Grapevine January 27, 2023: That extra input

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog with King Philippe of Belgium. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog with King Philippe of Belgium.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Though women appear to be doing quite well in law, medicine, journalism and a number of industries as evidenced in the upcoming Jerusalem Post Women Leaders Summit taking place in Tel Aviv on February 22, women are definitely on a downward curve politically. This regression may be among subjects raised by the three politicians participating in the Summit: Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamliel, Mayor of Yeruham Tal Ohana and Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa Chen Kraus-Simhoni.

The poor ratio of women in Ministerial positions and in the Knesset seems to indicate that any influence gained by women in the past has all but dissipated. This is clearly evidenced in the paucity of women among the directors-general of government ministries. This situation bothers members of women’s organizations, as well as females who are amng leading media figures.

Interviewed on Reshet Bet, Emi Palmor, a former director-general of the Ministry of Justice said that on issues that affect all sectors of the population, there should be representatives of all sectors discussing those issues because they affect different communities in different ways. Similarly, there should not be all-male or all-female committees because things that are important to men are not necessarily important to women and vice versa. It is always beneficial to bring a different voice to the table, she said.

When she was director general, she never agreed to a women only meeting and sometimes when she was the only woman at a meeting dominated by men, she came up with ideas that had not occurred to any of the men sitting at the table. Similarly, she said, a man at a meeting of women could make an essential difference in the discussion.

ANYONE WHO complains about backlogs in Israel’s justice system should take a look at what’s happening in other countries. The Malka Leifer case of sexual abuse of schoolgirls in Australia has dragged on for more than a decade, primarily due to her attempts to avoid extradition from Israel to Australia.

 HERZOG WITH Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO) HERZOG WITH Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Leifer bolted from Melbourne 13 years ago after her crime became known. Australia requested extradition. Leifer’s lawyers argued that she was not mentally fit to stand trial. Her behavior when she thought no-one was watching indicated that her so-called unfit mental state was a complete sham. Extradited and incarcerated two years ago, she is finally due to stand trial on February 7.

Manny Waks, an Australian born lawyer who lives in Israel and suffered sexual abuse as a schoolboy, set the ball rolling in Australia for wide ranging investigations into the sexual abuse of minors. He will be there to observe the trial and to report on it live through his Facebook account.

APROPOS AUSTRALIA. Every year on January 26, the Australia Day honors are announced and invariably include members of the Jewish community. This year, there were 23 honorees, with the overwhelming majority from the state of Victoria. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are approximately 100,000 Jews in Australia but as it is not mandatory to state one’s religion when responding to a population census questionnaire, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry estimates that the figure is closer to 120,000, with Victoria in the lead with a Jewish population of around 46,600.

This is also reflected in the Australia day honors with 15 of the 23 Jewish honorees coming from Victoria, five from New South Wales, two from Western Australia and one from Australia’s Capital Territory. The honors are conferred in different categories, the highest being the Order of Australia (OA). Each of the four regions was represented in this category.

The honorees were Claude Bernard (Victoria) for significant service to medical research and education; Martin Delatycki (Victoria) for significant genetic research and education; Sylvia Hoffman (WA) for significant service to the Jewish community; Melvyn Korman (Victoria) for significant service to gastroenterological and hepatological medicine; Michael Levitt (WA) for significant service to medical administration and to professional associations; Norman Swan (NSW) for significant service to broadcast media as a science and health commentator; and Michael Tedeschi (ACT) for significant service to medicine, especially people with drug and alcohol dependency issues.

DESPITE BEING surrounded by construction projects, the Jerusalem International Convention Center, more commonly known by its original Hebrew name, Binyanei Hauma, is definitely on a roll and attracting more conferences. It is also the venue for more concerts and culinary delights. It attracts vastly diverse sectors of the population. Recently it was chosen by the Religious Zionist sector for a memorial tribute to Rabbi Haim Druckman on the 30-day anniversary of his passing. It was also chosen by singer and instrumentalist Shlomi Shabat for a sold-out concert celebrating his 40 years on the stage.

Other entertainers who have appeared recently include singers Shuli Rand and Avi Aburomi and stand-up comedian Adir Miller. Coming up on February 4 is Ishay Ribo and on March 16 Miri Mesika will host Rita. Both singers have powerful voices and a well-developed sense of drama.

As for conventions, OurCrowd, which organizes some of the largest international conventions in the country, will welcome thousands of investors and entrepreneurs from Israel and abroad on February 15. This will be followed on February 21 by the Yediot Aharonot convention leading into Israel’s 75th anniversary celebrations, featuring personalities who organizers feel are among Israel’s most interesting and riveting individuals. Moderators of the day-long event are Nelly Tagar and Aviv Alush.

JUST A few meters away from Binyanei Hauma is the Vert Hotel, which in its changing identities has for some years remained the venue of choice for the annual Jerusalem Conference hosted by the B’Sheva media group. Though essentially a religious Zionist affair, the Jerusalem Conference, which this, its 20th year, incorporates an Emunah conference, has tried to achieve a political balance among the speakers in the past.

It stands to reason that one of the main speakers will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though he does not exactly qualify as religious. But he is a staunch Zionist and his position on the totem poll more or less gives him carte blanche. Although there are other speakers who are not religiously observant, nearly all are on the right of the political spectrum. It would surely be instructive to hear some more voices from the opposition. There’s still time to remedy the lacuna. The conference is scheduled for February 20-21.

HOT NEWS evolves at an amazing pace in Israel, where almost everything has political connotations. Moreover, unless journalists are actually present as developments take place, it is very difficult to determine the true story about an event in which prominent figures are participating. The reason? A plethora of press releases from different sources, each emphasizing a different viewpoint and highlighting the personalities whose organizations are represented by different PR agencies, among which there appears to be no coordination.

A lot of important news goes unreported because the spotlight is more on personalities than on what is being discussed. If the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister or the defense minister are among the speakers, they are the ones whose remarks are reported in the media, regardless of whether they’ve said the same thing many times before or whether they’ve jumped the gun as happened this week in relation to the Ashmoret conference in Tel Aviv. Ashmoret, is a division of the Teachers’ Union.

Education in Israel is in crisis, no less than the judicial system, which is in the process of undergoing radical reforms. Conference organizers were thrilled that President Isaac Herzog would be among the opening speakers. Herzog, who between planning his trip to Brussels and the European Parliament this week, has been busy in initiating reconciliation measures to prevent the rifts in the nation from being torn further asunder, has received quite a lot of publicity on this score.

But because he wanted to draw attention to his initiative that calls for polite and civilized dialogue, replacing trade in volatile insults, his office put out a press release on the eve of the conference.

The conference received less coverage than it deserved and what coverage it did receive was related to Herzog’s five-year plan for restoring national unity, while allowing for differences of opinion, and respect for such differences.

INCIDENTALLY, HERZOG Fox & Neeman, the law office founded by the president’s late father and where the president himself worked before embarking on a political career, was one of several prestigious law firms that collectively funded full-page advertisements in several Hebrew media outlets. These advertisements called on the government to maintain an independent judicial system in accordance with the Declaration of Independence and without any political interference.

It’s sad that political interference and override in the judicial process should have any bearing at all. With regard to the appointment of judges, it would surely be more appropriate to have a panel of retired Supreme Court judges, the attorney general, deans of university law schools and heads of district branches of the Bar Association, who collectively would be far better qualified, from a professional standpoint, to make such important decisions.