Grapevine November 9, 2022: Battles to be fought

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with the ambassador of Ghana, Lydia Ofosua Amartey. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with the ambassador of Ghana, Lydia Ofosua Amartey.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Curiously, the announcement by veteran, sharp-tongued radio and television journalist Rina Matzliah that she is retiring from N12 and her Meet the Press program came almost in tandem with news that one of the things that minister-designate Bezalel Smotrich intends to do, once he becomes a member of the government, is to stop Shabbat soccer games.

Matzliah happens to have been the first female radio journalist to report on soccer and the first female to join the Shirim v’Sha’arim team that broadcast weekly soccer matches during the soccer season. Even though she has long lived in Tel Aviv, Matzliah is a lifelong fan of Hapoel Beersheba, having grown up in the southern city.

Matzliah began her career in journalism in 1983 at Israel Radio. Ten years later she joined the now defunct Channel 2, which was Israel’s first commercial television station, and reported on the Oslo Accords and peace negotiations between Israel and Jordan. She subsequently became the channel’s chief political reporter and commentator.

In 2017, when Channel 2 split into two separate entities, she was part of the N12 team. She also coanchored the Army Radio current affairs program Ma Bo’er with fellow veteran journalist Razi Barkai, whom she knew from the time that both were working for Israel Radio.

It is interesting to note that Matzliah is one of many Israeli journalists who went from sports to politics. When she was just a radio reporter, she had an untidy mop of curly hair. Sometime after she became a television reporter, she had her hair straightened, as did former journalist and MK Shelly Yacimovich. Since leaving both the Knesset and the radio, to which she had returned, Yacimovich has stopped straightening her hair, and Matzliah may well do the same.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Ilana Seid, Palau’s first ambassador to Israel. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Ilana Seid, Palau’s first ambassador to Israel. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

In the letter announcing her retirement, Matzliah stressed the importance of defending the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. There are politicians, among those who will take their places in the 25th Knesset, who are already talking about closing down public broadcasting, in addition to those who for years have been trying to close down Army Radio. The battle may cause both Matzliah and Yacimovich to temporarily come out of retirement, along with other journalists whose names used to be household words.

Who is missing from the 25th Knesset?

■ MANY FAMILIAR names and faces are missing from the 25th Knesset, and Israelis who are interested in politics will have to learn a new batch of names and affiliations. The list of incoming MKs illustrates how ephemeral power and influence can be.

Ayelet Shaked, once considered a future prime minister, is out in the cold. With the exception of Merav Michaeli, all the Labor ministers are out in the cold, and she has reverted to being part of the opposition instead of a member of the government. Meretz fared an even more dismal fate by failing to cross the electoral threshold and was left out of the Knesset for the first time in 30 years.

Former president and Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin was fond of quoting one of the sayings of the late prime minister Ariel Sharon, who used to say that sometimes the wheel is up, and sometimes it’s down, but the important thing is to stay on the wheel.

Other than Benjamin Netanyahu, the current parliamentarian who has managed to stay on the wheel for the longest consecutive period is Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, who has served in the Knesset since 1988, but even if he should continue to serve until his mid-80s, he will not break the record of Shimon Peres, who, at 83, was not only the oldest MK, but also the most veteran, having served for 47 years plus 125 days.

The briefest-serving MK was Orna Angel of the Labor party, who in February 2006 was a replacement for Sofa Landver. After only a week as a legislator, Angel resigned due to a conflict of interest because she was, at the time of entering the Knesset, the CEO of Tel Aviv Port, which was a government-owned company.

In the past, there were several second-generation parliamentarians, such as Tzachi Hanegbi, the once very influential son of MK Geula Cohen. Hanegbi did not win an influential slot in the Likud primaries and therefore did not make it into the 25th Knesset. The only second-generation MKs in the 25th Knesset are outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, whose father, Tommy Lapid, was both an MK and a minister; and Meir Porush, the son of Menachem Porush. Altogether father and son spent more than half a century as legislators, with Menachem Porush serving for 30 years, with one two-year break from 1975 to 1977. Meir Porush has served consecutively since 1996.

 NEW ZEALAND Ambassador Zoe Coulson-Sinclair (center) and Tamir Kobrin (right), general manager of the King David Hotel, chat with a guest at the ‘vin d’honneur’ for new ambassadors.  (credit: MOOLI GOLDBERG) NEW ZEALAND Ambassador Zoe Coulson-Sinclair (center) and Tamir Kobrin (right), general manager of the King David Hotel, chat with a guest at the ‘vin d’honneur’ for new ambassadors. (credit: MOOLI GOLDBERG)

Former minister and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, who had intended to challenge Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, after scoring a position among the five most important people on the Likud list, fell back in the last primaries and is now in 18th position. He has been an MK since 1996 when he was elected to the 14th Knesset. Another former Likud minister who once wielded a lot of clouts is Gila Gamliel, who barely scraped in as the 30th member on the Likud list. The most veteran of the Arab MKs is Ahmad Tibi, who has been a legislator since 1999.

While there have been several second-generation MKs, the only political family to have three generations in the Knesset were the Dayans, with Shmuel, Moshe and Yael, as well as her cousin Uzi Dayan, who is a grandson of Shmuel. The offspring of four prime ministers – Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon – also served in the Knesset.

10-year-old has been hospitalized since birth

■ WHEN PEOPLE do good things together, the result can only be positive. What kind of a birthday present can one give to a 10-year-old Jerusalem boy who, due to a birth defect, has been hospitalized ever since he was born? Indeed, it was a happy day for young Yosef Yitzchak. For one thing, he was out of the hospital, albeit in an ambulance for most of the time. For another, he was being granted his dearest wish – to celebrate his birthday at the Western Wall. His wish became a reality thanks to the combined goodwill of Herzog Hospital, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the United Hatzalah.

Obviously familiar with the boy’s needs and wishes, Herzog Hospital reached out to United Hatzalah, which in turn contacted the Western Wall Foundation and explained that Yosef Yitzchak needs to be under supervision at all times and that it would be necessary for the ambulance to park in the Western Wall Plaza, and then to transport Yosef Yitzchak with his ventilator to the Wall.

On Tuesday of last week, it was Election Day for the people of Israel, and mitzvah day for United Hatzalah EMT and ambulance driver David Salach and paramedic Ariel Shusheim, who drove the intensive care ambulance to Herzog Hospital, picked up Yosef Yitzchak, his family and his attendant nurses, and drove them all to the Western Wall.

The boy was taken out of the ambulance and brought on a stretcher to the wall in a joyful procession. He was welcomed and congratulated by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, who wished him well. Yitzchak Yosef’s parents were overjoyed that their son’s dream, in which they shared, had come true. They prayed that a cure would be found for his condition and that he would be able to come unaided to the Western Wall for his bar mitzvah.

Meanwhile, United Hatzalah, the Western Wall Foundation and Herzog Hospital collectively proved that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Ambassadors to Israel

■ FEW THINGS last forever. Ambassadors come; ambassadors go; and some stay only long enough to present their credentials to President Isaac Herzog, and to meet their contacts in the Foreign Ministry, diplomatic colleagues who are resident in the country, honorary consuls who represent their respective countries and perhaps some of the people doing business with their countries.

 SHEBBA SHUMBAYAONDA, ambassador of Zimbabwe, with Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel. (credit: MULI GOLDBERG) SHEBBA SHUMBAYAONDA, ambassador of Zimbabwe, with Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel. (credit: MULI GOLDBERG)

That’s what happened when four of the six new ambassadors presenting credentials to Herzog were nonresidents. At the traditional vin d’honneur held at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, – where general manager Tamir Kobrin gave them the red-carpet treatment – they met most of the people whom they will get to know over time.

The resident ambassadors are Alexandr Roitman of Moldova and Lydia Ofosua Amartey of Ghana. Nonresident Ambassador Zoe Coulson-Sinclair of New Zealand was still wearing the Maori cape she had worn to the President’s Residence. All six ambassadors had been individually escorted from the King David to the President’s Residence and back by Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel. The other nonresident ambassadors were Shebba Shumbayaonda of Zimbabwe, Munkhbayar Gombosuren of Mongolia and Ilana Seid of Palau. Seid is Palau’s first ambassador to Israel, but is stationed in New York, where she is her country’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths completing his tenure

■ SOON TO be completing his tenure in Israel is popular Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths, who has been of enormous support to sports and lifesaving organizations in Israel that were founded and are operated by Australian ex-pats.

Griffiths, who is hosting a farewell party this week, last week, for the last time since taking office, presided over the annual Australian ceremony commemorating the October 1917 Battle of Beersheba, which was essentially won by the ANZACs.

There was a huge attendance at the event, after which Griffiths tweeted: “Excellent ceremony today remembering the fallen at the Battle of Beersheba.... In the years since Australia has remained committed to Israel’s security in the international arena and on Israel’s borders.... ln our long-standing friendship, their ANZAC spirit remains.”

The Australian government, under Labor leader Ben Chifley, recognized Israel in January 1949, and Australia’s first representative, Osmond Charles Fuhrman, took up office as envoy and minister plenipotentiary to the Australian legation in Tel Aviv in October of that year, and presented his credentials to Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann.

Australian ambassadors seem to have a passion for cycling. Griffith’s immediate predecessor, Chris Cannan, liked to ride his bike around the country, as did Cannan’s predecessor Dave Sharma, who frequently rode his bike from his residence in Herzliya Pituah to his office in Tel Aviv. Several ambassadors have not only brought their bikes to Israel, but also their dogs.

Bloomfield Stadium, iconic landmark of Tel Aviv-Jaffa

BLOOMFIELD STADIUM has for 60 years been one of the iconic landmarks of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, one of many gifts to Israel by the Canadian Bloomfield family. Attorney Harry Bloomfield, the son and nephew, respectively, of the late Bernard M. Bloomfield and Louis M. Bloomfield, who gifted the stadium to the Tel Aviv Municipality, is thrilled that Bloomfield Stadium is now an official stop on the new Tel Aviv Light Rail.

Abraham Accords has made travel spots possible for Israelis

■ THE SIGNING of the Abraham Accords has made certain destinations in the region more accessible to Israelis.

Until not so long ago, Israelis could travel to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Morocco on an Israeli passport, and could go to some Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries if they were dual nationals and had another passport with no Israeli stamps on it. Indeed, many dual nationals took advantage of that possibility.

But now, in addition to the abovementioned, Israelis are flocking to Dubai, Bahrain and to some other countries that are taking a more relaxed attitude to an Israeli passport. In addition, several Israeli organizations and institutions are holding conferences in Morocco and Dubai.

Next week The Jerusalem Post and Khaleej Times will be joining forces, not for the first time, to host a global investment forum in Morocco, with the participation of numerous Israeli speakers, including Yaakov Katz, the Post’s editor-in-chief, and Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who is in charge of the municipality’s foreign relations and international economic development and tourism, and is a co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council.

During the same period, the Israeli Institute of Commercial Arbitration, headed by Menashe Cohen, together with the Dubai International Arbitration Center, headed by Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi, will bring together judges, lawyers, economists and academics with expertise in commercial law and arbitration from both countries, at a conference that will explore the effect of the Abraham Accords and ADR in the MENA region. Also attending will be Amir Hayek, Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and Liron Zaslansky, Israel consul-general in Dubai.

Sara Netanyahu and Yair Lapid celebrated their birthdays recently

■ ON THE night that left-wingers and moderate right-wingers gathered in Habima Plaza to honor the memory of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Sara Netanyahu celebrated her 64th birthday and Lapid turned 59.

Since 1984, Lapid has had very low-key celebrations of his birthday. His older sister Michal, who was also born on November 5, and whom he loved dearly, was killed in a car accident in 1984 when she was 24 years old, and since then, her brother has been less than happy on his birthday. When they were children, their mother used to wake them both early in the morning to sing “Happy Birthday” to them.

In 2019, a gala dinner hosted by the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria in honor of former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper was attended by the Netanyahus. It happened to coincide with Sara Netanyahu’s birthday, and in his address, her husband noted that fact, but didn’t reveal her age. Even though both husband and wife have now reached Israel’s retirement age, they are both still going strong. Judges are required by law to step down at age 70, but politicians can go on indefinitely.

Benjamin Netanyahu will have his hands full in negotiating ministerial portfolios of which there will be far too many for the public purse, because every minister will have an office and a large staff.

"I'll be back shortly," Netanyahu wrote in a letter on his desk for Bennett

■ CONTRARY TO the gracious letter that US president George W.H. Bush left for Bill Clinton when the latter took up occupancy in the Oval Office, the note that Netanyahu left for Naftali Bennett was much shorter and far from gracious. It was a two-word epistle in Hebrew: “Techef ashuv!” (I’ll be back shortly!) It looks as if he is. There was also a crude drawing of a Star of David beneath the message. The note was featured on Channel 12 last week.

Moshe Safdie to receive doctorate in philosophy

■ ON NOVEMBER 10, world-renowned, prizewinning, Haifa-born architect Moshe Safdie will receive an honorary doctorate in philosophy to add to the many awards that he has already received, including the prestigious Wolf Prize for Architecture.

A master of architectural innovation and urban planning, Safdie, who holds Israeli, Canadian and American citizenship, has designed iconic buildings and neighborhoods in many parts of the world. He came to international attention with his Habitat design, which was the main feature of Canada’s Expo 67, and was the pioneer of three-dimensional prefabricated residential units.

In 1970, Safdie established a branch office in Jerusalem and, at the request of then-mayor Teddy Kollek, who became a personal friend, worked on the restoration of Jerusalem’s Old City, and later on the construction of the Mamilla Mall, which links the old and new cities of the capital. He also designed the David Citadel Hotel, which, like the Mamilla Mall, belongs to property developer Alfred Akirov. Also in Jerusalem, Safdie designed Hebrew Union College, the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum, and the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel.

Among his other designs in Israel are the city of Modi’in and Ben-Gurion Airport. Among his many designs elsewhere in the world is the amazing Marina Bay Sands integrated resort complex in Singapore, as well as Jewel Changi Airport, a nature-themed entertainment and retail complex linked to Changi Airport.

In an interview in December 2018 with The Jerusalem Report, Safdie, when asked his opinion about the changing Jerusalem skyline, which is now dominated by tall towers, said: “I think it’s a disaster. It’s a grave mistake to fill Jerusalem primarily with towers. It diminishes its uniqueness and the beautiful qualities of its history and architecture.”

He added that the Jerusalem District Planning Authority and greedy real estate developers are blind to precedents set by other historic cities, such as Paris, Rome and Florence, where there are no towers. Many cities build no higher than four stories, he said, and Washington, DC, limits the height of buildings to 11 stories.

Safdie and his Jerusalem-born wife, the eminent photographer Michal Ronnen Safdie, own an apartment in Jerusalem’s Old City, where they stay whenever they are in Israel. Michal is the daughter of the late Meir (Mike) Ronnen, the longtime Post art critic and cartoonist.

"Oy gevalt" Zehava Galon

■ IN THE final throes of the Knesset elections, the word “gevalt,” a Yiddish word taken from German, was frequently in the headlines and largely attributed to Meretz leader Zehava Galon, who desperately but futilely tried to take her party over the electoral threshold.

During her previous leadership of Meretz, Galon was in the forefront of proposing legislation against human trafficking, so the word “gevalt,” though inaccurately used during the election campaigns, was appropriate for her, because it actually translates as violence, and when it is transposed from a noun to a verb, it means rape. Meretz was abandoned, but neither violated nor raped.

Ben-Gvir star attraction at memorial event

■ LIKELY MINISTER Itamar Ben-Gvir will be the star attraction on Thursday, November 10, at the memorial event marking the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of his mentor, Kach leader Meir Kahane. Prior to the 6 p.m. gathering at Jerusalem’s Heichal David at 14 Aholiav Street, Jerusalem, there will be a graveside memorial service at 4 p.m. at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery.

Although Kahane was banned from the Knesset due to his radical, racist propaganda, there was a period, while he was still living in America, that he was regarded with favor due to his vigilante group the Jewish Defense League’s stand against antisemitism and its work in creating awareness of the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

Knowledge of history

■ KNOWLEDGE OF history can be expanded as new facts come to light, but history itself cannot be changed, which is one of the reasons that three successive presidents of Israel have refused to remove the bust of Moshe Katsav from the row of presidential busts in the garden of the presidential complex. By the same token, history-based radio and television programs maintain their value and appeal for many years after their initial broadcasts.

The late historian and radio man Yitzhak Noy, who hosted a weekly radio program based on historical events, in which he interviewed a panel of experts, died in May this year, but his program continues to be rebroadcast week after week. History, after all, remains the same.

A brilliant intellectual, with an incredibly broad range of knowledge, Noy endeared himself to thousands of listeners in Israel and abroad. When diagnosed with brain cancer, he understood that it was terminal. He was hospitalized for a relatively short period of time, insisting that he wanted to die in the village of Neta’im, where he was born and raised, and where he had lived throughout his life, except for a period when he was a student at Brandeis University in the US.

After he announced that he could no longer continue broadcasting, his colleagues at KAN Reshet Bet rebroadcast some of his programs. Initially, it was thought this was simply a goodwill gesture while he was still living. But it turned out that it was ongoing. Noy wanted to be buried in the small Neta’im cemetery, with no eulogies, and only his family in attendance.

Last week, the friends and admirers who, in honor of his request, had refrained from accompanying him on his final journey showed up at the cemetery for the consecration of Noy’s tombstone. Most were friends and colleagues from the days when Reshet Bet was under the umbrella of the now defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority. The consecration ceremony was conducted by veteran broadcasters Dan Kaner, Yoel Rappel and Benny Hendel, who reflected on the man and his career. The event was reported by another veteran broadcaster, Moshe Nestelbaum, in Maariv, the Post’s sister publication.

Following the ceremony, there was a gathering at Noy’s home, where it was decided to establish a fund in his memory that will be managed by the Rishon Lezion Philanthropic Foundation and will be dedicated to support writers and other creative people who are engaged in different ways in presenting history and general knowledge to the wider public.

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