a different side of Israel

Tag: Channel 2 (page 1 of 2)

A Snuff Film on 8 O’Clock News

A young man died yesterday after hours of excruciating pain. He and his friends accidentally wandered into a mine field in the north of Israel. A mine explosion got his leg blown up, bleeding for hours on the ground. Finally, the rescue helicopter that had come to — well, rescue him — didn’t tie his stretcher properly and he fell from a great height and died instantly.

His family and friends hasn’t had time to absorb the news. Some of them were probably not even yet notified of his fate. And the man hasn’t been buried yet! But both Channel 10 News and Channel 1 chose to broadcast the video footage in which the man is seen suffering, and then dying — all of it was captured by the camera, making a true snuff film. In addition to the extremely insensitive decision to broadcast the footage, viewers were not warned in advance that they are about to watch a real man dying… A real man who died just an hour or two ago.

Is it because the dead man was an Israeli-Arab that it’s OK to turn his death into a cheap entertainment spectacle?

I am deeply ashamed of both Channel 10 and Channel 1 for their actions and decisions last night, and I expect them to make a sincere apology and to take measures that would prevent such a thing from happening again.


Apparently Channel 2 News has added the video footage to its Mako web site. I think this too is extremely inappropriate.

Happy International Women’s Day

Sunday, March 8, is the International Women’s Day.

Marina Maximillian Blumin, a young singer who caught the national spotlight during her appearance in “Kochav Nolad” (the Israeli version of “American Idol”), will perform this Saturday in the Comfort club in Tel Aviv. Entrance is free for women!

Russian ska band “Los Caparos” will accompany her, and R&B singer Ayala Eingadesht will also perform during the evening.

Here’s Marina performing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on Israel’s Channel 2:

They Told Me There Was a Debate Yesterday

I woke up this morning and read the news. Apparently there had been a televised debate on Channel 2 last night, between the three major contestants for the PM seat: Binyamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni, and Ehud Barak. Despite being a longtime advocate of such a debate — and as a self-admitted news junkie — I had no idea such an event was taking place last night.

Hosted by Dana Weiss, the so-called debate was in fact a condensed version of three separate mock interviews, where fierce journalistic inquiries were replaced by relatively dull questions submitted by internet surfers via YouTube. In other words, Livni, Bibi, and Barak weren’t debating each other. They weren’t even debating Dana Weiss. They simply answered questions for people who weren’t there in the studio!

Again, since I wasn’t aware of this “debate” last night, I hadn’t watched it, and this account of events is based on news reports who have dryly mentioned the televised spectacle this morning. To my defense, I can say that I knew of such a debate being in consideration, yet personally I didn’t catch any pre-event promos or sensed any hype about it, neither in the blogosphere, on the radio, or in the printed media. I don’t watch televised news much, so I can’t really tell whether this was promoted in advance by Channel 2 itself — though I assume it was.

They told me there was a debate yesterday. So much for a debate.

YouTube Interview

YouTube Interview

Loving Yonit Levi

Yonit LeviYonit Levi is Channel 2’s anchor goddess.

She has been having a few bad days lately after some comments and gestures she made about the plight of the Palestinian population pissed off a bunch of viewers that write the talk backs on some of the news sites. In fact these hotheads went as far as putting up a petition online (now closed) calling for her dismissal and they got 35,000 signatures. Things got so bad that the people at the competing Channel 10 actually proclaimed their support and that they were standing behind her.

Apparently things got to the point that she was receiving some violent threats from a bunch of yahoos and a talk from her bosses asking her to tone down her alleged reactions. Now to be fair, Yonit Levi, is an extraordinary anchor woman. Aside from being a real hottie, she is a sharp, articulate, intelligent, very factual and professional anchor woman (you get we like her right?). She is sometimes called “The Ice Queen” for her cold, almost detached, professional approach. Personally, I think its wonderful and refreshing compared to some of the mindless, mushy twits we see on TV.

This war has received unprecedented support in Israel. Maybe as a result of the last war – that many felt was a slap in the face with the bumbling idiots that were running the show. Maybe its the fact that we had enough of turning the other cheek and getting shit on by a bunch of fundamentalist hate mongers. We feel like this is a just war and we won’t take any criticism for it.

In a post a while ago I discussed Fox News as an example of how low TV News Channels can take the news and the absurd of having to sell yourself as “Fair and Balanced” when that’s the last thing you ever will be. Yonit Levi is ACTUALLY fair and balanced and doesn’t need to sell it. She has been doing this for a long time and has been presenting the news in professional even tone, void of personal views and opinions.

In short, Yonit we love you ! Keep up the great work.

Channel 10 — the true Survivor

Up until 2002, there was only one commercial broadcasting television channel licensed to operate in Israel. There were already many niche channels transmitting via the cable networks (which have meanwhile merged into the “HOT” network) or the satellite network “YES”, but up until that point, Channel 2 was the dominating force of commercial TV in Israel, and considered to be the mainstream option for the average Israeli TV-goer.

In 2002 businessman Yossi Meiman made the bold move and initiated the creation of Israel 10 (known simply as Channel 10 in Israel), infusing huge amounts of cash into this media adventure. At the beginning, it seemed that he threw away his money in vain, having to face many bureaucratic obstacles and initial low rating levels. Despite shameless purchasing of Channel 2’s main news anchors, Ya’akov Eilon and Miki Haimovitz, Israel 10’s future remained uncertain for the first 3 years or so. All changed when new investors jumped onto the wagon, and when Israel 10 had decided to claim its share of the lucrative pie known as Reality TV…

Israeli Survivor 10Yesterday 36% of Israel’s TV screens were tuned “10” — mine including — on the occasion of a “good-trash” celebration, known as the Survivor 10 Live Finale, taking place in a major basketball arena, no less. After 16 successful seasons in which the reality show Survivor has been a definite “hit” in America, it was high time for the gold-laying chicken to learn how to speak Hebrew. Still, it wasn’t a simple case of a format purchasing and localization. Israel 10 went several steps ahead and has grossly altered the known format, turning the fast-paced reality into a semi-scripted soap opera. Countless magazine articles have published multiple claims of game manipulation by the Israeli production, ranging from the supply of groceries to the castaways, and up to changing the rules on-the-fly in order to keep their preferred characters inside the game, when these faced an imminent threat of dismissal by their fellow tribe members. Personally, I have no idea if these claims have any truth in them; the production certainly denies such allegations. One thing is for sure, the show fulfilled its purpose as a major rating magnet, and provided Channel 10 with a widespread buzz, that is normally the exclusive property of Channel 2.

Three finalists came on top after 52 days on the island: Dan Mano, the young Haifa attorney, whose uncle owns the wealthy Mano Cruise company. Dan has been painted as the manipulative mastermind, who managed to irritate most of his fellow castaways, and a great proportion of the viewers. At one point, when Dan was about to be voted off the island in the following tribal council, the production suddenly transferred him into the women’s group, virtually “saving his ass”. He always claimed to simply playing the game, and personally I must admit that he was my favourite pick for taking the one million shekels prize. Next to him, we had Na’ama Keisary, the new mom, who left her one-month baby, and her dying father, in order to challenge herself in this dire experience. She hadn’t won even a single contest on the island, yet came across as a strong and independent woman. Last but no least, the third finalist pleading the jury for a check last night, was Noam Tor, the humble bee-keeper, who was elected Israel’s sexiest man alive by a major magazine. Noam was voted off the island relatively early in the game, but survived a secondary game in what was called “the Island of the Dead” — a serious deviation from the original format.

Despite being filmed in the Caribbean Islands, the winner wasn’t chosen on-site, as done in the original version, nor was the decision free of public influence. The castaways arrived at the Nokia Arena while already enjoying a celebrity status, and have had many weeks to influence the members of the jury after leaving the island. In addition, the TV finale included an SMS poll, in which the audience was asked to pick its favourite finalist — and these results would have been considered the tie-breaking vote if such a scenario was materializing. In the end, after an excruciating evening that included 3 weary finalists, and many emotional breakdowns, Na’ama Keisary was chosen the ultimate Survivor, surprising everyone believed strongly that Noam was signaled by the production as the suitable winner.

Now that the first Israeli season came to an end, Channel 10 is losing its first rating monster, and leaving many viewers with a bad taste in mouth. Nevertheless; it was fun, it was hot, and it was addictive. Expect a second season heading your way next year….

Israel Reality Shows Getting More Attention Than News

It’s a fact, and most people in Israel aren’t surprised to hear that Israeli TV reality shows, including Star is Born, Super Nanny, Born to Dance, and Israel’s version of The Survivors, have perpetually received much higher ratings than news and other broadcasts. These programs are not that different from American reality shows, including The Bachelor, American Idol, Trading Spouses, and a host of others.

Reality ShowsMany of these ‘song and dance’ reality shows, involve hundreds of contestants vie for a beginning position that ends up weeks later with only one candidate winning first place. In the most recent of these programs, “Born to dance”, hosted by Israel’s “favorite MC” Tzvika Hadar; three contestants reached the finals, in which a young man named Natanel (pictured) won a first prize of NS 100,000. While this is not big money as compared to something in American or UK TV, it gives the final contestants a lot of exposure that can result in being awarded private entertainment contracts later on. Ratings are very important to these programs and Israel’s two commercial TV channels, Channel 2 and Channel 10 are constantly competing with each other for a big share of the nightly viewing audience. Since both channels have commercials, that “share” is very important as it means more contracts with companies that pay top money for prime-time ‘spots’ on TV.

Star is Born, Israel’s equivalent to American Idol, has produced such talent as Nanette Taib, Shiri Maimon, and Boaz Maudi, this year’s Eurovision song contest participant.

While Channel 2 has the monopoly with the singing and dancing programs, competitor Channel 10 has come up with programs like Super Model and Survivors, which manage to pull in a good deal of fickle viewers who make sure they are parked in front of their plasma or regular TVs when their favorite reality show comes on. The Survivors show, which began with two groups of contestants being “cast” onto a seemingly deserted Caribbean tropical isle (actually a national park in the Dominican Republic), has been on for a couple of months now; and viewers get to watch the intimate trials and tribulations of the participants, who have to endure tropical storms, horrible food, countless attacks by mosquitoes and other insects, as well as undergo very difficult physical contests staged by the show’s MC, Guy Hamerei. As in other reality programs, only one “survivor” will finally prevail to collect a prize of NS 1,000,000 ($274,000) and a new Land Rover SUV.

Indeed, watching these types of programs allows people to momentarily escape the actual reality of life, especially in a country like Israel where the real “reality” often involves terror attacks, and war. At least by getting involved in these programs and having empathy with many of the participants, it takes many peoples minds off ‘the real thing’ that is so graphically portrayed on the news programs nightly.

And if the Israeli reality shows are not enough to excite people, then thanks to satellite and cable TV, there’s always American Idol, The Bachelor, and all the other foreign reality programs to keep even the most discriminating viewer glued to the “boob tube” for at least a couple of hours.

The Rabbi and Netanya’s Building Boom

Netanya, Israel’s fifth largest city, has been undergoing a significant building boom recently; and one of the central “players” in this boom is an Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi named Yaacov Shimon Sher. Rabbi, who also is a prominent city council member, and a key member of the board of Laniado Hospital, seems to be almost too much involved in a number of construction projects, both commercial and residential, that have going on in this sea-side city, 30 kilometers north of Tel Aviv.

In fact, local building contractors have been complaining recently that in order to receive a permit to begin a construction project in Netanya, especially a large scale one such as the multi-story apartment buildings sprouting up in various Netanya locations, they must first pay a sizable “contribution” to one of the many philanthropic projects that the Rabbi is involved in. When asked how much they have to “contribute” some of these contractors (who asked not to be disclosed) said: “it’s usually somewhere between five and ten thousand”. And it turns out that these sums are Dollar amounts, not Shekels.

Rabbi Sher, who has close ties to Netanya Mayor Miriam Fireburg, seems to always be in the picture concerning goings on at City Hall, as well as at Laniado Hospital. Located in North Netanya, next to the Ultra Orthodox residential neighborhood of Kiryat Sanz, Laniado is the only hospital in Netanya; and it has been undergoing an expansion program, funded largely by donations from contributors in both Israel and abroad. Considerable donations have also been coming from sources in the U.K., as well as from the U.S.A. And when mention and recognition of these are noted, Rabbi Sher’s name seems to be frequently mentioned – perhaps more frequently than should be for such endeavors.

Whether the Rabbi himself has any personal connection to any of these “fundraising projects” is a matter of speculation, as was noted on Israel Channel 2 television last Friday evening. During the program, it was noted that Rav Sher, as he is usually called, has a rather large villa on a very choice piece of sea front property located just meters away from a number of yeshivas that he is said to have raised funds for, as well as Laniado Hospital itself. The gist of the program was whether Rabbi Sher may have personally benefited from the numerous contributions he receives from the building contractors, as well as from other sources. Though he firmly denies this, many do wonder where how he was able to build such a fine home on such choice property, especially on the very modest remuneration that he receives for being on the City Council and as an Orthodox Rabbi.

A major commercial construction project, located in southern Netanya’s Sapir Industrial Park, called Alexander Center, is also connected with Rabbi Sher and his Philanthropic projects. Due to the scale of this project, which contains high tech companies, restaurants, and even a large cinema, the amount of the “contributions” is rumored to be even greater than the amounts previously mentioned. How the Rabbi allowed an American theme restaurant known as Hooters to be opened there remains a mystery, and no one is talking about this mater either.

The general consensus to this story is that if one wants to build a construction project in Netanya, especially a large scale one, he must first deal with Rabbi Sher and make the “appropriate contribution”.

Gaydamak Makes His Move

Billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak is definitely on the move these days. And this move appears to be heading towards a bid to become an important element in Israel’s political scene, with possibilities of even one day becoming the country’s prime minister. After purchasing several Israeli corporations and also the Jerusalem based Beitar Football Club, Arkadi Gaydamak has now heading in some new directions and is increasing his support to a number of philanthropic projects.

Gaydamak has recently been making appearances in a number of Israeli communities, including Netanya and Or Akiva. In Netanya, he strolled through the ‘shuk ‘ or open air public market, where he was enthusiastically greeted by both vendors and shoppers alike. In fact, the loud acclaims of “Gaydamak!, Gaydamak!” were so loud that he couldn’t get a word in edgewise in either Russian, English, or Hebrew – the few Hebrew words he knows that is. At Or Akiva, his next stop on this particular tour, his big black “van-limo” stopped at a religious school and yeshiva where he was also greeted with much enthusiasm. According to sources, he promised the Yeshiva a generous donation of around one million ILS, close to $260,000 at today’s currency rates.

When asked by an accompanying Channel 2 News reporter if his philanthropy appears to be a tactic to gain popularity, he replied: “I’m not buying anything – nothing!” Since the outbreak of the 2006 war in Lebanon and Gaza, Gaydamak has been involved in several projects in which he furnished assistance to those in need, including a tent city for residents of northern Israel who fled the onslaught of missiles fired at them from Hezbollah forces, as well as offering the beleaguered residents of the southern town of Sderot a holiday in Eilat following a siege of Palestinian launched Kassam missiles from near-by Gaza.

Gaydamak has made generous contributions to a number of organizations including the nationwide ambulance and emergency medical service Magen David Adom. He founded his own political party, the Party for Social Justice in February, 2007, with which he plans to enter the next parliamentary election on a right winged platform similar to that of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. While not presently expressing a desire to be either a member of the Knesset or the prime minister, Gaydamak does appear very interested in becoming the next mayor of Jerusalem; a position in which his ownership of the Beitar Football Club would be a definite asset.

Although the next elections are at least a year away, Gaydamak appears to be conducting an impressive enough PR campaign that may bear him significant political fruit. When asked if he thought his lack of Hebrew might be a problem, he replied: “I don’t need to speak! My actions are louder than words! Besides, I will have a proper “team” to conduct the affairs of government.”

Team or not, it appears that Arkadi Gaydamak is moving in the direction he wants to head in. And that “direction” might lead him all to way the top.

Tiv Taam: Strike Three

Tiv Taam CatAhh, Tiv Taam: that non-kosher Israeli supermarket chain that always seems to be in the news these days – from an adverse publicity mode, that is. Once again the chain has been the subject of intense investigation by the Channel 2 TV watch dog program, Kolbotek, narrated by Rafi Ginat. And as in previous investigations, the problem still seems to center around the way the chain’s poultry products are handled prior to sale to the general public.

For some reason, the big ‘beef’ against this chain, which still enjoys high popularity among the Israeli public, especially those from the former Soviet Union, continues to be in regards to how chicken and other poultry products, including eggs, are received, processed, and eventually sold. Kolbotek recently sent several of its secret cameramen to Tiv Taam’s main meat processing plant in Rishon L’Zion, outside of Tel Aviv. What appeared to transpire there is definitely an eye-opener, as it was divulged that boxes of fresh poultry delivered to the location are left sitting in the unloading area for hours before finally taken into the plant’s cold storage rooms. No matter if it rained or shined, the boxes might be left sitting there for a long enough period to ‘culture’ millions of e coli and salmonella bacteria, as well as a host of other creepy crawlies.

What really amazed most viewers, however was the presence of scores of fat cats who wandered around the premises at will and feasted on meals of raw chicken and other meat products. It wasn’t that Tiv Taam employees felt sorry for the cats and threw them tasty tidbits. The cats received their nourishment from the chickens that had been delivered to the plant for sale to Tiv Taam customers! None of cats appeared to be hungry; and in fact, most of them were even a great deal overweight. One cat in particular was photographed near some “food” and didn’t touch it as he (or she) had already eaten more than enough.

Cat and other animal lovers are probably thrilled to hear about how well this company is taking care of its “feline friends” Others, however, are not too happy to learn about this. Rafi and the Kolbotek gang also referred back to previous Tiv Taam transgressions which included ‘doctoring’ up chickens with a vinegar and water solution to remove the spoiled smell from poultry that was ‘way past it’s selling prime’. The excessively large numbers of bacteria found on the poultry at that time (nearly two years ago) was way above the maximum limit for safe human consumption. The cats don’t seem to mind all those ‘bugs’, however.

Throughout all of these investigations, little or not mention of the company’s non-kosher or treiff meat products have been mentioned, other than the fact that these products are sold in large quantities; as well as non-kosher fish products including shellfish and sturgeon. Perhaps the Kolbotek people know that it’s better to keep a “hands off” approach to the non-kosher meats in order to placate religious viewers. All of this adverse publicity has no doubt delighted the religious public, who would like to see the chain, which is open on the Sabbath and religious holidays closed down for good.

It’s too bad that the people running this chain didn’t get the message and clean up their act before the entire problem reached this stage. For many, Tiv Taam has been a nice alternative to many of the regular kosher supermarkets who seem to always have the same grocery products and are even a bit on the boring side. Being open on the weekends has also been a plus, especially when people run out of certain items; especially vegetables, bread and dairy products.

This is the third time that Tiv Taam has been hauled onto the carpet regarding it’s poultry products (the second time involved eggs not under refrigeration and sold long after their saleable date). The company’s owners, who tried recently to unload the food chain on Billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, don’t seem to care about all the bad vibes being received. It may still be a bit premature, but with “three strikes” against them, Tiv Taam may discover that as in the case of an American Major League baseball game, they could be on the verge of ‘striking out’!


The old saying: “you can run but you can’t hide” caught up Thursday with Boaz Yona when he and his wife Tamar were apprehended in a hotel in the resort town of Castel Nuovo, east of the Italian capital of Milan. Yona had been on the lam for nearly two weeks following the disclosure that he had stole large sums of money from people who had purchased apartments from the Israeli construction company Heftsiba, of which Yona is the CEO.

This tangled web of intrigue included Yona’s wife telling local reporters just a couple of days ago that she had “no idea where her husband was”, and that she was “very concerned” about him. Well, her concern must have worked because, as the story goes, she just happened to be found with him and a few of his close associates , in a country that used to famous as a location that fugitives could go to in order to evade the law. This was especially true for Mafia kingpins who use to go to Sicily for special ‘Vaccaciones’.

That special vacation this time didn’t work for this ‘gentleman’ who has fleeced hundreds of people out of monies they paid him to build flats for them. Yona once boasted that his great grandfather walked all the way from his native Afghanistan to what was then Palestine with only a few personal possessions, including a “donkey and a camel”. Judging from what turned out from this illustrious beginning, it might have been better if the Yona family patriarch had remained there in a country that has now become famous for drug dealing, lawlessness and insurgency. Boaz Yona, at whose home the police found illegal substances and ‘smoking paraphernalia’ seems to have inherited this background as well.

The question now is whether Yona will put up a fight against his extradition, or will agree to come back and face the music. The “music” that both he and his wife will face will undoubtedly be the shouts and curses of scores of people who have unfinished apartments sitting forlornly in numerous locations all over Israel.

Stealing from the general public is about a low as a person can go. Ironically, a news program to be aired August 31 on Israel’s Channel 2 TV deals with Etti Ayalon, who stole more than 50 million dollars while working as a bank clerk in Tel Aviv. Although the motive for this action was to help her brother who had gotten himself into big time trouble with criminal elements due to gambling and other debts, Ms. Ayalon’s actions resulted in a number of people who had entrusted their life savings to her “care”, losing virtually everything. A few even committed suicide over this affair with Ayalon being sentenced to 17 years in prison. Virtually none of the stolen money has been recovered.

What Yona’s eventual justice will be has to be decided by a court of law. What will happen to all of the people who entrusted their money to this slime ball is also anybody’s guess, even though a large bank has agreed to stand behind the completion of at least some of the unfinished building projects.

Israeli Fish Story

Old Jaffa Port Fishing Boats
Anybody in Israel who watched the news clip a few days ago about the current situation of the fishing industry in Israel, can see that it has definitely seen better days. Shown on Channel 2, the section included interviews with several commercial fishermen at both the Kishon and Jaffa fishing ports, Israel’s two main fishing ports. The story of the fishermen who berth their boats at the heavily polluted Kishon River (pictured) was especially sad as this port used to provide incomes for both Arab and Jewish fishermen who had sailed into the Mediterranean daily for decades, and perhaps hundreds of years, to catch a variety of fish that were sold in open air fish markets in both Haifa and Acre.

Those few remaining “Diagim” (fisherman) said that their daily catches are now a fraction of what they were even 20 years ago, when fishing was still an economically worthwhile endeavor. Even the types of fish being caught are fewer and fewer, and due to the dangers of the pollution literally pouring into the Kishon from both industrial and municipal waste are making the remaining fish unsafe to eat. It’s understandable that anything being caught in Haifa Bay is contaminated, due to the ‘pristine’ waters of the Kishon flowing into the Mediterranean containing high levels of chemical and metallic substances, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide, and a number of petroleum based pollutants, as well as pesticides. All of these pollutants are in addition to ‘normal’ river pollutants such as detergents, human sewage, and other ‘lovely’ substances such as wastes from food and beverage processing plants.

The situation at the Old Jaffa Port, one of the oldest fishing ports in the world still in operation, is not much better. This port, which has been in existence for perhaps 3,000 years, used to support a large number of families living in historic Jaffa; now a part of metro Tel Aviv. Though there is not the Kishon River to contend with, there is a serious pollution problem from both the Yarkon river, in North Tel Aviv, as well as wholesale dumping of sewage and other pollutants into the Mediterranean from industries who connect their waste piping to the already overloaded municipal sewage disposal network, with frequent disastrous results. Many of the fishing boats in this port sit sadly moored to their pier, and wholesale fish markets located nearby offer less and less varieties of sea fish, with much of their offerings consisting of pond raised fish such as carp, grey mullet, and St. Peters fish (also called ‘musht’ or Amnon).

Even local sport fisherman are complaining that they do not catch nearly what could be found by fishing off the quays and jetties of both Jaffa and Haifa; not to mention numerous locations along Israel’s long Mediterranean seacoast. Many species of fish that were once quite common are now rarely seen or have disappeared altogether.

To combat the substantial decrease of fish along Israel’s seacoast, Ministry of Agriculture and Nature Protection authorities are seriously considering placing a one or two year moratorium on commercial fishing; or until the numbers of local salt water fish can recuperate themselves. This might be a partial solution; but what really needs to be done is find better ways to combat the pollution in a body of water that is almost completely enclosed; and whose only link to the Atlantic Ocean is the very narrow Straits of Gibraltar, making the Mediterranean one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. Though Israel isn’t entirely responsible for the marked decrease in the “Med’s” marine life, Israeli authorities, and the general public, are responsible for the amount of pollutants which are dumped daily into the sea.

There has to be some way for both Israel and other nations who share sea coasts on the Mediterranean to find ways to restore this body of water to what it was in former years. The fishing dilemmas that our country faces is no less urgent than other Mediterranean countries as we’re all fishing in the same ‘pond’.

Can I help it if all women love me?

Let’s face it, everybody, and let’s give ‘credit’ where credit is due. Judging from the outcome of former Israeli president Moshe Katzav’s plea bargaining agreement, and his interview Tuesday on Israel’s Channel 2 television station, it now appears that the former president believes that he is so “cool” that women literally fell all over him. Katzav seems to be under the illusion that women he worked with, particularly the ones who lodged complaints against him, fell for his irresistible charms and only blew the whistle on him after he refused to pay them compensation that in once case amounted to more than $200 ,000.

State prosecutor, Manny Mazuz, in an interview with reporters over the weekend, said that his office made the decision to drop the charges of rape if Katzav admitted to lesser crimes such as sexual harassment and intimidation, and other forms of sexual misconduct in order to “spare the State and the Israeli people the embarrassment of a lengthily trial” against such a high ranking figure.

The bottom line in this saga is that Katzav appears to be being spared any kind of prison term, and only has to pay financial compensation – probably a much lower amount than he should have to pay since his actions have ruined the lives of the women who are accusing him of such dire crimes; especially the one known to everyone as “A.”

If the former president’s crimes are as terrible as “A” and his other accusers say they are, then the only conclusion we can draw is that a lot more than just the sexual philandering of a well known public figure are at stake here. Many people, who attended the demonstration last Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin square, are saying: “we have all been raped (as a result of Katzav’s actions)” .

Years ago, it used to be said that young female soldiers were often victims to this kind of harassment by their male commanding officers; and only within the past few years has this fact been brought to the attention of the news media – and of course, the general public. This problem has now expanded itself to be reaching all sections of both the public and private sector; and, in the case of Moshe Katzav, is reaching all the way to the top.

The saga of Moshe Katzav, and the cases against him, is still far from over as too many people living in Israel – in all walks of life – are not prepared to accept the decision of Mr. Mezuz and his legal staff. As for Mr. Katzav himself, if he is so ‘lovable’ as he paints himself to be, let him prove it by showing a bit more remorse for his actions instead of trying to present himself as being a scapegoat of both the media and the public at large.

You did what you did, Mr. Katzav. So be a man and admit it!

End near for Israel’s non-Kosher supermarket chain?

The sudden revelation on Israeli television channels that “a certain billionaire” is about to complete a buyout of the Tiv-Taam non-kosher supermarket chain is certain to bring smiles to the country’s religious community; and frowns – even tears – to the secular community. Tiv Taam, which came into the being in the spring of 2002, has become a popular alternative to other food chains which are kosher and definitely closed on the Jewish Sabbath and religious holidays.

Reported amount of the buyout is $100 million.

Tiv TaamTiv Taam, which has stores in all major cities, has become very popular with many segments of the population, particularly those from the former Soviet Union and with foreign diplomats and relocated foreign workers. In fact, Tiv Taam’s entry into Israel’s consumer market has resulted in lost revenues for many established supermarket chains, and even resulted in some branches actually closing (Kosmos in Kibbutz Gaash is a good example).

Tiv Taam’s popularity has been marred by scandal, however, as its poultry products, including eggs were found to contain high levels of bacteria and unfit for human consumption. Television news and consumer protection programs, including the popular Kolbotek program on Channel 2, did extensive investigations and found that the store chain’s poultry was being labeled with false dates, way beyond the accepted time limit for marketing fresh produce. Interviews with store employees revealed that the meat was being soaked in a mixture of vinegar and water to eliminate any bad odors; a sure tale indication of spoilage.

Tiv Taam ended the year 2006 with a 27 million dollar loss, largely due to the bad T.V. publicity and other problems. Despite its efforts to recover, including offering special discounts and making internal store changes, the food chain which offered what many considered to be the most complete non-kosher food selection ever available in the Jewish State is rumored to undergo a 180 degree transformation into a chain offering only kosher food products. What this means to all the chain’s enthusiastic patrons is that not only will shrimp and other sea foods, pork products and the like will no longer be available, it will no longer be possible to shop there on Saturdays and during Jewish festivals such as Pesach. Passover is unique, as a full range of ‘Hametz’, or not kosher for Passover food products (especially breads) were readily available during the 7 day festival.

The chains’ owners paid considerable fines through the years for its marketing practices, including being open on Shabbat; but this was simply considered as a “cost of doing business”.

The new changes, when brought into effect, will bring home the reality of trying to do an unorthodox style of business in a country where the Orthodox Jewish establishment still maintains a lot of clout. This is particularly true if this “certain billionaire” purchaser just happens to be religious.

Despite this revelation, the experience of the past several years will not bring the situation back to what it was before Tiv Taam came into being as many smaller food stores were already open on Saturdays, and large gas station chains have recently opened food convenience stores within their stations, most of them open on the ‘weekends’,

Still, Tiv Taam has been a unique experiment, whose marketing strategies are bound to remain in the minds of the country’s majority secular public for years to come.

Palestinian Unity – United Against Whom?

Heniya & Abbas Announcement of the formation of a Palestinian “National Unity” government hasn’t been positively received by neither Israel nor the United States. Following a state of near civil war between factions led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, the two groups finally agreed to form a Palestinian version of a government of national unity. Almost immediately after this feat was done, with kisses and smiles by the two sides, P.A. Prime Minister Haniyeh repeated his party’s announcement that the new government had no plans to recognize Israel. Israeli P.M. Olmert countered by declaring that Israel would not recognize the new government, and will continue its boycott as long as current policies were in place.

These policies include continuance of terror attacks against Israeli targets, smuggling of weapons into P.A. territory, and the continued holding of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Shalit, who has been held captive by Palestinian terrorists (and perhaps formally by Hamas itself) has not been heard from since his capture at the end on June, 2006. The only indication that he may still be alive comes from a letter in January, 2007, which reportedly was written by the captive soldier to his parents.

The new government did enable some commerce to take place between Israel and the P.A. when more than 1,300 tons of strawberries, 18 million flowers, and 1,600 tons of fresh vegetables were allowed to pass from Gaza to Israeli and European markets via the Karni Checkpoint. Even that gesture was shattered on Monday with a Palestinian instigated shooting attack against Israeli transport drivers and electrical workers. When asked about this incident, and how it might effect future relations between the two sides, P.A. government spokesman Naazi Hamed said that despite this shooting incident Palestinian P.M. Haniyeh “will make all efforts to keep the ceasefire in effect between Palestine and Israel”. Those ‘efforts’ apparently haven’t worked though, in light of Monday’s shooting incident. When asked by a Channel 2 reporter if Cpl Shalit’s fate will be decided soon, Mr. Hamed didn’t seem to have any good news either. “We (the new P.A. government) are making all efforts to solve this issue” he continued.

As a side note, it seems that some European governments are agreeing to recognize the new P.A. government as being official. The Swiss government was one of the first to send their ambassador from Israel to meet with both Haniyeh and Abbas. Even the U.S. government, though not officially recognizing the new P.A. entity announced that they would still meet with Mr. Abbas and his ministers. Since they (Abbas and the PLO) are now part of the new N.U. government, this announcement on behalf of the American government is almost like de-facto recognition.

The Israeli military is watching events in Gaza very closely; and despite the shooting incident is showing remarkable restraint. How long this restraint can continue, especially in light of Monday’s terror incident is anybody’s guess.

One might wonder what Yasser Arafat, the founding father of the PLO, and whose call for armed resistance continued throughout his life, would have done in the present situation. With Arafat in charge, it would surely be “business as usual”.

And with Abbas and Haniyeh now running the show, Arafat would have smiled.

Alone! Israeli President “Cornered” in Official Residence

Katzav Going Nuts Yesterday

Israel President Moshe Katzav is really finding out how lonely it is at the top. This is especially true after being accused by his country’s top legal watchdog, Menny Mazuz, of crimes ranging from rape to sexual harassment, fraudulent misrepresentation of facts, and cover ups for other similar deeds. After the official announcement by the State Prosecutor was announced on January 23, Mr. Katzav seems unwilling and unable to come to terms with reality. His speech today at his official residence in Jerusalem, before members of the press, was an exercise in absurdity, with Mr. Katzav adamantly claiming his innocence and expressing his feelings of being victimized by his country’s media, especially the ones representing Channel 2 TV.

Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, himself feeling the heat of possible indictments for a number of wrongdoings, has called for Katzav to resign his office immediately. An editorial in today’s issue of the Jerusalem Post states that Katzav can do whatever he needs to do to “clear his name”, but should resign his office for the good of the country. The only problem, for Mr. Katzav anyway, is that the crimes he is accused of being involved in are more than just an issue of “clearing his name”. In fact, they are serious enough to give Mr. Katzav another residence to live in that will be a bit more ‘cramped’ than the spacious one he and his wife have been enjoying for the past six and a half years.

Not being a graphic artist, I can only give an idea what a good political cartoon should be concerning the future domicile of Mr. Katzav. It goes something like this:
The scene takes place at Ayalon Prison where we see serial rapist Benny Sela sitting in his prison cell looking at a tattered copy of Hustler Magazine. The prison warden is yelling out to Sela, “Hey Benny, You’ve not got company!” And following along behind the warden, and carrying his consignment of prison uniform, blankets, etc., is none other than…………… (I’ll let you, the ready figure this one out!).

It’s not a pretty situation by any measure, and in order to prevent the State of Israel from being castigated by the world for drifting from the absurd to the ridiculous, the only alternative that President Katzav has left now is to resign his post and exit, stage right.

He needs to do this not only to preserve what’s left of his own dignity, but that of his county’s as well.

The writer is a freelance journalist and political commentator

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