At funeral, Israel’s leaders praise Shamir’s dedication and service

Israel’s leaders paid tribute to former Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir at his funeral at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery.

An intimate but distinguished crowd sat opposite a military honor guard at the outdoor ceremony on Monday evening. Joining Shamir’s children and grandchildren in attendance were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; President Shimon Peres; the head of the Israeli Defense Forces, Benny Gantz; the Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar; and other political, religious and military leaders.

Shamir died Saturday at the age of 96. He served as Israel’s prime minister from 1983 to 1984, and from 1986 to 1992.

Peres, who was both Shamir’s coalition partner and main political opponent in the 1980s, praised Shamir’s strong beliefs and called him “a leader who followed his path until he departed this world” and “one of the best leaders of Israeli democracy.” Peres alluded to his and Shamir’s ideological differences several times throughout his eulogy, but emphasized that “we were sons of the same nation.”

In his eulogy, Netanyahu stressed Shamir’s lifetime of service to the state, noting that Shamir fought in an underground militia before Israel’s founding, and then as a secret Mossad agent afterwards, until he reached positions of leadership.

“He was a known man, but even then it seemed that in his heart and his actions he kept looking at himself as that anonymous soldier for his people and land,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli military commander loses post following rifle-butt incident

Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner was dismissed from his command post following an investigation into an incident in which the Israeli soldier hit a Danish pro-Palestinian activist in the face with his rifle.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz relieved Eisner of his position as deputy division commander on “moral grounds,” according to the IDF. Gantz said the probe also showed professional and command failures.

In addition to losing his command, Eisner will not become deputy commander of the Bahd 1 officers’ training school and will be ineligible to serve in commanding positions for the next two years.

Eisner had been suspended from his post late Sunday, hours after a video of the incident was posted on YouTube by the International Solidarity Movement. The incident occurred during a protest bike ride in the Jordan Valley. Four activists were wounded, Haaretz reported.

Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Central Command chief of the IDF, on Sunday ordered an immediate investigation into the incident. Military Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avi Mandelblit also ordered a criminal investigation of Eisner.

Eisner was interrogated by Military Police investigators for the first time Monday evening, Ynet reported.

Eisner reportedly said he regretted the incident, but said the video represents one minute out of a two-hour event in which the protesters attacked the soldiers, breaking one of Eisner’s fingers and injuring his wrist. He is seen later in the video with his wrist and finger in a white bandage.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s office on Tuesday night released a statement condemning the incident.

“The defense minister has determined, in closed conversations, that there is no contradiction between carrying out operations, appropriate behavior and preserving the principles and spirit of the IDF,” said the statement.

The statement also said that Eisner’s statements in defense of his actions “are not accepted by the defense minister and were never acceptable by the IDF.”

Approximately 200 activists, including Palestinians from the West Bank and foreign activists, rode their bikes along Route 90, the Jordan Valley’s main north-south route, on April 14 to protest what the ISM calls on its website “regular harassment and attacks from Israeli settlers and soldiers.” Israeli soldiers halted the activists, who were blocking the main thoroughfare to traffic and began taking away their bicycles.

According to Ynet, Eisner said he did not use a water cannon that he had at the scene in order to disperse the protesters because there was an ongoing dialogue and he wanted to end the event peacefully.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, saying that “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”

A Swinging Time

Joe and Harry Gantz, of the HBO peephole-fest "Taxicab Confessions," say it’s a good thing they attend Reform Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills. "It’s the most liberal synagogue in town," says Harry, 43, the more easygoing Gantz. "No one raises eyebrows about what we do."

Cinematic voyeurism is what the brothers do best. In 1995 — before shows like "Survivor" launched the reality TV craze — "Taxicab" broke boundaries (and earned Emmy nominations) by filming passengers with five hidden, lipstick-size cameras. Strippers, morticians, junkies and grandmothers spilled their guts to the cabbies, who were told what to say by the Gantzes (they communicated via earpiece from a van). The Washington Post praised the brothers for shaping "their material so that it seems neither voyeuristic nor judgmental."

The brothers took the same approach to "Sex With Strangers," a feature-length documentary about the swinging lifestyle, opening today in Los Angeles. The stark film, which focuses on three couples, is a narrower portrait than David Schisgall’s 2001 doc, "The Lifestyle," which offers a broader social perspective.

During an interview in their Woodland Hills office — where a dusty "Confessions" cab graces the front yard — the Gantzes described how they got the idea for the movie. "When we were filming ‘Taxicab’ in Las Vegas, we picked up a couple from a swing club called The Red Rooster," says Joe, 47, the more soft-spoken, intense Gantz. "They started talking very matter-of-factly about these over-the-top sexual experiences, and we began to wonder if the experiences impacted other aspects of their relationship."

After scouring swingers clubs and magazines around the country, the brothers eventually settled on three couples, including a pair of Washington state medical professionals who cruised bars in their RV "love boat." To shoot the sex scenes (which constitute only seven minutes of the film), the Gantzes watched on a remote monitor while directing cameraman via an earpiece. The startlingly unsexy movie has more to say about jealousy than sex, prompting the tagline, "And you thought monogamy was hard."

Since the controversial movie was filmed, four of the subjects have lost their jobs — including a National Guard helicopter pilot a year shy of retirement. "We felt terrible about that, but I don’t feel our work exploits anyone," insists Joe, who’s also a writer and photographer. "We’re giving regular people the chance to tell their story in a straightforward, nonjudgmental way."

The brothers — whose office is lined with photos of their respective wives and children — trace their approach in part to their Jewish roots in Cincinnati. Their open-minded parents refused to follow the white flight out of their inner-city neighborhood, so most of the brothers’ childhood friends were black. "Our folks believed in the Jewish tradition of questioning, and that sexuality is an integral part of the psyche," says Joe, who like his brother had a Reform bar mitzvah.

Adds Harry, a former actor-director: "It’s no coincidence that Freud was Jewish."

Probing human nature was the goal when the Gantzes teamed up to make their first cinema vérité-style documentary, "Couples Arguing," for PBS in 1987. They found couples willing to beep them the moment they started fighting and to retreat to separate rooms until the filmmakers rushed over.

"Taxicab Confessions" came about when networks refused to buy their series, "Life at Random," about people whose names were plucked out of a phone book. "But we were able to convince HBO to do ‘Life at Random’ in a cab," Joe notes.

Today, the brothers are proffering even rawer fare on their Web site, Crushed Planet, and they are also developing a fictional feature film that’s the virtual opposite of "Sex With Strangers." "It’s a comedy about monogamy," Joe says. "It explores what it’s like to be married."

"Sex With Strangers" opens May 3 at the Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information call (310) 478-6379.