Grapevine: In her own right

Clara Hirsch's autobiographical paintings, the Keinon family juggler, and the strange case of the murder with no body and the killer who confessed but was cleared.

art exhibition 88 (photo credit: )
art exhibition 88
(photo credit: )
THE SPOUSE of a diplomat, especially of an ambassador, is often an unpaid appendage who has to host or co-host social and cultural events, accompany his or her spouse to official functions of a host country, and to represent his or her country in a number of spheres. For many diplomatic spouses, this means a sacrifice of career goals, talents and personal ambitions. An ambassador's wife risks losing her identity and her job and can have a tough time trying to keep her children together and coping with educational differences from one country to another. In cases where spouses remain in home countries to pursue their careers, long separations often lead to divorce. Clara Hirsch, wife of Canadian Ambassador Jon Allen has managed to accompany her husband, yet to do her own thing while simultaneously serving the interests of her adopted country. This includes maintaining her maiden name. Although this is Allen's first ambassadorial posting, his work in the Canadian Foreign Service has taken him to Mexico, India and the United States. He's served in Washington twice. Hirsch was well aware of what being uprooted every couple of years could do to their two sons. Born in Poland to Holocaust survivors, she experienced post-Holocaust persecution and expulsion. The family moved to Vienna where Hirsch had an aunt, and remained there for two years. Her only language was Polish. Her parents sent her to a Jewish Day School, where she initially understood nothing, and at home her parents spoke Yiddish. When she was nine, the family moved to Winnipeg. Here again she was sent to a Hebrew Day School, and was again confronted with a new language. At Manitoba University she earned an arts degree and then went to Toronto where she got a degree in education. Both have served her well because it means that she can work anywhere in the world. She was not very happy when her husband entered the Foreign Service, and wrote a contract with him in which he agreed that if she did not like the lifestyle after a year, he would find another career option. His studies had prepared him for several choices, so it would not have been difficult. As it happened she adjusted well, so the contract became nothing more than a conversation piece. Except for his last posting in Washington prior to coming to Israel, the family always went back to Canada where Hirsch, in addition to working as a teacher and a ceramicist, began working as a human rights and women's rights consultant for the government. When they came to Israel, she found it too cumbersome to bring her kiln with her, abandoned ceramics and took up painting. Because spouses of diplomats are generally not permitted to work in Israel, she took up teaching on a voluntary basis, and along with a group of other volunteers who include Antoinette Merrillees, the wife of Australian Ambassador James Larsen, teaches English as a second language to Ethiopian immigrant students in Netanya. It's a project from which she derives enormous satisfaction. As far as her painting is concerned, she was initially doing it just for own pleasure. The director of an art gallery was a guest at one of the many social events that she has in her home and when he saw the paintings on the wall he fell in love with them and wanted to know who the artist was. He then insisted that she have an exhibition. The upshot was that her exhibition will open on April 4 at Machon Hamayim, the Municipal Gallery of Givatayim. The paintings reflect various periods of her life, from her childhood in post-Holocaust Poland to the present time, and incorporate photographs and letters that her father Markus wrote to her. In fact, they bonded much more in the exchange of letters than in person. She grew up in a largely silent house, never knowing until she was an adolescent that each of her parents had been married before and had lost a family in the Holocaust. In the paintings, her images of her father are almost always those of the wandering Jew. Anyone with a similar background will identify with what they see on the canvas.
  • FOR IRISH Ambassador Michael Forbes, this past month has been an ongoing Irish festival, with Irish representation at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem, the annual Irish film festival in Tel Aviv, the Paddyshpiel staged last Saturday night by the Tel Aviv Community Theater in association with the Israel Ireland Friendship League, and this week's St Patrick's Day celebrations. Aside from all that is the proliferation of Irish pubs all over the country, replete with canned Irish music or entertainers with a penchant for Irish music. Indeed the atmosphere in the lobby of the Shine Theater of the Yad Lebanim Building in Tel Aviv on Saturday night was somewhat reminiscent of an Irish pub, with the unmistakable lilt of Irish pipe and harp music and the aroma of freshly poured Guinness. The Paddyshpiel was a unique combination of Purim and St. Patrick's Day, which Malcolm Gafson, the chairman of the Israel Ireland Friendship League, described as "Israel Irish Variety Theater." The highlight was the historic Israeli premiere of 'The Irish Hebrew Lesson,' a play based on a true story as recounted by the late Irish Jewish community leader Judge Herman Good, and written by Wolf Mankowitz. The plot is about an IRA 'flying column' man on the run in 1921, who hid in a shtiebel in an attempt to evade the infamous 'Black and Tans.' He was helped by one of the Jewish community elders and it was an act of kindness that was never forgotten. IIFL was delighted with the packed house that was made up of Irish expats and TACT members who came from many parts of Israel for the occasion. Gafson had been trying to have the play produced in Israel for years and was thrilled that TACT had agreed to perform it, and was extremely appreciative of the cooperation of TACT chairperson Madeleine Mordecai and the talented players who had made his dream come true. The exceedingly popular Forbes endeared himself even further to the audience by proving that he had learned his own Hebrew lesson, albeit with an Irish accent. Former Israel ambassador to Ireland Zvi Gabay recalled having hosted the TACT players who came to Ireland in the late 1990s to represent Israel at the International Amateur Drama Festival.
  • IT NEVER hurts to have a juggler in the family. When Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and his wife Susie were thinking of entertainment at the Bar Mitzvah of their son Yair, they didn't have to go very far. The amazing Yosef Broide, who is one of the best unicyclists in Israel and also specializes in juggling and acrobalance, happens to be a cousin. Juggling balls, fire wands and other objects while cycling was par for the course for the 25-year-old Broide who walked at the age of five months and has been showing off his acrobalance, unicycling and juggling skills since he was 15. Some of the guests at the Nof Hayarden hall in Mitzpe Yericho had their hearts in their mouths when he decided to hoist Yair on his shoulders and cycle around the center of the room with him. But the very personable, self-confident Yair alighted unscathed. Yair also gave an excellent speech based on the Torah portion for the week. For his father, who often delights Post readers with family anecdotes, the occasion was a mix of joy and sadness. Yair is the youngest of the Keinons' four children, and while they were pleased to have an occasion to celebrate, they were sad that there would be no more Bar Mitzvahs in their immediate family - at least not until they become veteran grandparents - and that's a long way down the line. Looking around at her friends and neighbors, Susie Keinon, who does a lot of work with new immigrants, said that some of them complain that they are so far removed geographically from close relatives. It's something beyond her ken, because she has always enjoyed the support and friendship of neighbors and members of the community in which she lives. They have all been part of Yair's upbringing, she said.
  • PUBLIC RELATIONS guru Ran Rahav, who lectures to communications students in universities, colleges and high schools and is no less famous than many of the clients that he represents, was asked by Yediot Aharonot to comment on the fact that former president Moshe Katsav's media consultants resigned after last Thursday night's protracted address/tirade in Kiryat Malachi. In a brief op-ed, Rahav wrote that one does not desert a soldier in the field - nor in Kiryat Malachi. Katsav's media advisers knew that they had a difficult customer and should have anticipated that something would go amiss. If they hadn't foreseen the media disaster, he wrote, they shouldn't be in the business. They should have known that Katsav would not adhere to a 40 minute address, just as they should have known that reporters from all over the country would flock to Kiryat Malachi and would not be given the opportunity to ask questions. "Yet you went along with it," he charged, "and you allowed your client to be hung in the public square." Rahav wrote that Katsav's advisers should have done everything in their power to dissuade him from his path, and if they were unable to do so, they should have resigned before the communications offensive and not after. Rahav puts his money where his mouth is and is known for fiercely defending his clients against the tide of public opinion. One of the most highly publicized examples of this was in 2003 when he defended his then client Shari Arison against Sheli Yacimovich, who had been highly critical of the dismissal of 900 employees from Bank Hapoalim in which Arison is the controlling stockholder. In a letter sent to Yacimovich and distributed to the media and 500 leading business people, Rahav wrote: "This is a nation of good people. There is no place here for people like you. Evil, evil, evil." On the following day, interviews with Rahav and rival PR executive Irena Shalmor appeared in The Marker. Shalmor also thought that it was unprofessional for Katsav's media advisers to abandon him in his time of need.
  • DIFFICULT THOUGH it may be to believe, Jerusalem Post photographer Ariel Jerozolimski forgot to record for posterity scenes from the party marking the 25th anniversary of his aliya and the 10th anniversary of his employment at the paper. Jerozolimski, who is hardly ever seen without a camera in his hand or slung over his shoulder, always makes a point of photographing events involving other staff members but this was his event. He was not on assignment on the morning of his anniversary breakfast, nor had he chosen to cover any major news item. He was too busy helping his wife Claudia to prepare the buffet breakfast to which he had invited Post editors, writers, graphic artists, editorial secretaries, et al. In sending out the invitation, he had selected Friday morning, saying that he thought it might be a nice idea to meet for once without work pressures, deadlines, budgets, etc. Friday was the only day of the week when all those issues could be put on the back burner. It was also interesting to observe behavioral and mood changes in a purely social atmosphere in a home from which the view was one of rolling grass hills - which in themselves symbolized calm. Among those who came to mingle, eat and enjoy were Brenda Gazzar, Marc Israel Sellem, Elliot and Lisa Jager, Linda Lipshitz, Shawn Rogers, Judy Siegel, Abigail Radoszkowicz, Linda Amar, Jeremy and Adriana Last, Ehud Zion Waldoks and his infant daughter, Tovah Lazaroff, Steve Linde, David Horovitz, Noga Martin, Yael Hauptmann and Ofer Zemach.
  • IF THE new government includes Yaakov Neeman as Justice Minister and the Knesset includes Isaac Herzog as a member of the Opposition, while Michael Fox of Israel's largest law firm Herzog, Fox and Neeman is unwell and in semi-retirement, who exactly is minding the store?
  • BECAUSE HE has French citizenship in addition to his Israeli citizenship, the name of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit frequently comes up at French gatherings. It is likely to again, tomorrow, Thursday at the annual Francophone conference at the Netanya Academic College where one of the participants, according to conference organizer Claud Braitman will be Claude Goasguen, a member of the French National Assembly and President of the France-Israel Friendship Association. Goasguen is also mayor of the 16th arrondissement. With the unanimous approval of the council, Goasguen in December last year made Schalit an honorary citizen of Paris. Also expected to attend the conference are Richard Prasquier, President of CRIF, the umbrella organization of the French Jewish community; French Ambassador Jean Michel Casa and Yehuda Lancry, former Israel ambassador to France.
  • GILAD SCHALIT is also the reason that the Friends of the IDF in New York will miss out tonight on having IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as the guest of honor and speaker at their gala dinner. Ashkenazi decided to shorten his visit to the US and return to Israel to participate in the cabinet meeting on Schalit.
  • ALTHOUGH THERE were witnesses to the murder, the perpetrator who had actually confessed was acquitted. Yet 62 years later, the body of the victim has not been recovered. A substantial reward for information leading to the recovery of the remains of the victim was offered this week by American private investigator Steven Rambam, whose Pallorium detective agency operates in New York, San Antonio, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Toronto and Jerusalem. Rambam has been retained to set the historical record straight, find the remains and bring about closure for members of the victim's family. Addressing a press conference at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem this week, Rambam was not at liberty to disclose the name of his client, nor the actual sum of the reward. The case involves the abduction and murder on May 6, 1947 of 16-year old Alexander Rubowitz, a member of the Lehi underground organization, who was captured by Roy Alexander Farran, who headed a special British Palestine police unit. Rubowitz was tortured and later killed by Farran, who smashed in his head with a rock. Farran filed a full report with his commanding officer, but the document in which he implicated himself has conveniently disappeared. Rambam presented a comprehensive report of his investigations and said that the case was still being investigated by the Israel authorities. Although Farran has since died after a long, diverse and successful career in Canada, at least five members of his squad are still living and should be tried for war crimes, said Rambam. While he believes that they can be forced to testify, he doubts that they would ever be brought to trial. The most dramatic part of the press conference was when Rubowitz's commander Yael Ben Dov rose to speak, and related the story with a degree of passion and recall as if it had taken place only yesterday. After the arrest of Geula Cohen, who had been the Lehi broadcaster and head of Lehi's information effort, Lehi's only means of promoting its views was through posters and the distribution of leaflets. The British were always on the alert for poster people and had no compunction about shooting them. Thus distribution of leaflets and the pasting of posters was very dangerous. For all that, Rubowitz volunteered, and refused to heed warnings from his Lehi colleagues. He had a mission, and he intended to fulfill it. But the British had their eye on him and apprehended him in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, where he was so well known that witnesses to his abduction were able to identify him. Ben Dov recalled being told about the abduction by a group of children who had picked up a hat that had been knocked off the head of one of the members of the police squad in the struggle in which Rubowitz was forced into a car. Inside the hat's head band was Farran's name. Rubowitz's three cousins want to give him a proper Jewish burial. Rambam thought that there was a 50/50 chance of recovering the remains by May 6 this year. There are leads, he said, but was either unwilling or unable to explain why the location, in which eye witnesses had seen the murder committed, was not excavated. Nor could he say whether it will be in the few weeks between now and May 6.
  • A WEEK and a half earlier, at an International Women's Day event in the Reuben Hecht Auditorium of the Begin Center, Major-General Ido Nechushtan, the 16th commander in chief of the Israel Air Force, spoke about his mother, Dvorah, who was a combat fighter and squad leader in the Irgun, more commonly known as Etzel. Nechushtan said that he was always proud to tell the story of how his mother had participated in the attack on Lod airport, which was at the time under British control. In the course of the attack 26 planes were destroyed. This was an extremely important mission because the planes had been used to spot ships carrying clandestine immigrants. Without these eyes in the sky, more ships would be able to get through, said Nechushtan, who quipped that he is the only air force commander in the world whose mother attacked an airport. Following her arrest and trial, Dvorah, referring to her 15-year sentence, made a statement to the court, in which she said: "I will be here in 15 years, but you [the British] will not."
  • INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN Moti Zisser and his wife Bracha, who founded the bone marrow bank at Ezer Mizion, combined Purim with a quasi-housewarming. The couple, who always have a large Purim party, invited guests to their new home in Petah Tikva where a huge tent had been put up in the grounds. Although the Purim story is set in Persia, guests were asked to dress in the spirit of Greece - a rather strange request as gift giving is part of the Purim tradition, and since the days of the Trojan horse the world has been enjoined to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
  • THE STANDARD attire for Tel Aviv chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is a black kapota (frock coat). But one night last week he appeared at the Mann Auditorium in a different kind of black coat lavishly trimmed with gold embroidery. The occasion was the annual congress of Bukharan Jews where Lau was made an honoree by chairman and founder of the World Congress of Bukharan Jews, Lev Leviev. It is a custom in countries such as Bukhara, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to present honorees with a traditional gold-embroidered coat. Also on hand to witness the honor accorded to Lau was Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Although he has moved to London and his company Africa Israel has suffered enormous losses in the economic meltdown, Leviev appears unfazed, and is frequently seen at social events in Israel. In fact now that he resides in London, he seems to spend more time in Israel than when he actually lived here. This week, he was among the corporate leaders and bankers who gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Jerusalem for a crucial meeting with Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu. The Crowne Plaza is part of the Africa Israel hotel group. Even though Africa Israel, of which Leviev is the chairman of the board, has experienced a fiscal nosedive, and Leviev's personal fortune has depleted somewhat, he remains on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires, currently ranking 468 with a net worth of $1.5 billion - not bad for a self-made man, who as a yeshiva student couldn't afford to go home for the weekend because he didn't have the bus fare.