Grapevine: Governor reveals bilateral romance

This week Linda Dessau, the very personable governor of Victoria, was in Tel Aviv to further cement the special relationship between Australia and Israel.

GOVERNOR OF Victoria Linda Dessau (center) at a reception hosted by the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce (photo credit: GREER FAY CASHMAN)
GOVERNOR OF Victoria Linda Dessau (center) at a reception hosted by the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce
(photo credit: GREER FAY CASHMAN)
It’s fairly common knowledge that Australia’s relationship with Israel stretches back more than a century. But there is a very special relationship with Australia’s state of Victoria, whose Premier Daniel Andrews in December opened a Victoria office in Tel Aviv, the first such office in Israel by an Australian state government. This week Linda Dessau, the very personable governor of Victoria, was in Tel Aviv to further cement this special relationship. She came with her husband, Anthony Howard, and their two sons. Dessau is the first woman and the first member of the Jewish faith to serve in this position. Prior to her appointment, both she and her husband distinguished themselves in their respective legal careers, and their two sons have followed in their footsteps with law degrees. This was not Dessau’s first visit, as she revealed at the Tel Aviv Hilton at a reception hosted by the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce, which was attended by many Victorian expatriates as well as Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan (who the following evening hosted Dessau and her entourage at the Australian residence in Herzliya Pituah).
While she and her husband have visited several times previously, as have their sons, this was her first official visit. She recalled that as a young lawyer she had spent several months at Kibbutz Sdot Yam, where she planted avocados. She returned on a subsequent visit to inspect the fruits of her labor. Her sons spend a lot of time in Tel Aviv, she said, and one of them has fallen in love with both “the city and a girl.” Dessau was impressed with Israel’s buoyant economy, digital advances and the genius of Israel’s innovation, all of which were more than she could possibly have anticipated. In her discussions with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, she found many parallels between Melbourne and Tel Aviv. Both are cities on the move amid an enormous amount of construction. Dessau, who was particularly keen to discuss health and education issues with Huldai and others she met, said she came away from these meetings with a sense of collaboration and of how to make things better all-around by sharing. “We can do a lot together,” she said. In this context she mentioned agricultural technology, saying that Melbourne is getting more involved in medicinal agriculture, and noting that the Victoria Office in Tel Aviv is staffed by a bio-medical director.
■ FASHIONISTAS AND people in the entertainment industry will be rising early Sunday morning for the launch of a new fashion brand name within the framework of the Golf & Co. stable. Yanai Fryszer Guttman, who was the spouse of Amir Fryszer Guttman, who died tragically in July 2017 after rescuing his niece from drowning, is an interior designer who is turning his hand to fashion. He will show his initial capsule collection on Sunday morning, October 7, at the new Golf & Co. flagship store in Bnei Brak. Amir Fryszer Gutman was a singer, musician, choreographer, actor and gay-rights activist, and among the first entertainers to publicly come out of the closet and marry his partner. The couple had a young son. Yanai Fryszer Guttman, who has since entered into a new relationship, says he believes that this is what Amir would have wanted for him and their son.
■ WHAT DO Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and singer/composer Svika Pick have in common? They were both born in October 1949 – Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Pick in Wroclaw, Poland. Pick celebrated his 69th birthday on October 3, and Netanyahu will celebrate his 69th on October 21, amid discussions of moving up retirement age. On a personal level, both Netanyahu and Pick remain unaffected. While there is a mandatory retirement age for public servants, there is no mandatory retirement age for politicians or entertainers. Golda Meir was 71 when she became prime minister, succeeding Levi Eshkol, who died in office at age 73. Shimon Peres was 72 when he became prime minister for the second time, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who was 73 at the time of his death. And Ariel Sharon was 73 when he became prime minister. This, of course, poses the question: If people in their seventies are entrusted to run a country and a political party, why can’t other people of similar age continue working if they choose to do so? Senior citizens in the entertainment industry include Paul McCartney, 76, who has just brought out a new album. Clint Eastwood at 87 is still directing movies. Rupert Murdoch, 86, has his finger firmly on the pulse of Fox News. Mick Jagger, 75, continues to swagger across stages around the world. Yehoram Gaon, 78, is still making concert appearances at home and abroad. Rivka Michaeli, 80, is still busy on stage and screen. And there are many more – too numerous to name in this limited space.
■ BY THE same token, one is never too old to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Brooklyn-born Jewish scientist Arthur Ashkin, who was previously overlooked by the Nobel committee, had given up anticipating that his turn would come. But this year, at age 96, he became the oldest Nobel laureate in any category. He shares the prize for physics with Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada, who is only the third woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics. What’s interesting is that a number of Nobel Prize winners won prestigious Israeli awards such as the Harvey, Wolfe, EMET and Weizmann prizes before getting Nobel recognition. Among the Israeli Nobel Prize laureates, there were also some who received the Israel Prize. Ada Yonath, who was the first Israeli woman to be selected for a Nobel Prize, has won nearly all above mentioned awards plus many others. Some of these prizes have also been awarded to other Israel Nobel Prize laureates such as Robert Auman, Dan Schechtman, Avram Hershko and Aaron Czechanover.
■ BARRING ANY more exciting events in Israel from October 27-29, political as well as sports journalists will be waiting with bated breath to see what happens at the judo Grand Slam event in Abu Dhabi. It’s not just a matter of displaying the Israeli flag, playing “Hatikvah” if an Israeli wins a medal, or the Israeli team being permitted to wear its insignia on its uniform. More important will be the presence of impetuous Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and what she might say. Political correctness and diplomacy have never been Regev’s strong suit, though she does know how to turn on the charm when she wants. It will be interesting to see which side of her personality comes to the fore.
■ HEADLINING THE eight smiling faces of young women gathered around a table at the Andalucia Cocktail Bar – which is fast becoming one of the hot spots in the capital – was news that a wedding is taking place today, Friday. The message was posted on the Facebook page of bride-to-be Talia Pollack who wrote: “Do I have the most beautiful friends or what??? Thank you my loves for the most epic bachelorette party! Two days and I’m hitched!” Pollack is not exactly a bachelorette. She’s been married before, as has the groom, Ari Harrow, whose CV includes having been a former chief of staff in the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu. When investigations against the PM began mounting, Harrow was pressured into becoming a state witness. But it’s highly possible that nothing he says will be harmful to his former boss. Pollack is the daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founding president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
■ THERE ARE numerous philanthropic enterprises operating in Israel. Some are purely local, while others operate globally or in a bilateral capacity. In the latter case, the founder of the enterprise also gives to charitable causes in his or her country of domicile. Some of the philanthropic organizations have been operating since well before the founding of the state. Among them is Yad Hanadiv, named for Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who funded communities and industries in the Holy Land from the early 1880s until the time of his death in 1934. Other members and branches of the Rothschild family have maintained the family tradition of supporting Israel and continue to do so in a big way. But although the Rothschild family’s involvement goes back more than a century, the Rothschilds do not represent the most veteran of philanthropic endeavors in this country.
According to Rabbi Chaim Farro of Beit Chabad in Ramat Beit Shemesh, the oldest Jewish philanthropic organization in the Holy Land is Colel Chabad, which “has been fighting hunger” since 1788, and continues to do so on a nationwide scale. It has also branched out to find solutions for additional needs. According to Farro, it is active in every city in Israel and runs 70 different projects. Farro was speaking last week at the annual OurCrowd Sukkot breakfast, which though primarily geared to investments and innovation, always makes room on its program for investments of the heart. Food security is only one of the 70 projects, he said. Of Israelis who are living below the poverty line, 130,000 are living in a state of severe nutritional insecurity. In the past, several organizations attempted to alleviate this problem, but there was insufficient coordination, and major efforts were made only at Passover and Rosh Hashanah. In 2016, the Social Affairs Ministry launched a national food security initiative and issued tenders for a plan to reorganize food distribution to the poor. The tender was won by Colel Chabad and Leket. The two organizations work in partnership with 48 local authorities and have an annual budget of NIS 52 million, much of which is used to issue a monthly NIS 500 smart-card to the poor to enable them to purchase food and to maintain their dignity. Along with this, Colel Chabad continues to operate soup kitchens and to provide what it calls “pantry packs” for the poor.