Grapevine: 'It's not the messenger; it's the message'

Many think the problem with Israel's image in the world is the fault of its PR mavens. Think again, says a former UN ambassador.

DON'T BLAME the messenger, Israel's former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold told critics of Israel's hasbara operations. Speaking at the monthly lecture series hosted by the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, Gold, who currently heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that wherever he goes, he hears complaints about Israel's poor public relations. "It's not the messenger," he said. "It's the message." Over the past 10 years, explained Gold, if you asked a Palestinian what he wanted from the peace process, his reply was "a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital." It is a defined goal, repeated like a mantra. If you ask an Israeli, continued Gold, the answer is peace. Unlike the defined goals of the Palestinians, this one is abstract. The grievance of detractors of Israel's PR is not about the heavy accent on Fox television, Gold declared, but about policy and diplomacy. The Israeli mantra, Gold suggested, should be taken from a letter written by US President George W. Bush on April 14, 2004, in which he asserted Israel's right to exist within defensible borders. Gold, who has been advocating the defensible borders issue for more than a decade - first as foreign policy advisor to Binyamin Netanyahu, and since then to subsequent prime ministers, and in Washington - declared that "defensible borders" must be turned into a mantra for every Israeli diplomat and spokesman. The huge crowd that filled the synagogue hall attested to the growing demand for thought-provoking events in English. CONGREGANTS AT Jerusalem's Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue are not accustomed to having a four-piece band adjacent to the ark and participating in the service. No, it wasn't a sudden lapse from Orthodox practice. It was Hoshana Raba, coupled with the 30th wedding anniversary of restaurateurs Marcel and Suzanne Hess, who added to the festivities by bringing in the magnificent cantor Bernard San, who used to be at the Zurich Great Synagogue, and the local four-piece Shirat Hayam Band. Joining San for part of the prayers was Eli Jaffe, the international conductor and choir master of the Great Synagogue, who could not resist conducting the band as well. One of its members happens to be his youngest son, Moshe. At the sumptuous kiddush following the service, the Hess children and grandchildren presented the couple, who are walking advertisements for their cuisine, with a gold-framed greatly enlarged photograph taken at their wedding. "Who gave you permission to reduce my size by 30 percent?" boomed Hess in a jovial mood. Indeed, it would have been difficult to recognize the bridegroom without prior knowledge as to his identity. The bride, though somewhat heavier than she was on her wedding day, has not undergone the same radical change in her facial appearance. THIRTY-SEVEN years ago, when Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Cohen, now the chief rabbi of Haifa, officiated at the wedding of Sarah and Shmuel Klein, he couldn't have anticipated that nearly four decades later he would officiate at the wedding of their younger son Gideon to Nathanelle Gibrat. Not long after they were married, the Kleins returned to Australia, where their three children were born. The second generation came on aliya, and the parents eventually followed and settled in Jerusalem, where the family has become truly international. Nava Klein, sister of the groom, is a frequent flyer as an international finance consultant. The groom's older brother Yishai and his wife Tammy, who hails from the US, currently reside in Singapore for business reasons, but plan to return to Jerusalem; and the bride's parents Ariel and Claude Richard, who are well-known figures in Jerusalem's French-speaking community, are on a frequent commute between France and Israel. Moreover, the bride's immediate family is due to travel to the US in coming weeks to attend the wedding of her brother. The wedding ceremony and subsequent festivities were conducted in English, Hebrew, French and even a smattering of Latin. The ceremony at the Inbal Hotel took place in the hotel's succa, which had not yet been taken down. A section of the roof was removed to enable a traditional open-sky wedding, and the existing decorations were enhanced by large clusters of roses - the bride's favorite flower. There were also long-stemmed tinted roses gracing the Succa poles and in the elegantly arranged banquet room, each table was decorated with a tall, narrow vase topped by a cluster of roses. Needless to say, the bridal bouquet was roses all the way. After the ceremony, the bride's relatives and friends threw rose petals under the bridal canopy while the bride and groom were still there. The bride wore a couture ensemble which was not imported from Paris, but custom-made by a French couturier who now works out of Tel Aviv's swishy Kikar Hamedina. The outfit was a prime example of French minimalism - unadorned and superbly cut, it featured a tailored coat with revered collar over the dress and a layered veil with a wide lace border that trailed along the carpeted floor. Later she exchanged the coat for a bolero top with a similar revered collar. Full marks must go to the white-gloved hotel staff for service. Not only were they courteous, considerate and efficient, but also observed the much-neglected protocol of serving ladies first. FOR MOST of the Jewish families residing in Jerusalem's Old City, hospitality is inherent in their lifestyle. While many families host neighbors, friends and strangers at their Shabbat and festival tables, none can compete with Abba and Pamela Clayman, who in addition to relatives, friends and neighbors host army units and civilian strangers. During Succot, when Pamela Clayman celebrates her birthday, the human traffic flows at a greater pace than usual. Some of the guests are invitees, but many just wander in, knowing that they'll receive a warm welcome. The Claymans make it a point to greet every one of their guests, and Pamela Clayman gives each a massive ego boost by telling them how honored she is to have them at her table. EVERY CLOUD has its silver lining. When Channel One screened a sponsor's promo during Gali Atari's appearance on the Eurovision 50th anniversary broadcast, it created such a ruckus that they screened the program again last week - this time including Atari. The media hype and subsequent internal investigation generated by the outrageous faux pas gave Atari, a former Eurovision winner, a ton of publicity, and put her name back in the headlines. AFTER KEEPING a low profile during her out-of-wedlock pregnancy that resulted in a son sired by businessman and philanthropist Roni Douek, whose messy divorce was fodder for the gossip columnists, Yael Abecassis, 37, one of the stars of the new prize-winning movie Live and Become, is back in the public eye. Though she seldom appears professionally with her mother, chanteuse Raymonde Abecassis, the two appear together in Live and Become, where Raymonde plays none other than Yael's mother. ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Sandro De Bernardin and his wife hosted a benefit concert for Yad beYad, an organization that provides hot meals, clubhouses and a willing ear for children from dysfunctional families and economically deprived backgrounds. They imported famous Neapolitan singer Angelica Sepe and her band to come and entertain their guests. Sepe, who has an extremely crowded schedule, spent less than 24 hours in Israel. Given the cause, she found the time. THERE ARE not enough days in the year to avoid the clashing of functions to which many of the same guests are invited. Case in point is that of Costa Rican Ambassador Noemy Baruch, who had hoped to bring most of her diplomatic colleagues to Jerusalem next week to celebrate Costa Rica's 184th anniversary. Costa Rica is one of only two embassies located in Jerusalem. The other is El Salvador. Unfortunately for Baruch, just as she will be welcoming guests to the King David Hotel, Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg will be welcoming guests to the Maiersdorf Faculty Club at The Hebrew University, where he is hosting a reception in honor of Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann. As if that wasn't enough, on that same night in Tel Aviv, the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association will host the annual Balfour Dinner, that will of course be attended by British Ambassador Simon McDonald, and in all probability other ambassadors from Commonwealth countries. And that's just a short list. SOMEONE GOOFED, and more than one person was left with egg on their face. Only a week after Haaretz published a long feature on French-born architect and socialite Claude Breitman, in which she was touted as Israel's next ambassador to France - a proposal allegedly put to the foreign minister by his wife Judy Shalom Nir Mozes - the Israeli print media ran front-page stories that Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, a lawyer by training, was Silvan Shalom's ambassador designate to France. One can only imagine Breitman's humiliation and embarrassment. Moyal has yet to be approved by the Civil Service Commission and the government. If all goes well, he may also get married before he goes to Paris. WHEN RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on President Moshe Katsav last week, he faced a battery of video cameras. Before ushering them out of the room, Hagit Cohen, the president's spokeswoman, asked Lavrov to shake hands with Katsav. He obliged instantly, then turned to Cohen and asked: "Anything else?"