Grapevine: King of beasts, king of the airwaves

Rivlin, who is famous for his wisecracks, used to be a regular on a comedy show on Channel 1, in the days when Israel had only one television station.

US AMBASSADOR Dan Shapiro toasts the New Year. (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
US AMBASSADOR Dan Shapiro toasts the New Year.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Occasionally he arouses controversy and gets people’s hackles up, but by and large Leon Skurnik, better known to countless radio listeners as Aryeh Golan, is respected, admired and even loved.
Golan was born in Poland to Holocaust-survivor parents on the propitious date of November 29, 1947, and arrived in Israel 10 years later. His career as a radio broadcaster began in the IDF when he was assigned to Army Radio, from where he broadcast the non-Israeli hit parade. Afterward, he joined Israel Radio, where he has been the early morning news and current affairs anchor since 1995. Prior to that he served as the radio’s Washington correspondent, and also did a stint as a Jewish Agency emissary in Paris.
He was one of the most outspoken opponents to the closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and continued to voice criticism even after being taken on board by the new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, which now goes under the name of Kan. Even as recently as last Friday, he declared the closure of the IBA to be a grave mistake.
He said so to a packed auditorium at Tzavta in Tel Aviv, where the who’s who and who was who in broadcasting in Israel, along with numerous fans and Tzavta regulars, came to honor him in celebrating 50 years as a radio broadcaster. Friends, colleagues and his three daughters spoke of him as a person of courage, integrity, sensitivity and camaraderie who has been the epitome of professionalism.
Even though his Hebrew is not so hot, Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz was among those who came to pay tribute to Golan, as did President Reuven Rivlin, who brought his wife, Nechama. Another well-known figure in the audience was former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin.
Rivlin, who is famous for his wisecracks, used to be a regular on a comedy show on Channel 1, in the days when Israel had only one television station. He was one of many who spoke of how they’re almost addicted to listening to Golan in the morning. Rivlin confessed that he’s so nervous before being interviewed by the ever-courteous Golan that he can’t sleep the preceding night because he knows that Golan will somehow get him to say something that he never intended to say.
Former Reshet Bet broadcaster MK Shelly Yacimovich expressed similar apprehension, and Ilana Dayan said that when she turns on her radio first thing in the morning, she is disappointed whenever there is a replacement for Golan. Although she never worked for Israel Radio, she recalled that when she came as a 19-year-old Army Radio reporter to the Knesset during Golan’s period as a Knesset reporter, he took her around, showed her the ropes and introduced her to all kinds of people he thought she should meet.
Israel Radio’s veteran military affairs reporter Carmela Menashe said that she had not worked for Army Radio before coming to Israel Radio, she hadn’t been in the same army unit with any of the Israel Radio staff, nor had she gone to school with any of them; moreover, she initially came to the radio as a secretary, and when she tried her hand as a broadcaster, she was all but ostracized because she didn’t belong. It wasn’t just the fact that she hadn’t started out as a broadcaster. She implied that it was also because she wasn’t Ashkenazi. While others ignored her, Golan befriended her and told her that she would not only succeed but become one of the radio’s leading figures – and his confidence in her abilities was not misplaced. Menashe said that she would not forget this for as long as she lived.
When the closure of the IBA was initially announced, and everyone feared to be unemployed as well as unemployable due to age considerations, Nissim Mishal a former IBA senior broadcaster, offered Golan a job on Radio 103 FM, but Golan refused, saying that his heart was with public broadcasting.
Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel said that his big ambition had been to succeed Golan, but when he realized that Golan was not going to vacate, i.e., retire, he went to Army Radio. One of the proudest moments of his life he said, was when he shared a stage with Golan, when both were awarded the Sokolov Prize.
Moderator Liat Regev had a surprise for Golan. In the previous week, there was a similar tribute event honoring the late Moti Kirschenbaum, who had been one of the founders of Israel Television. Now, said Regev, Kirschenbaum’s opinion of Golan would also be heard. An archive clip had Kirschenbaum saying that anyone who wanted to be a radio broadcaster should listen to Golan, because he was a school unto himself.
Another surprise was Yossi Wolfe, a Chabadnik and the chief rabbi of Kherson in Ukraine, who announced that he had specially flown in that morning to honor his uncle Aryeh.
Yes, he said, Golan has a large Chabad family that includes all of Wolfe’s many siblings.
Actually, they’re not biological relatives, but Golan had such a close friendship with their father, the late Berke Wolfe, the legendary, longtime spokesman for Chabad, that he and his wife, Aliza, adopted the family and are in close contact with them. The ultra-secular Golan sends them an SMS every Friday afternoon and never misses a memorial service for their father at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Golan is also Israel Radio’s “ambassador” to Poland, and is sent for almost every major event concerning Jews or Israel. It wasn’t always so. Although he was the Polish-speaker at the radio, everyone was sent except him.
The first time he went, it was courtesy of the Education Ministry. But knowing he was there, the powers that be at the radio asked him to report and referred to him as “our reporter in Poland,” even though they hadn’t paid for any of his expenses. He likes to go to Poland, where he has many friends, and he’s particularly fond of the food, he said, because it reminds him of his mother’s cooking.
EVER SINCE their arrival in Israel a little over five years ago, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie Fisher, have hosted an annual Rosh Hashana toast, not only for their Jewish friends but also for leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities.
Last week may have been their swan song toast, unless perchance Hillary Clinton wins the election and Shapiro is asked to stay. This may also depend a lot on his wife, who put her career as an educator on hold so that he could pursue his career as a diplomat. Fisher has engaged in volunteer teaching in Israel, but that’s not quite the same as being a school principal.
Shapiro was a little jet-lagged, having just returned from the US, where he witnessed the signing of the 10-year memorandum of understanding with Israel on security assistance for fiscal years 2019 through 2028.
“This MoU constitutes the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history,” he told his guests, who for the first time included former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire, who had signed a two-year contract with Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team.
Stoudemire autographed basketballs for the two younger Shapiro daughters, Merav and Shira, who were absolutely thrilled and who kept throwing the balls around the living room, but not with sufficient force to do any damage. The girls, as they did last year, also sang Rosh Hashana songs in Hebrew and English.
It’s also become a custom for Shapiro to welcome new embassy staff and also to bid farewell to departing embassy staff. This time it was purely a welcoming occasion, with newcomers including deputy chief of mission Leslie M. Tsou, who accompanied Warren Christopher on many trips to Israel and headed the State Department’s Iran Policy Office; political counselor Michael Snowden; and management counselor Jonathan A. Schools, who has to take care of a thousand embassy employees who are deployed in different parts of the country and to handle a budget of $50 million.
WHILE FRENCH President François Hollande paid tribute to all victims of terrorism at a ceremony at Hôtel national des Invalides this week, French Ambassador-Designate Hélène Le Gal went to Har Hamenuhot Cemetery in Jerusalem to also pay tribute to all victims of terrorism, but particularly to those who were killed in France and brought to Israel for burial. They included Jonathan Sandler, his children Arieh and Gabriel, together with Miriam Monsonego, who were victims of a terrorist attack in Toulouse in March 2012; and Johan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham and Francois-Michel Saada, who were murdered in the terrorist attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris in January 2015.
IT WAS ironic that on the very day that heavy fines were imposed on Jerusalem merchants whose stores are open on Shabbat, the cornerstone ceremony for the construction of the Arnon Yekutieli amphitheater in the capital’s Sacher Park was presided over by Mayor Nir Barkat and members of Yekutieli’s family. Yekutieli was a deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, a staunch fighter against religious coercion and an outspoken advocate for secular rights, freedom of the individual and freedom of expression, as well as the opening of shops on Shabbat.
Yekutieli had a serious heart defect, and with Olmert’s help went to New York for a heart transplant which was unsuccessful, as a result of which he died in 2001 at age 45.
The amphitheater will be constructed at a cost of NIS 3.6m. with funding from the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry. The project will be managed by the Jerusalem Development Authority.
According to Barkat who knew Yekutieli personally, the state-of-the-art amphitheater will be multipurpose, and will serve as Jerusalem’s Hyde Park, a factor that Barkat said was a most appropriate monument to Yekutieli’s memory.
THERE’S A saying in Yiddish that every pot has its lid. Russian-American actor Oleg Borisovich Vidov, who is returning to America on Wednesday following an intensive firsttime visit to Israel, was married twice before he met American journalist Joan Borsten in Rome, following his defection from the Soviet Union. She was to become the anchor in his existence, and they’ve been together for more than 30 years, leading an incredible life of adventure.
Borsten, who was born in Santa Monica, California, was no stranger to adventure. After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, she moved to Tel Aviv in 1973 and became a staff reporter for The Jerusalem Post. In addition to interviewing leading politicians and numerous celebrities, she also covered the peace process with Egypt and Operation Peace for Galilee. She also snuck into Syria. From 1977 to 1985, she was also a regular contributor to the Calendar Section of the Los Angeles Times.
She met Vidov in 1985 while living in Rome.
Vidov received political asylum in the United States, where he subsequently married Borsten.
When she initially met him in Rome, she was suspicious of him and thought he was a Soviet spy, but was assured by a mutual friend that Vidov was the Robert Redford of Russia. He had appeared in numerous films and was also a singer and a poet. Borsten’s late father, Orin Borsten, was a Hollywood publicist and television screenwriter, so it was hardly surprising that Borsten herself went into the entertainment business, especially as her husband is an actor. She became vice president of US operations for Carthage Films, and later COO of Just Betzer Films. Both companies produced Oscar-winners.
In a roundabout manner, Borsten and Vidov acquired Soviet-manufactured cargo planes from Ukraine and won a UN tender to fly humanitarian aid cargo to places of conflict.
They also acquired the award-winning animation library of Moscow’s Soyzumultfilm Studio of animated films, and through another of their companies financed the digital restoration, marketing and distribution to numerous countries through participation in prestige television festivals worldwide.
They also acquired the Malibu Beach Recovery Center for drug addicts. Borsten says that out of the many people who came to be weaned off drugs, there were very few Jews, despite the large number of Jews living in California.
Since leaving Israel more than 30 years ago, she did return on a visit in the early 1990s, but this was her husband’s first time, and he loved it. He reconnected with Russian singer and impresario Anna Fishkina, who arranged appearances for him in Ashkelon and Bat Yam that were attended by his fans from the former Soviet Union, who were extremely appreciative.
Vidov showed clips from his films, read some of his poetry and sang songs from the old country, including a duet with Fishkina.
Borsten took her husband from one end of the country to the other, visiting relatives and friends, including former colleagues from the Post. In Tel Aviv she caught up with two of her former editors, Joanna Yehiel and Hanan Sher, and in Jerusalem she spent time with Abraham Rabinovich, Hirsh Goodman and the writer of this column. Her big disappointment was not being able to locate Anan Safadi, who was Middle East affairs editor and correspondent during her time at the paper, and who had been her mentor. But she still had hopes of finding him before returning to California on Wednesday.
ADORNING THE walls of the conference room at the Post are the portraits of many of the former editors as well as one of the former publishers. One photo missing until this week was that of the immediate past editor-in-chief, Steve Linde, something that has been bothering present incumbent Yaakov Katz for months. So he decided that the traditional get-together for the New Year toast was as good a time as any to amend the lacuna.
Together with Ronit Hasin-Hochman, the CEO of The Jerusalem Post Group, Katz presented Linde with his portrait against the backdrop of a front page of the paper.
Katz said how glad he is that Linde has stayed on as the senior features editor, as he represents an island of stability and tranquility.
Although they don’t agree on everything, Katz said that he values Linde’s advice and is happy to be able to use him as a sounding board.
Hasin-Hochman spoke of the pride she has when she opens the paper each morning, especially in an era when the print media is in decline. She is particularly pleased that as far as online publications are concerned, despite competition from other genres of digital media, the Post in terms of hits is still one of the leading Jewish publications in the world.
THERE ARE many ways to celebrate a bar mitzva, and when Jerusalem Post Economics Editor Baruch Lipsitz and his wife, Rivka, decided to take their son on a three-day bar-mitzva trip to Ukraine, they wanted to include relatives, friends and acquaintances – if not in the flesh, at least in their thoughts.
In this season, many Orthodox Jews go to Ukraine, mostly to visit the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov. Lipsitz is a Chabad Hassid, so the graves that he and his wife and son will visit will be those that have some kind of a Chabad connection. They include the graves of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidism; Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Hassidism, who is fondly referred to as the Alter Rebbe; Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch (who was the Baal Shem Tov’s successor); Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, the Alter Rebbe’s successor, who was known as the Mitteler Rebbe; Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev; Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl; Rabbi Avraham Hamalach; Rabbi Yehiel Michel of Zlotchov; and Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli.
Given that the month of Elul is one of introspection, forgiveness and concern for the needs of others, the Lipsitz family sent out an email offering to say prayers on behalf of their relatives, friends and acquaintances during their visits to the graves of the pious, and also ask their souls to intercede for specific blessings in their behalf, and naturally there was an assurance of absolute discretion.
ONLY A few days after Rivlin received honorary citizenship of Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received honorary citizenship of Netivot, which was conferred on him by Mayor Yehiel Zohar.
Netanyahu said that he is always happy to come to Netivot to see another neighborhood, another park, another school, new roads and streets. When he is asked where one can see true signs of Zionism, said Netanyahu, he invariably replies that people should come to the Negev to see the exciting development.
Netivot is a central link in the vision of a flourishing Negev, which merges government infrastructure with private initiative, which makes it a winning combination, said Netanyahu, who underscored that the most important thing in this vision is security.
That was why Israel carried out Operation Protective Edge, he said, declaring that he is not prepared to accept even a trickle of aggression, not in the South and not in the North.
Netanyahu warned that anyone from across the border who might engage in an assault will receive a heavy barrage in return.
AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN Michael Danby, who attended the IDC Herzliya International Institute for Counter- Terrorism’s International Conference last week, was dumbfounded to see that all the Israeli ministers who were among the speakers left immediately after presenting their addresses, and didn’t bother to listen to anyone else. Danby asked former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, who was one of the speakers at the conference, whether this habit also applied to Canadian government ministers, and Cotler replied that he used to stay but other ministers used to leave.
As for the conference itself, Cotler and Danby agreed that there was too much information to absorb in one fell swoop. The other thing they agreed on was that Israelis have not yet caught up with the rest of the world when talking of counter-terrorism. The language of the Israeli speakers was still couched in the vernacular of military security, whereas in the Western world the language has now become one of human rights.
COTLER, WHO divides his time between Canada and Israel, will be back in Canada next week for a two-day symposium on Monday and Tuesday, in which prominent judges, lawyers and scholars from Canada and Israel will explore the role of the judiciary in the 21st century. The symposium, in honor of former Supreme Court president Asher Grunis, is being hosted by Osgoode Hall Law School and the Center for Public Policy and Law at York University, from which Grunis received his PhD in law. Speakers will examine comparative constitutional ideas and the role of the courts in advancing constitutional values in Canada and Israel.
The symposium will also recognize the many contributions of Grunis, a 1977 Osgoode DJur graduate who went on to carve out a distinguished career as a law professor, practicing lawyer and judge. Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin said that the symposium “honors Dr. Grunis for his unwavering commitment to law and justice and a lifetime of service to society.”
He also noted that as the 10th president of the Supreme Court, Grunis had “served to safeguard the democratic values of Israel.”
Listed among the participants are Aharon Barak, another former president of the Supreme Court; Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada; Chief Justice George Strathy of the Ontario Court of Appeal; and Cotler, who is also a former attorney-general of Canada. In addition, academics from about a dozen universities in Canada and Israel will take part.
Among the other Israelis are Yishai Blank, an associate professor of law at Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law and its former vice dean; Aviv Gaon, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and a PhD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School; Dr. Benjamin Geva, a professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School, who is a graduate of the Hebrew University; Liav Orgad, a senior lecturer at IDC’s Radzyner School of Law; Dr. Meital Pinto, who clerked with Grunis and is a senior lecturer at the Carmel Academic Center School of Law in Haifa; Dan Priel, a former co-editor of the Hebrew University’s law journal and law clerk in the Supreme Court, who joined Osgoode’s fulltime faculty in 2011; and Dr. Hillel Sommer, a senior lecturer and former dean at IDC’s Radzyner Law School as well as a former civil and political rights counsel to the Knesset’s Law, Constitution, and Justice Committee in its 2005-2006 attempt to draft a constitution for the State of Israel.