Grapevine: Fifty shades of Bibi

While shades of red may be more youthful, silver gray hair does more for Netanyahu’s image than any other color.

Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu
The prime minister’s barber appears to be experimenting with color on the prime minister’s hair. There have been some nasty jokes about the prime minister’s purple rinse, which has gone from the palest shade of lilac to a deep lavender. But there have also been shades of silver, red and brown. In the Passover edition of Yediot Aharonot, there were head shots of the prime minister taken over a 10-month period with some of the various shades and colors that have adorned his scalp. He looks best and most dignified with a soft silver gray rather than the dark near black shade that he was sporting during the pre-Passover week. While shades of red may be more youthful, silver gray hair does more for Netanyahu’s image than any other color. The barber should really stop experimenting.
■ FRIDAY, AT NOON, Palmah veterans of the Harel Brigade, together with their families and the families of those who fell while fighting to create an access road to Jerusalem during the War of Independence, will meet at the National Heritage site in Sha’ar Hagai as they have every Friday for several months – but this time it won’t be a protest meeting against the site becoming a monument to former Palmahnik Rehavam Ze’evi. This time it will be a victory meeting to unilaterally declare that the site will forever be dedicated to the convoys that fought to open a path to Jerusalem which was under siege.
Among the people who have been there every week are celebrated poet and author and Israel Prize laureate Haim Gouri, 93, and his wife, Aliza, both Palmah and Harel veterans with a special interest in the site, which in Arabic is called Bab el-Wad, the title of a poem written by Haim Gouri, who fought there during the War of Independence. The poem was turned into a song made famous by Yafa Yarkoni. “Bab el-Wad, remember our names forever. Convoys broke through on the way to the city. Our dead lay on the sides of the road. The iron skeleton is silent like my comrade.”
Ze’evi was the Palmah commander of the fighting in the Galilee. When the veterans announced earlier this week that they would hold a unilateral dedication ceremony, the government quickly responded, saying that in consultation with the Ze’evi family, it would find a find another suitable site – perhaps in Gush Etzion.
Meanwhile, Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani has approached the Ze’evi family, saying that Ze’evi’s military legacy is bound up with the Jordan Valley, and that he would be proud to make a site available. While acknowledging the significance of the offer, Palmah Ze’evi, the son of the slain commander, has stated that if an alternative site is to be found to honor his father’s memory, it should be in Jerusalem, where his father was born and died.
■ WITH REGARD to Aliza Gouri, she is one of the subjects of a project by Noemi Schlosser, who is currently traveling across Israel to interview the youth of 1948 – men and women who were in Israel at the dawn of independence. The Belgian-born Schlosser is a theater performer, director, writer and producer, who has embarked on her current project in the belief that people researching the birth of the state will use some of her footage, which will enable future generations to hear some of the stories of Israel’s founding citizens in their own words and to see them as living people long after they have died.
Aliza Gouri told Schlosser that one minute after the cease-fire was announced, her friend Aharon (Jimmy) was shot in the head, and she was asked to deliver the tragic news to his parents in Safed. She was assigned a car and a driver to bring them to the funeral. Jimmy’s father was the artist Menachem Shemi. On the way back to Jerusalem, both parents sat silent on the back seat. From time to time Aliza felt a hand patting her shoulder – one time the mother, next time the father, asking her: “Are you okay?” They were as much concerned for her as she for them. When they arrived, they saw their son on a bed, covered by a military blanket. The father uncovered his son’s face, took out his sketchbook and started drawing. This image in the book Friends Talk About Jimmy (Hebrew) became the portrait of the generation of 1948.
■ FIFTY-THREE YEARS after the death of Jimmy Shemi, on May 8, 2001, Koby Mandell, 13, and his friend Yosef Ishran, 14, were brutally murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of Tekoa, where they lived. Koby’s parents, Sherri and Rabbi Seth Mandell, in the depth of their own grief, decided that the best way to honor and perpetuate their son’s memory was to establish the Koby Mandell Foundation, which through numerous different support activities helps parents, spouses and siblings of victims of terrorism to realize that they are not alone with their tragedy and trauma, and that in sharing their stories with others like themselves, they can advance the healing process.
The camps and retreats run by the foundation cost a lot of money, and the Mandells and their friends and supporters have to constantly come up with new fund-raising ideas. The latest was a Passover gourmet dinner and wine tasting at the King David Hotel, primarily for foundation supporters from the United States who are spending the Passover festival in Jerusalem.
Executive chef David Biton really outdid himself in providing a series of succulent and delicious courses that were a joy to the palate, and the Golan, Flam and Gvaot wineries not only supplied a variety of dry and sweet wines, but their representatives also explained many aspects of wine making in Israel and how the country’s wine industry has grown to world class, reaping many prizes in international competitions.
The guest speaker was Daniel Gordis, who, mindful of the season and the special anniversaries being celebrated in and by Israel this year, took his inspiration from both the Haggada and Herzl and spoke of Zionism as “the liberation movement of the Jewish people.”
Yet at a time when liberation movements are in vogue, hardly anyone speaks of Zionism in those terms, he noted, citing Jewish students on American campuses who do not see things through the same lens as people who identify themselves as Zionists. “Young kids grow up thinking of this country only in terms of conflict,” he said, and even adults who care about Israel, in their conversations about Israel seldom speak of its art and culture, but are more concerned with conflict.
Gordis attributed the inability to see Zionism as a liberation movement to the rapidity with which the dream became a reality. After the humble beginning at a meeting that Herzl convened in a hotel in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, the greatest empire in the world, only 20 years later, in 1917, issued what has become known as the Balfour Declaration. Then, in 1947, there was the partition vote in the United Nations. The Zionist liberation movement succeeded wildly beyond people’s dreams.
Only Herzl truly believed that he had created a Jewish state, said Gordis, moving forward in history, and noting that 22 years after the Russians liberated Auschwitz, Jewish paratroopers broke through the Lions’ Gate to the Old City and reunited Jerusalem.
Herzl thought that Zionism was not only the liberation movement of the Jewish people, said Gordis. Once they were liberated he envisaged that they would liberate other peoples. In 1956, before reaching out to Africa, Golda Meir as foreign minister, read passages of Herzl’s Altneuland to her staff, telling them: “We’re going to Africa.” Meir got the idea from Herzl about liberating humanity, said Gordis, adding that it didn’t really work then, but that it seems to be working now.
■ JEWISH AGENCY Chairman Natan Sharansky last week accompanied a large contingent of Zionist youth to Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, where the Raphael Recanati International School, in cooperation with the agency, hosted an event in honor of international Zionist youth movements. The event was attended by more than 850 Zionist youth and included TED-style lectures along with discussions on entrepreneurship and innovation.
Each year, more than a thousand members of Zionist youth movements come to Israel to participate in a variety of programs. They take what they learn in these programs back to their home countries and integrate this knowledge into their own leadership programs.
“Each time we speak of the strong bond between Israel and Jews all over the world, we must remember that there are people who work day and night to ensure this,” said Sharansky, explaining that a few days earlier he was at the United Nations, where 3,000 Jewish students came to protest against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “We must make sure we are louder than those who act against us,” he said.
IDC president and founder Prof. Uriel Reichman told the visitors that “IDC Herzliya was founded in order to train and educate the future leadership of Israel and the Jewish people. You are the potential leaders of the Jewish people from all over the world, and we await your leadership.”