Grapevine: Cheers, l’haim!

Australian envoy, Center for Lone Soldiers serve up wine tastings; Sigalit Landau to be representative at Venice Biennale.

drinking wine_311 (photo credit: (Lucas Schifres, Bloomberg))
drinking wine_311
(photo credit: (Lucas Schifres, Bloomberg))
ANY AUSTRALIAN ambassador would have been pleased to host a reception promoting Australian wines, but in the case of incumbent Andrea Faulkner, it was more than just a pleasant duty, it was a doubly patriotic act because she was born and raised in South Australia, the best wine area on the continent. Better still, the event was being held on the eve of Australia Day, which Faulkner told her guests she would be remiss in ignoring.
The wine tasting was conducted by Gil Merom, an Israeli living in Australia. The wines were imported by Mersch Israel and were mostly from boutique wineries. The promotion was under the auspices of both the Australian embassy and the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce.
Unfortunately, none of the wines were kosher. Mersch, which is a relatively young company, used to import Australian kosher wines, but they were just too expensive, said marketing manager Dani Galil, who according to Merom knows more about wines than anyone else in the country.
Although Australia’s wine industry is young, said Merom, its vines are among the oldest in the world. Some are 135 years old. There are more than 2,000 wineries in Australia, he said, and most of the wine makers are in their 20s and 30s. Many have degrees in wine making from Adelaide University. Several Israeli wine makers have also earned their degrees at AU, he said. Aside from tasting the half dozen wines that Mersch had provided, what interested the assembled guests was the fact that Australian wine makers no longer use corks in bottles, but prefer screw on or glass closures.
■ WINE TASTINGS are becoming increasingly popular here. Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue hosted one last week to promote awareness of the Center for Lone Soldiers in memory of Michael Levin, an American lone soldier who made the supreme sacrifice.
The synagogue runs a monthly Friday night dinner with all the trimmings for lone soldiers and from 200-300 people attend. There were quite a lot of lone soldiers present. The event was organized in conjunction with Toby Press, the publishers of Rogov’s Guide 2011, authored by internationally acclaimed wine connoisseur Daniel Rogov who writes for Haaretz, but previously wrote for The Jerusalem Post.
Although there was more cheese and in greater variety than there had been at the Australian ambassador’s event, the wine was served in long-stemmed wine glasses at the Australian residence, whereas at the Great Synagogue it was served in plastic containers that looked like wine glasses, but didn’t have the same panache.
The erudite and witty Rogov was on hand to expound on local wines, and had the courage in what is largely a right-wing enclave to say that he never goes to the West Bank to taste wine. That is not to say that he allows politics to intrude on his palate. He is quite happy to drink wines produced in the West Bank, and will meet the wine maker anywhere within the Green Line.
When he came here 35 years ago, he said, the wines were “sweet, red, horrible and vulgar.” There was not a single wine that he would put in his cellar. There was a wine industry here in Roman times, which was put out of business during the Muslim conquest and revived in the 19th century by Baron Rothschild, who wanted to provide a livelihood for Jewish farmers. The problem, said Rogov, was that he brought the wrong grapes. They were unsuitable for the climate or terrain.
There was a revolution in the wine industry in the late 1970s, when Cornelius Ough, an expert from California, was brought in by a group of kibbutzim and moshavim to figure out what they were doing wrong in making wine. He told them they had the wrong grapes in the wrong places. They followed his advice and the leader in the pack became the Golan Wine Industries, which has won prizes in international competitions.
Since then, the country has been making a lot of good wines, said Rogov, noting that these days, 30 percent of the wines in his cellar are made here. There are 240 boutique wineries, some of which make excellent wine, he said, “but there’s also a lot of junk out there.” The question he’s most frequently asked is “What is a good wine?” And the answer is: “If you like it, that’s what you should be drinking.”
■ TWO NIGHTS later, again at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, popular writer, speaker and retired diplomat Yehuda Avner, author of the best-selling The Prime Ministers, addressed a packed house on what had been touted as “The Censor and Me.” The impression conveyed via oral and written publicity was that he would reveal what the censor had cut out of his book. Admittedly, he gave a few examples, most specifically any reference to nuclear capability and a certain facility in Dimona, but for the most part he bewailed what has happened to his beloved country.
On a more upbeat note, Avner told some humorous anecdotes about his ambassadorial postings in Australia and the UK, and gave a spirited pep talk on national pride which earned him a standing ovation. Without specifically referring to him by name, but describing him to the extent that everyone knew he was talking about Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Avner said: “He makes a bull in a china shop look like a tame lamb.”
■ IF THEY were willing to brave the elements to celebrate the 129th birthday of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 30, one can be sure that nothing will stop them next year when his 130th rolls around. For some reason round numbers always have so much more significance. A dozen hearty and hardy members of Democrats Abroad-Israel ignored the inclement weather and got together at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv to celebrate FDR’s birthday.
Joanne Yaron, the New York-born chair of DA-Israel, said that Roosevelt, a Democrat, is considered one of the three greatest American presidents in history, alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. As a feminist and one of the founders of the Rape Crisis Center, she also noted that Eleanor Roosevelt was a personality in her own right and a leading advocate for the UN.
DA-Israel vice chair, New York-born Hillel Schenker, said that his 92-year-old father Avraham, who lives in Ramat Aviv, recalls having listened to FDR’s famous fireside chats on the radio. However, as a socialist-Zionist, he did not vote for FDR in the presidential elections, but instead cast his vote for Norman Thomas, head of the Socialist Party.
London-born US citizen Alex Greenbaum, an economist who arrived in Tel Aviv from Washington DC two weeks earlier, advocated that Roosevelt’s New Deal of government investments in infrastructure and job creation is what President Barack Obama should use as a model to revive the economy. Presumably the only way to celebrate a president’s birthday – even if he’s dead – is to talk politics.
■ YOU HAVE to get up early if you want to celebrate India’s Republic Day. On January 26, members of the Indian community flocked from many parts of the country to the Herzliya Pituah residence of Ambassador Navtej Sarna for the Republic Day ceremony that started at 9 a.m. in keeping with the morning celebrations in India.
Nearly 300 people attended and watched the ambassador unfurl the flag, then joined enthusiastically in the singing of the national anthem. Sarna then read out the message of the president of India, after which Sheikh Muhammad Munir Ansari, director of the Indian Hospice in Jerusalem, was presented with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award for 2011 for his contribution in maintaining the hospice as a symbol of India’s heritage in Jerusalem and for his services to Indian visitors. The Pravasi Bhartiya Samman is awarded annually to persons of Indian origin who have made a mark in their countries of residence.
The celebrations were also marked by Indian cultural offerings including the rendition of patriotic songs as well as Indian classical dances performed by young Israeli enthusiasts who have studied classical dance in India.
■ SITUATED ALMOST in the heart of one of Jerusalem’s oldest haredi neighborhoods, Bikur Cholim Hospital is used to having women with large broods of children in its maternity wards. In fact, in haredi circles, it is not at all uncommon for a woman and one of her daughters to give birth in the same ward in the same week, and sometimes even on the same day. A family blessed with many children usually has somewhere between eight and 12. But there are exceptions where the families are much larger as in the case of the Indorski family of Romema who are Belz Hassidim.
Itta Indorski, 44, last month gave birth to her 18th child, a boy, at Bikur Cholim, where all her other children were born. The youngest helped to even out the score. The family now includes nine girls and nine boys. Some of the older children are married and have so far provided their parents with two grandchildren.
■ THE BIBLE Lands Museum has been used as the background for the shooting of a new HOT television series The Children of the Prime Minister which does not relate to the current incumbent or any of his predecessors. Our fictional prime minister is called Shaul Almog, and the 13-part series revolves around the women in his family and the way in which they adapt to their new status. Stars of the series are Gila Almagor and Rami Heuberger.
■ CURIOUSLY, WHEN the major Hebrew dailies last Friday listed the top salaried people on the payroll of the financially ailing Habimah Theater, Almagor’s name was not among them, although she is frequently referred to as the first lady of Habimah. It may of course have been a deliberate omission.
Among those whose annual salaries were made public were Ya’acov Cohen, NIS 920,900; Eli Yatzpan, NIS 724,000; Moni Moshonov, NIS 724,000; Ilan Ronen, NIS 708,000; Rami Heuberger, NIS 580,246; Osnat Fishman, NIS 560,615; and Avi Kushnir, NIS 555,094. All of them incidentally, also have other sources of income.
Habimah, which in July is supposed to move back into its own newly renovated home, is struggling under a NIS 40 million deficit, and is not getting sufficient government support to remain on stage. Improbable as it may seem, Habimah could lower its curtain permanently. It’s a terrible thought, but if it does happen, there are other theater companies to fill the void.
■ THE CONFERENCE of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is convening at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem on February 13, sent an advance delegation last month. Its stars were not actually Jewish community leaders, but Hollywood personalities.The group included Irwin Katsof, who recently became director of America’s Voices for Israel, a subdivision of the Presidents Conference, and Hollywood PR executive Elizabeth Much, Lori Loughlin, familiar to Seinfeld fans, and actors Joel David Moore and Greg German. The group toured the country, Jerusalem in particular, and met with Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein.
■ JERUSALEM BORN artist Sigalit Landau, who lives in Tel Aviv and has exhibited in important galleries abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has been chosen to represent the country at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
It will be the second time that she is participating in this prestigious event at which she will explore the theme of water. Art lovers Hila and Rani Rahav, whose Savyon home and Tel Aviv office each resemble an eclectic mini gallery with an amazing variety of art genres, decided to host a party in Landau’s honor to which they invited the who’s who of the business world in the hope that some would open their wallets to help the artist represent the country in the best way possible.
The event included an art sale, the proceeds from which will go toward the cost of the water inspired installations that Landau is building for the Israel pavilion. Among those attending were Dalia Rabin, her son and daughter-in-law Yonatan and Shiri Ben- Artzi, Castro CEO Gabi Roter, Lenny Recanati, Cellcom CEO Amos Shapira, business tycoon Gad Ze’evi and his wife Talya, Shenkar College president Yuli Tamir, architect Orly Schrem, CEO of Baram Advertising Guy Baram, lawyer Pini Rubin and his wife Tzipi, jewelry designer Aya Azrielent, television personality Guy Pines and his wife Ruthie and actress and Israel Prize laureate Miriam Zohar.
■ AIRPLANES AND vintage cars are among the passions of Alut chairman Izzy Borovich, who makes use of the latter to raise funds for the Israel Society for Autistic Children (Alut is the Hebrew acronym). Last Friday, he organized an exhibition of vintage cars at Club 5 (the club belonging to collectors of vintage cars) at the Tel Aviv Port in advance of Alut’s February 8 fund-raising campaign. Nonetheless he found time for his weekly bike ride with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. The two usually ride a set trail through North Tel Aviv and the port area.
Borovich later welcomed a huge crowd to the exhibition. One of the last to arrive was writer and television personality Ido Rosenbloom, who had spent the night on a shoot for his Channel 2 quiz program Monit Hakessef (Money Cab). Borovich showed him around and while doing so, suggested a whole bunch of questions that he could put to future contestants. Rosenbloom fell in love with a sleek old sports car of the kind that the idle rich drove in Hollywood movies.
Other personalities at the exhibition included sportscaster Eli Ildes, singer Linoi Erlich, actors and singers Ohed Knoller and Golan Azoulai and Alut CEO Einat Cassouto- Shefi.
■ THE INCREASE in tourism, despite the global economic crisis, can in part be attributed to cancellation of visa requirements. Many more Russian tourists came in the past year following cancellation of visa requirements. Next Wednesday, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov is off to Kiev for a festive event at the Government Tourist Office that will mark the waiver of visa requirements from Ukraine which will go into effect on February 9, the day he departs for Kiev, where he will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart and other government officials. He will also take part in a tourism fair. The ministry anticipates a considerable rise in tourism from Ukraine this year, with an estimated 140,000 tourists who will inject more than a $100 million into the economy.

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