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Grapevine: In the eye of the camera
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
03/01/2011
Rubinger won the trust and respect of all of the country’s prime ministers and Knesset Speakers because he was so unintrusive.
THOUGH PRIMARILY associated with Time magazine for a very long period in an illustrious career that spans more than six decades, celebrated photographer and Israel Prize laureate David Rubinger is possibly best identified with the Knesset, where his remarkably insightful photographs of the nation’s leaders and legislators have for years graced the walls. Rubinger won the trust and respect of all of the country’s prime ministers and Knesset Speakers because he was so unintrusive they barely felt his presence, and he was able to take the most candid and memorable of photographs.

Last year, the Knesset honored him with an exhibition entitled “The Knesset through the Lens of David Rubinger.” This week the Knesset Channel held a special screening at the Knesset of Like a Fly on the Wall, which cleverly intersperses interviews with Rubinger and some of his subjects by director and presenter Hadas Levi Setzemsky with his photographs. Levi Setzemsky keeps her face off-screen and seldom allows her voice to be heard. Creative editing by Dubi Felix creates a sense of transition from black-and-white to color.

Prior to the screening, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin commended the Knesset Channel, headed by Uri Paz, for being much more than just a visual record of Knesset sessions. Like a Fly on the Wall testified to its versatility and creativity, he said.

Rubinger, both on and off screen, said that he never photographed anything that would embarrass someone, and if he did so in error, he would immediately apologize and not use it. However he didn’t discard unused photos. “What doesn’t appear important today should be retained,” he said, “because it may be important 20 years from now.”

When photographing ministers and MKs, he did not always photograph them in their chambers or in the Knesset plenum or corridors. When David Levy was foreign minister, Rubinger once asked him how he reaches a difficult decision. Levy replied that he goes fishing. Rubinger asked if he could accompany him. The end result was a photograph of Levy with a catch that would bring joy to any angler.

Summing up the essence of the film, Rivlin said that it represented not only Rubinger’s story, but the story of the state, because with his camera he had documented the evolving history of the state.

■ EVERY YEAR, slightly in advance of the period leading to Baha’i New Year, Barbara Wisman, who with her husband Kern are the only Baha’i representatives resident in Jerusalem, hosts a brunch in Herzliya Pituah for members of the International Women’s Club of which she has been an active member for several years. She has been to events in the homes of many of the members and says her brunch is a means of returning the kindness and hospitality accorded to her.

Wisman likes to introduce some kind of a unifying theme to override the national, racial and religious differences of IWC members. This year, borrowing from Disney’s Small World theme park which she visited when in the US last year, she and her husband devised a quiz that would incorporate something from each of the 35 countries which her 60 plus guests either represented or in which they were born. They had to answer questions such as which country has the smallest man, the smallest antelope, the smallest teacup, the smallest crocodile, the smallest hotel, the smallest banknote, the smallest piano – and in many cases, the answers were quite surprising, as was the hot and cold buffet at the Daniel Hotel, where chefs outdid themselves with the quality and variety of Mediterranean fusion.

Guests included Leslie Cunningham, wife of the US ambassador, and several other US Embassy wives; Perla Gilinski, wife of the Colombian ambassador; Tatiana Iosiper, wife of the Romanian ambassador, who is a diplomat in her own right; artists Maureen Fain, originally from South Africa, and Sali Ariel, born in the US; author and columnist Anne Kleinberg, also American born; and Ana Sovic, the wife of the Slovenian ambassador, who is president of the Diplomatic Spouses Club which for more than 20 years has supported local charities.

This year, the DSC has chosen to support Beit Issie Shapiro, dedicated to helping children and adults with physical and mental developmental disabilities reach their absolute potential. BIS is celebrating its 30th anniversary of giving hope to families. The fund-raising event hosted by DSC is a Salute to Hollywood featuring singers Isaac Sutton and Sharon Roshinek to be held on March 7 at the Eretz Yisrael Museum.

■ AMONG THE more popular attractions at the 25th Jerusalem International Book Fair last week was the literary café, which provided opportunities for encounters between local and foreign writers. Amazingly, in a period of four days there were 30 such encounters covering an extraordinary range of subject matter. One dealt with the changing Jewish kitchen, and attempted to determine whether Jewish food is still Jewish food and exactly what that is. The panelists were Joan Nathan, one of the best known Jewish food writers in America, who has authored 10 books; Yisrael Aharoni, one of the most celebrated of local chefs, who is a restaurateur, television personality and writer of cookbooks; and Ezra Kedem, a multi-generation Jerusalemite who celebrates its produce in the kitchen of his Arcadia restaurant. The moderator was Washington’s Mark Furstenberg, who went from the White House to journalism to being a baker.

Years ago, said Aharoni, if you would ask anyone here about what constitutes Jewish food the answer would have been kreplach, chopped liver and gefilte fish. Since then has come the realization that Jews in every country had their own traditional foods, with kashrut and hamin or cholent as key common culinary denominators among European, North African and Asian Jews.

Nathan lamented that the East European Jewish kitchen is disappearing, but sitting almost opposite her was Bracha Weingrod, a retired teacher from Canada who lives in Jerusalem. Weingrod has translated The Yiddish Family Cookbook, published in the US in 1914. Her translation has fewer recipes than the original, but it does contain some of those recipes that Nathan fears are disappearing.

There was consensus that food-wise, Israel has come a long way over the past quarter of a century.

■ HIS FAMILY and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs host an annual lecture to honor the memory of JCPA founder Prof. Daniel Elazar. The speaker at this year’s event at Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim was Dr. Daniel Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center, who spoke about the concept of Jewish peoplehood. He prefaced his remarks by telling the story that when he worked at the Mandel Foundation where he was vice president during his first nine years here, numerous boxes of his files arrived from his previous place of employment, the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He had them consigned to a storage area and never looked at them.

Some years later, when he did find a reason to look at them, they had disappeared. Several weeks ago, they miraculously and inexplicably resurfaced at the Shalem Center, and he decided to go through them, and to discard what he no longer needed. He was amazed by the number of files that contained essays by Daniel Elazar, who he said “has had a profound effect on so many people.”

■ IN AN era in which the old tradition of a lifetime job is dying out, there are still some places where people have been working and continue to work for 30 years and more. The Jerusalem Post is one of them. This week the Post bid farewell to several of its veteran employees, two of whom are retiring, and a third who resigned for health reasons. Legal affairs reporter Dan Izenberg, who has been with the Post for more than 30 years, hosted his own farewell party which was attended by past and present employees, several of whom had not seen each other in years. Izenberg had requested no gifts, and instead many of his guests walked off with books that Izenberg and his partner Evelyn Ruskin decided to give away before leaving for an 18 month stint in Canada, where Izenberg was born and from where they will travel extensively.

Executive editor Amir Mizroch, who is leaving for health reasons after eight years at the Post, told all the staffers at a farewell meeting that if they had health issues, they should not ignore them. He also advised them to spend more time with their loved ones and assured those who felt undervalued that they were highly valued abroad where the paper is well known in Diaspora Jewish communities, even small ones like that in which he grew up in South Africa.

Jack Selah, who 40 years ago began working as a linotype operator, has been part of all the paper’s technological developments. Modest and devoted to duty, he has earned much admiration and affection, so much so that employees past and present from almost every department and from different parts of the country came to wish him good luck and bid him farewell.

There are still veterans on staff, the most outstanding of them being archivist Alexander Zvielli, who probably holds some kind of record, not just at the Post but in general.

Zvielli has held different positions in different departments over the years, and currently researches and writes the archives column that appears regularly. He also does the occasional feature and book review and his phenomenal memory often provides information not available through Google. Zvielli has been at the Post for more than 65 years. He is almost 90 and still going strong.

■ INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S Day, traditionally celebrated on March 8, this year marks its centenary. Although things are not yet perfect here in terms of gender equality, it should be remembered that women were permitted to vote for the first Knesset and were also represented in it – albeit nowhere near in proportion to their ratio in the population. Although women have come a very long way since then, there will doubtless be lots of women’s groups meeting all over the country, and bemoaning the fact that even though women have broken through the glass ceiling, they are still underrepresented in politics and in the decision making process. After all, there’s only been one woman prime minister and two women foreign ministers. As it happens, one of the foreign ministers, Golda Meir, later became prime minister, and the other, Tzipi Livni, could have been prime minister had she been willing to cut a deal with Shas. Still, she is leader of the opposition. Dalia Itzik is a former Knesset Speaker and also served as acting president.

■ WITH A bachelor’s degree in music and arts, Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner felt right at home at Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Music, which this year will celebrate its 40th anniversary. World acclaimed composer Prof. Betty Olivero, of the BIU Music Department, led Faulkner on a guided tour of the university’s Marcus and Ann Rosenberg Music Building with its wide array of rare instruments. Faulkner asked Olivero to keep her apprised of the department’s upcoming concerts.

Music was just one of the areas in which Faulkner expressed interest. Seeking to expand existing ties between Australian and Israeli academic institutions, she met with a number of BIU faculty who have already established such ties: Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, director of the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Faculty of Law and member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; returning scientist Dr. Jordan Chill, of the Department of Chemistry, who uses nuclear magnetic resonance to study the structure of proteins; Prof. Ramit Mehr, of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, who conducts research in computation immunology; and Prof. Aren Maeir, of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archeology, who has directed the excavations at Tell es-Safi, the biblical city Gath of the Philistines, for more than a decade.

■ INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEES looking into the funding and activities of left-wing organizations, such as that proposed by Israel Beiteinu, could seriously harm the country’s information program, Minister for Public Diplomacy Yuli Edelstein said in the course of a visit to Netanya Academic College as the guest of its president, Prof. Zvi Arad.

Edelstein was also critical of interference in Israeli politics by various foreign bodies such as the European Union. An error was made, he said, in not making a list of foreign organizations and institutions that might have a hostile or negative influence. Edelstein also took the EU to task for its failure to come out strongly against anti-Israel propaganda in Palestinian textbooks. Peace, he said, relies heavily on education.

■ EL SALVADOR Ambassador Susana Hasenson believes in the old adage that if you want to be sure that something is done properly, do it yourself. Last week she personally sent out invitations for the reception that she held this week at her residence in Jerusalem for her country’s foreign minister, Hugo Martinez, and a few weeks ago, she also sent out the invitations for an El Salvador film festival. It’s easier doing it that way than having to keep tabs on secretarial staff.

■ THERE ARE no free lunches, even for chief rabbis. British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who will receive the Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award at a ceremony at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on March 9, will also have to deliver a lecture on “The Challenge of Religious Difference in a Desecularizing Age.” That’s fair enough.

After all, recipients of awards often deliver an address either before or after the ceremony. But that’s not the end of it. Later in the day, Sacks will participate in a panel discussion on “Pluralism and Normativity in the Jewish Experience.” His fellow panelists will be Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Prof. Alice Shalvi, with Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein as moderator.

■ AS IF the leaders of the business community don’t already have something in the nature of an extended family relationship given the frequency with which they meet, they will be thrust together yet again at a series of highend weddings over the next six months. Upcoming nuptials thus far announced are those of Shari Arison’s son Jason to Alital Elkin; Nochi and Orly Dankner’s daughter to Talor Eldan; and Yitzhak and Haya Tshuva’s son Elad to Roni Heiman, as well as two weddings in the Federmann family. There may be even more on the horizon.

■ IT’S A big step for anyone to make aliya, but perhaps more so for a nonagenarian. But when your only son and his family live here, you don’t want to spend your golden years alone. It was not easy for Henry Stone, 93, to leave Manchester last week. In fact it was an emotional wrench. His son Rafi, daughter-inlaw Elana and their three daughters have been living here for 29 years, and Stone thought that it was high time for the family to be together, painful as it was for him to leave all that was familiar. What he didn’t expect when he boarded the El Al flight was to be greeted by Tanya, the eldest of his granddaughters, an El Al flight attendant. It made the journey that much easier.

■ ALTHOUGH MANY heads of state visit, royals are rare. However there is a distinct possibility that Crown Prince Felipe, the heir to the Spanish throne, may come within the next few months within the framework of the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations. When President Shimon Peres was in Spain last week, he invited the prince and his wife Dona Letizia to emulate the king and queen and visit. The young royals have already visited Jordan, and the prince has been to southern Lebanon, but neither has yet been here.

When Peres addressed a large breakfast gathering at an event sponsored by Europa Press, he was introduced by his longtime friend, former foreign minister Miguel Moratinos, who described him as a great statesman and lauded his indefatigable quest for dialogue and peace.

greerfc@gmail.com
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