Grapevine: No shirt, no speech!

Minister Yuli Edelstein threatened not to deliver his address...because he didn't get the same gift as Netanyahu.

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstei (photo credit: Courtesy)
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstei
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WHEN HE stepped up to the microphone at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem this week to address the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Yuli Edelstein, the minister for public diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, threatened not to deliver his address. The reason: On the front page of that morning’s Jerusalem Post, he explained, he had seen a photograph of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu being presented with a shirt commemorating the Super Bowl victory earlier this month of the New York Giants.
A similar gesture had not been made to Edelstein. “No shirt, no speech!” he joked.
However, he was compensated when Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, presented him with a large menorah, which she said was a more suitable gift for him in view of the fact that he was a teacher by profession. The menorah is not only the national symbol of Israel, but also the symbol of enlightenment.
■ ON THE subject of enlightenment, one is never too old to study, as was demonstrated at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology by Uri Beham, 80, who earned an MA in Civil Engineering and a BA in Architecture.
Beham studied architecture at the Technion some 50 years ago, and although he completed the course, he did not sit for the exam. Concurrent with his architectural studies he embarked on a course in civil engineering and received his BA with outstanding results. One of his professors at the time told him that he couldn't be both a civil engineer and an architect.
Professors have been known to make mistakes, and this was one of them. A combat pilot in the Israel Air Force, Beham participated in several air strikes until his release from reserve duty in 1994, after 44 years of service.
Other than the War of Independence, he had served in all of Israel’s wars, and had been a commanding officer during Operation Solomon, taking Ethiopian Jews home to Israel in 1991.
Together with his late father, Philip Beham, who was an engineer, he was involved in numerous construction projects in Haifa, Emek Hefer and Hofit.
When Beham decided to go for his MA, a little over two years ago, he also opted to complete his degree in architecture. Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie was not content to present him with his certificates alone and also gave him the famous quasi-crystal necktie designed by the Technion’s own Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Daniel Schechtman.
■ ROMANTICS LOVE a happy ever after ending, and that’s what may happen in the case of entertainers Orna and Moshe Datz.
The singing duo, who divorced five years ago after 21 years of marriage and a joint career that took them to many parts of the world, continued their professional relationship, albeit on a somewhat lower key than when they were married. Recently, they upgraded their professional collaboration with regard to entertainment for children, and now they’re not ruling out the possibility of a marital comeback. Perhaps there’s some truth in the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
■ JOURNALISM AND, other fields within the communications industry, have in recent years become if not exactly unstable, increasingly impermanent.
Some of the major changes this month alone are indicative of that.
Yaron Deckel, the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s astute political commentator and anchor of the radio program It’s all Talk, left to take up the position of commander of Army Radio where he first began his journalistic career.
Yair Lapid, who resigned from his lucrative Channel 2 position to enter the political arena, has continued to provoke attempts to pass legislation that would hinder his progress. Then Yaakov Eilon announced his resignation from Channel 10, word leaked out that Yinon Magal and Merav Miller would be dropped from presenting the Mabat news broadcast on Channel 1, the 20- year partnership of Zarmon Goldman Advertising and Marketing broke up, and in the Prime Minister’s Office, Yoaz Hendel became the fourth communications director to bite the dust since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office at the end of March 2009.
There have also been upheavals at print media and Internet publications.
■ ON THE OTHER hand, the government is injecting funds into the cash-strapped IBA. On Tuesday morning, an agreement was signed between the IBA, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry whereby the Treasury will give the IBA a grant of NIS 90 million, plus a loan of NIS 240 million and another bridging loan of NIS 400 million which will enable the creation of a new IBA complex, replete with state of the art equipment.
For more than 30 years, readers of Israeli newspapers have been fed reports about the imminent implementation of reforms at the IBA.
During that long period negotiators, officials and political parties responsible for the implementation of the IBA Law have changed, but the situation at the IBA has not.
With few exceptions, wages are low, flaws in the system are exploited, State Comptroller’s Reports on the IBA are unfailingly negative, the payroll is topheavy with human dross, the equipment is outdated, the IBA is operating under a multi-million shekel deficit, things that should be done in-house are being outsourced, and employees don’t know if and when they will lose their jobs.
Despite all the disappointments that they have encountered to date, the people at the IBA have not lost their sense of optimism, and there is a certain euphoria in the air in the belief that this agreement will finally pave the way to the reforms.
Only time will tell.
■ IF JOURNALISM was regarded as an interesting and adventurous profession, diplomacy was considered to be a glamorous profession in which diplomats socialized at cocktail receptions with leading politicians, socialites and business tycoons.
That still happens to some extent, but every diplomat knows that true diplomacy takes a lot of hard work – and these days a lot of courage. Several former Israeli diplomats, speaking at a conference this week at the Netanya Academic College, said that diplomacy is a dangerous profession.
It has become more so in recent years, but it has in fact been dangerous for a very long time. Dr. Meir Rosenne, a former ambassador to the United States and France, said that the romantic notion that many people have of diplomatic life is erroneous.
Diplomats, and not only Israeli diplomats, constantly confront danger. Former MK Colette Avital, who was a longtime career diplomat before she entered politics and served, inter alia, as ambassador to Portugal and consul-general in New York, recalled that when she was serving in the Israel Embassy in Paris she had narrowly escaped a terrorist attack.
When checking the exhaust pipe of her car, she saw what she presumed to be a bomb. She alerted security and it transpired that her suspicions were correct.
Security removed the bomb, and Avital was informed that it had been strong enough to kill her had she been driving her car.
Referring to the recent attack on an Israeli Embassy car in India in which Tal Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of the defense attaché, was injured, Avital said the problem was that there is not always enough intelligence information to prevent such actions.
Eytan Bentsur, a former director- general of the Foreign Ministry, concurred, but added that the ministry does everything possible to guarantee the safety of its representatives abroad. Yitzhak Meir, who served as ambassador in Belgium and Switzerland, said that during these periods he had received several threats on his life.
By the way it’s just as dangerous to be a foreign correspondent, as was seen in Syria this week.
■ WHILE ISRAELIS are on tenterhooks waiting to see if film director and screen writer Joseph Cedar returns from Los Angeles next week with an Oscar in his luggage, Alexandra Milchan, the daughter of famous Israeli expatriate producer and philanthropist Arnon Milchan, is planting the seeds for future Cedars. The Israeli-born Alexandra, who is a senior vice president in her father’s company, has set up a content hothouse in Israel to discover and encourage Israeli creativity and to promote it abroad.