Grapevine February 1, 2023: A clenched fist

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Magen David Adom paramedic Fadi Dekidek. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Magen David Adom paramedic Fadi Dekidek.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

It would be interesting to know how many people noticed that when National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was departing from Neveh Ya’acov following the terrorist shooting rampage on Friday night, he raised his clenched fist in the Kach salute. Meir Kahane’s ghost still hovers in more ways than one.


THOUGH A number of haredi women are the breadwinners in their families, working in hi-tech on home computers, thereby earning a wage while taking care of their households, there are those who are managing hi-tech companies outside the home, as well as haredi women working in other professions.

Rivka Ravitz, a mother of 12, was for many years the director-general of the office of Reuven Rivlin when he was an MK, a minister, the Knesset speaker and president. Dignitaries who met with Rivlin, both in Israel and when he traveled abroad, were briefed not to try to shake hands with Ravitz, because as an ultra-Orthodox woman, she did not shake hands with men and usually stood with her hands behind her back.

She’s not the only woman in public office who doesn’t shake hands with men. Neither does Hadassah Aisenstark, a mother of five, who happens to be the deputy chief of mission at the Israel Embassy in Brussels. Aisenstark joined the Foreign Ministry three years ago, and Belgium is her first overseas posting, which makes her very happy, as there’s no shortage of ultra-Orthodox educational facilities that are suitable for her children. In a radio interview on Reshet Bet, Aisenstark said that her ambassador, Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, briefs people in advance that for religious reasons, Aisenstark does not shake hands with men. According to Aisenstark, everyone shows understanding, and even admires the fact that she is so strong in the observance of her faith.


IN ADDITION to covering the recent terrorist attacks, the ongoing protests against judicial reform, demonstrations against a decline in democracy, and the possible damage to the economy that unrest in Israel may cause, the major players in the Israeli media are also preoccupied with the latest threat of closure of public broadcasting.


If that eventuates, what a waste of all that has been invested in public broadcasting in terms of human resources, content, infrastructure and permanent premises. Instead of building on what already exists, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi wants to destroy. He’d barely settled into his office when he announced severe budget cuts.

Overall, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (KAN), with its various, radio, television and online media outlets, caters to all segments of the population.

No one knows, at this stage, how long Karhi will remain in office, or how long the present government can survive, especially in the face of an economic recession. But it takes very little time to be destructive.

Gilad Erdan was communications minister for only one year from, 2013 to 2014, when he set the ball in motion for the demise of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The misery caused by that decision is indescribable. There were families in which both husband and wife worked for the IBA, and both were in danger of losing their jobs. There were people who had spent nearly all of their adult lives at the IBA. It was like taking their home away from them. Many veteran staff members were kept on at KAN, and new young faces were brought in with the aim of attracting a new generation of listeners and viewers.

Among those younger broadcasters seen and heard almost daily are super scooper Michael Shemesh; Suleiman Maswadeh, the Jerusalem District reporter, who covers anything and everything in Jerusalem, and has the benefit of being able to conduct interviews in Hebrew, Arabic and English; the politically savvy Knesset affairs reporter Yaara Shapira; diplomatic reporter Gili Cohen, who also reports on the activities of the prime minister; and police reporter Moshe Steinmetz, working alongside IBA veterans such as Aryeh Golan, Carmela Menashe, Michal Rabinovich, Uri Levy and Kobi Meidan. All are really good at reporting news as it happens.

There’s a consensus among both rivals and retired veteran broadcasters who worked under the IBA umbrella. The rivals have the feeling that if Karhi succeeds in closing down KAN, the commercial channels are next in line. It has more to do with politics than with funding, they say, and point out that Karhi also wants to get rid of the Second Authority for Television and Radio, which overseas commercial outlets. That’s one of the reasons that they’ve joined the campaign to keep KAN going. Many of them were employed by the IBA before being lured away by commercial channels, and some were snapped up by commercial channels when KAN did not include them among the IBA people who were being kept on.

It’s sinful that a person who is only temporarily in office can have so much power over so many. Erdan went from being communications minister to half a dozen other ministerial positions before his appointment in 2020 as Israel’s representative to the United Nations. Whether he will return to politics once his term is up remains to be seen. Fortunately, even though he got rid of the mismanaged IBA, he did not get rid of public broadcasting per se.

Erdan’s immediate predecessor at the UN, Danny Danon, who, like Erdan, is a former minister, did return to politics, and is a Likud MK, but was not rewarded for the work he did at the UN.


FOR ITS weekend edition last Friday, Yediot Aharonot brought together five IBA veterans: Israel Prize laureate Yaakov Ahimeir, the only member of the group who was also on the KAN payroll, but was eventually let go; Menashe Raz, who hosted Meet the Press on what used to be Channel 1; Yair Stern, a former reporter, Washington-based foreign correspondent and eventually director of Israel Television; David Witzthum, who was the IBA’s man in Germany and later cohosted an intellectual talk show on television; and Dalia Mazor, who was among the first women to anchor a television news program in Israel. Although each had certain criticisms of the IBA, and agreed that it had been badly managed, they were full of praise for the high level of professionalism of its journalistic staff as well as that of KAN.

Perhaps the main difference between journalists working for public broadcasting and those for commercial outlets is that the public broadcasting people have a great sense of patriotism.

A case in point is a story told by Ahimeir, who was invited to lunch by a government minister, who disclosed that Israel was going to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Ahimeir had been dumbfounded. How could a responsible government minister reveal such a secret?

Ahimeir rushed back to the television headquarters in Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood, burst into the office of the director and blurted out that something of great significance was about to happen, and the whole world would be talking about it, but that he couldn’t talk about it.

Stern took the story a step further. After the airstrike operation in June 1981 had been successfully completed, prime minister Menachem Begin telephoned Israel Radio personally to relay the news to the nation.

The call was answered by a duty editor. “This is Menachem Begin,” said the prime minister. “I want to announce the explosion.” The duty editor told him to stop the impersonation. Begin replied: “Sir, this is the prime minister speaking,” and the response was “Stop. It’s a good impersonation, but get off the line!” And the duty editor cut off the call. Begin then called his nephew Emmanuel Halperin, who at that time worked as a broadcaster and editor for Israel Radio, and told him that whoever had answered the phone had refused to accept his announcement. Begin asked Halpern to deliver his message.”

Rotem Izak, the Yediot reporter, wanted to know whether the duty editor had kept his job after hanging up on the prime minister.

“Of course,” said Ahimeir.

“He had tenure,” explained Mazor

In those days, most workers had union protection, and it was difficult to fire them.


LOCATED AT 28 Lilienblum Street in Tel Aviv, Asif is a nonprofit organization and culinary center dedicated to cultivating and nurturing Israel’s diverse and creative food culture. A joint venture of the New York City-based Jewish Food Society and Tel Aviv’s Start-Up Nation Central, it is currently hosting an exhibition dedicated to the fast-disappearing workers’ restaurants in Israel.

The exhibition, titled “Home Away From Home Away From Home: A Tribute to Workers’ Restaurants,” was curated by Liora Rosin and Rona Zinger.

In addition to the physical exhibits, there is a digital collection of articles, recipes, stories and photographs, which for some visitors will certainly evoke the nostalgia of the palate.

With the vast change of the architectural character of Tel Aviv, even the workers’ cafés, though still maintaining a simple menu, are not necessarily recognizable as such, because the area in which they are located is a high-rise mix of residential and commercial with little or no evidence of industrial.

Shmulik Cohen’s, one of the most veteran of workers’ restaurants, at 146 Herzl Street in the southern end of the city, was established in 1936, and, though still in an obviously industrial area, does not quite resemble a workers’ café, though it is very homey. But it has a much more extensive, mostly traditional Eastern European Jewish menu, which is so authentic that lovers of European Jewish cuisine travel vast distances to sample and enjoy it.

The Asif exhibition explores the history, sociology and gastronomy of Israel’s traditional workers’ canteens, which were established to provide affordable meals to immigrant workers who were building up the country. Humble, homey, many of these restaurants came to serve as gathering places and cultural centers for the diverse communities of immigrants.

“Our focus at Asif is on the way we express our identity through food at home, in restaurants, and at all the places where we feed ourselves,” said Naama Shefi, CEO and founder of Asif. “This exhibit on worker’s canteens shines a light on a little-known phenomenon of Israel’s culinary history that had a long-lasting impact on the way we think about food, think about ourselves today.”

The exhibition, which features many different aspects of workers’ canteens, also shows how they have changed over time, and how their clientele has also changed from immigrant workers to Palestinians and refugees from places of conflict.

The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday to Thursday, and to 3 p.m. on Fridays. For further information, visit the website.


FEW PEOPLE would be aware of someone by the name of Fuad Elias Nasdah Halschi, a Baghdad-born author and political activist, who is better known to Israelis and in some parts of the Arab world as Eli Amir. Amir, who lives in Jerusalem, has come a long way since being a delivery boy on a bicycle in Israel’s capital. In addition to writing semi-autobiographical novels, the best-known of which is The Bicycle Boy, he served as an adviser on Arab affairs to prime minister Levi Eshkol, and then as an immigration and absorption emissary in the United States. He was later appointed director-general of the Youth Aliyah Department of the Jewish Agency. He also has the title of Yakir Yerushalayim – distinguished citizen of Jerusalem.

His opinion on a number of issues is often sought by broadcast journalists. Most of his working life was spent in the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood, which borders on the neighborhood of Talbiyeh. The Talbiyeh Forum will, this coming Friday, in tribute to Amir, conduct a guided tour through Rehavia to see where some of the well-known Jerusalemites live or lived; to visit the national institutions and the famed Gymnasia Rehavia, whose students included many well-known personalities, such as Rivlin, Dan Meridor, Nachman Shai, Matan Vilna’i, Miriam Naor, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Rehavam Ze’evi, Yigal Yadin and Yoni Netanyahu.

The tour will also include the Hut which is the nucleus of the Ben-Zvi Institue and was the former official residence of the president of the state. The general route of the tour will be that of Amir when he worked as a bicycle boy. Cost of participation is NIS 20. For information and registration call Hadass at 050-620-8981. The meeting point at 9 a.m. on Friday morning is at 48 King George Street, on the corner of Keren Kayemeth, by the National Institutions Building.


CANADIAN INVOLVEMENT with Israel is on many levels, the most obvious being the Israel-Canada mega construction projects in various parts of the country.

There have been high-level exchange visits between the two countries, cultural exchanges, cooperative ventures and close political and economic ties, including cooperation on energy, security, international aid innovation and the global promotion of human rights. There is also a bilateral free-trade agreement plus many other agreements and two-way investments.

Among the more recent bilateral interests was the first visit to Israel by Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s minister of colleges and universities. Her itinerary included a visit to the Jerusalem College of Technology, accompanied by Larry Zeifman, a longtime board member of the Canadian Friends of JCT. Dunlop met with JCT president Prof. Chaim Sukenik, rector Prof. Dan Bouhnik, vice president Daniel Fogel and JCT professors conducting cutting-edge research with Canadian counterparts, who discussed their research.

Fogel spoke about the college’s top-ranked Selma Jelinek School of Nursing, and together, he and Dunlop discussed the role higher education plays in solving the nursing shortages in both Israel and Ontario.

After touring the campus and hearing about the achievements of its students and researchers in a variety of fields, Dunlop said: “Ontario, like Israel, is committed to supporting groundbreaking research and is a leader in research excellence. Strengthening the relationship with long-standing innovation partners like JCT will spur new ideas and partnerships that will benefit both jurisdictions for years to come.”


ONE OF the unfortunate things associated with the awarding of honorary doctorates and fellowships is that barely a thumbnail biography of the honorees is published, and not everyone attending awards ceremonies is familiar with the histories of the people being honored.

A case in point is Israel Maimon, who was one of five people – three of whom were women – who last week were awarded honorary degrees by the College of Management. Maimon was listed as president emeritus of the Development Corporation for Israel. That would not really mean much to anyone unaware that the Development Corporation is synonymous with Israel Bonds.

But there’s a lot more to Maimon than having successfully stood at the head of Israel Bonds during the corona pandemic. For one thing, he’s a graduate of the famous Blich High School, noted for the ability of its students to predict – with a small allowance for error – the outcome of elections for the Knesset. During his mandatory army service, he was an officer in the Golani Brigade. Later, he worked for 10 years as a lawyer in a prestigious law firm. During that period, he also had occasion to work with Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter was finance minister. In 2003, prime minister Ariel Sharon appointed Maimon as cabinet secretary, and he continued in that role with Ehud Olmert

In 2008 Maimon began working with president Shimon Peres as the prime organizer of the Facing Tomorrow conferences, which brought national and Jewish leaders, politicians, economists, entrepreneurs and entertainers from around the world to Israel. The best and the biggest of these events was 10 years ago, when Peres celebrated his 90th birthday.

In October 2016, Maimon was appointed president of Israel Bonds by then-finance minister Moshe Kahlon. During his highly successful five-year term, he met with major investors, such as Warren Buffet, and received an invitation to the White House to attend the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords.

In all the positions that he has held, what was most important to Maimon was that he was doing something for Israel.


ACCORDING TO the old adage, busy people always have time to do one more thing, veteran lawyer Yehuda Raveh is a case in point. Raveh is the new chairman of the Israel Friends of ANU – Museum of the Jewish People. He is engaged in a number of philanthropic organizations and is the founder of the Israel Infrastructure Fund. In the past he was chairman of the Friends of the Israel Museum, a member of the governing board of the academic track of the College of Management Rishon Lezion, and currently serves as chairman of the Israel-Canada Chamber of Commerce, as well as a member of the board of governors of Tel Aviv University.

Friends of ANU Museum CEO Adi Akunis is delighted to have Raveh as chairman, saying that the position is more important today than it has ever been in the past,

Irena Nevzlin, who chairs the museum’s board of directors, is equally happy to have someone of Raveh’s caliber, talents and experience on board, and is certain that he will help to strengthen the museum and promote its purpose to be a unifying factor in the history and future of the Jewish people.


VETERAN MDA Paramedic Fadi Dekidek, who was the first responder to give vital medical treatment to people wounded in the terrorist incident in Neveh Ya’acov on Friday night, lives in nearby Beit Hanina, and was in his MDA ambulance only a few hundred meters away when the call came through. He immediately rushed to the scene. He is one of several hundred Arab and Druze paramedics in MDA, United Hatzalah and other organizations dedicated to saving life with no distinction between religion, race, nationality or gender. Dekidek was also the first paramedic to arrive at the scene the following morning, when there was another shooting incident at the City of David.

He personifies President Isaac Herzog’s vision of integrating the different segments of Israel’s social fabric while enabling each to maintain its individual identity and the traditions of its forebears. Herzog was so impressed by Dekidek that he invited him to visit, and the two met on Monday morning.

Herzog wanted to personally express the nation’s appreciation for Dekidek’s caring and courage. “We saw you [on television] and we were all emotionally moved,” he said. “I told myself that I have to meet this man. You are an example of outstanding citizenship and leadership in coexistence. I hope you will never experience such incidents again. When you wear this uniform and you serve in such an inspiring manner, you are a living bridge.”

The Shabbat incidents were not Dekidek’s first brush with terrorism. He told Herzog and his wife, Michal, of some of his previous encounters.


MORE OFTEN than not Michal Herzog accompanies her husband on his travels throughout Israel and abroad, but when he went to Brussels last week to address the European Parliament on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, she remained in Israel, in order to fulfill a previous engagement.

She is extremely interested in mental health and went to Bnai Brak to the Bayit Ham (Warm Home) center, which provides treatment for members of the ultra-Orthodox community who suffer from mental illnesses. She met with CEO Rabbi Arie Munk, who is working hard to change attitudes toward people with mental irregularities. People should accept a mental illness in the same way as they accept a physical illness. She also met with department heads, social workers and patients.

A., who is 38 years old, is a manic depressive and has been battling her illness for most of her life. Since coming to Bayit Ham, her condition has begun to improve, and, according to her therapist, she is making real progress.

D., a 58-year-old from the south of the country, has been unable to hold down a job. He has been moving from place to place of employment. Apparently, he has some kind of inferiority complex. But he has received considerable support at Bayit Ham, where he feels equal and respected, and so far is doing well at his current job.


WHILE FEARS of an economic recession and large-scale unemployment are making headlines on the financial pages of newspapers around the globe, the Golbary Group of fashion and cosmetics stores that trade under the Golbary and Sacara brand names, and are headed by David, Moshe, Yaakov and Linor Golbary, is launching a major employment campaign and is offering 200 jobs, including regional and department management positions plus sales staff. Regardless of any downturn in the economy, Golbary continues to expand, and is opening new branches.

The advertising budget for the employment campaign is NIS 250,000, and will be distributed via digital and traditional advertising platforms.