Grapevine July 21, 2023: A deliberate omission?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with US President Joe Biden at the White House (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with US President Joe Biden at the White House
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

As someone who reads press releases from events that I have attended, I am well aware that a lot of important information is deliberately omitted. Sometimes attending journalists are told in advance that a dignitary will be making certain remarks “off record” and sometimes they are asked afterwards to refrain from referring to various comments made.

As the read-outs from this week’s conversation between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were not verbatim, but written in the third person, we have no idea of what was omitted. All we have are the read-outs minus the invitation.

What may possibly have been said by Netanyahu was that he hoped to see Biden when he comes to New York in September to address the General Assembly of the United Nations, and Biden may have replied: “Yes, let’s do that.” Or there may have indeed been an invitation, that at this stage, Biden would prefer not to make public. September is not all that far away.

Herzog and Biden

■ WHAT WAS somewhat disconcerting about the meeting between Biden and President Isaac Herzog, was that Biden was reading from a card with talking points without looking up at Herzog during the process, whereas Herzog spoke spontaneously, without notes and looked straight at Biden throughout.

 President Isaac Herzog and US counterpart Joe Biden meet in the White House on July 18, 2023 (credit: CHRIS KLEPONIS)
President Isaac Herzog and US counterpart Joe Biden meet in the White House on July 18, 2023 (credit: CHRIS KLEPONIS)

■ A HABIT of which Herzog is unable to rid himself, is the invoking of his pedigree, which he does at almost every opportunity – and did so again when addressing the joint session of the US Congress. He reminded his audience that his father Chaim Herzog had been the first president of Israel to address it, and that in 1949, his grandfather Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog had met with US President Harry S. Truman in the oval office.

On Reshet Bet Radio which was one of the media outlets on which the address was broadcast, anchorman Ran Binyamini began counting the 29 resounding ovations that Herzog received in response to various statements, but gave up after seven. Herzog is no stranger to applause both at home and abroad, but the reception that he received from the bipartisan Congressmen and women was undoubtedly a hard act to follow. Herzog’s headline remark was that “Israel has democracy in its DNA.” The many examples that he gave were indicative of his positive outlook even during the worst of circumstances.

Gaza 2005: The Jewish calendar

■ WHEN PLANNING Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon failed to look at the Jewish calendar. The date of the withdrawal coincided with Tisha Be’av – and so the date was changed. The pain of many of those uprooted from their homes and their friends and neighbors in 21 settlements has not subsided however, even though many have made successful new lives for themselves.

To preserve the memory of what was, former residents established the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem and the Gush Katif Center in Northern Samaria. In recent years they have also held an annual conference. This year, it will be held for the ninth time on Tuesday, July 25, at 10 a.m. The venue is the Yad Binyamin Cultural Center. For information and registration call *8947.

Among the topics to be discussed ar : A Jewish State in the reality of Israel; democracy – an essential factor or a privilege; a state in which society is either polarized or united; and whether the Kaplan Street demonstrations are a renewed symbol of what happened with Gush Katif. A

mong the many speakers will be former education minister Rabbi Yitzhak Levy, who is chairman of the Gush Katif Legacy Center, Rabbi Ya’akov Avitan, the Religious Affairs minister, and MK and former minister for immigration and absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata.

Australia and Israel: What Israel can learn from Australia

■ IT IS not surprising that Australian expats are in the forefront of swimming and lifesaving activities in Israel. One of the lessons that Israel could learn from Australia is making swimming lessons a compulsory activity in every school curriculum. Teaching children how to swim and to feel at home in the water from an early age greatly reduces the number of potential drowning incidents.

By contrast, several drownings that are reported in Israel involve people who cannot swim, but who wandered waist high into the water at a beach at which there was no lifesaver, and were caught in an undertow. The ability to swim has nothing to do with politics or religion, even though religious politicians continue in their attempts to have more beach areas declared as separate for men and women; and of course, beach attire for religious women is quite different from that of their secular sisters.

Whereas young secular women go for bikinis – the briefer the better – religious women tend to cover their bodies as much as possible, and their swimming costumes often resemble leotards with overskirts. All this preamble was inspired by a recent news item that stated that the number of drownings at Israeli beaches during the first half of 2023, was equal to the total number of 2022. By July 10, that number had been 24. The statistics were presented to the Knesset Interior Committee.

July 25 is World Drowning Prevention Day, and it has become a tradition for the Australian Embassy in conjunction with The Israel Life Saving Federation whose executive is almost entirely composed of Australian expats, to hold a reception to mark the occasion. The event will be hosted by Deputy Head of Mission Matthew Wise.

Incidentally, the Australian Embassy on Thursday of this week also hosted the screening of the opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup kick off, which was hosted by Australia and in which Australia was pitted against Ireland.

It’s winter right now in Australia, but given the season in Israel, the event was held at lunchtime at Metzitzim Beach in Tel Aviv where a huge screen had been set up to watch the match live. Invitees and casual passersby were treated to watermelon and soft drinks and invited to go for a surf during halftime.

 The site of a 13-year-old's drowning. (credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
The site of a 13-year-old's drowning. (credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)

Why do media personalities keep interviewing Regev?

■ ONE OF the great mysteries or possibly one of the great challenges of electronic media, revolves around volatile Likud MK Tally Gotliv, alongside whom Miri Regev behaves like a cherub. Regev, who was previously the queen of outbursts, at least gave way to her interviewers from time to time. But Gotliv, whose style of speech verges on hysteria as the crescendo continues to get louder and louder, does not give her interviewers any chance to interject, and interviews with her often become a case of who can scream louder.

The question is: Why do media personalities keep on interviewing her? Is there some kind of competition to see who can tame the shrew? Surely by now, they’ve realized that this is a useless battle because Gotliv will always win. Other than the pristine, ultra-feminine white blouses which are her trademark, Gotliv is a ticking bomb, who requires very little to set her off. It would be interesting to meet some of her former schoolmates to learn whether she was always like that, or perhaps a shy child who was seldom included in group activities.

■ IN A democracy, Gotliv has every right to be in the Knesset, even though her rages detract from the glory of that institution. Dudi Amsalem, also has a right to be there, but only as an elected MK. No one elected him to any ministry. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succumbed to Amsalem’s harassment and appointed him to the Justice Ministry. A person given to vulgarity, incitement, and total lack of respect has no right to be in any ministry, let alone the Justice Ministry.

His attacks against Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara are not only insulting but have been characterized as incitement by former Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who is also a former attorney general and a former diplomat who was deputy chief of mission in Washington and closely involved in peace negotiations with Egypt and with Jordan.

Likud used to be a much more civilized party and some of its members still give that impression, but there are others whose behavior is nothing short of shameful, and who bring disgrace upon all the others. Has anyone noticed that all the one-time princes of Likud are no longer legislators and that none of their offspring are active in the party? That says a lot.

■ AFTER A six-year absence, Neshama Carlebach is back in Jerusalem. The elder daughter of the singing rabbi has carved out a very successful singing career in her own right, and in some respects is even more controversial than her late father.

After participating in a Rosh Hodesh service with Women of the Wall, she will also sing at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall during the Masorti Movement’s Erev Tisha Be’av service. While in Jerusalem she will join this summer’s Ramah Seminar program, where she will sing with hundreds of students.

Prior to her return to the US Carlebach will join the Friday night services at Jerusalem’s Kehilat Kol HaNeshama – the first place in which she had ever led a service that was not “women only.” On the following night, July 29, she will give a concert in honor of Rabbi Levi Kelman and his wife, Paula. Neshama regards Kelman, the founder of Kol HaNeshama, as one of her mentors.

The concert will also introduce some unaware members of the audience to the third generation musician in the family. Neshama will be joined on stage by her son Rafael, who is a member of the band and plays the drums.