After a tough week, during which he was widely criticized for his decision to enter a unity government with the Likud, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz revealed his sensitive side in a one-on-one interview aired on Channel 2 Saturday evening.
Mofaz was the guest on “Who’s coming to dinner,” a show that airs intimate discussions with the people behind the headlines, where he spoke about his family, his childhood and the people he admires.
Mofaz (64) divided his childhood into two periods — before and after his family’s arrival in Israel from Tehran, where he was born.
He said his first time on a plane was at the age of nine, when his family moved to Israel. That was also the first time he experienced real hardship, after his father’s factory went bankrupt shortly after arriving.
Mofaz recounted the difficulties his parents had in putting food on the family table and the somberness that accompanied the difficult financial times. He said he always admired his parents’ resilience and dignity in the face of the challenges.
Mofaz said he first became fully exposed to Israeli society when he was sent off to boarding school as an adolescent. He recalled being desperate to fit in and become a “real Israeli,” a status he felt he eventually gained when he joined the army.
Much of Mofaz’s life was spent in uniform, but the career soldier, who eventually became the Chief of General Staff, was initially rejected from attending officers academy. When asked if he was angry at the army for curbing his ambition, he said that he didn’t let it get to him and applied again at the first available opportunity.
Mofaz said he wasn’t home very often during his years in the military and that his family, and especially his wife, made many sacrifices, including moving home 15 times.
“I couldn’t make it to all the birthdays and parent-teacher meetings, but I tried to make up for it on weekends,” said Mofaz. He added that now that he’s a grandfather, he’s making up for the times he was missing from his children’s lives by spending as much time as possible with his grandson Goni.
He called his wife Orit his first love. The two have been together since he was a junior officer. They met while serving together and got married soon after she was discharged.
“Who’s coming to dinner” asks participants to put together a theoretical guest list for a fantasy dinner party, allowing them to add any person they want either alive or dead.
The most surprising name on Mofaz’s list was Yoni Netanyahu. Brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yoni Netanyahu was an Israeli hero who died in the legendary Israeli rescue raid at Entebbe in 1976, a mission that Mofaz also took part in. Mofaz revealed that Yoni Netanyahu was a personal friend and said that he had learnt a lot from him.
“At Entebbe I heard him speaking on the radio and saw him while he was getting treated before he died,” said a misty-eyed Mofaz.
Another person on Mofaz’s guest list was former prime minister Menachem Begin. In a moment of irony, Mofaz said he admired Begin for his patience. “He was willing to wait in the opposition for 20 years before becoming prime minister,” said Mofaz, who himself spent less than a month as opposition chairman before signing a deal with Netanyahu to join the coalition.
Other people on Mofaz’s guest list were: his father, Zionist hero Hannah Senesh and singer Yehudit Ravitz.
The last seat at the table went to a fictional character, an animated lion from a popular children’s book, that Mofaz said he often reads to his Grandson.
“If I were an animal, I would choose to be a lion,” said Mofaz.