Grapevine: Elections and other celebrations

This year, for the first time in their 35-year marriage, Aliza Olmert voted for her husband's party.

olmerts 88 (photo credit: )
olmerts 88
(photo credit: )
FOR THE most part, Kadima chairman Ehud Olmert has kept his public and private lives separate. It was fairly common knowledge that he was the only right-winger in his household. His wife, Aliza, and their children have all openly sided with the Left. This year, for the first time in their 35-year marriage, Aliza Olmert voted for her husband's party. She went with him to the polling booth early in the morning, and some 18 hours later was with him when he made his victory speech in Neveh Ilan - where he acknowledged that his family, who had refrained from participating in his public life before, was with him on this occasion. Generally media shy, Aliza Olmert - social worker, artist and photographer - will appear in a television interview in English on Channel 2's Uvda (Fact) on Thursday, in which she says that she and her husband were well aware, even before they got married, that they were on different sides of the political fence. But they agreed to disagree. The most difficult time for her was when he was mayor of Jerusalem. Even though his politics are more in line with hers these days, she's not crazy about the idea of him becoming prime minister. LAST FRIDAY, Ehud Olmert took time out from politics to remember another Ehud - prolific songwriter Ehud Manor - who, like Olmert, grew up in Binyamina, where they both attended the local Eshkolot School. Olmert returned to Eshkolot to participate in the memorial ceremony for Manor on the first anniversary of his death. Manor's tombstone has become a place of pilgrimage. Among those who attended the memorial service at the Binyamina cemetery were his good friends and colleagues, Yoav Ginai and Mati Caspi. WHEN PUCKISH Gil leader Rafi Eitan and his colleagues from the Pensioners party emerged from a meeting with President Moshe Katsav to tell reporters what had transpired, someone asked him why it was that Gil was so popular with all age groups and sectors. The question had been put to him many times, said Eitan, and after giving it some thought, he had come to a single conclusion. "Because we're charming." AMONG THE new female MKs elected to the 17th Knesset, one worth watching is Nadia Hilu, who, after two previous failures to get into the Knesset, has finally made it. Hilu was originally tipped to become the first Arab woman MK, but did not receive sufficient votes in the 1996 Labor primaries. Three years later, Hussniya Jabara, running on a Meretz ticket, became the first Arab woman to be elected to the Knesset. Hilu, who has filled important positions with Na'amat, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and the Union for Local Authorities, has a reputation for getting things done, and through her coexistence activities has excellent connections in both the Jewish the Arab communities. Apparently, she hasn't had too much to do with Russian immigrants. In one of her television interviews in the aftermath of the elections, she was asked whether she thought that Labor should talk to Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. Hilu, who is distinctly opposed to Lieberman, said that her recommendation would be Nyet - except that she pronounced it "Nayet" - and the interviewer corrected her. FROM ONE of the most popular political figures in the country, Binyamin Netanyahu has become the man they "love to hate." Much of the negative attitude toward him was spurred by the media, he says - something which has been acknowledged by television and radio political commentator and reporter Ayala Hasson. In one of her radio programs on Reshet Bet, Hasson said that although she had tried to be fair in her own reports and comments, she nonetheless felt it necessary to apologize to Netanyahu. "The media went too far," she said. UP UNTIL Monday of this week her name was Noah Dudkevitch. Now she's Noah Shahar, which means that she's going to have to explain that she's no relation to the Noah Shahar (known in real life as Efrat Boimvald) who is one of the stars of soap opera Hashir Shelanu ("Our Song") which is playing a double rerun on Channel 2. The daughter of Benny and Margot Dudkevitch of radio and print media fame, the blonde-haired bride married Assaf, son of Timnah and the late Shmulik Shahar, in a delightful ceremony at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, attended by President Moshe Katsav, his wife, Gila, and several senior members of the presidential staff, such as Beit Hanassi director-general Moshe Goral, the president's military aide, Brigadier-General Shimon Hefetz, the president's political adviser, Avi Granot, the president's spokeswoman, Hagit Cohen, and others. Benny Dudkevitch, a veteran Israel Radio broadcaster, and one of the country's leading experts on music and personalities in the world of music, happened to have grown up with Gila Katsav. In addition, he is the Israel Radio reporter assigned to cover the president and events at Beit Hanassi. He has traveled abroad with Katsav on several occasions, but his wife, Margot, who was then a military correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, traveled with Katsav on his first state visit to Russia. Until recently, Margot Dudkevitch was one of only two female military reporters in the country. The other is veteran Israel Radio reporter Carmella Menashe (although the first was Tali-Lipkin Shahak, who was appointed by Hanna Zemer, the late legendary editor of the now defunct daily, Davar). All three women frequently risked their lives in their efforts to bring eye-witness news from the military front to the public at large. Among the Israel Radio people at the wedding were Arye Golan, Dan Kaner, Amotz Shapira, Benny Teitelbaum and Elihu Ben-Onn. A Klezmer band, which until the ceremony had been playing traditional Klezmer music, changed its tune as the groom was led to the bridal canopy, and played the Toreador song from Carmen. For the bride, who had rose petals strewn in her path, they played a jazzed-up version of the theme from Love Story. The weather was somewhat chilly and Rabbi David Harrison told the guests, several of whom came from overseas and from other parts of the country: "Jerusalem is something you should not only see but feel. You're here in the month of spring. Imagine what it's like in the winter." Harrison also made the point that the bride had asked for white wine, even though red wine is generally used at wedding ceremonies. Regardless of the color, he said, wine symbolizes love. After the bride and groom had drunk from the same goblet, Harrison put it aside for any single women present to take a symbolic sip that would bring them the good fortune to also stand beneath a wedding canopy at some time in the near future. Then he gave the bridegroom a new prayer shawl to wrap around himself and the bride, as a symbol of their union and the home that they will build. IN HOLLYWOOD, the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater, which contains the handprints and footprints of the stars, has for many years been a major tourist attraction. The concept has now been emulated in Israel by the most natural person to do so - film maker, producer and movie theater mogul Yoram Globus, who spent more than a decade making films in Hollywood and rising to positions such as chief of Pathe International and President of MGM United Artists, before returning to Israel. The local version of the Avenue of the Stars was launched in Modi'in last week at the opening of the Globus Group mega-complex of movie theaters. Globus, who is Israel's most prolific producer and maker of films and television soaps, cast his own prints in cement as a legacy for posterity. Television and movie actors and actresses who were co-pioneers in the Avenue of the Stars project were Arye Elias, Gilat Ankori, Yehuda Barkan, Nitza Shaul, Yoram Hatav, Estee Zakheim, and Dan Turjeman. AMONG THIS year's Israel Prize laureates who have been designated for life achievement awards is New York-born Al Schwimmer, founder and former president of Israel Aircraft Industries, whose loyalty to Israel cost him his American citizenship rights. In 1950, Schwimmer was convicted of violating the Neutrality Act and smuggling planes to Israel during the War of Independence. He was fined $10,000, was denied the right to vote and was discharged from his reserve unit. He was also prohibited from working for US government institutions. Before coming to Israel in 1948 to serve with MAHAL (Mitnadvei Hutz La'aretz - foreign volunteers), Schwimmer worked with Douglas Lockheed Engineering, was a senior flight engineer with TWA and served as a flight engineer in the US Air Force. Living in Israel, with an Israeli wife and family, it never occurred to Schwimmer to ask for a presidential pardon. He didn't really need it or bother with it, he told Erik Schechter in a February, 2001 interview in The Jerusalem Report, because it was a complicated process which demanded an expression of remorse. Schwimmer didn't regret anything he'd done for Israel, and he wasn't about to perjure himself just to get a pardon. But as is the case with most people, Schwimmer had friends who thought that they knew better than he did what was good for him. One of those friends was Hank Greenspan, who had worked with him in procuring arms for Israel. During a visit to Las Vegas in 1998, Schwimmer stayed with Greenspan's eldest son, Brian. It just so happened that a week earlier, the bed in his room had been slept in by president Bill Clinton. Brian Greenspan had nudged Schwimmer to apply for a pardon, and when he refused, Greenspan simply took matters into his own hands and filled out the application form himself. The upshot was that Schwimmer was among 140 people for whom Clinton signed pardons before leaving the White House. Schwimmer's contributions to Israel are immeasurable, and there are people in the defense establishment who believe he should have received the nation's highest accolade a long time ago. Indeed, Schwimmer, who will be 89 in June, has had a very long wait. Without him, Israel might not have won the War of Independence, might never have established IAI, and would not have a national carrier of the caliber of El Al. READERS OF the Hebrew media have become familiar with Shvil Israel, which literally translated, means the Israel Trail. Israelis from all political and religious persuasions have been walking this trail together from the most southern to the most northern reaches of the country. In a Hebrew word play, they call their trek "Shvil Israel Bishvil Israel" - The Israel Trail for the Sake of Israel. Participants learn to live together, to dialogue together, to respect each other despite their differences and most important to learn to know the other. A Shvil Israel group that was in Jerusalem last month called on President Moshe Katsav to present him with one of their tee-shirts bearing the slogan, "Via the legs, the heart and the soul." The presentation was made by Moti Zeira of the Oranim College, who also presented Katsav with a copy of the prayer recited before undertaking a journey, and a Haggada that combines traditional and Kibbutz texts. Katsav was under the impression that the group was led by Major General (Res) Gabi Ashkenazi, the former deputy Chief of Staff, but Ashkenazi said that he takes his orders from Aya Afner, formerly of Kibbutz Alumim in the Negev, which is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. "People come from all over walk with us for part or all of the way, and we sit down somewhere and have workshops on many different subjects," said Afner. On the way to the capital she said, they talked about Jerusalem to Orthodox and Reform rabbis. In Sderot, they met up with people from Gush Etzion, who took them home and showed them around. By the time the group finishes its trek on Israel Independence Day, it will have been on the road for four months. Katsav was curious as to how the participants could free themselves up from their daily obligations to spend four months wandering around the country on foot. Replies to his query centered on where there's a will there's a way. CONTESTANTS IN the reality TV show, The Ambassador, mingled with members of the diplomatic corps at the annual gathering of The Diplomats Club at the Diamond Museum in Ramat Gan. Those guests who were not partial to fish may have had a little trouble finding something to eat. The sumptuous buffet prepared by Miki Delicatessen was largely fish-based and included a huge Norwegian salmon which was greatly admired and subsequently tasted by Norwegian Ambassador Jakken Biorn Lian and fellow Scandinavian Tom Gershbein from Sweden, who is one of the contestants on the show. Despite the fact that fish products are plentiful in Israel, they don't always taste like those from the old country, but Lian and Gershbein found the salmon to their liking. Also among the guests was marine biologist Maya Jermain, who, even though she's a Jerusalemite, overcame her hesitations about getting into deep water, and spent three very wet years familiarizing herself with the country's marine environment. Once she was out of the water, Jermain worked as a spokesperson for MK Ilana Cohen, who was number two on Amir Peretz's Am Ehad Knesset list before Peretz returned to the bosom of Labor.