EXACTLY A year ago, Yoel Schalit and his girlfriend, Yaara Winkler, caused a
sensation at the opening of the Israel Independence Day celebrations on Mount
Herzl when they disrupted the beacon-lighting ceremony to demand the release of
Yoel’s younger brother Gilad Schalit, who was then still a captive of Hamas.
Together with other activists who were convinced that the government could do
more than it was already doing to bring Gilad home, the couple waved placards
proclaiming that Gilad is still alive. Now all that is behind them, and Gilad is
indeed alive and well and adapting to civilian life as he waits to attend their
wedding. Like thousands of other Israelis affected by the plight of Gilad
Schalit, who spent five years in captivity, Winkler, a university student from
Beersheba, came to the Schalit tent in Jerusalem to show solidarity with the
campaign for Gilad Schalit’s release. There she met and instantly clicked with
Yoel Schalit, and for the past three years the two have been a couple.
it was obvious to everyone who knew them that they would eventually get married,
there was no talk of a wedding while the struggle for Gilad’s freedom continued.
But on Passover, the festival of freedom, the couple announced that the wedding
will take place sometime toward the end of the summer – and, of course, Gilad
will be there.
■ ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENCE Day is known to many in the
country’s Arab community as Nakba, the “day of catastrophe.” There will
be the usual rallies and demonstrations – hopefully without violence. But
not all Arabs are joining in the Nakba commemorations. At least one will
be part of the Independence Day celebrations. Ayman Toamy, an Israeli Arab and
father of two, has been selling fruits and vegetables in Even Yehuda for seven
years and is a well-respected and popular character there. He will be joining
forces with Wendy Davis, a single mother who made aliya from England with her
two daughters, Danielle and Zoe, in 1993 and has been living in Even Yehuda for
the past 10 years.
For much of her time in Israel, Davis worked as a
fund-raiser for Beit Issie Shapiro, and two years ago, in pursuit of a dream to
work close to home and open her own business, she gave up her job to open a
boutique ice cream parlor in Even Yehuda that goes by the name of Danzo Gelato.
The name is taken from the first syllables of the names of her daughters. Many
of the store proprietors in Even Yehuda will be operating stalls at the
Independence Day celebrations, including Davis and Toamy, who will be operating
a stall together, with the main feature being a display of blue and white ice
cream consisting of vanilla and tutifruiti flavors. The whole enterprise will be
a demonstration of coexistence in more ways than one.
■ IS MA’ARIV
antagonistic toward Nili Priel, the second wife and sweetheart of Defense
Minister Ehud Barak’s youth? In last Friday’s weekend magazine, Ma’ariv ran a
cover story on the minister’s first wife, Nava Barak, who is now married to
businessman Shalom Zinger. It also ran a big feature in its news pages about
Priel, who illegally employed a foreign worker and will soon have her day in
court to answer to charges. The photo of Nava Barak on the cover of the magazine
was highly flattering. She is an attractive-looking woman under any
circumstances, but on this occasion she looked like a fashion model and nowhere
near a woman in her mid- 60s. There was a photo of Priel in the feature story on
Barak and much larger photo in the news story about Priel. Both photos
were highly unflattering and did not do justice to Priel, whose real life image
is considerably better than that conveyed by the camera. To Nava Barak’s credit,
she did not say one negative thing about her exhusband or his wife. On the
contrary, she said she had some very good memories, but emphasized several times
that she’s in a different place now and very much in love with her present
husband, who is family oriented, romantic and spontaneous.
■ WHEN SHE
decided to hold her birthday party at the Montefiore Restaurant in the Konrad
Adenauer Center in Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim, it never occurred to
society photographer and columnist Sara Davidovich that she was embarking on a
public relations venture. All she wanted was to sit down to a good meal with her
daughter Karin, her granddaughters and several good friends, some of whom have
known her since babyhood, which was a long time ago, given that she's been
married for 41 years.
Davidovich had not issued any formal invitations,
but simply called up friends spontaneously to invite them, and was therefore
uncertain how many would turn up. A long table had been set up in the center of
the dining room, but it soon proved to not be long enough and the waiter kept
adding tables as more guests arrived. Mimi Kanfu, who has been Davidovich’s
close friend since she taught Davidovitch’s daughter in grade one, talked about
her unfailing generosity not just to family and friends but to anyone she meets.
The sentiment was echoed by Ruth Nissim, the wife of former Justice Minister
Moshe Nissim, who said that Davidovich has brought a fresh approach to
journalism in that she only seeks the positive qualities in people rather than
the negative and never waits in a corner to catch someone in an embarrassing
Others agreed, nothing that Davidovich almost always flashes a
brilliant smile that instantly conveys a welcoming attitude. Fellow society
photographer and columnist Eti Salansky has much the same attitude and, although
she and Davidovich work for different publications, they prefer to cooperate
rather than compete and are the best of friends. Among the other friends who
attended were Simi Mor, Rochele Barashi, Revital Balashnikov, Lilly Rubin,
Rochele Kirstein and artist Tammy Gutman.
Daughter Karin read a poem
about her mother, extolling Davidovich’s virtues. What she didn't mention was
that after four decades of marriage, her mother is still walking – even running
– around in four-inch stilettos.
■ DIFFERENT STROKES for different folks.
Everyone sees things from their own perspective. Thus, two e-mails
received last week with regard to Lithuania contained vastly different
messages. Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Jerusalem office of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center and describes himself as the “Chief Nazi Hunter,” sent out a
message stating: “There is no government that is doing more to systematically
promote Holocaust distortion and the canard of equivalency between Communist and
Nazi crimes than Lithuania. The problem also exists today in the other
Baltic countries and is endemic in post-Communist Europe.” Zuroff went on
to explain that during the Holocaust, 96.4 percent of Lithuania’s Jewish
population was murdered by local collaboration. He quoted an unnamed
historian who once said, “It was safer to be a Jew in Berlin than in Lithuania.”
In recent years, Zuroff continued, in the wake of the transition from Communism
to democracy, many Eastern European countries, including Lithuania, were forced
to confront Holocaust-related issues, significantly influencing their foreign
policy as well as relations with Israel and world Jewry.
Lithuania, the government began supporting a series of steps to deemphasize the
history of local participation in Holocaust crimes and focus attention on the
suffering of the victims of Communism in Eastern Europe. In the wake of these
steps taken by the Lithuanian government, there has been a dangerous increase in
the number of anti-Semitic incidents, vandalization of Jewish institutions and
sites of Holocaust mass murders, attacks on Jewish public figures in the local
mass media, and neo- Nazi marches in Lithuania,” he wrote.
Holocaust survivors rallied against the visit to Israel by Lithuanian Foreign
Minister Audronius Azubalis, claiming he had made anti-Semitic comments in the
past and that the Lithuanian government has made attempts to “belittle the
memory of the Holocaust.”
■ ANOTHER HOLOCAUST related message, but one
with a completely different purpose, was sent out by Sara Manobla who for 40
years was with the English department of Israel Radio and who has remained busy
in the spheres of travel, tourism and music in the eight years since her
retirement. Though born in Newcastle, England, Manobla has Lithuanian
roots and, together with others descended from the former Jewish community of
Zagare in Lithuania, is organizing a memorial event in the city’s town square on
Zagare was home to a vibrant Jewish community for hundreds of
years. The market place with its many Jewish shops was a center of commerce not
only for locals but for merchants from a range of other towns. Zagare was also
famous for its many Hebrew scholars. On October 1, 1941, the Germans and their
Lithuanian collaborators brought the entire Jewish community to the town square
and shot them. Some 3,000 people were murdered. Descendants of the Jewish
community of Zagare will unveil a memorial plaque, view a presentation of the
history of the shtetl and watch a Baltic football competition in which
participants will include members of the Makabi team from Vilnius. There
will also be a ceremony for welcoming that Shabbat, to temporarily restore the
spirit of Judaism to Zagare.
■ AT THE media conference in Tel Aviv
marking the Israel launch of Google Street View, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai
quipped to Google CEO for Israel Meir Brand that if Street View succeeds one day
in showing people where there is a vacancy in Tel Aviv to park one’s car, Brand
is welcome to leave Google and come join the Tel Aviv Municipality. In fact,
there will soon be fewer and fewer visible parking spots in Tel Aviv because the
city is gradually putting all parking bays underground and building urban parks
and playgrounds on top of them.
That’s great news for pedestrians who are
being inched off sidewalks by illegally parked cars and by bicyclists and
motorcyclists who prefer to use the sidewalk rather than the road. Tel Aviv is
trying to do something about that too and, where space permits, is creating
bicycle trails – not only on sidewalks, but also on the edge of the
■ FRENCH AMBASSADOR Christophe Bigot has learned that there’s no
diplomatic immunity in the desert – especially when hiking alone. Bigot, who
likes to trek all over Israel, was on a weekend hike to Nebi Musa in the Judean
Desert when he was set upon by two masked men who demanded his wallet and his
Bigot complied, and was then left on his own in the hot sun
without any means of seeking help. He had no choice but to take the long walk
back to his car. He has since filed a complaint with the police.
last week accompanied Education Minister Gideon Saar, Education Ministry
officials and members of the Monsonego family to the Israel Goldstein Youth
Village in Jerusalem, where a special memorial service was held on Holocaust
Remembrance Day, not only for victims of the Holocaust but also for those of the
recent Toulouse terror attack.
French immigrant teenagers in relatively
large numbers are currently part of the student population at the youth village.
Shmuel Sandler, the father of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler who was murdered together
with his two young sons Aryeh and Gavriel, lost most of the older generation of
his family in the Holocaust.
■ INCREASING NUMBERS of voices are calling
for the release of Jonathan Pollard as his health continues to deteriorate in
prison. Several organizations and individuals who have previously urged that he
be released have renewed the call, among them the New Yorkheadquartered United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Steven Wernick, United Synagogue’s CEO
and executive vice president, and Richard Skolnik, international president, have
issued the following statement.: “United Synagogue joins Jewish and other
religious organizations, members of Congress and other elected officials, and
leaders across the world, in requesting that President Obama proceed with
urgency in releasing Jonathan Pollard from prison. Pollard has been in prison
since 1985 – nearly 27 years – serving longer than any other person convicted of
espionage against the United States. Israeli President Shimon Peres also has
asked the Obama administration to grant Pollard clemency for humanitarian
Pollard’s actions were not right or legal, but he has pled
guilty and he has served his time. Now, the right and moral thing for the U.
government to do is to permit him to spend time with his family, as he struggles
to recover his health.”
On December 21, 2008, United Synagogue’s board
passed a resolution originally recommended by its Committee on Public Policy and
Social Action calling upon President George W. Bush to commute Pollard’s
sentence to time served and to order his release, and calling upon its member
congregations and their members to urge Bush to grant clemency for Pollard. Now,
nearly threeand- a-half years later, the United Synagogue is making the same
request of President Barack Obama.
■ PRIZE WINNING author, poet,
playwright, screen writer and translator Nava Semel, who was born and raised in
Tel Aviv, has written guidelines for future archaeologists who may one day
research and excavate Tel Aviv. Unless they dig deep enough in more ways than
one, they will not know about the Tel Aviv of her childhood in which there were
no elevators in apartment buildings, there were no high rise buildings to block
out the view, there was no air conditioning to relieve the heat and humidity,
and in summer people often slept on the rooftops of their buildings because it
was too hot to sleep inside. For all that, Semel adores the Tel Aviv of those
times, as she does the Tel Aviv of today, and hopes that future archaeologists
will love it just as much. Eight years ago, Semel and her family moved back to
the home in which she grew up, on Brandeis Street in Tel Aviv, when her mother
decided to take up residence in a sheltered living complex.
had changed over the years, but for two important exceptions: There’s air
conditioning and the building has an elevator.
Semel, the daughter of
Holocaust survivors, is the wife of Noam Semel, the director-general of the
Cameri Theater, and the younger sister of pop star Shlomo Artzi. Her late
father, Yitzhak Artzi, was a deputy-mayor of Tel Aviv and then a member of
One of the leaders of the Jewish underground in Romania during
the Holocaust years and particularly active in efforts to save Jewish children,
he was also involved in smuggling East European Jews into Israel.
to Cyprus after World War II, he became a leader among the Jewish refugees and
finally managed to get to Israel in 1946. Active in many spheres, he was
committed to encouraging Holocaust Remembrance and was also active in the Claims
Conference and other organizations working for the benefit of Holocaust
His daughter continued with his Holocaust remembrance work and
sits on the Board of Directors of Massuah, the Institute for Holocaust Studies
at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak. She was also involved with Yad Vashem for many
■ VERY OFTEN, we know public figures only in terms of their public
persona, which may have little or even nothing to do with their private lives.
For instance, former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch has a passion for
the writings of Israel’s first Nobel Prize laureate S.Y.
during a recent visit to Agnon House was pleasantly surprised to receive a
letter that he had written in response to an analysis of his 1943 novella,
Betrothed. An item in Ha’aretz last week refers to a letter to which Agnon had
replied in response to one he had received from Ma’ariv literary editor David
Lazar in 1952.
Lazar had included in his letter an analysis by a student
called Dorit Werba, which was Beinisch's maiden name.
Agnon had written
to Lazar that one day he might write her a few words – or perhaps not, because
at his stage in life he was exempt from answering letters. The letter, however,
did include a poem addressed to Werba. Agnon House director Eilat Lieber
eventually got hold of the letters after learning about Beinisch's penchant for
Agnon from her Supreme Court colleague Justice Esther Hayut, who in February was
helping to arrange a farewell party for Beinisch and had asked Lieber to invite
Agnon scholars Ariel Hirschfeld and Bilha Ben-Eliyahu. When Leiber found no
trace of the letters at Agnon House, she turned to Rafi Weiser, the director of
the Agnon Archive at the National Library, who after much searching located both
letters as well as the letter that had been written by Dorit Werba to Lazar,
which Lieber was eventually able to present to Beinisch.
■ EL AL CEO
Eliezer Shkedi and senior members of his staff hosted schools that had reached
the finals of the Young Entrepreneurs Take Off with El Al competition for 2012.
The contest is held in cooperation with the Israel Young Entrepreneurs
Association. Throughout the year, El Al employees, including cabin crew, pilots
and people engaged in other jobs with the company, visit competing schools and
work in a voluntary capacity with pupils to help them develop their projects.
Even before the winners are announced, Shkedi likes to walk among the display
stands and to see with an unjaundiced eye how much creativity has gone into
innovative projects and products. In his address to the youngsters Shkedi said,
“Whoever dreams and believes in that dream will reach the objective. You
have amazed me with your creativity and I'm sure that this is only the
The first prize of NIS 4,000 was won by students of the Dafna
School in Kiryat Bialik.
The second prize of NIS 3,000 went to the
students of the Rehovot Youth Village and the third prize of NIS 2,000 was won
by a school in Zichron Yaacov.
■ DOCUMENTARY FILM maker Monique Schwarz,
who divides her time between her home in Jerusalem and her former place of
domicile in Melbourne, Australia, and who focuses primarily on Jewish and
Israeli themes, felt that she should be doing something for the
Despite the fact that she doesn’t have a green thumb, she
presented herself at the Society for the Protection of Nature and offered to
help take care of the trees. However, when they saw her CV, the response was:
”We don’t want you to look after trees. We’d rather you made a film about
Schwarz happily took up the challenge together with her
partner, Benzion Tidhar, who was co-producer.
Schwarz wrote and directed
the film and also operated the camera, achieving a number of truly breathtaking
scenes. She wanted to give the film more meaning than environmental awareness
per se, so she enlisted several environmentalists who are also Torah scholars to
talk about what the Bible says or implies about the environment.
the issues shared by Dr. Jeremy Benstein, Leiba Chaya David, Rabbi Shaul
Judelman and Einat Kramer, there would have been no film, said Schwarz at the
Israel premier at the Jerusalem Cinematheque last Friday. Although each
presented his or her individual perception of Torah and the environment, the
bottom line was that God created the world and man must protect and preserve
It is a tribute to Schwarz’s reputation that she had a full house for
the screening of a documentary. Rather than have it edited in Israel, Schwarz
took it to Melbourne to allow Terence A. Doran, a Catholic, to edit
The reason: Jewish editors always tell her that her films are too
Jewish, whereas Catholic editors say “It’s so Jewish. It’s
After the film was edited, it was screened in Melbourne
before a largely secular audience because Schwarz wanted to test reactions from
people who were not necessarily Bible-oriented. The film was very well received
there, as it was in Jerusalem. Schwarz hopes to market it in the United States
but meanwhile working on another film, which explores the connection between
anti-Semitic and anti- Israel sentiments and whether someone can be anti-Israel
without being anti-Semitic.
■ ONE CAN’T help wondering how Tourism
Minister Stas Misezhnikov will spend the Independence Day
holiday. Misezhnikov, who believes in having the kind of experiences that
tourists would enjoy so that he can talk about them with some degree of
authority, went sky diving on Passover, which is somewhat of an extreme sport
for a government minister. Is he going to go bungee jumping on
Independence Day – and if so, what comes next?