Grapevine January 18, 2023: Saturday night live

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 DANEL JAFFE breaks a glass at his wedding as his bride, Roni, his mother, Tamar (in blue), the bride’s mother, Yael Levin, and the groom’s father, Zalli Jaffe, look on. (photo credit: Asaf Kriger)
DANEL JAFFE breaks a glass at his wedding as his bride, Roni, his mother, Tamar (in blue), the bride’s mother, Yael Levin, and the groom’s father, Zalli Jaffe, look on.
(photo credit: Asaf Kriger)

There was no immediate reaction last Saturday night when hundreds of anti-judicial reform demonstrators, including many wearing the knitted kippot of the religious Zionists, gathered in Jerusalem and called to President Isaac Herzog: “Bougie wake up! The house is burning!” But on Sunday morning, his office issued a lengthy press release in which he stated that he had been working assiduously to prevent a historic constitutional crisis.

In Friday’s Yediot Aharonot, there was an exclusive interview with Herzog’s predecessor, the usually media-shy Reuven Rivlin, a former Knesset Speaker, a lawyer by profession and a loyal Likudnik, who during his seven-year tenure as president, signed the appointment documents of scores of judges. Rivlin, who has a very healthy respect for the Law, said that the kind of reform that could endanger democracy required a referendum.

Also among those calling for a referendum is Opposition leader Yair Lapid. Neither Herzog nor Rivlin knows where the sharp divisions in the nation will lead but sometimes Israelis have to be grateful to their enemies because unfortunately, what unites them is a war, the existential threat of which causes the nation to close ranks, regardless of ideological differences.

Yariv Levin: Changing the justice system, helping newspapers who criticize him make more money

■ IT IS somewhat ironic that Justice Minister Yariv Levin has inadvertently boosted the profits of the newspaper most critical of him. Full-page advertisements decrying the policy he wants to introduce have appeared in Ha’aretz, as well as in some other newspapers, and the thousands of people who responded may not necessarily understand exactly what’s involved, nor do all those who support Levin’s proposed reforms. There’s a herd mentality on both sides, that may be even more dangerous than the autocratic rule that seems to be in store for Israel.

 ANAT ATZMON models for Factory 54.  (credit: Simone Elmalem) ANAT ATZMON models for Factory 54. (credit: Simone Elmalem)

There is general agreement that some kind of reform is needed but that it should be the outcome of a national consensus, and should be far less drastic than what Levin has put on the table, which is being advanced by Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman who chairs the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. In Ethics of the Fathers, we are urged to build a fence around the Torah in order to protect it from destruction and misinterpretation. This kind of thinking applies no less to civil law than to religious law.

Danny Danon: Likud's responsible adult now defending Netanyahu

■ OF CURRENT Likud MKs, the media seems to regard Danny Danon, a former minister and Israel’s immediate past permanent representative to the United Nations, as the responsible adult in the party. Danon, who is also a former contender for the Likud leadership and a former critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is careful not to criticize him these days, even though Netanyahu did not give him a ministerial portfolio.

Danon, who ranked 15th in the Likud primaries, expected to be appointed a minister and said so in various interviews. But he should have known that Netanyahu does not always take instant revenge against his opponents. Nonetheless, Danon defends Netanyahu in conversations with journalists and insists that Netanyahu will not be overruled by coalition partners and that he will always have the final say. Danon also points out that new legislation never ends up the way it started and so people who are worried about what Levin’s reforms will entail can relax.

Carmella Menashe: A veteran reporter, unofficial ombudswoman, witnessing a changing of the guard

■ ONE OF Israel’s most veteran military reporters, Carmella Menashe witnessed her 10th changing of the guard when she attended the ceremonies for outgoing and incoming Chiefs of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Herzi Halevi, this week. The first female broadcast reporter to be appointed a military correspondent in Israel, she has attended many more ceremonies for changing Defense Ministers.

Menashe is also an unofficial ombudswoman, who over the years has taken up countless cases of injustice meted out to soldiers by their comrades in arms or their commanders. Her access to the microphone and the respect accorded her by colleagues and army officers, have helped to solve many problems for IDF rookies.

Is the future of Israeli public broadcasting at risk?

■ THE FUTURE of public broadcasting is again at risk with the threat of substantial budgetary cuts as disclosed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi who apparently has no love for public broadcasting. Over the years, many attempts have been made to close down Army Radio and the former Israel Broadcasting Authority, which has evolved into the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC). Although the IPBC radio and television stations are allegedly free of political interference, they do broadcast statements issued by the President of the State and the Prime Minister and other members of the government, regardless of which party is in power.

They also give equal time to the Opposition. Commercial stations are not bound to give any time to statesmen and politicians and are vulnerable to the whims of advertisers. Karhi, who believes in a free market economy, meaning that public broadcasting should not have any advantages over commercial competitors, may not realize that he is cutting the branch on which he sits.

The subject may come up this Friday morning on Reshet Bet in the program usually co-anchored by right-wing journalist Emily Amrusi and left-wing lawyer and journalist Prof. Yuval Elbashan. The professor will be absent this coming Friday, and his place will be taken by former Labor Party MK, Eitan Cabel, who is also a former minister without portfolio, who was responsible for the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Considered one of the most active legislators during his long term as an MK from 1996 to 2019, Cabel may have a lot to say not only about public broadcasting but also about the composition of the present government and the radical changes it plans to institute.

What happened outside the Great Synagogue? Just a wedding

■ PASSERSBY WHO looked from the window of a bus at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, last week, must have wondered about the huge, white, tent-like structure that looked very much like the frame for a house and took up most of the spacious courtyard leading to the entrance to the building. There may have been even greater curiosity last Thursday night about the long line of people extending for a block in the capital’s King George Street, outside the structure, as they waited to have their names checked by two young women who were in charge of the computerized guest list.

The occasion was the wedding of Danel Jaffe, the son of Tamar and Zalli Jaffe to Roni Levin, the daughter of Yael and Eitan Levin. Counting the most junior Jaffes, four generations of the Jaffe family have been actively connected with the Great Synagogue since its inception.

The synagogue was the brainchild of Manchester-born, rabbi, lawyer, and British Army chaplain Maurice Jaffe, who relocated to Israel in 1948. In the ensuing years, he held many executive positions in Israeli and international Jewish organizations. Among them was the executive director of the building committee of Heichal Shlomo, the former seat of the Chief Rabbinate; as well as the chairman of the building of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, which is adjacent to Heichal Shlomo on one side and World Mizrachi headquarters on the other.

Jaffe enjoyed a close relationship with Sir Isaac Wolfson, who donated $8 million towards the construction of the synagogue and attended its dedication in August 1982. Wolfson and his descendants, continue to support Heichal Shlomo, the Great Synagogue and many other institutions throughout Israel through the Wolfson Foundation.

Zalli Jaffe, the father of the groom, and one of the sons of Maurice Jaffe is an international lawyer and vice president of the Great Synagogue, after having served for several years as acting president.

His twin brother, Elli Jaffe, the long-time conductor of the Great Synagogue choir, is a multi-talented musician, who is an instrumentalist, composer, international conductor, voice trainer, founder of a school for cantors and a singer with a powerful, wide-ranging operatic voice.

Among the choir members, is one of Elli Jaffe’s sons, Zev Natan, who was very attached to his late grandmother Ella Jaffe, who was known for her social welfare activities and the clicking of her high-heeled shoes through the streets of Jerusalem. Zev Natan recently wrote a children’s book about her.

But back to the wedding. The very expansive lobby leading to the synagogue chamber had been transformed into a restaurant with tall tables surrounded by high chairs. On both sides were counters of delicious and varied food items. There were no paper or plastic throw-away dishes. Plates and flatware were all the real McCoy and in great supply. Bowls and platters were quickly replaced as their contents diminished, and used plates and flatware were quickly collected to make more space available for diners.

Labels on each counter informed guests of the nature of the delicacy. Vegans and vegetarians had been taken into consideration and there were plenty of choices for them, too. The actual ceremony was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. but which Jewish wedding has ever started as planned? This one was around 45 minutes late, which allowed for sufficient time for all of the approximately 1,500 guests to be present as former Chief Rabbi of Israel Israel Meir Lau performed the honors.

Due to the huge number of relatives, friends and acquaintances of both the bride’s and the groom’s families, it was almost impossible to find a premise in Jerusalem that was suitable for a traditional sit-down dinner so there was another reception with additional food items after the ceremony.

But this wedding was different

■ THIS WEDDING was somewhat different from the norm in other respects, as well.

The front rows of the synagogue were taken up by members of the choir, who sang several liturgical songs, as well as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” before and during the ceremony. At most Orthodox Jewish weddings, the bride sits on the semblance of a throne, surrounded by female relatives and friends, and the groom is eventually danced before her, lifts her veil to ensure that she is indeed the woman he wants to marry and then replaces the veil over her face.

This time Roni, the bride, dressed in a magnificent medieval-style gown with a long train, was escorted to the bimah in the center of the synagogue. Danel, the groom who had been waiting with his parents beneath the wedding canopy in front of the ark, walked to meet her. The bride and groom exchanged broad, happy smiles. He covered her face with her veil and returned to stand with his parents, as the bride, escorted by her parents, made her way toward him.

The bride’s mother wore a dramatic, yet deceptively simple gown in the palest shade of coffee with a split skirt over matching pants. The groom’s mother, whose favorite color is blue, wore a form-fitting azure-blue gown with a cascading flounce.

In addressing the bridal couple, Lau referred to one of the seven blessings recited at Jewish weddings, which refers to the marriage of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “What was so special?” he asked. “They didn’t have any money. They didn’t have a choir and they didn’t have guests. But they were happy because they were part of each other. Together, they were a whole.”

The bridal couple was also addressed by Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon Korff, the Grand Rabbi of Boston, who has a long-standing relationship with the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. Korff posed a Talmudic question and answer saying that God created the world in seven days. What did He do the rest of the time? The answer is: He arranged marriages.

Korff continued that there is a connection between bringing a man and woman together in matrimony and the splitting of the Red Sea. The connection, he said, is water because ordinarily, water can not be split and in a true marriage when husband and wife become inseparable, they combine like water. “They’re not finding soul mates. It’s the two parts of their souls coming together.” He explained that this is why women have some male attributes and men have some female attributes.

The Ketuba (marriage contract) was read out by Jerusalem Chief Rabbi and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, to the cheers and applause of friends of the bride and groom, who also cheered and applauded when he broke a glass in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem in Temple times.

The seven blessings are usually recited by different men. The last of them was given to Elli Jaffe, who sang rather than recite and put his whole heart and soul into the uplifting rendition.

By Friday morning, there was no sign of the previous night’s festivities but congratulatory messages were still being received by the parents of the newlyweds.

Preempting Tu B'Shvat with an agricultural trip to the Arava

■ APROPOS HERZOG, the President and his wife, Michal, pre-empted Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for Trees, by taking a trip to the Arava where they were shown agricultural and industrial projects. Their visit was initiated by Central Arava Regional Chairman Meir Tzur. The Herzogs did not miss the opportunity to plant a tree in honor of the upcoming festival. Tu B’Shvat is also the anniversary of the Knesset. It was hoped that by now the Knesset museum in its former habitat in Jerusalem would be completed, given the speed with which tall towers have emerged all over the capital. Although there has been evidence of work on the museum, there has been little progress and the target date for completion has long passed. Hopefully, the situation may change in time for the Knesset’s 75th anniversary, in 2024.

Older women can get into the fashion industry too

■ THERE IS no cut-off age for wanting to be in fashion and generally speaking, women who are past middle age are willing to spend more on designer label outfits than much younger women, who often don’t have enough money to spend on high-class apparel. Aware of this, coupled with the fact that there is a current trend for hiring former top models, actresses and singers who have passed middle age to be presenters of new seasons’ collections, Factory 54 has chosen actress and singer Anat Atzmon as its Valentine’s Day presenter.

Atzmon, 64, is the significant other of musician Danny Sanderson. She has been photographed wearing classic designs by Valentino, Balenciaga, Dolce and Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham and Michael Kors. She’s also appearing in Face of Love, a production which through songs and readings deals with different kinds of love as written about by poets and authors, such as Natan Alterman and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of the perennial favorite The Little Prince, as well as others.

Aryeh Green celebrates his 60th at Tmol Shilshom

■ IT WAS a multi-generation affair when Aryeh Green celebrated his 60th birthday this week with the youngest and oldest members of his family, plus many friends. As happens every year, the venue was the famed Jerusalem coffee shop and cultural center Tmol Shilshom, and guests were treated to food and beverage at Green’s expense. Among the beverages was pleasantly mellow merlot wine produced by Green under his own Greenhouse label.

Among those present were his parents who live in Shoresh, his older children, his youngest children and his grandchildren. The two generations of little ones, who are all very close in age, bear a remarkable resemblance to Green at the same age. Comparisons could be made by looking at the many framed photographs he brought of himself depicting different stages of his life from babyhood to the present day. It was interesting to note the changes in both his face and his figure.

Guests wandered in from early morning until late at night. Some stayed for just a few minutes. Others stayed for hours. Among the less traditional gifts that he received was a hot water bottle and a packet of Presidential red, white and blue M&M’s, given to presidential guests on board Air Force One or at the White House.

WIZO brings world in to recognize charitable work

■ WORLD WIZO has launched its annual gathering WIZO MOR (Meeting Of Representatives), with some 200 WIZO stalwarts from around the world are currently in Israel to exchange views and to visit as many WIZO facilities as possible in order to report to the folks back home how their money is being spent on a variety of WIZO projects, primarily on behalf children in kindergartens, schools and youth villages.

Of the 37 WIZO Federation members in North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, 20 came to Israel and were warmly greeted by Mor and Anita Friedman, the chair of World WIZO. There was more excitement than in past years because the delegates from different countries while communicating via social media, had not seen each other face to face since 2020.

Weizmann launches new program

■ IN A word play on the name of its late president, Michael Sela, the Weizmann Institute is initiating a new program Culture at Sela, which will be launched this coming Friday night, January 20 at 9 p.m. in the Institute’s Sela Auditorium. Sela means “stone” in Hebrew, so the project, which combines culture with science, is more or less written in stone. Over time, the program will include musical and theatrical performances and meetings with musical, theatrical, literary and scientific personalities.

The scientists will make presentations that can be understood by people who are not scientifically inclined.

Coming up culture-wise on the opening night is Jazzlab, a unique presentation by Chen Levy, based on papers written by Weizmann Institute researchers. Also appearing will be popular jazz pianist Ronen Shmueli and Chen Rotem, one of Israel’s pioneer rappers and hip-hop performers, along with other musical artists.

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