Grapevine: Here's... the baby!

The Hartuv commander's infant son steals the show on reservists' day; 2,000 fans gather in Tel Aviv to honor legendary basketball coach Ralph Klein.

grape vine 88 (photo credit: )
grape vine 88
(photo credit: )
IN SHOW business and in politics, they warn people to beware of dogs and babies because they always steal the show. That's what happened last week on reservists' day with Lt.-Col. Sagi Tirosh, the commander of the Hartuv Infantry Division of the Home Front Command. Tirosh brought members of his family with him to Beit Hanassi, including his six-month-old son, Ro'i. The infant slept through most of the ceremony, but woke up at the tail end of his father's speech. While Tirosh, the commander, stayed back to accept congratulations on his oratory, Tirosh Jr. captured the attention of Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, who picked him up and posed for photographs. The baby was passed around for more photographs with other officers and was then taken outside while his father participated in a group photograph with all the reservists whose units had received citations - as well as Ashkenazi, Chief Reserves Officer Brig.-Gen. Danny Van Buren, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. Barak also grabbed hold of the chubby child, and after giving him a cuddle, handed him over to Peres. It was symbolic of Israel's 60th anniversary year. Ro'i, his parents, Barak and Peres represent four generations of Israel's survival. Peres is, among other things, a former defense minister, Barak a current defense minister and a former chief of general staff. Tirosh is an IDF commander - but his baby may be lucky enough to know peace. n IN HIS address, Tirosh recalled soldiers who died on active duty. He mentioned none of them by name, but stated how much they were missed not only by their families but by those who fought alongside them. One such soldier was Maj. Benji Hillman, company commander of the Egoz unit, who was killed on July 20, 2006 at the outset of the Second Lebanon War. He had been married only three weeks earlier to Ayala Borger. Born in the UK, Hillman and his family came to Israel in 1983 when he was four years old. The family settled in Ra'anana. In August, 2006, his wife, parents and siblings established the Benji Hillman Foundation to continue his legacy of caring for his fellow soldiers by building HaBayit Shel Benji, to provide a warm home in Ra'anana for lone soldiers and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The Foundation, which raises funds for the project and educational programs it offers, has already collected $2 million of the $3 million required from private donors in the UK, US and Israel. This month, it raised $50,000 in a community-sponsored walkathon. In addition to the various facilities which HaBayit Shel Benji will provide, the Hillmans have recruited numerous other families in Ra'anana to serve as surrogate families for soldiers billeted in HaBayit Shel Benji. n FOUR OF the living legends of American basketball are scheduled to meet this morning with President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi. It's not often that the president has to look up to anyone, but considering the respective heights of Rick Barry, Dominique Williams, Earl Monroe and Julius Erving, who have all been immortalized in the NBA's Hall of Fame, Peres will be physically dwarfed in their company. The hoopsters were among some 2,000 players, basketball coaches and fans from Israel and abroad who gathered in Tel Aviv this week to honor legendary basketball coach Ralph Klein. Klein coached Maccabi Tel Aviv to its historic win over CSKA Moscow and its first European Cup, a replica of which was presented to Klein on Sunday. Klein expected only a couple of hundred people to show, but more than 2,000 came to demonstrate their appreciation for the living legend, including stars from the 1977 winning team - Tal Brody, Mickey Berkowitz, Lou Silver, Aulcie Perry and Motti Aroesti. Local vintner Moti Teperberg, who owns the 1879 Teperberg winery established in Jerusalem well over a century ago, prepared a private-label bottle of Merlot for Klein with a powerful bouquet, but a mellow taste, symbolizing Klein's character. The bottle bears Klein's name and the illustration of a basketball. n IT'S BEEN a busy week or two for architect, real estate developer and philanthropist David Azrieli. Now in his mid-eighties, Azrieli has not allowed age to slow his pace. Just in the past few days, he was named a distinguished fellow by the Council for a Beautiful Israel; through his Azrieli Foundation and the Azrieli School of Architecture at Tel Aviv University, he launched the first of what is going to be an annual series of lecturers by noted architects; and he has reportedly spent NIS 360 million to acquire a 20 percent stake in Leumi Card. Taking into account that Danna Azrieli, one of his daughters, heads the International Board of Governors of Shenkar College, which has launched an architectural competition for an Azrieli campus, it's a safe bet that there is also some involvement on his part. At the CBI awards ceremony at Beit Hanassi, President Shimon Peres lauded Azrieli for having changed the face of Israel. Azrieli is the pioneer of Israel's urban shopping malls, and although others have come to emulate him since he opened his first mall in Ramat Gan more than a quarter of a century ago, they have difficulty in catching up with him because each time Azrieli builds a new mall, it supersedes any of his previous efforts. n AZRIELI IS only one of a group of septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians across the country who are proving that they are not ready to be put out to pasture. This week, the Ministry of Tourism, the Pensioners' Affairs Ministry, the Ministry for Environmental Affairs and the Jerusalem Municipality launched a multilingual Pensioners' Tourism and Environment Patrol. This comprises senior citizens who have volunteered to oversee tourist sites in all parts of the capital, helping tourists with advice on what to see and how to get there, assisting them if they're lost or have been robbed, and advising the Tourism Ministry's Information Office at Jaffa Gate on problems relating to cleanliness, vandalism and security. Among the participants at the launch ceremony of the Pensioners' Patrol were Tourism Ministry director-general Shaul Tzemach and Pensioners' Affairs Ministry director-general Avi Bitzur. Senior citizens are also a vital part of the volunteer police patrol, though some are wasted and could be better utilized in traffic control, especially in apprehending jay-walking pedestrians. There are also a number of senior citizens who absolutely refuse to stop reporting for reserve duty in the army. The oldest on the local level is Iraqi-born Avraham Sharoni, 90, of Tel Aviv, who came on aliya in 1934, served in the Hagana, and later with British forces in Syria and Lebanon. In 1948, he joined Military Intelligence where he continues to serve, and where he met the woman he married in 1950. Notwithstanding his age, he still stands straight backed and tall. People from around the world who want to contribute to Israel's security come annually for periods of three months and more to volunteer for Sarel, doing various odd jobs on army bases. Sometimes they're on kitchen duty; sometimes they engage in mechanical repairs; sometimes they clean and pack military equipment and carry out any number of other duties. They are issued with army uniforms, which they are proud to wear. Some of them have been coming annually for years and are already well into their eighties. n STILL HALE and hearty is Ruth Dayan, who at 91 continues to drive all over Israel, and recently drove herself from her home in Tel Aviv to the Zigfried Mozes Senior Citizens Home in Jerusalem where together with former beauty queen and supermodel Hanita Zentner, she organized a fashion show in which the residents were among the models. The show, titled in Hebrew Anu Banu Artza Livnot V'Lehitbanot Ba (We came to Israel to build and to be built), was in celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary and played to a packed house. Dayan, founder of the now-defunct Maskit arts and crafts chain of stores which also featured unique fashions that were eagerly purchased by tourists from around the world, said that it was a moving experience for her to be there. She noted that Israeli fashion was more than six decades old, starting with the first aliya. The garments of those days were detailed by beautiful hand embroideries which were often the work of the women who wore them, she said. After the establishment of the state, there were designers such as the late Finny Leitersdorf and Rojy Ben Joseph who gave a special ethnic aura to Israeli fashion and set the tone for what was to become Israel's fashion industry, said Dayan. The actual production of the show can be credited to Ruth Wallenberg, who knows a thing or two about fashion and who put the "models" through their paces. n ANOTHER WELL-KNOWN Tel Avivian, who like Dayan neither looks nor acts anywhere near her age, is Raya Jaglom. She will celebrate her 90th birthday next year. Always elegant and exquisitely dressed, coiffed and made up, Jaglom attended the Facing Tomorrow conference organized by President Shimon Peres. Unable to get a room in a five-star hotel, she settled for a lot less rather than miss out on participating in the event or having to cope with early morning traffic by commuting from Tel Aviv. Immediately after the conference, she was the guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by the wife of the Spanish ambassador, who invited other members of the diplomatic community to come and listen to Jaglom's experiences during the War of Independence when she was a driver for the army, and later for WIZO, where she served in numerous capacities including president of World WIZO. She is now an honorary president of the organization. In addition, Jaglom is deputy chairman of the Tel Aviv University Board of Governors, has been a member of the Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra since 1949 and sits on boards and executive committees of various cultural and educational institutions. A legendary fundraiser, Jaglom is also a philanthropist and never asks anyone to give to a cause to which she has not made a handsome contribution herself. n AMONG OTHER extremely active octogenarians are former political firebrand Geula Cohen, 82, who appears on a weekly Israel Radio program called "From the Right and from the Left," and also heads the Uri Zvi Greenberg Institute; former government minister Moshe Arens, 82 (a day younger than Cohen), who gives lectures, writes and is still involved with Israel's security; Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon, 87, who recently remarried and who remains active in cultural and educational affairs, and former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, 82, who has been called on to head a variety of commissions of inquiry, and who is an avid jazz aficionado. n AS PART of its ongoing 40th anniversary celebrations, the Israel Ireland Friendship League held a Lag Ba'omer party to honor its founding chairman, David Birkhahn. Unlike most IIFL events which are generally held in Ra'anana or Herzliya where many members including current chairman Malcolm Gafson live, this one was held in Jerusalem in the spacious garden of Birkhahn and his wife Rina, who in addition to people with Irish connections, invited their neighbors. Irish Ambassador Michael Forbes came bearing a huge bouquet of flowers. Also present was Zvi Gabay, Israel's first resident ambassador to Ireland, who seldom misses an IIFL function. Birkhahn, who comes from Cork, said that the origins of the Jewish community there derived from a misunderstanding. In 1881, passengers on a ship from Latvia to New York went via Ireland, which was the last stop on land on a journey to America. When the ship docked, the captain called for those bound for Cork to disembark. The Latvian Jews who knew no English thought that he had said that they were in New York. Among them was Birkhahn's grandfather, who in 1891 married a young woman who had been specially sent out from Lithuania because there was a shortage of Jewish brides in Cork. It was one of the first Jewish weddings in the city. Sisters Edna Davis and Hazel Broch, natural stand-up comediennes who have people in stitches even when they talk about serious subjects, had everyone laughing. Davis related an anecdote about her days in Bnei Akiva. When walking home from a meeting one Saturday in 1940, she saw a one-pound note on the street, which was a lot of money at that time. She couldn't pick it up because it was Shabbat, so she placed a foot on top of it and announced she wasn't moving. And there she stood for some time until a Catholic neighbor came by. Davis explained her predicament, asked the neighbor to pick up the note and told her she would come by on Sunday to retrieve it. And that's exactly what happened, except Davis felt duty bound to part with two and sixpence in appreciation of her neighbor's graciousness. n MEMBERS OF Metuna, the organization for road safety, held a reception recently at the home of Australian Ambassador James Larsen to show the film, No Way Back, and to introduce Metuna's Voice of Children project. This is a drama therapy program for Jewish and Arab schools in which children are encouraged to work out what they would do themselves to promote road safety. Metuna general manager Orna Klein said that many people had asked why the event was being held at the residence of the Australian ambassador, and the reason was because Australia had such an excellent record of road safety regulations that have brought down traffic accidents by more than 50 per cent. Larsen has visited Metuna's special project in the Arab town of Kalansuwa, where road accidents are unusually high, and where Metuna is attempting to dramatically reduce the number of fatalities. The documentary film, No Way Back, is about the tribulations of a family whose soldier son was seriously injured in a traffic accident of which he has no memory, but which has left him in a wheelchair with limited communication skills, but a wonderfully optimistic smile. He was there at the ambassador's home together with his parents, whose lives and those of their other children have been completely transformed since the accident. The soldier was in a coma for months and there were strong doubts that he would ever regain consciousness. His mother refused to leave his bedside, and kept talking to him. Eventually something penetrated, and he woke up. He is receiving rehabilitation treatment at Beit Loewenstein, and his condition has improved considerably, although it is still unknown whether he will ever be able to walk again or speak with ease. For his family, the most important thing is that he woke up. n CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to Natan and Avital Sharansky on the engagement of their second daughter, Chana, to Nachum Waller, the son of Antony and Michal Waller of Jerusalem and previously of Australia. The young couple has been an item for quite some time, and it was a foregone conclusion that they would eventually marry. The groom-to-be has yet to complete his army service, so wedding plans will be delayed till the end of this year. The Sharanskys' older daughter, Rachel, was married in January to Micha Danziger in a ceremony at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel attended by several former Prisoners of Zion, and former Soviet Jewry activists from the West. January was also the month in which the father of the bride turned 60. Now in Israel for a little over 22 years, in which he distinguished himself as a member of the government, there was a long period in which it was thought that he might be never be released from the Soviet prison camp in Siberia. He had been incarcerated there for more than a decade, and his wife despaired of ever knowing the joys of motherhood, but she never lost faith and kept knocking at the doors of world leaders with the aim of securing her husband's release. She eventually succeeded, with the help of the late US president Ronald Reagan. Sharansky became the symbol of the struggle for Soviet Jewry. He is now one of the defenders of Jerusalem, determined to prevent it from once more becoming a divided city. n THERE ARE some new voices coming out of 93.6 Ram FM with two new members on the team of the English-speaking station. Taking over for John Berks is the famous South African broadcaster, Martin B, who can be heard on the station's morning show aired from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Originally from England, Martin B has worked in radio for more than 10 years. He has broadcast throughout the Middle East, including in Dubai and Cairo, and previously worked in Berlin. Now living in Jerusalem, he joined Ram FM out of shared interests with the station's vision and goals of creating a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. The "Breakfast Show" offers listeners music, quizzes and interesting conversation. The station's news group also includes Xolani Gwala, a South African with over 15 years of experience in radio. Gwala will be filling the position of the station's news editor. His radio career began on a campus radio station in Durban after which he joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation as a reporter, news anchor and later current affairs presenter. He has also held positions at National Broadcaster, P4 Radio, SABC Radio, SA FM, and 702 - the station founded by Jewish businessman Issie Kirsh in South Africa, and on which he based Ram FM's format.