, real estate, tourism, aviation, diplomacy, culture, fashion, cosmetics, design, technology, education, academics, consumerism, and more.

Rahav and his wife, Hila, who is also his business partner, are also engaged in philanthropic and cultural enterprises, and, together with members of their staff, are the official representatives of several of their clients. The office is on call 24/7. Rahav is also a television personality.

It is not surprising that, given the volume of his responsibilities, he has decided to share some of them with Levenshtein.

Labor Party holding memorial tribute to Yitzhak Rabin

■ ON THE final Saturday night before the elections, the Labor Party will hold a memorial tribute to assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, the scene of the most odious anti-Rabin demonstrations by the Right, with politicians standing on a balcony and making inciteful remarks.

It was veteran police reporter Moshe Nussbaum who first reported the identity of Rabin’s killer, Yigal Amir, whose wife, Larisa Trembovler, is trying to secure his release from prison, though it is doubtful that she will succeed in even getting a reduction of his life sentence.

Although Herzog announced that, in honor of Israel’s 75th anniversary, he would issue more pardons and reductions of the sentence, murderers are unlikely to benefit from this decision.

For instance, this week, in consultation with Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Herzog refused the request of Marie Pizem, who, together with her lover Ronny Ron, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Rose Pizem, who was her four-year-old daughter and his granddaughter. Neither is entitled to leniency for the cruel killing of a child.

On the other hand, Gonen Segev, a former energy and infrastructure minister, who was convicted of fraud, forgery and an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel, and later convicted again of spying for Iran, may fare somewhat better. Segev, who was a practicing physician, has been a model prisoner and has also used his professional skills and know-how to help ailing prisoners. These factors may be considered when his appeal is being reviewed.

Meanwhile, Nussbaum, whose broadcasting career began at Israel Radio, and whose television career was launched at the now defunct Channel 2, and who now works for N12, will be one of two journalists who will receive life achievement awards at the annual Journalists’ Conference in Eilat. The other is Yediot Aharonot reporter on legal affairs Tova Tzimuki, who has been a member of the paper’s editorial staff since 1993. The conference opens on November 13.

Israel-France to intensify their cooperation in struggle to combat terrorism through money laundering

MONEY LAUNDERING is becoming increasingly difficult in many countries, as various administrations sign memoranda of understanding in the global effort to combat fiscal crimes.

Israel’s financial intelligence unit, IMPA, which stands for Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, has signed an MoU with its French counterpart, TRACFIN, in which the two have agreed to intensify their cooperation in the struggle to combat terrorism which is financed through money laundering. The MoU was signed by French Economy Minister Gabriel Attal and Sa’ar.

Shlomo Carlebach on the airwaves

SOME RADIO DJs in Israel who host programs in which they play the recordings of deceased singers and musicians often do so on the artists’ birthdays or the anniversaries of their deaths. Thus, last week, there was a lot of Shlomo Carlebach on the airwaves. Carlebach died in October 1994. DJs marked the anniversary of his death in accordance with the Gregorian calendar, whereas his devotees organize an annual concert in Jerusalem on a Saturday night closest to the anniversary of the Jewish calendar date of his death.

 RABBI SHLOMO Carlebach performs before chronically-ill patients at a nursing home in Yad Eliahu in 1980. (credit: Moshe Milner/GPO) RABBI SHLOMO Carlebach performs before chronically-ill patients at a nursing home in Yad Eliahu in 1980. (credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)

During the COVID crisis, memorial tributes were consigned to social media, but the concert on November 5 at the Jerusalem International Convention Center promises to be a sellout. Even though Shabbat now finishes very early, organizers make allowances for Carlebach fans who have to travel from the far north and far south of the country, and doors will open at 8 p.m., with the concert scheduled for 9 p.m.

Some of the performers, such as Yehudah Katz and Chaim Dovid Saracik, accompanied Carlebach in concerts in Israel and abroad. Others, such as the Solomon brothers, knew him from early childhood, performed with him on Moshav Mevo Modi’im and continued to perform his songs after he died. Other artists at the event include Benyamin Steinberg, Aharon Razel, Yitzhak Meir, Bini Landau, Dvir Spiegel and Israel Nachman.

Lapid's birthday is coming up

■ NOVEMBER 5 is also the date of the 59th birthday of Lapid, who should know by then whether he received the birthday gift that he wanted. Curiously, or perhaps symbolically, Netanyahu was 59 the first time that his party, under his leadership, won the election and he was tasked with forming a government, which he succeeded in doing.

Regardless of which party leader Herzog tasks to form a government, the going will be tough, because Herzog is keen for the establishment of a broad-based national-unity government, whereas all the right-wing parties want a strictly right-wing government; the left-wing parties will not sit in a government headed by Netanyahu; and the party that bears the National Unity moniker will not sit in a coalition that includes any of the Arab parties. Relying on his genes, Herzog will need the combined powers of persuasion of his grandfather who was the chief rabbi of Israel, and his father, who was Israel’s sixth president.

On the other hand, what politicians say they will or will not do is not engraved in stone, and campaign promises and declarations often change in the face of reality. So until the identity of the prime minister-designate is known, the political future continues to remain a matter of speculation.

Gili Cohen and her new look

■ DARK-HAIRED female reporters on KAN 11 television were all distinguished by their thick, long hair which fell way beyond their shoulders. But that is no longer the case. The exception to what appeared to be the rule is diplomatic and political correspondent Gili Cohen, who has cropped her gleaming tresses to a shorter, more sophisticated cut, which gives her a whole new image. Whether her fellow dark-haired reporters will follow suit remains to be seen.

And the winner is...

■ IF THERE was some kind of contest for the mayor who attends the most concerts, the winner, in all probability, would be Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, who, together with Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, who holds the municipal cultural portfolio, seems to be going from one concert to the next, many of which during the summer months were held in Safra Square, just below his office.

Coming up on his agenda is a cantorial concert at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue at 3 a.m., on October 29. Participating cantors are Yehiel Nahari, Zion Yehezkel, Rephael Barazani, Netanel Cohen, Eliyahu Uzan and Moshe Dwek. Also attending this predawn service will be Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

During his army service, Lion sang in the IDF’s cantorial choir, so this should be an event that he finds to be thoroughly enjoyable.

It should be remembered, by the way, that this liturgical song recital takes place one day before the end of daylight-saving time. After October 30, the days will be shorter and the nights will be longer.

Changing the clocks by an hour will also bring Shabbat in much earlier.

"Bibi is good for the Jews"

■ DURING ONE of his many visits to Israel, Australian mining magnate and mega philanthropist Joseph Gutnick, who, way back when coined the slogan “Bibi is good for the Jews,” said that he would not interfere in the current elections. It appears that he couldn’t help himself.

Gutnick, who is an emissary of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, is committed to carrying out the Rebbe’s belief that the Land of Israel in its totality belongs to the Jewish people, and that the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict must not be allowed to bear fruit, so that the integrity of the Holy Land can be maintained.

Although Gutnick is not publicly supporting any of the candidates in the Knesset elections, he is definitely urging the public not to remain indifferent, but to go out and vote. The underlying message in the huge advertising campaign that he has mounted is that the vote is crucial in maintaining a balance that will preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state. On the other hand, if all the eligible Arab voters exercise their right, simply in reaction to these advertisements, it could result in the opposite of what Gutnick wants to achieve.

Either way, the campaign raises an oft-repeated question about the right of Diaspora Jews to interfere in Israel’s election process.

On the one hand, Israel is very willing to accept the money of Diaspora philanthropists, to wine and dine them, and allow them to socialize with the country’s top decision-makers, but on the other hand, if they try to influence Israeli politics, they are often given the cold shoulder.

Other than people in the service of the state, Israelis working or vacationing abroad cannot vote in the elections unless they come home to do so – and many have and will. But if for some reason they don’t come home, they can’t influence what happens in terms of Knesset representation, even if their absence is only temporary.

Yet Americans who retain their citizenship but don’t live in the United States and maybe never go back can still influence the outcome of presidential elections. Republicans Abroad and Democrats Abroad are very active in Israel. The big question is: should they be allowed to influence the lives of those people who live in America, or should America follow Israel’s lead?

Israel and Bahrain signed an agreement last week

■ WHEN ISRAEL and Bahrain last week signed an agreement to boost bilateral cooperation in agriculture, livestock and food security, it was widely viewed as a major step toward far greater regional cooperation than has been seen to date.

Signatories to the agreement were Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Oded Forer and Bahrain’s Municipal Affairs and Agriculture Minister Wael bin Nasser Al Mubarak, who was in Israel for the first time. The two and many of their counterparts from other countries were among those attending the three-day AgrIsrael Sea the Future summit in Eilat.

Also attending was Bahrain’s Ambassador Khaled Al Jalahma, who is looking forward to greeting more of his country’s ministers in the future and introducing them to Israel he has come to know.

Is Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy courting voters?

■ WHILE OTHER politicians have been frantically campaigning for votes for their respective parties, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) has been courting the voters of the future.

Among the places that he visited during this past month was Beit Issie Shapira, which cares for children with various disabilities, providing therapies that enable them to do things that their parents never dreamed they would be capable of doing.

He also visited the Beit Hanania Club, which is part of the Freddie Krivine Initiative aimed at bringing Arab and Jewish children together so that friendships may develop and they will grow up in harmony and mutual respect. Levy met a group of junior tennis players from Jisr e-Zarqa who had come to play against a team from the Binyamina club. Levy listened to explanations of what the initiative has been doing for the past 20 years and delighted the Arab youngsters by chatting with them in Arabic.

Kohavi is being recognized for his historic contribution to the future of Israel

■ BEFORE HE sheds his uniform, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi will be one of seven recipients of the 2022 Ben-Gurion Award to be presented on Ben-Gurion Day – November 30 – by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Kohavi is being recognized for his historic contribution to the future of Israel as the chief of staff who signed off on moving the IDF’s communications and intelligence branches to the Negev. That move will have important repercussions in the future, as more IDF families take up residence in the Negev, thereby promoting the expansion of community infrastructure and services that will eventually attract civilian families as well.

World Jewish Restitution Organization announced publication of KOMZA report

■ THE WHEELS of justice grind slowly. Much of the valuable artworks looted by the Nazis and subsequently confiscated or appropriated by the Communists have yet to be restored to the rightful owners or their heirs. Most of the owners are no longer living, so the battle continues to the next generation and the one after.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) has announced the publication and analyses of the KOMZA report on cultural objects looted during the Holocaust by the Croatian fascist Ustase. Under the Communist regime, these objects were later nationalized and distributed.

KOMZA is a Croatian acronym for the Commission for the Gathering and Protection of Cultural Monuments and Antiquities.

The report is now being released in cooperation with the Croatian government and WJRO. It was originally scheduled to be released in 2020 but was delayed partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the 2020 earthquake in Zagreb. The Croatian Ministry of Culture has recently established an expert group on provenance research. A process for claims has yet to be established.

“This report being released just weeks before the international Terezin Declaration Conference on Holocaust era assets will serve as a powerful resource for Holocaust survivors and their families and the Croatian Jewish community who seek to pursue possible claims in the future,” said Gideon Taylor, chairman of operations, WJRO, and Mark Weitzman, chief operating officer, WJRO.

“We are glad that the Croatian Ministry of Culture is doing the right thing by jointly releasing this report, after many years of discussions. Although it has been nearly 78 years after the Holocaust, it is particularly appropriate for Croatia to act now, since Croatia is scheduled to assume the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance with its 35 member countries in 2023.”

“We welcome the release of this extensive historical report that hopefully will provide a pathway for Holocaust survivors, their families, and others to file claims for cultural objects that were looted during the Holocaust and its aftermath,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO.

“We want to thank Dr. Naida-Michal Brandl for all her hard work on this report, and hope that this information will become a helpful resource to provide a measure of justice and assistance to Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” he added.

“Croatia welcomes the release of this report and shares the wish to provide Holocaust survivors and their heirs with a fair measure of justice,” said Nina Obuljen Korzinek, minister of culture and media, Republic of Croatia. “By deciding in 2019 to open to the public and digitize the KOMZA Collections, we want to provide open access to researchers.

[email protected]