Grapevine: A superior candidate

pnina298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
OUTGOING PRESIDENT of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Avishay Braverman, who scored high points in the Labor primaries, is not only intellectually superior to some of his new colleagues, but also physically taller. He's certainly much taller than party secretary-general Eitan Cabel, who is slightly below average height. Thus when Cabel congratulated Braverman after publication of the results of the primaries and attempted to embrace him, Braverman literally lifted him into the air for an exuberant bear-hug. He also lifted BGU alumnus Shelly Yachimovic and several other Laborites. Tipped to be the next finance minister in the likelihood of Labor winning the March 28 elections or entering into a coalition with Kadima, Braverman is meanwhile earning himself a reputation as Labor's strongman. THE MEDIA have come down very heavily on Likud Knesset member Pnina Rosenblum, whose short-lived term as a legislator nonetheless entitles her to a handsome severance pay package. Unlike some other Knesset members who are losing their Knesset seats, Rosenblum did not make a spontaneous or even reluctant initial offer to forfeit the money. She could have made a lot of political capital for herself had she, for instance, decided to give it someone like Vicki Knafo, who last year made all Israelis aware of the plight of single mothers. Or she could have directed the money to any number of good causes. If she should ever decide to run for election again, Rosenblum may discover that sometimes the public does have a long memory. ROSENBLUM AND Shimon Peres, who holds second slot on the Kadima list, appeared on Yair Lapid's weekly show on Channel Two prior to the Likud primaries. Lapid often asks his interviewees what they would like to have inscribed on their tombstones. The question was put to both Peres and Rosenblum. Peres' reply: "He died before his time." Rosenblum was more blatant. Her reply: "Pnina Rosenblum, Prime Minister of Israel 2016-2026." Who knows? In a country where political crises occur almost daily, anything is possible, and it could well be that Pnina Rosenblum will be prime minister in 2016. JUDGING by the current train of events, Israel's second woman prime minister is more likely to be Tzipi Livni than Pnina Rosenblum. This too is an interesting development, since not so long ago it seemed as if that honor would be going to Limor Livnat. But Livnat's star has waned - at least temporarily - and it is now Livni who is the brightest female light in Israel's political firmament. AT AGE 66, singer, actor, commentator and television host Yehoram Gaon is getting his second wind, and throwing much of his energy into his twice-weekly show Erev Tov Yisrael (Good Evening Israel). In addition, Gaon will also be appearing in a new musical stage production featuring the top songs from Israeli movies. The musical, which premieres on February 9 at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, will run for 30 performances and also features Miki Kamm, Harel Moyal, Golan Azoulsi, Shlomi Shabat, Nitza Shaul, Adi Cohen and Avital Livni, plus a large back-up cast. Gaon's impressive Web-site, presented in autobiographical form, tells anyone who may be interested everything they ever wanted to know about Gaon - except the date of his birth. It also contains a lot of interesting photographs of Gaon's family and of Gaon with various notables - most frequently Yitzhak Rabin. Although he lives in Ramat Hasharon, Gaon's heart remains in Jerusalem where he was born, and where he continues to sit on numerous boards such as Yad Ben Zvi, the Council for the Advancement of Ladino Culture, the Jerusalem Theater, the David's Citadel Museum and Binyanei Ha'uma. He's also the chairman of Tzemed, which organizes leisure activities for Jerusalemites with special needs. On a national level, he's on the boards of the Israel Festival, Adopt a Soldier and Alut, the society that cares for autistic children. Gaon is also well-known as a hypochondriac. A common characteristic in most hypochondriacs is that when they learn of a famous person being afflicted with a life-threatening illness, they go into panic mode, and exaggerate any and every similar symptom that they may have in comparison to those of the hapless celebrity. Thus when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered his stroke, Gaon and other hypochondriacs in the country immediately imagined themselves as potential candidates for neurosurgery. Gaon composed a brilliant monologue about his own state of mind, which would have been hilariously funny if the situation were not so serious. SATIRISTS held off from dealing with anything related to Sharon's illness during the first week of his hospitalization, but some of the ridiculous probing by the media begged for a comical response. Eretz Nehederet's spoof on Channel Two news presenter Yonit Levy vainly trying to squeeze a headline out of Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef, general manager of Hadassah Medical center, had people all over the country falling over with laughter. The item was so successful that it is used as a general promo for Eretz Nehederet. It is unlikely that Levy is thrilled about this, especially as it focuses on one of her traits - that of holding her hands together in a horizontal position when she speaks. After the first screening, Levy was shown holding a pen and waving her hands to add emphasis to her speech, as if to prove the spoof was off the mark. EVEN THOUGH he never served in the IDF, popular singer Aviv Gefen has turned out to be something of a hero. Gefen saved the life of a would-be suicide victim by spending time talking to him. The young man in question would not allow police or his parents into the apartment from which he was contemplating jumping. A Gefen fan, he said the only person he was willing to talk to would be the star himself. The police contacted Gefen's manager and the singer unhesitatingly agreed to try to placate the disturbed 20-year-old. Gefen had a long, face-to-face conversation with him, and the result was that his powers of persuasion were no less effective than when he sings. But the good deed may have opened up a can of worms; any fan who wants a tete a tete with Gefen just has to threaten suicide and Gefen will be placed in the onerous position of national life saver. ISRAEL WAS visited by two Spanish foreign ministers in the space of a week. First was present incumbent Miguel Moratinos, who was here for the launch of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Spain. In Israel just a few days later was his immediate predecessor Ana Palacio, who was primarily in the region as an observer of the Palestinian elections, but also to attend the Herzliya Conference. The 20th anniversary reception was held at Beit Hanassi, and was presided over by two presidents of Israel - the current holder of the office, Moshe Katsav, and Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon. Navon is also co-chairman of the planning committee that is organizing a series of bilateral political, cultural and trade and commerce events in Israel and Spain over the coming year. Aware from his own days as president that many people at presidential receptions are unacquainted with each other, Navon, in his inimical fashion, stood at the podium and introduced everyone sitting in the reception room. Guests included cultural and commercial representatives as well as ambassadors of all the South American countries and former Israeli ambassadors to those countries. And of course there was Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel's first ambassador to Spain, who later became Israel's foreign minister, and Israel's current ambassador to Spain Victor Harel. TRADITIONALLY, the world belongs to the young, but a television report on Channel One indicates that it is starting to belong to the third-age generation - the post World War II baby boomers, whose members have retired or are retiring from the work force. Because the numbers of people in this age group are growing rapidly in many parts of the world including Israel, they are now becoming a key marketing target. Moreover, they are being encouraged to return to work because they relate better to their generational peers. Extended life spans have also put more octogenarians and quite a few nonagenarians behind the wheel of motor vehicles. Maariv ran a story this past week about Dutch-born Anna Benjamin, 98, who was denied renewal of her driver's license because of her failing eyesight. Benjamin, who doesn't look anywhere near her age and said she never felt old until deprived of her license, has been driving for 70 years. With the spread of Nazism in Germany, she and a few members of her family had the foresight to move to Surinam, where at age 28 she became the first woman to receive a driver's license. When she came to Israel in 1949, she was one of very few women in the country who was an experienced driver. There were very few private vehicles in those days, and most women drivers in Israel gained their experience in the British Army, or as drivers during the War of Independence. A frequent traveler, Benjamin drove in the US, South America and Europe. Now without a license for several months, Benjamin is forced to rely on cabs and buses, but yearns to get back behind the wheel. Her recipe for a long life: driving, a glass of wine before going to sleep, and smoking till age 90.