Grapevine: Future tense – politically speaking

Although Peres has no intention of taking it easy in the next phase of his life, he will not be working with the same intensity he did as president.

Former president Shimon Peres. (photo credit: GPO/AMOS BEN GERSHOM)
Former president Shimon Peres.
(photo credit: GPO/AMOS BEN GERSHOM)
Some of the people who have worked closely with President Shimon Peres will be moving with him to the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.
Among them will be his dynamic spokeswoman and media adviser Ayelet Frish, who will also be working in a freelance capacity as an external strategic adviser to Yesh Atid.
Because Peres is a workaholic, staff members closest to him often worked 14 to 20 hours a day. By the very nature of her job, Frish was among those who burned the midnight oil, balancing her duties to the president with those of being a wife and mother.
Although Peres has no intention of taking it easy in the next phase of his life, he will not be working with the same intensity he did as president, which will leave Frish and other team members with more time for other pursuits. Given the poor showing that Yesh Atid founder and chairman Yair Lapid has scored in public opinion polls, he needs all the help he can get – and few people are better equipped than Frish at opening doors.
If Ran Rahav is the contact king of the public relations establishment, with access to literally thousands of dignitaries and celebrities, Frish is the contact queen. Before joining Peres in his last ministerial positions a decade ago, she was a close aide to former MK Avraham Burg when he served as Knesset speaker, and she really knows her way around every Knesset committee and government ministry, all the major industrial enterprises, the leading lights of academia and then some.
Traveling constantly as a leading figure in the Peres entourage in Israel and around the world, Frish has acquired not only connections but good friends. When Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini called on Peres this week, she was greeted by Frish just a few minutes earlier, and the two almost fell into each other’s arms. There have been similar scenes with heads of state and government, such as US President Barack Obama and other high-ranking officials as well as diplomats, spiritual leaders and heads of global industries.
Furthermore, Frish is not afraid to go to battle when the need arises, such as during the president’s state visit to Mexico last year – when no provision was made for Israeli journalists accompanying him to attend the state dinner hosted for Peres by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. When the Israeli journalists were told by Nieto’s protocol people that they had to leave, Frish went to bat for them and won – with the result that places were quickly made available at various tables for the Israeli group.
■ STRATEGIC ADVISERS to dignitaries and celebrities often tell them to be wary of children and dogs, who are bound to steal the limelight from them. But this doesn’t bother outgoing President Peres or incoming President-elect Reuven Rivlin.
Early in the week, Peres hosted a summer camp for children from the Gaza Strip at his official residence. On Wednesday, Rivlin responded to an invitation from Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol, who hosted bar and bat mitzva boys and girls from Kibbutz Nirim, which is only 1.7 km.
from the southern border. He met with them in one of the committee rooms of the Knesset and they sat around the elliptical table, where MKs and special guests of whatever committee is in session generally sit.
Kol invited the youngsters and their parents after hearing that their joint celebration had been postponed due to the frequency of rocket fire. She asked Rivlin to come and join the party, and he said he would be delighted.
■ AT THE meeting at which Peres this week hosted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, its CEO and executive vice president, apologized to Peres for not having attended the presentation ceremony in Washington at which Peres was given the Congressional Gold Medal. Hoenlein, who reminded Peres that he’d been at all of the president’s birthday parties and had met with him on countless other occasions over the years, said he hadn’t been in Washington because he’d been in Israel at the time.
He quipped that the delegation that had flown to Israel this time had come to collect all the many gifts the Conference has given to Peres. “There must be a carload,” said Hoenlein. Peres laughed and said he couldn’t return any gifts, since he had accepted them not on his own behalf but on behalf of his people – to whom they really belong.
Just as a matter of interest, Americans know how to respect office. They treated the President’s Residence just as they would the White House, and every man wore a suit and tie.
Israelis still have something to learn about protocol
■ ONCE UPON a time there were 12 siblings in the Reboh family, seven brothers and five sisters. After Eli, one of the older brothers, was killed while serving in the Engineering Corps during the Six Day War, the family left Israel and went to Montreal. Over time they set up a chain of high-class hair salons and beauty parlors in Canada and the US. Another brother, Jais, was killed in a traffic accident – and then they were 10.
Though geographically divided, they remained a very closeknit family. Two brothers, Marcel and Gabriel, decided to return to Israel and to set up yet another link in the hairdressing and beauty parlor chain in Jerusalem.
That was a little over two years ago.
After living in Israel for a year, the two decided to honor their dead brothers by writing a Torah scroll in their memories.
They could have commissioned a local scribe, but since another was well-known to the Miami branch of the family, they decided to assign the holy task to Rabbi Mordechai Tzui of Miami Beach, Florida. The scroll was almost completed when it was revealed that the three kidnapped yeshiva students, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gil- Ad Shaer, had been murdered.
The Rebohs took a spontaneous decision to include the three boys in their memorial Torah, and their names have indeed been embroidered together with those of all 12 Reboh siblings on the Torah cover.
The siblings had a reunion this week at the Rafael Amram Maman Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood.
With the escalation of rocket fire, there was talk of postponing the Torah dedication ceremony, but since the brothers and sisters and their families had already flown into Israel from Canada and the US, it was decided to go ahead.
Barely a handful of people at the dedication ceremony were not Reboh family members, and there were enough of them to take up most of the seats and to certainly fill the synagogue’s upstairs dining area afterwards, for the sumptuous dinner celebrating the completion of the scroll. The inking in of the final letters was a meaningful experience and as relatives took turns placing their hands on the quill as Tzui carefully went ahead with his task, it was obvious this was something that touched the hearts of each of them.
Tzui explained that every letter in the Torah represents a Jewish soul and if even one letter is missing, the Torah scroll is not kosher and therefore not fit for use. That is why it is written so carefully, and why it takes a year to write it. When it was finally ready for placement in the ark, the men in the family danced with it joyfully before depositing it in its permanent home.
Contrary to the belief that out of Zion will go forth the Torah, this was an instance in which the Torah came to Zion.
■ IN JEWISH tradition, Tuesday is the best day of the week. The reason: In the story of creation, the third day was the one in which according to the Book of Genesis, God saw twice that it was good.
This year, the Fast of the 17th of Tamuz was on a Tuesday. The fast is the start of the threeweek mourning period that commemorates the breaking of the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and the Roman conquest of Jerusalem.
This year, in the midst of the violence and hostility, there was a ray of hope at the conclusion of the fast – when hundreds of Palestinian Muslims and Christians together with Israeli Jews met to break bread together after the fasts of Ramadan and the 17th of Tamuz. These gatherings took place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Eilat, Beersheba, Yeroham, Kibbutz Ein Dor, Otniel and Ma’aleh Gilboa.
At one of three such events held in Jerusalem, adherents to the three faiths gathered at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center on Mount Zion for an evening of socializing and learning organized by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development and Jerusalem Peacemakers. As rabbis and sheikhs recited blessings, Jerusalem Peacemakers co-founder Haj Ibrahim Abu el-Hawa said, “The new generation needs to carry the message of how we can live together, because we are not born with signs over our heads that say we are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist. We are all one.”
Rabbi Yonathan Neril, founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, declared: “This gathering empowers the children of Abraham – Jews, Muslims, and Christians – to come together in the Holy City of Jerusalem and see the humanity in the ‘other.’ It’s not about us vs them. It’s about us and them, about how we can live together in one land.”
Eliyahu McLean, co-founder and director of Jerusalem Peacemakers, echoed that sentiment: “Let the world know that there are Israelis, Palestinians, Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem and all over the land who do not buy into the narrative that we are enemies, that we have to hate each other, that we have to be at war with one another. We actually see things differently.”
The interfaith gatherings of the children of Abraham were part of a global movement, with similar events held in various parts of the US, England and France.
■ NOTWITHSTANDING A bevy of additional commitments related to the exchanges of fire between Gaza and Israel, Daniel Taub, ambassador to the Court of St. James, insisted that the final concert in the UK tour of Musicians of Tomorrow, the group of talented young Israelis led by founder and pedagogic director Dr. Anna Rosnovsky, should go ahead as scheduled.
It might have been more convenient for Taub and his wife, Zehava to cancel, especially as Taub had been busy all day giving television interviews and meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron. But his primary role is to promote all of Israel’s interests, of which culture is an important facet.
Each of the guests as well as the musicians were personally greeted by Zehava Taub, and the ambassador spoke warmly of the history of Musicians of Tomorrow and expressed his pleasure that they were making music in his home.
The room in which the concert was held was packed to overflowing, with several of the guests comprising the crème de la crème of British Jewish society.
In the audience was Lady Elaine Sacks, the wife of former chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks; leading impresarios Victor and Lilian Hochhauser, along with their son, Internet pioneer and former president of the United Synagogue Dr.
Simon Hochhauser; Conservative Friends of Israel board member and Jerusalem Foundation trustee Lord Howard Leigh and Lady Leigh; international diamond broker Willie Nagel; philanthropists John and Jackie Harris, who are respectively the chairman of Harvard International and a retired actress and furniture wholesaler; and celebrated Polish- born Auschwitz survivor Zigi Shipper and his wife, Jeanette.
Aside from their interest in Israel and in music, the Hochhausers could not have refused the invitation – because their son and brother Mark Sofer is a former colleague of Daniel Taub’s. Sofer, who is currently president of the Jerusalem Foundation, spent many years in Israel’s Foreign Service. His last diplomatic posting was as ambassador to India.
■ THERE ARE many disappointed people in Israel who purchased tickets for a variety of entertainment events, which have either been canceled or postponed due to the security situation. Among the entertainment events that have not been called off is the Yiddish version of Shirley Valentine, a monologue written by Willy Russell about a middle-aged housewife who more often than not is talking to the wall as she prepares her husband’s dinner, an almost unvarying menu of chips and egg.
When her best friend wins a two-week vacation for two to Greece, she invites Shirley to come with her. Bored to distraction, Shirley does not hesitate, packs her bags and leaves a note for her husband on the kitchen cupboard. In Greece, she not only finds romance, but finds herself and realizes that with a little effort, she can make major changes in her life.
Odiya Korn stars as Shirley Valentine and the premiere is tomorrow night, Saturday, at 9 p.m. at the Arison Theater Hall, 7 Saadia Gaon Street, Tel Aviv, with additional performances at 8 p.m. on Monday and 5 p.m. on Tuesday. And the good news is that as a special concession, Yiddishpiel has reduced the ticket price from NIS 150 to only NIS 40.
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