Grapevine: Monica is coming to Israel

Lewinsky will be in Israel in the first week of September to participate in the News Corporation’s conference on people of influence.

MONICA LEWINSKY arrives at a Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills last March (photo credit: DANNY MOLOSHOK/ REUTERS)
MONICA LEWINSKY arrives at a Vanity Fair Oscar party in Beverly Hills last March
She rose from anonymity to notoriety, but because that notoriety was splashed all over the international media, it somehow transformed itself into fame. Even though she would have much preferred to become famous for other reasons, she was a much-in-demand personality on television and was a permanent fixture on the A-list of invitees by leading socialites. She also became a designer of handbags that were sold in luxury stores.
But after being brutally thrust into the limelight at age 24 in the pre- ‘Me Too’ era, and threatened with imprisonment for a period longer than she had already lived, in a rather sordid chapter of true confessions, it’s small wonder that Monica Lewinsky spent years being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is unfortunate that her claim to fame hinged on an inappropriate relationship with then-president Bill Clinton, who lied about its nature and only years later made a public apology on television to the young woman whose life he had changed so radically.
Lewinsky will be in Israel in the first week of September to participate in the News Corporation’s conference on people of influence. The event, taking place on September 3 at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, features leading journalists, politicians, retired high-ranking army officers, celebrity chefs and other prominent figures.
Lewinsky makes no attempt to escape her past. Writing in Vanity Fair in February of this year, she wisely stated, “If I have learned anything since then, it is that you cannot run away from who you are or from how you’ve been shaped by your experiences. Instead, you must integrate your past and present.” Quoting Salman Rushdie’s comment after the fatwa was issued against him, she wrote: “Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.”
She has been working toward this realization for years.
“I have been trying to find that power—a particularly Sisyphean task for a person who has been gaslighted.”
Norms have changed since Lewinsky’s public ordeal. In the light of the current cultural milieu, she has been revisiting and reviewing her relationship with Clinton. Although she said at the time that the relationship was consensual, the Me Too movement has prompted her to look closer in the mirror of her personal history.
“It was a shambolic morass of a scandal that dragged on for 13 months, and many politicians and citizens became collateral damage – along with the nation’s capacity for mercy, measure and perspective.” Back then, she felt so isolated. She doubts that she would have felt as isolated had it all happened today.
■ THERE’S GOING to be a lot of ministerial traffic between Jerusalem and Herzliya Pituah on September 3, as several of the ministers who are scheduled to speak at the News Corporation conference are also scheduled to speak at the IDC Herzliya’s 18th annual International Conference on Counter-Terrorism, which opens on September 3, but goes on for four days, with the last two days being reserved for workshops. If anyone cares to take note, ministers attend so many conferences that it’s a miracle that they get any work done at all.
Among the speakers in her new role as leader of the opposition will be MK Tzipi Livni. Among the speakers from abroad will be Michael Balboni, chairman, Infrastructure Protection and Cyber Security Committee, New York Power Authority; Boyko Borissov, prime minister of the Republic of Bulgaria; Ditmir Bushati, foreign minister of Albania; Michele Coninsx, assistant secretary general and executive director, Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Security Council, United Nations; Aimen Dean, author of My Time as the West’s Top Spy Inside Al-Qaeda, United Kingdom; Lucy D’Orsi, deputy assistant commissioner (Specialist Operations), Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom; Hans-Georg Engelke, state secretary for security, Federal Ministry of Interior, Germany; Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator, ISIL, Al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team, United Nations; David Glawe, under secretary for intelligence and analysis, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), United States; Gilles de Kerchove, counter-terrorism coordinator, European Union; Arndt von Loringhoven, assistant secretary general for intelligence & security, NATO; and Nickolay Mladenov, special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, United Nations.
■ SEPTEMBER 3 is also the date on which controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is due to begin a state visit to Israel. Although he was officially invited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, protocol dictates that he must also meet with President Reuven Rivlin, who has received a letter from a group of human rights activists headed by Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer Eitay Mack, who have urged him not to meet with Duterte, whom they have labeled as “a mass murderer and a person who supports rape, shooting women in their sexual organs and bombing schools.”
Duterte won’t be the first scandal-ridden leader of a foreign country to visit Israel in recent months and to be given the red carpet treatment. For that matter, taking into account all the negative publicity to which Netanyahu has been subjected at home and abroad, it must be embarrassing to the heads of countries that he visits to receive a political leader who has been under police investigation for so many suspicions for such a long period of time. But national interests come above personal qualms. Representatives of many countries make no secret of the fact that they want a share in Israel’s know-how in any number of fields. Many are also interested in acquiring Israeli defense equipment, as is Duterte, who in addition to being the head of state is the leader of the national government and the commander in chief of the armed forces.
Despite the long relationship between Israel and the Philippines, whose diplomatic ties date back to 1957, this will be a historic two-day visit in that Duterte will be the first-ever president of the Philippines to come to Israel. Duterte will be accompanied by a business delegation and in addition to his meetings with Rivlin, Netanyahu and other dignitaries, he will make a point of meeting with the Filipino community, whose members have made a such a positive impact throughout Israel. Many of the Filipino caregivers who do so much to improve the quality of life of Israel’s senior citizens as well as that of wheelchair-bound children are actually university graduates who can talk about any number of subjects with their employers.
Very few of the foreign dignitaries who visit Yad Vashem can feel comfortable about how their forebears acted toward Jews and other minorities during the Holocaust years. Duterte won’t feel remotely uncomfortable. To the contrary, he will be proud, because one of his predecessors, president Manuel Quezon, not only provided a haven for European Jews, but gave them land and gave them rights. Duterte and Netanyahu will discuss ways to expand cooperation in the spheres of labor, tourism, trade, agriculture, counterterrorism, security and law enforcement.
■ THE DETENTION of influential left-wing journalist Peter Beinart at Ben-Gurion International Airport was yet another example of the ineptitude of some of the people employed in security, coupled with the “too many cooks spoil the broth” syndrome, in that responsibility for airport security is divided between state bodies, which are not always in perfect harmony with each other. Beinart, who brought his family to attend the bar mitzvah of his wife’s niece, is a left-wing syndicated journalist who is pro-Zionist but against the policies of the Israeli government. He is widely read around the world and he frequently appears on CNN as a political analyst.
Beinart was released only because he had a connection to a prominent Israeli human rights lawyer, but other people detained in the holding room were less fortunate. Beinart lost no time in publishing his story in detail in The Forward, where it was picked up by other media and given international play. It also caught the attention of Netanyahu, who instantly got in touch with the Shin Bet, demanding to know why Beinart had been detained and questioned. The lame excuse was human error.
Unfortunately, there’s too much human error and lack of sensitivity among Israel’s security personnel. Several years ago, the employer of Filipina caregiver Norma Verano decided out of human kindness to invite Verano’s husband to visit Israel so that he could spend real time with his wife instead of relying on Skype. The employer did not know that Filipino tourists were treated differently than tourists from Europe. Verano’s husband, who had a heart problem, was detained at the airport and accused of illegally entering the country in order to find employment. He was carrying several thousand dollars with him as well as the letter of invitation from his wife’s employer – but to no avail. He was told that he would be deported on the next available plane.
Fortunately, there were a lot of Filipinos on his flight, and he called out asking that his wife be notified. As soon as she learned of his predicament, she immediately called her employer’s daughter, who was sufficiently well connected to be able to get the name and number of the person in charge of migration. Rushing to the airport with a friend who managed to contact the top decision maker in the ministry, they were told that the deportation could be averted only by a cash deposit of NIS 30,000. It was already past closing time at the banks, and after much discussion back and forth, the ministry official yielded and agreed to accept a check on condition that the signatory returned to the desk at the airport the following day to redeem the check with cash. Verano’s husband, meanwhile, had been detained for more than six hours without even a glass of water, which was dangerous for a man in his condition. Fortunately, there were no after-effects.
On another occasion, an American immigrant to Israel, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, was leaving on a roots trip to Poland when a security official stopped her and began questioning her. The nature of his questions implied that he didn’t believe that she was Jewish. As it happens, she is religiously observant, even though she doesn’t cover her hair. He asked her about the Torah portion of the week, and she answered correctly. He asked her to recite the beginning of a particular prayer, which she did. Then he wanted to know how she knew the prayer. She explained that she came from an observant family and that she had also learned it at school. Due to the prolonged questioning, she almost missed her flight. She would have missed it, but for her good fortune there was a one-hour delay in take-off.
Apparently, it bothered her interrogator that even though she was traveling on an Israeli passport and had stated that she was religious, she didn’t speak Hebrew and this made him suspicious of her. On the other hand, the writer of this column, when traveling from New York to Israel a few years back, went through El Al security without anyone checking her hand luggage. Concerned that if she could by-pass security (albeit unintentionally), other people could do so as well, she alerted a security official, who laughed it off, saying they knew who was trustworthy and who wasn’t.
■ MAARIV REPORTER Arik Bender, in response to the recent fracas over yeshivat hesder soldiers who turned their back on their commander because their rabbis had told them not to face her because she’s a woman, questioned what a yeshivat hesder soldier on guard duty at a check point is supposed to do when a Palestinian woman approaches him. Should he turn his back on her? Should he lower his eyes in embarrassment? Should he call his rabbi in a panic? After presenting all these options, Bender queried whether the embargo on looking at women applies only when the women in question are religious female soldiers.
■ RESPONDING TO the contention by Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev that Yitzhak Rabin would turn in his grave if he knew that Arabs waving Palestinian flags had convened en mass to Rabin Square, Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacvimovich tweeted that Rabin Square is called Rabin Square because Rabin was murdered there. If he hadn’t been assassinated it would still be called Malchei Israel and Rabin wouldn’t be turning in his grave, because he would be alive. Maybe so, but increased longevity notwithstanding, there are strong doubts that Rabin would still be living. He was born in March, 1922, which would make him 96 today. He was a heavy smoker and had a fondness for whisky. Perhaps he might have lasted the distance – but we’ll never know.
■ THERE’S SOMETHING very touching about a couple who after 60 years of marriage walk hand-in hand-down the street. The couple in question are Nina and Paul Freedman, who head a four-generation family and have the joy that all three of their sons, their grandchildren and great grandchildren live in Israel. They were both born in December, 1934, she in England and he in the United States. They met at Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak in 1957 and were married in London on August 3, 1958. They spent their honeymoon in America at a United Synagogue Regional Camp, and then continued on to Israel. Paul Freedman, who also happens to be a rabbi, was some years later appointed international director of United Synagogue Youth. The Freedmans gravitated back and forth between Israel and the United States and before returning permanently to Israel in July, 1991, marched with USY in the annual Israel Day Parade along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
In Israel, their home in Jerusalem has always been open to new immigrants, young people who are in Israel on study courses or engaging in volunteer activities, and most especially to lone soldiers. All three of their sons were lone soldiers, so the Freedmans have a special place in their hearts for lone soldiers. The Freedmans also have close connections with Nefesh B’Nefesh and travel to Ben Gurion International Airport to welcome each group of Nefesh B’Nefesh arrivals. People’s attention is often drawn to the pendant that Nina Freedman wears around her neck. It’s not a piece of jewelry. It’s an army dog tag engraved with the names of missing airman Ron Arad and soldiers Yehudah Katz, Zecharya Baumel and Zvi Feldman, reported as missing in action during the 1982 war in Lebanon.
One of the three Freedman sons was in the same army unit as Baumel, so the senior Freedmans naturally went to visit the Baumels and to join in the campaign to find the missing soldiers. Nina Freedman wears the dog tag so that people will ask about it, and that gives her the opportunity to speak about the four MIAs and to ensure that they are not forgotten.
IF 60 years seems a long time for a marriage, 84 years of wedded bliss seems to be totally incredible, but that’s how long Maurice and Helen Kaye of Bournemouth in England were married until he passed away this month at the age of 106. His widow is 105.
Theirs is believed to have been the most enduring marriage in England. Kaye, who was born in London’s East End, was a regular congregant at Chabad House in Bournemouth. In addition to attending services, he used to like to participate in the hassidic discourse and he befriended almost everyone in the congregation. He was known for his cheerful smile and greeting. Rabbi Yosef Alperowitz and his wife Chani, who are the directors of Chabad of Bournemouth, said that he was an inspiration to the congregation, whose members include Kaye’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A man with an adventurous spirit, Kaye, when he turned 90, was asked what he wanted for his birthday, and the reply was “flying lessons.”
■ VETERAN ARAB-Israeli legislator Ahmad Tibi has asked the Israeli media to stop referring to killings within the family in the Arab sector as honor killings. The appellation is given to the killing of someone who is considered to have disgraced the family. Tibi, a physician by profession, says that there is no honor in murder.
■ FOLLOWING INVESTIGATIONS into allegations of bribery by representatives in Africa of Israel’s wealthiest woman, Shari Arison, who maintains that she was unaware of such activities, the name of another Israeli business woman being ardently pursued by the Israeli media is Yardena Ovadia, the honorary consul of Equatorial Guinea, where she has vast business interests, and where she has brokered handsome deals for various high-powered Israeli companies. Asked by interviewers whether African countries are corrupt, Ovadia declined to give a direct answer to the question, simply saying over and over that it’s the norm.
To illustrate what she meant, she took it to the simplest level, whereby anyone can be stopped in the street by a policeman who says he’s thirsty. If the person who’s been stopped in their tracks doesn’t buy him drink, that person risks arrest. But what happens to be the norm in Africa is a criminal offence in Israel, a factor that difficult to understand by Israelis who spend a lot of time in Africa, and have absorbed the African mentality.
■ CONVERSELY, NIGERIAN businessman David Tosin Bakare, 43, of Lagos, may absorb the Israeli mentality – at least in its legal sense. Bakare is proud to be the first citizen of an African country to enroll in Bar-Ilan University’s one-year International MBA program, which is taught in English. As part of the course called Entrepreneurship: From Idea to Market, Bakare – an entrepreneur himself – has partnered with an Israeli classmate and with Naomi Bareket, an American IMBA alumna, in designing a social business project to help break the vicious cycle of poverty in Africa. With a three-pronged focus on womens’ empowerment, youth support and enhancement of entrepreneurial motivation, the project employs an “innovative micro-credit model and smart agriculture driven by 21st century technology using the power of social media.”
Bakare, who grew up in megacity slums, has an all-too-clear understanding of the challenges facing impoverished Africans wishing to get ahead in life. Intent on helping the poor obtain interest-free loans to launch their businesses, he explains, “Our model is anchored on the success of the concepts of microcredit and microfinance pioneered by 2006 Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Yunus Mohammed in Bangladesh. It differs from current micro-financing in Africa, which is more profit-driven, and therefore not achieving the social business goal of poverty alleviation.” Bakare says that “Israel’s excellence in technology and agriculture” will play a pivotal role in the successful implementation of this venture, which he plans to launch in Nigeria in January 2019.
Bakare, who holds a BA in mass communication from the University of Nigeria, headed marketing at an international brewery before establishing a marcom consultancy firm a decade ago. He has consulted for governments, organizations and companies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
A practicing Christian, he says, “I was drawn to Israel, the ‘Start-Up Nation,’ which doesn’t have numerical strength and yet is a global leader.” Noting that “Israel is exporting the best of agricultural technology to Africa,” he believes that “all the countries on the African continent need to “forge closer ties with Israel if they want to make tremendous progress.”
■ WANTED! BONE marrow donors, who if suitable will not only save a life, but enable a wedding. Roni Cohen and Bar Armon were finalizing plans for a September wedding, when Cohen was diagnosed with aggressive leukemia and told that she had only a few weeks to live. Armon immediately went into action and posted an urgent appeal on Facebook for bone marrow donors.
“She will be my wife if her life can be saved,” he wrote.
A nationwide campaign to find a suitable donor will be held next week. Potential donors should preferably be of Moroccan-Yemenite background or purely Yemenite and aged from 18 to 45. Providing saliva samples for testing is a very simple procedure. Would-be donors are asked to come to Ezer Mizion at 40 Kaplan Street, Petah Tikva from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this coming Sunday, August 19. The matching donor will not only play a vital role in enabling Roni Cohen to live to celebrate her 28th birthday, but will also be invited to her wedding, which can take place only if the bone marrow transplant is successful. But the biggest problem is to find a suitable donor.
Many second- and third-generation Israeli families are of mixed backgrounds. Sometimes, seemingly Ashkenazi families have a Yemenite strain, which may suffice to save Cohen’s life.