GRAPEVINE: Presidents past and present

Shimon Peres hosted state dinners for both Sarkozy and Hollande during his own term as president, and hosted Sarkozy again when the latter was out of office.

Former President Shimon Peres talks to the press after meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House during his presidency last June (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former President Shimon Peres talks to the press after meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House during his presidency last June
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In his many years as a senior public servant, former president Shimon Peres has met every president of France since Charles de Gaulle. This includes Georges Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterand, with whom he had the closest relationship, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and present incumbent François Hollande.
Peres hosted state dinners for both Sarkozy and Hollande during his own term as president, and hosted Sarkozy again when the latter was out of office. Peres was in turn hosted by Sarkozy during a state visit to France and was hosted by Hollande in 2013 and again last week. This was the second trip abroad for the 92-year-old Peres in the space of a month.
■ WHILE WOMEN have reached the pinnacle in the legal profession, with two women presidents of the Supreme Court and a larger number of women presiding over lower courts and the National Labor Court, plus two women who have served as justice ministers, women don’t do quite as well in national or local politics.
In advance of the convening today of the Forum of Council Heads in the Israel offices of Dun & Bradstreet, Efrat Segev, D&B’s deputy CEO for business development, decided to see the ratio of female representation on local councils. Of 265 local authorities, D&B chose 74, grouping them into larger, middle-sized and smaller cities and towns. Tel Aviv is in the forefront of the larger cities with women accounting for 35 percent of the council members.
Beersheba is in second place with 30% and Petah Tikva is ninth and last with only 4%.
Jerusalem is third last with 13%.
The ratio is much higher in middle-sized towns and cities, with Givatayim in the lead with women composing 47% of the council, Ra’anana in second place with 42%, and Hod Hasharon in third place with 39%. The ratio is a little lower in the smaller cities and towns, where Or Yehuda, with a female ratio of 43%, is in first place, and Kiryat Ono with 40% in second place, but then there’s a sharp dip to third place, with the ratio in Ramat Hasharon only 33%.
There are quite a lot of municipalities with no women on the council. These include most of the Arab municipalities, along with Bnei Brak, Elad, Modi’in Illit, Betar Illit, Tiberias, Afula, Kiryat Malachi and Shfaram.
Only three municipalities are headed by women. Miriam Fierberg-Ikar, the mayor of Netanya, has been in office since 1998; Liat Shochat is the mayor of Or Yehuda; and Yaela Maklis is mayor of Yehud. Since 1950, there have been a total of less than 30 women who have served as mayor on a total of 28 municipal or regional councils.
Netanya is the only municipal council that had two female mayors, Vered Swed, who later became the prime minister’s adviser on the status of women, and the long-serving Fierberg-Ikar.
Several other women served as mayors for long periods. Batsheva Eilon was mayor of Brenner for 20 years; Yehudit Shoshani of Ramat Yishai was elected three times, albeit not for consecutive terms; and Daniella Weiss was mayor of Kedumim for 11 years.
Yael Shaltieli was mayor of the Beit She’an Valley for 10 years and Yael German was mayor of Herzliya for 15 years before joining Yesh Atid and becoming a member of Knesset and a government minister.
■ PHYS ICIST, AUTHOR and lecturer Gerald Schroeder and his wife, Barbara Sofer, columnist, author and Israel director of public relations and communications for Hadassah, are an extremely hospitable couple who invariably have interesting people at their table – often guests whom they have never met before.
This past Purim was no exception. The surprise guest was Moscow-born physicist Levy Ulanovsky, a former leading spokesman for refuseniks and dissidents, who divides his time between Boston and Jerusalem, spending the summer months in the US and the winter months in Israel.
He came to the Purim feast with an American couple who volunteer for Hadassah projects three months in the year. Several people around the table had in one way or another been involved in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, so it was quite an emotional experience to meet Ulanovsky, especially in the 25th anniversary year of the fall of the Iron Curtain. For a moment it was as though time had stood still, especially when Ulanovsky said: “You can’t imagine how important it was for us to know that you were part of the struggle. Without you, we would not have survived.”
Ulanovsky – who had been an underground Hebrew teacher whose pupils included Yuli Edelstein, who subsequently became an underground Hebrew teacher himself – came to Israel in 1979, after having been a refusenik for five years. He grew up in a household in which his father despised the Soviet regime and encouraged him to be a freethinker and to value liberty.
Although a brilliant math and physics student, Ulanovsky deliberately opted not to work in his field, because he knew that as an astrophysicist, it would be harder for him to get out of Russia, if at all. It was simply a stroke of luck that after having had his emigration application rejected for five years, his application was finally approved.
His father, who had divorced his mother and remarried, managed to leave Russia a couple of years before him with his new wife and their baby, Nachum, who is now a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Levy Ulanovsky also worked at the Weizmann Institute before going to Harvard.
He served in the First Lebanon War, and returned from the US to serve in the Gulf War. He has been involved in a number of successful start-ups and is on the verge of another.
In June 2014, Ulanovsky joined with Edelstein and a number of other former Prisoners of Zion, refuseniks and activists in the struggle for Soviet Jewry movement in mourning the death of, and paying tribute to, Michael Sherbourne, the great British human rights activist who coined the term refusenik, and who in a pre-Internet, pre-cellphone era was one of the main sources of contact between Soviet Jewry and the Western world. Avital and Natan Sharansky, Yosef Begun, and Yosef Mendelevich were also among many others in the group who paid tribute to Sherbourne as an example of how one individual can make a difference and change the course of history. A little over a quarter of a century ago they were household names in Jewish communities around the world. Now, most of them live in relative anonymity.
Ulanovsky has both Israeli and American citizenship. He is not interested in reclaiming his Russian citizenship, because he will never go back to Russia, he says.
■ IT WAS supposed to be a surprise party, but in a newspaper office, secrets are hard to keep, and Ilan Evyatar, the editor-inchief of The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication The Jerusalem Report, senior editor and columnist at the Post and editor of the paper’s Frontlines section was aware of the fact that a “surprise” party was being planned for his 50th birthday. However, to preserve the surprise element, when summoned to the room in which the festivities were being held, he deliberately dawdled to allow people from different parts of the building to assemble. But when he walked in, he announced that one of his children had asked him to photograph the surprise. Deputy Managing Editor Tovah Lazaroff, who makes the best chocolate cake in Jerusalem, was busy on assignment which didn’t leave her time to produce the work of her own hands, but bought a birthday cake which was almost as good but not quite as yummy as hers.
■ THE LATEST news on the new public broadcasting service, which was supposed to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority today but was not yet in a position to do so, is that it will begin broadcasting on October 1 from new studios being constructed at the Malha Technology Park in Jerusalem.
Coincidentally, the Government Press Office is also located at MTP, and during the three-year period that he took time out from politics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who currently holds the Communications portfolio among others, also had an office at MTP . Until his death last year, former president Yitzhak Navon also had an office at MTP.
Some of the funding for the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation’s studios and productions will come from the sale of the IBA studios in Romema, where the land is said to be highly valuable. Several other potential sites in Jerusalem were rejected, and there was a proposal to launch IBC outside of Jerusalem in Modi’in, at least temporarily, but this would have contravened the Public Broadcasting Law, which states that the IBC must have its central broadcasting operations in Jerusalem. Aside from that, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat fought hard to ensure that the IBC would be set up in Jerusalem from day one.
■ JUST A week in advance of the arrival in Israel of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a dramatic reconciliation took place in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate between former Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Irenaios, who was unseated and demoted by the leaders of the Church in 2005 on suspicion of having engaged in a real estate transaction with Ateret Kohanim, and current Patriarch Theophilos III.
Patriarchs are usually appointed for life, and this was one of the most humiliating experiences that could befall a leader of the church. When Irenaios was replaced by Theophilos III, he refused to move out of his small apartment in the Patriarchate in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. He was convinced that his successor had plotted against him and he and his followers were determined to clear his name.
Irenaios lived in self-imposed isolation and bitterness against Theophilos for 11 years.
But then last November he took ill and was hospitalized at Hadassah-University Medical Center on Mount Scopus. Theophilos went to visit him in the hospital, and that was the start of an icebreaker which culminated on Forty Martyrs Day, which also happens to be the day of Saint Theophilus, and all those who are named after him receive a blessing. To the astonishment of all those who came to bless the patriarch, Irenaios chose to do the same.
Theophilos, whose face always radiates joy, beamed even more brightly as he embraced his former nemesis. It was almost by way of a birthday gift for the two. Theophilos will celebrate his 64th birthday next week on April 4. As it happens, Irenaios was also born in April and will celebrate his 77th birthday on April 17.
■ CONS IDERING the challenges she is facing in her campaign, as Bernie Sanders is making relevant inroads in his run for president of the United States, its not certain that Hillary Clinton will have time to accept the invitation of Limmud FSU to be an honorary speaker at its New York area conference on April 1-3. The event will feature the opening of a special photographic exhibition on the life of Israel’s first and so far only female prime minister, Golda Meir, plus a panel on women as global political leaders. Clinton was invited to Limmud FSU following her reference to Meir at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, last week.
In the course of her address at AIPAC ’s flagship event, Clinton recalled: “Some of us remember a woman, Golda Meir, who led the Israeli government decades ago and wonder what’s taking us so long here in America.” She could well ask why it’s taking so long for an encore in Israel. Admittedly, Tzipi Livni, when she led Kadima, was tasked with forming a government, and had she succeeded, she would have been the second female prime minister of Israel, and the history of the country would have played out differently. But as fate would have it, she failed, and so Meir remains in solitary glory.
It would have been appropriate for Limmud FSU to dedicate an exhibition to Meir regardless of Clinton’s reference to her, because Meir, like the 900 Russian-speaking Jews who are expected to attend the soldout Limmud FSU New York conference at the Sheraton Parsippany, was born in what later became part of the Soviet Union. She was born in Kiev and, like those attending the conference, came to America, which was known in those days as the goldene medina.
The overall speakers list at the conference looks like a Who’s Who in America and Israel. Among the Israelis are Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN; Knesset members Oded Forer, Hilik Bar and Elazar Stern; former MK Colette Avital, who is also a former Israel consul-general in New York; gastronomic expert, author, publisher and television personality Gil Hovav, who also happens to be the grandson of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who revived the Hebrew language; and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the grandson of the Revisionist leader of the same name.
Singer, composer and peace activist David Broza, whose grandfather was Wellesley Aaron, the founder of the Habonim Zionist youth movement, will add to the spirit of Shabbat. Bassem Eid, the founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and Muhammed Barhum, who was the Palestinian production manager for SodaStream, the most publicly targeted victim of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, will also be speaking at the conference. In targeting Jewish enterprises in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, BDS activists are causing the loss of jobs to thousands of Palestinians who have been coexisting in harmony with their Jewish neighbors and employers.
■ STILL ON the subject of FSU expatriates, some who initially came to Israel but couldn’t quite find their place here migrated to other countries, including Australia.
Some went directly to those countries once the Communist regime was passé.
J-Wire – Digital Jewish news daily for Australia and New Zealand reports that Kangarusski, the Russian-speaking Jewish community department of the Zionist Federation of Australia, held its annual reunion in Sydney last week with more than 70 people coming together for a Purim party at an Israeli-owned restaurant.
The chefs for the occasion were two Israeli professionals who were originally from the former Soviet Union. The flow of conversation was in Russian, English and Hebrew and the songs were in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. It’s no secret that when Russians congregate over a meal, they sing late into the night, and that’s what happened.
Some of the participants who came to Australia via Israel waxed nostalgic for Israeli cuisine and music. For many of those attending, it was a first opportunity to meet with the Jewish Agency’s Kangarusski emissary Rami Teplitskiy, who is based in Melbourne.
There will be a much larger get-together in September, according to Anna Maylis, who coordinated the Kangarusski event.
Following the successful Limmud FSU Australia event in March last year, the launch of Limmud FSU Sydney will take place in September this year, she said. Maylis and Teplitskiy work with the Zionist Federation of Australian to integrate Jews from the FSU into the Jewish communities of Australia – primarily Melbourne and Sydney.
■ ONE LAST Australia-related item. Mike Baird, the premier of New South Wales, will lead an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Trade Mission to Israel next week to explore opportunities for collaboration in innovation, science and technology, and to learn about Israel’s experience in entrepreneurship and start-ups, with particular focus on medtech, fintech, cybersecurity and the ecosystem. Members of the trade mission will promote NSW as Australia’s innovation hub. Other than Baird, dignitaries in the group will include NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Prof. Mary O’Kane.
■ THINGS ARE not always what they seem, nor are our interpretations of situations or the attitudes of our relatives and friends always correct. A case in point is an interview that appeared last Friday in Yediot Aharonot’s Sheva Leilot with veteran broadcaster Dan Shilon. Interviewer Yehuda Nuriel quizzed Shilon on his book Broadcast Live, which is based on the popular interview show that he hosted on Channel 2 in the 1990s, in which he seated a group of diverse personalities in a semi circle and conversed with them on issues of the day. Aviv Geffen, who was discharged from IDF for medical reasons, and who subsequently wrote and sang songs against the army, was invited to appear on the show together with Yitzhak Rabin, who was then prime minister. Eitan Haber, who was Rabin’s bureau chief, Aliza Goren, who was Rabin’s spokeswoman, and public relations executive Rani Rahav, who had a close relationship with the Rabin family, all asked Shilon not to put Geffen on the same program with Rabin. Shilon decided to check out how Rabin himself felt about the situation, and discovered that, first and foremost, he was unaware of it and, second, he had absolutely no problem about appearing on the same program with Geffen.
■ GETTING BAC K to Sofer – she was slightly late for her own Purim feast, the reason being that she spent much of the morning and early afternoon at Hadassah Mount Scopus escorting television star and comedienne Rosanne Barr and her mother, Helen Barr, a member of Hadassah Salt Lake City. The Barrs were particularly interested in the children’s ward and brought Purim gifts and candy to the youngsters. This time, there were no wisecracks from the comedienne.
“I am ecstatic from the visit,” she exclaimed. “You at Hadassah do such wonderful work. What a joy to see all the children getting better.” Barr and her mother were charmed to see children and their parents in Purim costumes.
They also visited Hadassah’s Neonatal Unit, where they were hosted by Hadassah Mount Scopus director Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach, Prof. Benjamin Bar- Oz, head of the Neonatal Unit, and representatives of Hadassah in Israel.
Roseanne Barr came to Israel as the guest of StandWithUs, on whose behalf she has spoken in America. Though a long time member of Hadassah, Helen Barr had never been to Israel before, even though she has always wanted to come. “Being here at Hadassah is the thrill of my life,” she said. The Barrs patiently posed for photos with various youngsters. “My mother is a big fan of Roseanne’s, and coming here and having here cheer us up on a day when I’m stuck in hospital, missing Purim fun, is really great,” enthused Daniel Cohen, 15, from Jerusalem. Four-year-old Ori Gorani was unaware of the celebrity status of the lady who came to visit, but his parents, Asi and Sharon, knew exactly who she was and were all smiles at having the opportunity to meet her in person. Ori was dressed in a policeman’s uniform.
Dad wears one most of the time, because he really is a policeman.
■ EVEN THOUGH a year has gone by since the passing of Cinematheque founder and long-term director of the Jerusalem Cinematheque Lia Van Leer, her spirit still hovers in what for so many years was her second home and perhaps her first love. To honor her memory on the first anniversary of her death, the Jerusalem Cinematheque will, on Thursday, March 31, at 8.30 p.m., host the Israel premiere of Presenting Princess Shaw. The audience will also get to meet director Ido Haar in conversation with film director and researcher Benjamin Freidenberg – an exchange that film buffs should find very interesting.
■ FILM FESTIVALS follow one another like a game of leapfrog. Almost immediately following the French Film Festival, which concludes this week, is Austrian Film Week, which will open at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Saturday night, April 2, under the auspices of the Austrian Cultural Forum. To allow for the fact that Sabbath goes out later with daylight-saving time, there will be a reception prior to the screening so that Sabbath observers can make it to the cinema in good time. Following the reception, there will be a screening of Cracks in Concrete in the presence of the film’s director Umit Dag. The film’s dialogue is in German with Hebrew and English subtitles.
■ NOT WITHSTAND ING THE fact that new hotels are opening up and others are under construction, Israel’s tourist industry is at a low ebb, and in all probability hotel occupancies this Passover will be fewer than last year or the year before.
Rafi Be’eri, deputy CEO for sales and marketing at the Dan Hotel chain, attributes this not only to the security situation but also to the fact that this year is a Jewish leap year, which means that it doesn’t coincide with Easter. This makes it difficult for families from abroad to spend Passover in Israel, because children have to go to school during the intermediate days of the festival, and this places limitations on families with children, because Seder night this year is on a Friday night, with none of the intermediate days on a weekend.
Many Israelis who had planned to spend Passover in Europe are having second thoughts in view of security concerns and feel it may be safer to remain in Israel.
Passover reservations for hotels in the chain have picked up rapidly in recent days, and the estimate at this stage is that the total number of guests in Dan Hotels for all or part of the festival will be in the range of 10,000 people.