The Home of the Prime Minister

My focus in this blog is on a post written by Michal Diament (http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5004471,00.html), the granddaughter of the seventh Prime Minister of Israel (1983-1984 and 1986-1992), Yitzhak Shamir (1915-2012). In order to clarify the background of the Michal Diamant post, one must mention criticism of Israel’s present prime minister. I like the life reflected in Michal Diament’s post, and I am not criticizing anyone else.

During the visit of the U.S. President Trump and the First Lady at the prime minister’s house in Israel (5/22/17), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the P.M.’s house was whitewashed in preparation for the visit of the U.S. president.

President Trump and the First lady Melania Trump with P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and First Lady Sara Netanyahu
President Trump and the First lady Melania Trump with P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and First Lady Sara Netanyahu

The official house of the prime minister of Israel belongs to the state, and it is maintained by the state. It is the residence of the prime minister and his family, and includes an office.

In recent years, Prime Minister Netanyahu faced criticism for spending taxpayer money for unnecessary expenses and for accepting lavish gifts. This blog does not focus either on the veracity of these claims or on the propriety of these expenses.

In the course of the investigation against the P.M. and his wife, Nicole Raidman, a businesswoman and a close friend of the Netanyahu family, made videos of the house provided to the Prime Minister and commented on its condition. Raidman described in the video the condition of the P.M. house as shockingly dilapidated and moldy, with mildew, a crumbling ceiling and an oven that is out of order, etc. It could be that the reaction of the granddaughter of P.M. Yitzhak Shamir was triggered not only by the content of the videos but also by the tone of voice and choice of words of Ms. Raidman.

It was asked who is holding back the renovations and why, for after all their cost is insignificant in comparison with other expenses.

Michal Diament wrote:

I saw today [8-16-17] Nicole Raidman’s film of the inside of the house of the Prime Minister, and I must admit that I was shocked by what was in the film.
I know this house well, the prime minister’s residence. I spent a lot of time in it when I was a girl. More precisely, almost every weekend for four years.
So it is true. It has been over than twenty years ago (wow I feel old), but I still remember pretty well the sights from there.
I remember the kitchen upstairs […], also the kitchen and the dining room downstairs. I remember the bedrooms, the backyard and the living room.
From the upstairs kitchen, I remember the good aromas of the food dishes and of the family meals that were held there every Friday evening.
Oil painting on Canvas, welcoming Shabbat
Oil painting on Canvas, welcoming Shabbat
There were no old biscuits in the oven from the time of the previous prime minister, because there was no room for them. The oven was full with stuffed vegetables and meatloaf and various dishes that my grandmother had prepared.
The elevator between the two kitchens existed, but I do not recall seeing it working because there was really no need for it. Every kitchen beautifully functioned by itself. The food dishes were made on site, and takeout food was not ordered from the Segev Restaurant.
The faucets were not made of gold, but the ambiance and the tastes that were there were worth much more than gold.
Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat Shalom
On the balcony upstairs, we had a plastic water hose that we used in the summer for water game. In the courtyard below, we had a small hammock, and this was -- from our point of view --the height of luxury.
In the dining room downstairs, we held the Passover Seder that included 20, 30 and even 40 people, together with the security men who had to work on the evening of the holiday, but celebrated with us at the table. The cooking for this big Passover evening was done in the kitchen downstairs, mainly by my grandmother, without any complaint about the kitchen quality, which already then – it should be noted -- was not new or particularly renovated. The food came out amazing, of course.
Passover seder in redecorated Family Dining Room, White House, April 2015, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Oba
Passover seder in redecorated Family Dining Room, White House, April 2015, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder
I do not remember the furniture and the carpets in the downstairs living room, but I do remember the old grand piano, the decorative objects and the many books that gave the place a feeling of splendor and honor.
And I mostly remember that no one ever preoccupied himself with how the house looked and whether it was renovated, luxurious or not.
P.M Yitzhak Shamir with his granddaughter Michal Diamant
P.M Yitzhak Shamir with his granddaughter Michal Diamant
So now, when I saw the film of Ms. Raidman, which is reasonable to assume was done with the knowledge and approval of the Netanyahus, I was shocked.
I was shaken by the preoccupation with nonsense, with trivial things and materialism--instead of dealing with what is called life itself. I was shaken by the couple's obsession with the way the house looked and the attempt to portray themselves through horribly populist ways as miserable. I was shaken by the fact this is what interests our leaders, and that these are the heroes of their culture. Sad. (Translated by Lev Hakak).

The extended family ate together on Friday nights with love and unity. The food was prepared by the grandmother, take out was not an option. The ambiance was not the product of expensive gadgets; appliances did not determine the quality of food or family time. They could do much with what they had before focusing on having more bigger and expensive new objects.

The Talmud (the collection of Jewish law and tradition) tells that when Alexander of Macedon found the entrance of the Garden of Eden he raised his voice and requested,

“Open the gate for me!” They said to him: “This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter” [Psalms 118:20, KJV]. He replied: “I, too, am a lord; I, too, am a king, I am significant, give me a token [I am distinguished and I was here].” They gave him a skull.
When he returned [to his place], he weighed all his silver and gold on a scale over against the skull, and the silver and gold did not tip the scale. He asked the sages: “What is this?” They replied, “It is a human eyeball, that which is never satisfied.” He asked, “How do you know that’s how it is?” They replied, “Take a handful of dust and cover the eyeball.” He did so, and at once the silver and gold tipped the scale” (Bavli, Tamid, 32b. Translated: Lev Hakak).
Alexander the Great in the Temple of Jerusalem. Sebastiano Conca,, 1736
Alexander the Great in the Temple of Jerusalem. Sebastiano Conca,, 1736

The weight of the eyeball in the skull demonstrated to Alexander the Great that a human being is covetous, he always wants more. The granddaughter of the P.M. reminds us that it is better to want more love, meaning, care, commitment, stability, simplicity, respect, honesty, modesty and consideration, not objects. I am certain that both prime ministers know it.

Here are Raidman’s videos (in Hebrew):

Here is the meeting of the President with the P.M.:

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