Different words in many languages sometimes have the same sound, but not the same meaning as for instance there, their and they’re. Jerusalem Post columnist Gil Troy last week resorted to Yiddish to extol the virtues of political rookie Benny Gantz, translating his surname to mean “big deal,” though literally it means “whole.” But sound-wise, “Gantz” also translates as “goose,” and only by April 10 or 11 will we know whether the former chief of staff is indeed a new political big deal or whether this venture into unknown waters has turned him into a political goose.
■ INTERVIEWED ON election night by a group of political journalists who doubted that he would have a realistic spot on Likud’s Knesset list, former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat was quietly confident that he would do sufficiently well to make the grade.
Goaded further, he was reminded that he had supported Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin’s bid for mayor with some kind of understanding that they would swap roles.
But Elkin lost out to Moshe Lion and didn’t do as well as expected in the Likud primaries. Told by his interviewers that he didn’t really understand how Likud operates, Barkat remained quietly confident, explaining that he was a marathon runner making his goals one kilometer at a time and thus reaching his target. It seems that Barkat was one step ahead of his supposedly savvy interviewers as he snagged the ninth seat on the list.
Regarding his marathon running, it will be interesting to see if he continues this practice at the annual Jerusalem Marathon next month.
■ THE LABOR primaries take place this week, and party members will be relieved to know that annoying phone calls from candidates asking for votes will cease. Some members were surprised when answering their phones to hear that the voice on the other end was not that of a candidate vying for the Knesset list, but that of former finance minister Avraham Shochat, who also happens to be the son-in-law of the late prime minister Levi Eshkol, and one of the founders of the city of Arad, where he served as mayor for 20 years. He didn’t belong to any electoral lobby, he said, but he thought that it was important for a talented and thoughtful legislator of the caliber of Merav Michaeli to retain her Knesset seat.
■ DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS between Israel and Turkey may leave a lot to be desired, but business relations go on unhampered as Israelis continue to opt for Turkey as an inexpensive holiday destination and they continue to watch Turkish television and movies.
That may account for the fact that Castro is bringing Turkish actor Berkay Hardel – best known for his role as Murat Boran in the Turkish television series Istanbullu Gelin – to Israel to be the co-presenter of the new campaign with Rotem Sela, the popular actress, model and daughterin- law of Castro’s owners. To avoid any misunderstandings, Castro has put out the word that regular male presenters of the company’s collections, Aviv Alush and Omer Dror, will be continuing to work as usual and additional campaigns are being prepared for them.
■ FORMER PRIME MINISTER, defense minister and chief of staff Ehud Barak – who despite many rumors to the contrary has not re-entered the political arena other than to be constantly critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – will celebrate his 77th birthday on February 12. Barak is now one of the millionaires of medical marijuana in his capacity as chairman of Inter- Cure and seems to be more successful with legally approved joints than with politics.
Arye Deri, who used to be considered the brilliant young man of Israeli politics, is not so young any more, and will celebrate his 60th birthday on February 17. Also born in February is Gila Gamliel, who reached a reasonably comfortable position in the Likud primaries. Gamliel will turn 45 on February 24.
■ IN THE current work climate, even five years is a long time to spend in any one place of employment.
The days of lifetime jobs are all but gone. That’s what made the farewell reception hosted by Dan Hotel chain CEO Ronen Nissenbaum for Rafi Baeri so poignant.
Baeri, for the past 20 years, has been the Dan chain’s deputy CEO for marketing and sales and is a very well-known figure in the hotel industry per se and the tourism industry in general. Even though he has reached retirement age, Baeri is not exactly retiring. He’s simply looking for new horizons in the field of volunteerism, and though it’s not so easy to leave after such a long period in the same job, with several major achievements to his credit, there must be a glimmer of satisfaction in the knowledge that the vacuum he is leaving is being filled not by one, but by two people.
The reception was attended by a large representation of management personnel from all the hotels in the chain as well as leading figures from the hotel and tourism industries, who were introduced to Tali Keidar, who is now digital and marketing deputy CEO, and Yigal Zoref, who is deputy CEO for sales.
Of the two, Zoref has a background in the hotel industry but Keidar comes with an impressive CV of marketing, management and marketing strategy positions in some of Israel’s leading companies before joining the Dan chain.
In his farewell address, Baeri said that after working for 50 years, 41 of which were in different branches of the tourism industry, he had decided to redirect his efforts towards the community through volunteer activity.
When he started working for the Dan chain, he said, it comprised of eight hotels. Now there are 14. He was confident that under Nissenbaum’s management, the chain would grow to 40 hotels.
Baeri said that he had been asked by several people what he was going to do when he leaves. The first thing is yoga, he said, and after that he’ll turn to other things ■ IT WAS almost a full house last Wednesday when Emunah Jerusalem and Emunah B’Simcha screened Paula Eiselt’s brilliant film about Ruchi Freier, the haredi woman lawyer from Borough Park, New York, who established Ezras Nashim, a women’s emergency response unit for those women who felt uncomfortable when treated by the male paramedics of Hatzalah.
It’s only when one sees the film that the realization dawns on how difficult it was for the women of Ezras Nashim to overcome community belligerence and to get the necessary training. These women are not feminists, and don’t aspire to be.
They just know from their personal experience that when most religious women realize that they are about to give birth, they would rather be helped by another woman than by a man. But the messages that Freier and other women received on their cell phones were illogical and accusatory beyond belief. Never once in the course of getting the organization approved, did Freier compromise her ethics or her religious life style, yet the bigots in the community would not believe her. In the end she triumphed, and when she campaigned to be elected a judge, there were actually men who put their prejudices aside and helped her win.
Eiselt created a film that, though it is a documentary, was more in the nature of a feature film – with the difference that it was a true story with real people playing themselves.
The big surprise after the screening was the presence of one of Freier’s daughters, Leah Levine, who is the administrative coordinator of Ezras Nashim. Levine admitted that she hadn’t known about the event till the previous evening, but when she was invited to come she was happy to do so.
She had called her mother to ask if she wanted her to convey a message.
Yes, she did and the message was: “Whatever standard you have set for yourself. You don’t have to compromise your standards in order to be successful.”
A similar message was delivered by Dr. Tamar Elram, the director of Hadassah Mount Scopus, who quoted Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah, as saying: “You have to dream and you have to dream big.” She said that the film was an example of women dreaming big and realizing their dream without sacrificing their values.
Atara Eis, who is the director of the Nishmat Glaubach Center and of the US Halachic Counseling Fellowship program, said that although some Orthodox (even ultra-Orthodox) rabbis will privately concede that Nishmat is doing a great job and some will tell her that they use the Nishmat website all the time, but they can’t hire her.
Others will urge her to keep up the good work, but apologize that they cannot endorse her publicly. The website, by the way, gets 1.5 million hits per year.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the rabbi of Efrat, has been ordaining women for years and said that he is not the only Orthodox rabbi who does so.
When he was ordained, he said, his rabbi had introduced him to the rebbetzin. “You think I’m the rebbetzin, because I’m married to the rabbi,” she told him, but really “he’s the rabbi because he’s married to the rebbetzin.” When Riskin married his own rebbetzin, he discovered just how true that was, he said.
But on a more serious note, he added that he would not have been a rabbi were it not for his maternal grandmother. His parents were not religious, but his grandmother, the youngest of four daughters of a Gerer hassid, was very religious.
When she saw her father’s disappointment in not having a son, she begged him to teach her and she was as well versed in religious studies as any boy. From the time that he was 10 till the time that he was 20, Riskin studied with her every Friday. That’s what gave him the impetus for what he was at the peak of his career, and that’s what has given him an abiding respect for women’s learning abilities.