Sisterhood Blog

Behind Every Scandalized Prime Minister...

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

It is said that behind every powerful man is a strong woman. In the professional realm, it is conceivable that a woman who begins as a personal secretary could evolve into an “office manager” — and beyond. But whatever her title, her real value to her employer is her steadfast loyalty, her willingness to keep any secrets or flaws under wraps and to act as a gatekeeper and caretaker to the man. She agressively protects and promotes him with unshaking loyalty. For Shula Zaken, that man was Ehud Olmert. Zaken was hired at Olmert’s Jerusalem law office job when she was just 17. And she remained by his side on his professional climb as Knesset member, Jerusalem mayor, Industry Minister and up to the lofty perch of the Prime Minister’s office.

But in recent years, the trip has been downwards into the depths of scandal, and this week, landed the 53-year-old wife and mother in a prison cell shortly after she stepped off an airplane, having come from her Los Angeles vacation.

As the stomach-turning details of the Holyland bribery scandal unfold, Zaken has been cast by the media as Olmert’s coiffed and manicured Dragon Lady accomplice, sharing in his ill-gotten spoils of corruption. Now, she sits in a cell the Neve Tirzah women’s prison.

All of Israel is watching as police confront her with the evidence against her and, perhaps, offer her a deal in exchange for testimony against Olmert. She faces charges of serving as a pipeline for bribes from businessmen to Olmert in exchange for political favors, taking some of the bribe money for herself and money laundering. She is also accused of interfering with police investigations against Olmert and herself by refusing to answer questions. Thus far, her loyalty has appeared unshakable. During earlier legal proceedings, reporters observed:

Olmert and Zaken have shared the defendants’ bench at the Jerusalem District Court in recent months. They hardly talk to each other during the hearings, but their close relationship is evident. A few weeks ago, when Olmert’s eyes almost closed during the tedious debates, Zaken made sure he got a cup of coffee.

She can keep him caffeinated, but can she — and will she — keep him out of jail? Zaken appears to be in a no-win situation as far as public opinion is concerned. If she becomes a state witness and testifies against him, she will be viewed as a traitor. If she refuses, she will be viewed as having taken the fall gal for the real villain — and a woman who has proved that there is such a thing as being too loyal.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shula Zaken, Holyland, Ehud Olmert

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.