Grapevine December 4, 2020: What comes next?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

SHAI ABRAMSON (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Unlike Israel’s fifth President Yitzhak Navon, President Reuven Rivlin has no intention of returning to politics once he completes his tenure, which ends in July 2021, two months ahead of his 82nd birthday.
Navon served at a time when it was possible for a president to remain in office for two five-year terms. He declined a second term and went back to politics, serving as Culture and Education Minister for six years. However, Navon was only 62 when he left the presidency.
On the other hand, Rivlin’s immediate predecessor, Shimon Peres, took office just a month before his 84th birthday, and concluded his tenure a month before his 91st. After that he became somewhat of an Israeli version of a latter-day Oracle of Delphi, as Israeli and foreign dignitaries alike beat a path to his door at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, on the Jaffa beachfront. Despite his advanced age, Peres was a very active president, touring the country and taking frequent trips abroad to Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, India, the US, China, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and more.
Rivlin has also traveled extensively, but more in Israel than overseas. However, he believes that it’s time for him to take a rest and allow younger people into the fray.
Unlike Peres, who was easily accessible to the press, Rivlin has largely refrained from giving interviews, though he did make a notable exception this week, primarily because of the nature of the online publication represented by the journalist who interviewed him.
Because his late wife, Nechama, suffered from a visible disability, Rivlin has a soft spot for people with disabilities. He strongly believes that disabilities should not be a reason for denying people equal opportunities in the workforce or anywhere they are able to fulfill the required tasks. Thus, prior to the International Day of Peoples with Disabilities, Rivlin gave an interview to Uri Yitzhaki, 26, who works at Shavim, and is on the autistic spectrum. Shavim means “equals,” and it lives up to its title by training and employing writers who might not be accepted by employers at mainstream publications who make the mistake of judging them by their disabilities instead of by their abilities.
Shavim’s news items and features are mainly about people who collectively have a variety of disabilities, the Hebrew word for which means “limitations,” which is actually more appropriate.
Yitzhaki asked Rivlin whether he was contemplating a return to politics once his term is up.
Rivlin replied, “When I am ‘released’ I will be 82 years old. I think I deserve a bit of time off, no? I have served the state for many years – at the Jerusalem Municipality, in the Knesset, in the government, and as president of the State of Israel. It is very important that the veterans give advice to the country’s leaders, but I think that dealing with politics at the age of 82 is a bit far-fetched. I owe my family some time, and there are the grandchildren who I need to ‘compensate’ for the fact that their Saba was president for seven years, and before that 10 years as speaker of the Knesset and before that a member of Knesset and government minister, and so I think they deserve for me to be with them and not with politicians.”
As president, Rivlin has had to deal with politicians and task one with forming the next government. He has had to do so three times in less than two years, and chances are high that he will have to do so yet a fourth time before he leaves office.
■ SO FAR, only two people have declared their candidacy to serve as Israel’s 11th president. One is a former Labor MK and minister, the eminent law professor Shimon Shetreet. The other is former Likud MK and current civil rights activist Yehudah Glick. Other names that have been bandied about include Jewish Agency Chairman and former Labor leader, MK and minister Isaac Herzog; Israel Prize laureate and educator Miriam Peretz; and current Labor chairman and Economics Minister Amir Peretz.
A year ago, it was thought that Yuli Edelstein, who was then Knesset speaker, was a front-runner for president, but he has since bowed out.
There is yet another potential candidate in the person of Israel Prize laureate, singer, actor and current-affairs commentator Yehoram Gaon, who is considering running for president. Gaon, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem who failed in his run for mayor, was elected to the Jerusalem City Council in 1993, and held the portfolios for Culture and Education for Children with Special Needs. He remained a Council member until 2002. Of the people mentioned, Gaon, who will celebrate his 81st birthday this month, is the oldest. Shetreet is 74, Amir Peretz is 68, Miriam Peretz is 66, Herzog is 60 and Glick is 55. Gaon and Herzog were born in Israel, Glick was born in the US, and the other three were born in Morocco.
■ THE YEAR 2020 is an important milestone in relations between Finland and Israel in that the two countries are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic ties. As a gala reception is out of the question, the Finnish Embassy, together with some 40 Finnish and Israeli education experts, will conduct a webinar on December 9-10 to discuss mutual and individual challenges, ways to overcome them, and what the future is for education in the aftermath of distance learning. The education webinar and interactive discussion is titled “Ecohumanism and The Israeli Hope, Challenges and Opportunities of Education in the 21st Century.”
The Israeli participants will represent the Education Ministry, the Kibbutzim College of Education, Levinsky College of Education and The Israel Center for Educational Innovation (ICEI), with the Levinsky College of Education carrying out the technical implementation of the on-line seminar.
One of the main themes of the webinar is President Rivlin’s Israeli Hope initiative. The on-line session will begin with greetings by Rivlin and Education Minister Yoav Gallant.
From the Finnish side, the opening remarks will be delivered by the Director-General of the National Education Board Olli-Pekka Heinonen, followed by speakers from different levels and fields of the educational ecosystem: decision-makers, researchers, teacher trainers and practicing teachers.
Further information on the webinar is available at
■ PEOPLE WHO are used to hearing Shai Abramson, the chief cantor of the IDF, sing memorial prayers, or who heard him sing cantorial melodies at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, were pleasantly surprised last Sunday to hear part of his expanded repertoire when he sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in English and accompanied himself on grand piano. The performance was included in a two-part gala concert on behalf of Emunah that genuinely had something for everyone. Presenters were two internationally acclaimed performers: violinist, singer and songwriter Ariella Zeitlin-Hoffman and cantorial and opera singer Simon Cohen, both of whom were well acquainted with most of the performers.
The virtual event was opened with a Yiddish medley in which the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra was conducted by the late Mordechai Sobol. That is one of the beauties of virtual events in that they can include videos that feature deceased people doing what they did best. Sobol was well known in Israel and abroad for conducting orchestras and choirs in concerts of Jewish music – folk, hassidic, Yiddish and liturgical classics. The first part included choral singing and opera. There was also a lot of seemingly spontaneous patter between the two presenters, who will be back this coming Sunday, December 6, at 7:30 p.m. to introduce, among others, Yonatan Razel, Daniel Cohlton, Shimon Cramer and several other popular entertainers.
Fans of Shai Abramson will be able to hear him again. Many online musical events are free. This one is not. The charge is NIS 100. Proceeds will go to the Jerusalem Emunah Rachel Family Counseling Center and Preminger Therapy Unit. To register in order to access the program, go to
■ BECAUSE THE New Year for Hassidut, Yud Tet Kislev, falls on a Friday night this year, Yud Tet Kislev festivities were brought forward in some places and began on Thursday night. In others they will be held on Saturday night and Sunday. Among the Saturday, December 5, events is a musical treat hosted by, which will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. on Channel 20, the Tzama website, Facebook and YouTube. Among the many performers will be Aviv Alush, Avraham Fried, Udi Davidi, Amir Dadon, Ariel Zilber, The Revivo Project, Nathan Goshen, Idan Amedi, Rami Kleinstein and Shuli Rand.
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