Grapevine: Sharing the Olympic dream

Yoram Arbel toasts the opening of the Beijing Games, a Japanese master oversees a kite festival in Haifa, and Sharona Tel-Oren retells the story of her dolls' journey to Israel from the US

grapes 88 (photo credit: )
grapes 88
(photo credit: )
THE VOICE coming from the direction of the stage in the cavernous Hangar 11 on the Port of Tel Aviv last Friday was definitely familiar, but given the circumstances, anyone who didn't see the face that matched the voice could be forgiven for thinking that their ears were playing tricks on them. But no, it really was veteran sportscaster Yoram Arbel; and yes, he was in Tel Aviv and not in Beijing. One of the smoothest sportscasters in the business, Arbel has reported on-site on some of the most important sporting events in the world, and it was almost unthinkable that he was not in China. However, he did have a Beijing connection. He was the moderator at the reception hosted by Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jun to celebrate the opening of the Beijing Olympics and did the warm-up patter before the opening ceremony, which was relayed on giant screens, placed on three of the walls. Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Boim was there as the representative of the government and took the opportunity to send his best wishes to the Israeli Olympic team. Arbel filled in with bits and pieces of Olympics history along with a run-down on the sports CVs of some of the Israeli athletes, and on the count-down before the screening asked the hundreds of people present to join him in a toast. Searching for a Chinese equivalent to Le'haim, he said "Kampei," which is really more of a Japanese expression than a Chinese expression and is occasionally used by Koreans as well. The Chinese are more likely to say Gom Bui or Gan Bei. But Arbel's intentions were good, and that's what mattered. He also remembered to toast the memory of veteran basketball coach Ralph Klein, who died last week. Expressing appreciation to all those who accepted his invitation, the Chinese Ambassador declared: "My heart is filled with joy." The overall occasion, he said, was a symbol of unity, friendship, harmony, partnership and understanding. "Let's celebrate the shared dream," he urged, as he toasted the Olympic Games and the friendship between Israel and China. The event was naturally casual, and although Boim came in a suit, he wore an open necked shirt. Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, came in shorts, Yitzhak Eldan, the chief of Protocol at the Foreign Ministry, came without jacket and tie while Sri Lankan Ambassador Wijekoon Mudiyanselage Senevirathna sported a brightly colored loose hanging shirt, and Nigerian Ambassador Sam Azubuike Dada Olisa wore a white tunic over white pants. Larisa Miculet, the ambassador of Moldova, almost always wears a suit, and this occasion was no exception, but the suit she chose was not as formal as some of the others in her closet. Overseeing the smooth running of the event was genial promoter and producer Zev Eizik, who is the proprietor of Hangar 11. A loud cheer rang out when the Israeli Olympic team appeared on screen and President Shimon Peres stood up to acknowledge its members. PEOPLE ALL over the world want to attach something special to their weddings. It might have something to do with the way in which the ceremony is conducted, the venue, the menu or simply the date. In Israel for instance, the two big dates for weddings are Lag Ba'Omer and Tu Be'Av, though this year there will probably be fewer Tu Be'Av weddings because Tu Be'Av falls on a Saturday night, and since the Sabbath does not go out till around 8 p.m., the ceremony would probably not be held till 9.30 p.m. or later to allow people from different parts of the country sufficient time to arrive. That's late, even by Israeli standards. Around the world, especially because we are still within the first decade of the second millennium, many people chose to get married on August 8, 2008, just as the previous year they had chosen to get married on July 7, 2007 and the year before that on June 6, 2006 and similarly so to January 1, 2001. Israelis were included in this particular trend when it didn't run counter to Jewish calendar restrictions. This year was special because so many people wanted to get married on the day of the opening of the Olympic Games. In Israel they couldn't because the date fell towards the end of the three weeks period of mourning for the destruction of the Temples in which Jews do not marry. But that doesn't mean that there's nothing to celebrate. After all, babies get born 365 days in the year, regardless of what else may be happening, and thus Orli and Zion Abu of Givat Ada welcomed their eighth child, a boy, who was born on 8-8-08. The Abu offspring now comprise six boys and two girls. THOUGH BIRDS have a large following of both professional and amateur ornithologists around the world, in all probability there are more people who are fascinated by man-made objects in flight such as balloons or kites. Different countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations are finding their own ways of joining the state in celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary. The Japanese chose one of their ancient arts - kite flying - and thus attracted a huge crowd to the Haifa beach. The kite festival earlier this month was the initiative of Haifa's Tikotin Museum, which specializes in Japanese art. Japanese kite master Miko Toki, who came to oversee the project, brought many kites with him, and the Israeli youngsters simply could not wait to get their hands on them. Each of the kites was made by hand and some were so intricate that it took as long as a month to make one, although the simpler designs could be completed within a day. As far as anyone knows, although kites are very much part of Japanese culture and tradition, they originated in China and were initially made of silk and bamboo. Kite-making dates back some three thousand years, and is said to have been introduced to Japan 2,000 years ago. According to Japanese Ambassador Yoshinori Katori, who is completing his tour of duty next month, kites are an important element in bringing people closer to heaven and are particularly used in Japan on New Year. Kites are also a way of returning to childhood, he said. Some of the kites were as much as three meters in height and featured images of sumo wrestlers, Buddhist monks and beloved figures of the Kabuki theater. Among the kites that Miko Toki brought with him was the famous train kite made up of a series of Japanese and Israeli flags. There were also kites inscribed with the words "Shalom - Peace," which symbolized the universal dream of all mankind. IT'S LESS than a month since it was announced that Noa Rothman, better known as Noa Ben-Artzi had been commissioned to write a drama series on the public and private life of a prime minister. Ben-Artzi Rothman happens to be the grand-daughter of slain premier, Yitzhak Rabin, but it is not on his life that the series is to be based. The complicated but ever unfolding story of the life of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a writer's dream, be it a screen writer or a novelist, and it is primarily on his private life that the series will evolve and eventually will air on HOT. Around the same time as it was made public that Ben- Artzi, working with scriptwriter Shachar Magen, would be making her debut as a writer of screenplays, it was also made public that she and her husband Eldad Rothman, the son of Shlomo Rothman who is chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation, were expecting their first child. A few days later, they celebrated Rothman's 30th birthday, and a few days after that, Rothman, who was an adviser to Olmert when the latter was minister for Industry and Trade, was questioned by the National Fraud Squad and then placed under house arrest. It will be interesting to see if anything pertaining to Rothman finds its way into the television script which will focus largely on the prime minister's wife, four children and media adviser, and how their individual and collective change in status affects their lives. DEFENSE MINISTER Ehud Barak recently attended a scholarship awards ceremony at the Netanya Academic College at which soldiers who had completed their compulsory army service were given scholarships by business tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva. Barak disclosed that he had been thrown out of high school because he was always the cause of disciplinary problems. "But eventually, I took myself in hand, and I not only completed a university degree, but even a second degree at Stanford University in the US," he said. "But the only doctorate I have is the honorary doctorate that I received from NAC." In other news related to Barak, Haaretz reported that veteran media man Shalom Kittal, the former head of the Channel Two news corporation, would in all probability become Barak's media adviser, with the aim of facilitating a closer relationship between Barak and the public. The details have yet to be finalized. NOTWITHSTANDING HIS personal problems, Ehud Olmert is still the prime minister, if only for a limited period of time. One person who is obviously prepared to let the legal authorities make the judgments regarding Olmert is Yair Shamir, the son of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who last week presented Olmert with a copy of As Solid as a Rock, an anthology of 35 articles, letters and manuscripts written by people who served and worked with Shamir from his period in the underground through to his term as prime minister. Olmert praised the initiative of the younger Shamir in putting together such a volume, which he said illustrates the importance and courage of a leader of Yitzhak Shamir's caliber. Olmert went even further in his admiration of Shamir, saying that of all of Israel's prime ministers, he was the only one to raise a new generation of leaders to a position of take-off. TOMORROW, THE Begin Center will mark two anniversaries - the 95th birthday of former prime minister Menachem Begin, and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Herut party, which came into being shortly after the creation of the State of Israel. The day-long event, which will also incorporate memoirs of the launching of the party newspaper Herut, some of whose journalists are still around, will begin at 9.30 a.m. and participants in lectures and panel discussions will include, inter alia Yechiel Kadishai, who was Begin's bureau chief, and Roni Milo, who was the youngest member of Knesset in 1977, the year in which Begin became prime minister, but not the youngest-ever member of Knesset. That honor belongs to Moshe Nissim, who became an MK at age 24. Begin was actually born on August 30, 1913, but always celebrated his birthday on Shabbat Menachem Av. THIS SEEMS to be the year for looking back with nostalgia. Jerusalemites and visitors to the capital will have at least two opportunities to do so today. At noon, they will be able to meet Sharona Tel-Oren, a 78-year-old grandmother who only in recent years discovered that she had a latent talent for story-telling, and that she has the capacity to enchant both children and adults alike. Tel-Oren is appearing in the Puppet Theater Festival, and will appear at the Ginogley Hall in Yemin Moshe. Her father, Abraham Regelson, was a well-known writer who brought his family from America to Eretz Israel in 1933. Her dolls were left behind, but eventually reunited with their "mother." Regelson later wrote a story entitled The Dolls' Journey to Eretz Israel, which became a classic beloved by generations of children in both Israel and the US. Tel-Oren travels all over the country, and has also toured the United States using the dolls - actually puppets - to tell the story of the dolls' journey, and what life was like in Eretz Israel before the creation of the state. She has received numerous accolades from appreciative listeners and readers. One child wrote that she had never previously finished reading a book, and this was the first time she went all the way to the end. Any parent with several children will appreciate this event not only for its quality, but also because it happens to be free-of-charge. THERE ARE several people who claim to be the first to have broadcast the liberation by the Israel Defense Forces in June, 1967 of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Among them is well known broadcasting and print media journalist Eliezer Whartman, who came to Jerusalem in 1947 as a young student from the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York, fell in love with the city and instead of spending only a year at the Hebrew University as originally intended, remained to fight in the War of Independence and never looked back. During the most historic day of the Six Day War, in which he was a journalist and not a soldier, he stood with a group of officers at the top of the tower of the Histadrut building in the capital's Strauss Street, waiting for word from paratroops commander Mordechai Gur, who at 9.30 a.m. informed them that he was breaking through the Lion's Gate and at 10 a.m. informed them that "the Temple Mount is in our hands." At almost the same time, Israeli troops also reached the Suez Canal. Realizing that he had two scoops in his hands, Whartman rushed to the nearby Government Press Office, hurriedly cleared the material with the censor, then rushed to the broadcasting booth at the Central Post Office, and somehow managed to make his 10.30 a.m. deadline to America. He will be playing the original tape at 5 p.m. at the Neveh Avot Senior Citizens home on Paran Street, Ramat Eshkol, and will answer questions not only about the broadcast but about his life in Israel and his late son, Moshe, who fell in battle in Lebanon in 1975. SHE WAS the second woman to hold the position of head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and was in office for only a year before finally losing a valiant, long-time battle with cancer. She had defied death on more than one occasion, but this time her body was simply not strong enough. June Walker, who had previously been a national president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, would not allow illness to get in the way of her responsibility to her people, for which she was rewarded a month and a half before her death with an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa. She even managed before her death on July 29 to appear at the Hadassah National Convention, and to host a farewell reception for Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman. A memorial event in her honor will be held at 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 24 at Hadassah College, 37 Rehov Hanevi'im, Jerusalem.