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PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN stands alongside prime minister Levi Eshkol’s personal desk and chair. Note the two old-fashioned telephones – the red one being the hot line..(Photo by: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Grapevine: Tribute to Teddy
It’s hard to believe that 10 years have already passed since the death of Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem who was reputed to be the greatest builder of the city since King Herod.

Kollek died on January 2, 2007, at age 95, a sad example of the aging process to those who remember him as a volatile ball of fire who was impatient to get things done, and never minded getting involved in offthe- wall activities if such actions helped to enhance awareness of Jerusalem. In his final years Kollek was confined to a wheelchair.

His memory deserted him as did the spunk of his younger years.

However, it will not be the twilight of his life that will be in focus at the tribute to Kollek that will be held at Beit Avi Hai in Jerusalem on Tuesday, January 3.

Even though he took catnaps on stage at important events, he was vibrant in his attitude and loved Jerusalem with a passion.

At the conclusion of an interview with him many years ago, the writer of this column asked him how he envisaged Jerusalem 10 years along the line. He had one word: “beautiful.”

Together with Rush Cheshin, he established the Jerusalem Foundation, which she ran for almost half a century. An accountant can calculate the amount of money raised in that period from around the world for an impressive variety of projects in the capital, but no one can estimate the true value of those projects to literally millions of people from Israel and abroad. The schools, the parks, the sporting facilities, the museums and other cultural institutions that have benefited from the Jerusalem Foundation continue to cater to new generations of Israelis and tourists.

As an outcome of Kollek’s vision, Jerusalem is blessed with the Israel Museum.

Kollek was also involved with the Bible Lands Museum across the road from the Israel Museum, with the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the Khan Theater and, of course, Mishkenot Sha’ananim plus many other projects. Before the establishment of the state, he smuggled arms into the country, and after the state was proclaimed, he served as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office under David Ben-Gurion. The tribute to his memory should by all accounts be quite fascinating.

AMONG THE people gathered at the opening ceremony of Beit Eshkol in Jerusalem this week were nonagenarians Meir Shamgar, 91, a former Supreme Court president who was attorney-general during the Eshkol administration, and Aharon Yadlin, 90, who is the sole survivor of the Eshkol government. Both men, age notwithstanding, turn up at an extraordinary number of events. This is admirable in both cases, but more so in Yadlin’s, who travels by public transport from Kibbutz Hatzerim in the Negev.

Among the others present were President Reuven Rivlin, who was familiar with the premises from his boyhood in Rehavia, former Meretz leader Haim Oron, who is chairman of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which now shares the Beit Eshkol premises, after having been forced to move out of the Russian Compound, Sarah Netanyahu, who charmed everyone in the front row as she walked along shaking hands and flashing a brilliant smile, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, former finance minister Avraham Shochat, who is married to one of Eshkol’s daughters, three generations of the Eshkol family, and hotelier and philanthropist Michael Federmann.

For Rivlin, who grew up in Rehavia, and actually played soccer in the courtyard of the house when Ben-Gurion was prime minister, the return to the so-familiar locale was emotionally moving. Waxing nostalgic and going back to the time of his boyhood, he recalled that when he and his friends were too boisterous, Paula Ben-Gurion would come out and shush them and tell them that her husband was sleeping. When Eshkol was prime minister, Rivlin regularly passed the house on his way to and from school, or to the scouts, or to the home of Teddy Kollek.

Herzog scrutinized the many photos on display, seeking to find his uncle Yaakov Herzog, who had been the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office during the Eshkol administration.

SURVEYS ARE always suspect because the answers of respondents are usually yes or no, with no room for a gray area.

Moreover, regardless of the size of the population, the number of people questioned is generally between 500 and 1,000. Do a thousand people out of eight million serve as true trend indicators, regardless of the margin for error? Even if they do, should there be direct follow-ups to certain questions? Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, who was present this week at the presentation to Rivlin of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Democracy Index, relating to the fairly positive sign that most Jewish Israelis, when asked, had no problem with living next door to an Arab, having an Arab friend or even intermarrying with an Arab, pointed out that they were not asked the next logical question: “How many Arab friends do you have?” Therein lies the gap between theory and practice. Most people like to believe that they’re not racist and will therefore say the right things to emphasize their objectivity.

But their deeds do not match their words.

BY HIS own admission at the annual cocktail party with the prime minister hosted by the Government Press Office to toast the New Year, Benjamin Netanyahu has fun criticizing the media on Facebook.

Declaring that he believes in “a free, robust press which can and should criticize the government,” Netanyahu told journalists present to continue to write whatever they want, but stipulated that the people they criticize should also have the freedom to criticize them. “I want competition in the media market,” he said. “I don’t want to control,” he said in response to accusations to the contrary in the media.

In the past, Netanyahu would come and deliver a speech, then answer three or four questions and leave. This time, he made a brief opening statement about terrorist attacks in Germany and elsewhere, offering condolences to the families of the victims and good wishes to the injured for a speedy recovery. Then taking a cue from GPO director Nitzan Chen, who said that his grandfather was born and raised in Halab, Netanyahu spoke of expanding assistance to wounded civilians from Syria. After that, throwing his arms wide open, he said: “You asked for questions; go ahead.”

And indeed, thinking quickly on his feet, and with his signature eloquence, Netanyahu answered a variety of questions from foreign journalists. He was amazed when a journalist from Germany, whose question had been asked by someone else, gave up his opportunity to put a question to the prime minister. “You heard your question, so you don’t ask it again! That’s very impressive,” said Netanyahu.

Unfortunately, he supposedly made the mistake much later in the evening, when talking to residents of Amona, of saying that he knows what it means to be forced out of one’s home, because he was forced out of the Prime Minister’s Residence when he lost the election to Ehud Barak. The remark, if it was made, was taken out of context, and blown up out of all proportion on the front page of Yediot Aharonot, after which it was taken up by other media and used as another means of attack against the prime minister. It also provided an opportunity for Barak, who has become Netanyahu’s nemesis, to fire another volley of invective against him – not only in Yediot but in other publications as well.

As if that wasn’t enough, on Thursday, Haaretz ran a banner headline story about the sale of half of the home in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood that had been owned by Netanyahu’s parents. The spacious home, situated on a very large tract of land in the upscale section of the neighborhood, is worth a lot of money, as are all properties in the vicinity. It was left to Netanyahu and his brother Ido. After Netanyahu’s father died, a property developer wanted to buy the house, but Netanyahu was reluctant to sell. His brother was willing, so they had to find a buyer who was more or less a friend of the family.

The buyer, Spencer Partridge, a wealthy American, who is a longtime friend and supporter of Netanyahu, bought Ido’s share and reportedly paid NIS 4.2 million, which was not an excessive amount for a property of that size in that area. The legalities of the transaction were handled by Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron, who in addition to being his cousin, was also appointed executor of the estate by Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu.

made a big deal of that. too.

On the same day, Sima Kadmon, writing in Yediot, said that the Netanyahus treat the Prime Minister’s Residence as though it were their personal property. As it happens, Netanyahu dislikes that house.

During the period in which he was out of office and campaigning to get back in, he was invited to speak to the editorial staff of The Jerusalem Post, and during a Q&A session said that he disliked the house intensely and that it was not very comfortable.

The media doesn’t have to love the prime minister. It can disagree with his policies, but it should really stop the personal attacks on him and his family. Enough is enough already.

RESERVE DUTY soldiers in the IDF have friends whom they may see only once a year, but even so, they are friends for life and can be called on at any time when support is needed. Jerusalem Post Chief Photographer Marc Israel Sellem this week received an honorable discharge from future reserve duty, after having served for 21 years. He ran a photo of his discharge on his Facebook page, but remembered to thank all his army buddies for sticking together in good times and bad, saying they are friends for life.
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