Grapevine June 28, 2023: A missed anniversary

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 ALON GOLDMAN (left), BMW marketing manager, at Delek Motors with Dr. Doron Kreiser and his racing car. (photo credit: Tallis Clark)
ALON GOLDMAN (left), BMW marketing manager, at Delek Motors with Dr. Doron Kreiser and his racing car.
(photo credit: Tallis Clark)

If all had gone according to plan, Avner Netanyahu, the youngest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s three children, would this month have been celebrating the first anniversary of his marriage to Noi Bar. In October 2021, Avner announced his engagement to Noi, who at the time was the spokeswoman for Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who is currently a member of the Likud and Diaspora affairs and social equality minister. Netanyahu Jr. and Bar had been an item for a little under three years. When they announced their engagement, they were both 26 years old. The wedding was set for June 2022.

Rumor has it that Avner’s mother, Sara Netanyahu, was far from enthusiastic about having Noi as a daughter-in-law, and had threatened not to attend the wedding. But there are all sorts of rumors about Sara Netanyahu, most of which are unflattering. Hardly anyone knows for sure whether there is any truth to the rumor, or whether it’s just another made-up story.

Suffice to say, the couple broke up, and within three months Avner was reported to have a new girlfriend – Ninja Israel participant Amit Yardeni. Meanwhile, Noi has been getting on with her life, and, last week, her engagement was announced for a second time – albeit to someone other than Avner. The groom-to-be is Channel 12 News journalist Uri Isaac.

Israeli journalists in high demand

■ APROPOS CHANNEL 12, two of its leading figures, news anchor Danny Kushmaro and political commentator Amit Segal, must be making a pretty penny in addition to their salaries. The two are in frequent demand at large-scale conferences – sometimes separately and sometimes together. Most recently, both appeared at the Dun & Bradstreet Business Conference, to which both were invited by Ariel Schreiber, D&B’s vice president for sales and marketing.

The conference, held at the Gavriel Convention Center in Ness Ziona, attracted business executives from a wide range of industries and professions. One of the key subjects discussed was the extent to which artificial intelligence will affect the business world, and its impact on finances and credit. Some of the forecasts were positive, while others were quite scary.

 FROM LEFT: Ella Kreif, Lior Ben On, Sharon Nir-Inbar and Slovenian Ambassador Andreja Purkart Martinez. (credit: Courtesy Embassy of Slovenia)
FROM LEFT: Ella Kreif, Lior Ben On, Sharon Nir-Inbar and Slovenian Ambassador Andreja Purkart Martinez. (credit: Courtesy Embassy of Slovenia)

Kushmaro was the moderator, and Segal shared some insights on the present political situation.

Sara Netanyahu's name besmirched in Netanyahu trial

■ JUST AS some of the rumors about Sara Netanyahu are unfounded, so are rumors and character assassinations of her husband, the prime minister. It seems from the zeal with which extracts are taken out of context from the testimony of Arnon Milchan in the bribery case in which Netanyahu is charged, that the Israeli media are simply yearning for Netanyahu to be convicted. If he is indeed guilty of the various charges brought against him, he should definitely be punished like any ordinary citizen, but it is for the courts, not the media, to determine whether certain crimes were committed.

As for Sara Netanyahu, one can understand that even though she has not been charged, her name has been besmirched in the bribery case, and this would explain her desire to be present in Brighton, England, to sit opposite Milchan as he gave his testimony. In order to do that, she could have just as easily left Israel last Friday, instead of several days before that. Presumably, a bodyguard traveled with her, or was assigned by the Israel Embassy – either way at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer. The big question is: Why was it necessary for her to spend so much time in England when she was not directly involved in the case?

German Embassy commemorates German Jewish writers

■ ALTHOUGH THE burning of the books in Nazi Germany began on May 10, 1933, the German Embassy in Tel Aviv decided to commemorate the occasion last week with a press conference followed by the performance of works by German Jewish composers and readings in German and Hebrew of works by German Jewish writers. Guests at the well-attended event were greeted by Ambassador Steffen Seibert, who said that he was happy to be able to do so in an atmosphere of German-Israeli friendship. Performers included Sophie von der Tann, Anat Federschneider, Reut Ventorero and Menachem Wiesenberg who presented works by Heinrich Heine, Stefan Zweig, Isaac Babel and Irmgard Keun. Seibert also joined in the readings.

Whether it was by accident or design, the event took place during Hebrew Book Week, which was both a historic and an ironic coincidence. We should not forget that it was Heine who predicted “those who burn books will in the end burn people.”

Keeping Yiddish alive

■ AT A time when Jewish historians and leaders of national and international Jewish organizations are worried about the preservation of Holocaust memory and ancient Jewish traditions, it should not be forgotten that the most common language among victims and survivors of the Holocaust was Yiddish.

There are people in many parts of the Jewish world who have dedicated their efforts to keeping Yiddish alive and meaningful. Among them is Shmuel Atzmon Wircer, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor, who began his acting career as a child in his native Bilgora, and who on June 29 will celebrate his 94th birthday.

Atzmon arrived in Israel in 1948 and played in various theaters in Hebrew. He also played in occasional Yiddish productions and was part of a Yiddish comedy trio, The Three Shmuliks, which also included Shmuel Rodensky and Shmulik Segal. In 1987, with the support of Shlomo Lahat, who was then mayor of Tel Aviv, Atzmon founded the Yiddishpiel theater, which has been playing to packed houses ever since, and which has performed abroad many times.

Yiddishpiel has been more than an escapism to nostalgia for Holocaust survivors and other Yiddish speakers. It has also been a reclamation of heritage for young immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Many who were actors were not accepted by the Hebrew theater, nor could they find a place in the already overcrowded Gesher ensemble which was founded by Russian actors and directors who created productions in both Russian and Hebrew. But Atzmon was willing to give them a chance, and his late wife coached them in Yiddish diction. Gradually, many of them actually learned the language and began to delve into Yiddish literature.

Veteran thespians who, with the passing of the years, received fewer roles on the Hebrew stage, but who did not want to remain idle, turned to Yiddishpiel, where they received star billing. Among them was Yaakov Budo, 93, who continues to draw crowds to Yiddishpiel productions.

Budo this week came to Jerusalem with a group of demonstrators that included prizewinning actress Yona Elian, Dudu Fisher of international renown, Yiddishpiel’s artistic director, singer and actor Sassi Keshet, the company’s managing director, Zelig Rabinovich, Hanan Yuval and the Reim singing duo, who were protesting the long delay in transferring agreed-on funds to Yiddishpiel. Positioning themselves outside the Social Equality Ministry, they displayed a sign that stated “The minister, the director-general and the employees of the ministry all received their salaries from the state. Our people received nothing.” If the status quo continues, Yiddishpiel will have no option but to close down.

Fiji set to open Israeli embassy

■ ALTHOUGH Israel has diplomatic relations with some 165 countries, not all of them have embassies in Israel, nor does Israel have embassies in all of them. There are sometimes exceptions such as Azerbaijan, which recently opened an embassy in Israel, whereas Israel opened an embassy in Azerbaijan more than a quarter of a century ago. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992.

With regard to Pacific Island countries, most of their ambassadors to Israel are stationed in London, New York or Washington, whereas the Israel ambassadors to the Pacific Island states are usually stationed in Australia or New Zealand. Fiji and Israel have had diplomatic relations since 1970, but there has been no Israel embassy in Fiji, nor an embassy of Fiji in Israel, though there have been Fijian soldiers in Middle East peacekeeping forces, and Fijians have studied at Mashav, the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development.

Fiji’s President Williame M. Katonivere visited Israel in August of 2022.

Now Fiji is about to open an embassy in Israel, which, according to Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, will be the 98th embassy in the country. It’s not yet known whether Saudi Arabia will be the 99th, and it’s anyone’s guess which will be the 100th. Israel conducts below-the-radar relations with several countries, and changes in government or policy in any one of them could lead to a more overt relationship, diplomatic ties and the establishment of embassies. A lot of people may not be aware that Iran was the second Muslim-majority country, after Turkey, to recognize Israel.

Between 1953 and 1979, there were good relations between Iran and Israel, which deteriorated into the current hostile situation following the overthrow of the shah in 1979. But miracles can happen and often do in this part of the world. The current, theocratic regime may fall as the Iranian population increasingly yearns for freedom, and a new regime may be much more favorably disposed toward Israel.

With regard to Fiji, president Reuven Rivlin went there in February 2020 to attend the inaugural summit of Pacific Islands leaders. But he was not the first president of Israel to visit Fiji. That honor belongs to Chaim Herzog, who visited the South Pacific in November 1986, during which time his itinerary included Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand and Australia. He visited other countries en route, but they were not in the South Pacific. On that trip, he also paid a secret visit to China, which at that time did not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, and Isaac Asa with his son and daughter and the facsimile of the mural that graces Ben-Gurion Airport. (credit: ILAN)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, and Isaac Asa with his son and daughter and the facsimile of the mural that graces Ben-Gurion Airport. (credit: ILAN)

Israel's president and the unusual gifts he gets

■ SOME ORGANIZATIONS and individuals think that if they come to call on the president of the state, they should bring a gift. Usually, it’s a book, or something symbolic of Judaism and the state, such as a menorah, or a hamsa or a shofar. But lately, President Isaac Herzog has been receiving gifts of a different kind. The carpet he received from the president of Azerbaijan has already been reported in this column, but now there’s a gift of another kind – a facsimile of the mural that was presented last week to Ben-Gurion Airport by the Israel-Latin American Network.

The project began a year ago, with Herzog’s blessing. Created in honor of Israel’s 75th anniversary, it covers 4,000 years of Jewish history as envisaged by leading Mexican artist Julio Carrasco Breton, who was on hand for the unveiling ceremony together with ILAN founder and president Isaac Asa, a delegation of some 50 ILAN representatives, including heads of South and Central American Jewish communities, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel and other dignitaries. Asa subsequently led a delegation to the President’s Residence to present Herzog with a copy of the impressive mural, which includes the easily recognizable faces of some of the great figures of Jewish history. Herzog was genuinely thrilled and could barely stop expressing his admiration for the many-meters-long work of art.

Honoring a Jew who saved Jews in the Holocaust

■ AROUND 14 years ago, The Jerusalem Post published an interview with Tova Teitelbaum, the daughter of Jonas Eckstein of Bratislava, who had saved many Jews during the Holocaust, including a large number of children who had been smuggled into Bratislava from Poland. His daughter had been trying unsuccessfully to have her father honored by Yad Vashem, whose policy at the time was to honor non-Jews who had saved Jews, but not Jews engaged in rescue operations. Following the story in the Post, Teitelbaum was contacted by descendants of people who had either worked with her father or had been saved by him. Since then, there have been stories about him in other publications, and his name appears in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem and elsewhere. The B’nai B’rith World Center honored him at its annual memorial ceremony that recognizes Jews who saved Jews.

On Wednesday, June 28, members of the Association of Jews of Bratislava and their Descendants will hold a memorial event at Yad Vashem, at which the moderator will be KAN Reshet Bet news broadcaster and editor Benny Teitelbaum, who happens to be the grandson of Jonas Eckstein.

What is former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen doing now?

■ THERE HAS been a lot of guesswork as to how former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen would occupy himself when no longer in office. Cohen completed his tour of duty in January 2016, after a very long career in the Mossad, which he joined in 1983. One of the Mossad’s most colorful and most visible officers, Cohen has also been engaged in diplomacy and in social welfare causes. Since leaving the service, Cohen has inter alia worked as an executive in an international solar energy company, from which he emerged with a multimillion shekel compensation package.

Now he’s taken on a new job that is close to his heart. He is the founding president of the Friends Association of IDF Widows and Orphans Organization. The announcement was made last week as the organization moved into its new headquarters in BSR Towers, Petah Tikva.

A former squad leader of the 35th Paratroopers Brigade and a former national security adviser, Cohen has a soft spot for the IDF, particularly for widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers paid the supreme sacrifice in the course of military service.

IDF Widows and Orphans includes the widows and children of Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Police and Prisons Service personnel who fell in the line of duty.

The organization had long discussed the need for a friends association, said chairwoman Tami Shelah when announcing the association’s inauguration.

“This is a significant milestone in the organization’s development and will further its important work in promoting the welfare of widows,” she said, adding that Cohen serving at the helm of the association is a valuable asset.

The IDFWO was established in 1991 and operates in accordance with the Fallen Soldiers’ Families Law 5710-1950, with the aim of supporting and empowering those who have paid the highest price of all – the widows and orphans. The organization runs projects and activities throughout the year, including an annual bar/bat mitzvah celebration for the orphans, who together with their mothers are brought to Jerusalem for a day of touring and a visit to the Western Wall for the bar mitzvah ceremony. The organization is the representative body for widows and orphans at the legislative level, and also offers emotional, social, financial and any other necessary support.

Emirates Airlines celebrates its first flight to Israel at the Ritz Carlton

■ TO MARK the first anniversary of its inaugural flight to Tel Aviv, Emirates Airlines hosted a reception for tourism and aviation officials, business partners, travel agents, media personnel and various dignitaries at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Herzliya.

Among those in attendance were Khalifa Al Suaidi, UAE deputy head of mission, Hanny Sobol, CEO of the Diesenhaus Group, Tali Laufer, CEO of the Association of Travel Agencies and Consultants and Tali Yativ, CEO and owner of Spirit World Productions.

In just a year, Emirates Airlines has achieved several milestones, headlined by the exceptional increase in operations, resulting in three daily flights, which open up greater connectivity to the Emirates Airlines global network of 140 destinations. Emirates flew more than 300,000 passengers to and from Tel Aviv during the past 12 months, and advanced global trade between Israel and international markets such as Hong Kong, China, India and Singapore.

What does an Israeli gynecologist dream of? Being a race car driver

■ WHAT DOES a gynecologist dream of? In most cases, it might be a proven and efficient shortcut to fertility treatments. It’s possible that this might also be among the dreams of Dr. Doron Kreiser, who in addition to his medical skills is also a racing driver. He recently launched the BMW E46 racing car, which he actually built himself.

The process took a year and a half and a collective investment of hundreds if not thousands of hours by 15 professionals who worked with him, including Alon Goldman, marketing manager at Delek Motors, the BMW importer for Israel.

After realizing his dream to build the car, the next step for Kreiser was to race it on the car racing track at Motor City in Beersheba, where Goldman was on hand to present him with a special collector’s edition of the BMW M performance division book.

Slovenia and the international beekeeping conference you never heard of

■ THERE ARE probably millions of organizations, institutions and regular conferences around the world of which most of us are unaware.

One such conference is arguably the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers, which is scheduled to convene in Slovenia on July 3. In advance of the event, Sharon Nir-Inbar, a teacher at WIZO’s Nir Ha’emek School, which emphasizes the importance of the environment and sustainability in its educational curriculum, visited the Slovenian Embassy in Tel Aviv. She was accompanied by two students – young beekeepers Ella Kreif and Lior Ben On, who will be going to Slovenia next week. They met with Ambassador Andreja Purkart Martinez, who told them about various aspects of her country, and who was interested in hearing about what they were learning. She wished them well as Israel’s representatives, and happily accepted the jar of honey that they brought as a gift.

Incidentally, Slovenia produces excellent varieties of honey, which the ambassador’s predecessor in office used to distribute as souvenirs on certain occasions.

Earlier in the month, the ambassador hosted Arab and Jewish students who are studying diplomacy and are involved with the Debate for Peace project. They came from Tira, Taiba, Herzliya, Petah Tikva, Bedouin towns in the Negev and E-Sawiya, a town near Nablus. They learned about Slovenia, embassy work and diplomacy in general. Debate for Peace is focused on bringing together Jewish and Arab youth from a range of communities around Israel via Model United Nations and diplomacy meetings

Celebrating the renewed Old Acre Port and Marina

■ TOURISM MINISTER Haim Katz and Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri will be present on the morning of July 11, for the ceremony celebrating the completion of the renovation and upgrading of Old Acre Port and Marina The event will be hosted by the Old Acre and Nazareth Development Company. Visitors to Acre often marvel at its beauty. Now, they will have more to admire and enjoy.