■ IN SYNAGOGUES around the world last Saturday, regardless of what stream of
Judaism was followed by congregants, the common denominator was the reading of
the Torah portion: Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey out of Egypt.
Many newspaper and electronic media commentators drew a parallel between Amalek
and Ahmadinejad, while others also compared Haman to Ahmadinejad. It’s a season
for remembering both the good things and the bad things that happened to our
For instance when we commemorate the passing of great leaders,
their death is a bad thing, but the lives they lived often serve as
inspiration. Over the past month we have commemorated the milestone
anniversaries of the deaths of Lechi leader Avraham “Yair” Stern and Prime
Minister Menachem Begin.
This week, we commemorated the 92nd anniversary
of the death of Josef Trumpeldor, who fell in battle in defense of Tel Hai.
Ninety-two is not a milestone number, but the reason that the anniversary of
Trumpeldor’s demise became news was the victory of the Trumpeldor taxi drivers,
who waged a battle no less heroic than that of the Zion Mule Corps, of which
Trumpeldor was one of the pioneers.
According to a story in Yediot
, the Trumpeldor Taxi Company, located in Trumpeldor Street, Tel Aviv,
was acquired by the Sufa Taxi company which wanted to change the name of its
acquisition from Trumpeldor to Sufa. This pained all the veteran taxi drivers
who perceived it as desecrating Trumpeldor’s memory. Their protest was initially
to no avail. What saved the day was the calendar. The changing-of-the-guard
ceremony was scheduled for the 11th of the Hebrew calendar month of Adar, which
happens to be the date of Trumpeldor’s death.
A delegation of veteran
taxi drivers went to see Sufa CEO Moshe Shirazi to ask him to change the date.
Shirazi was moved by their plea. The ceremony would go ahead as scheduled, he
said, but this branch of the company’s operations would continue to be called
■ BACK TO milestone commemorations: On March 12 and 13,
the National Library on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus will host a
conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the passing of Gershom Scholem, the
great scholar of Kabbala and Jewish mysticism. Jewish tradition tells us that
one must be a remarkably good scholar to get a proper grasp of Kabbala. In
Scholem’s case, this was particularly pertinent because he did not have the
religious background for the study of Kabbala. He came from a totally
assimilated German-Jewish family.
■ IT’S DOUBTFUL whether on March 25,
the family of renowned historian Benzion Netanyahu will place 102 candles on his
cake for him to blow out, but they’ll certainly make the most of the
The centenarian happens to be the father of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
■ HAD HE lived, Yitzhak Rabin would have
celebrated his 90th birthday last Thursday. Rabin’s bureau chief Eitan Haber,
who is a columnist for Yediot Aharonot
, was the guest anchor of a regular
program on Israel Radio which different journalists are invited to anchor each
week. Like Dan Patir, Haber was the servant of two very different political
masters – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.
Whereas Patir had been an
adult when he served as media adviser to each man when they were prime
ministers, Haber had been a child when he served Begin, and an adult when he
served Rabin. Haber’s father was a revisionist, who was a devout follower of
Begin’s, and had taken the boy along to political rallies. At one rime, Haber
had the task of riding ahead of Begin during a campaign rally to announce that
he was on the way.
Haber, who joined Yediot Aharonot
after completing his
army service, specialized in reporting on military affairs, and when Rabin was
defense minister, he took him on as adviser. During the period of Rabin’s
second stint as prime minister, he was invited to visit Russia. No leading
Israeli figure had visited Russia since before the 1997 Six Days War, after
which the Soviet Union had severed relations, which did not resume until after
When Russian ambassador Alexander Bovin inquired if there
were any special requests, Haber, who since childhood had been impressed by the
exploits of the Red Army, asked whether it was possible for Rabin to address the
general staff. He did this before he had even consulted with Rabin, thinking
that the Russians were not likely to accede. But surprise, surprise, Bovin
returned with a positive reply.
Although Haber wrote many of Rabin’s
speeches, on this occasion, Rabin did not ask him to do so, and until he
actually heard the address, Haber was unaware of what Rabin’s topic would be.
Rabin chose to talk about the Six Days War. Haber was somewhat nonplussed. Of
all the topics that Rabin could have spoken about, why this one?
As soon as they
were alone, Haber lost no time in asking him. Rabin reminded him of the
support that the Soviet Union had given to the Arab States during the Six Days
War. Rabin’s intention was to subtly drive home the fact that tiny Israel had
not only vanquished the Arab armies, but had also triumphed over the Red
By the way, Haber has a birthday coming up next week. He will turn
72 on March 12.
■ WHILE ON the subject of Rabin, his
grand-daughter-in-law Shiri Benartzi , who is married to his grandson Jonathan
Benartzi, has made quite a reputation for herself in Israel’s art world. A
visual arts graduate of New York University, and a leading gallerist in Israel,
Benartzi together with Aya Shoham, founded ArtSation Production, which is
dedicated to creating projects in the arts, and initiating public-theme
exhibitions and projects that feature varying perspectives in the realm of
Their upcoming project is ArtFi – a fine art and finance conference
that aims to strengthen the Israeli art market as a business and investment
arena. Despite the global economic crisis they say the art market is showing
signs of investor confidence. This global success has directly impacted the
flourishing Israeli market. In addition to a bevy of new galleries, Israeli
developers have invested in art-themed hotels, and attendances at art fairs and
exhibitions are on the rise. Israelis have realized the importance of supporting
the arts and their local artist community.
Israeli corporate and
philanthropic investors continue to invest in emerging young artists and
understand the importance of supporting Israel’s invigorating cultural
awakening. With this in mind, Benartzi and Shoham want to utilize fine
art as yet another means of boosting Israel’s economy, and have therefore
organized the ArtFi Conference which will take place at various Tel Aviv venues
including Jaffa Port and the newly refurbished Hasbima Theater on March
Speakers at the conference will include Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai;
Michael Moses, founder of The Mei/Moses Art Index; Moti Shniberg, founder of
Artist Pension Fund ; Al Brener, CEO of Mutualart.com; Gil Brandes,
founder and managing partner of Artpartners Art Fund; Rivka Saker, chairman and
Founder of Artis; Ben Clark, director of business at EMERI, Christie’s; Adriano
Picinati di Torcello, director of art and finance at Deloitte Luxemborg; Dr.
Renate Wiehager, head of Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin; Uzi Dayan,
chairman of Mifal Hapayis, Israel’s national lottery; as well as other gallery
owners and collectors.
Organizers are hoping that James Snyder, the
director of the Israel Museum, will also join the speakers.
■ THE ANNUAL
Yung Yidish traditional subversive Purimshpiel starring Mendy Cahan, Polina
Belisovski and other popular figures from the Yiddish entertainment circuit will
take place this evening, Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Yung Yidish at the YY Jerusalem
branch in Yermiyahu Street, Romema. The event will include an amusing reading of
the Megilla, community singing and alcoholic refreshments.
AFFICIANADOS should be aware that the fourth Yiddish Festival on the Dead Sea
will take place from March 18-21 at the Leonardo Club Hotel. Mendy Cahan will MC
the event. Avraham Burstein and his Klezmer band will provide some of the
But the star of the festival will be Hava
Alberstein whose Yiddish repertoire is simply amazing. There will be several
other well-known singers and musicians, as well as stand-up comedians. Aside
from that there will be pick-up points throughout the country from places as far
north as Nahariya, and as far south as Beersheba, to bus festival attendees to
the Dead Sea. Information about the complete program, reservations, contact
information for personnel in local areas etc., can be obtained from
or by telephoning 057-2794873 or 052-3201834.
UNUSUAL ceremony took place in Tel Aviv last week when members of the Dajani
family gathered in Jaffa to pay tribute to the memory of Fouad Ismail Dajani, a
highly-respected physician who in 1933 founded the Dajani Hospital in Jaffa,
which took care of the medical needs of both Arabs and Jews.
family can trace its history in the Holy Land back more than 500 years. Much of
that time was spent in Jerusalem, but the family has branched out to different
parts of the country, to Ramallah and to countries around the globe. Those who
fled in 1948, thinking to return after the fighting was over, were not permitted
to do so until last month (and then, only as visitors) when at the invitation of
the Tel Aviv Municipality, some of them and their offspring came to honor
Dajani, in whose memory the municipality has named a square. Among those
attending were some of Dajani’s children, grandchildren and great
The person responsible for enabling them to enter Israel
is Tel Aviv retired architect Samuel Giler, who after seeing a television
documentary by Esther Dar about the reunion of two Jewish Israelis and two
Palestinian Arabs who as girls shared a room in the same Anglican boarding
school for four years, and who in their 70s returned to the scenes of their
childhood, was incensed by the complaint of one of them, who happens to be
Dajani’s eldest daughter, that there was no headstone on her father’s
grave. Dajani died in 1940.
Giler was outraged that there was no
proper memorial for a man of Dajani’s prestige who had done so much for his
community, regardless of political or religious persuasion. There were
Jewish doctors and nurses working in his hospital alongside their Arab
colleagues. Giler mounted a decade-long campaign which resulted not only in the
minimal honor Dajani deserved, but in something that will remind the whole of
the population of Tel Aviv-Jaffa that Palestinians, as well as Jews, were making
positive contributions to the development of the city. The ceremony was attended
by Mayor Ron Huldai and some of the members of the City Council.
EVERYONE welcomes a slap in the face. But it’s a well known fact, certainly
among Shas adherents, that a slap by Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is
a sign of approval and affection. Thus when former Shas minister Shlomo Ben Izri
was released from prison last week, he wasted little time in going to Yosef for
a blessing. He got more than he bargained for. He also got a slap in the face,
which was as good a coming- out gift as he could hope for. In return, he kissed
the rabbi’s hand. President Shimon Peres has received several slaps from
■ BULGARIAN AMBASSADOR Yuri Sterk deviated from the usual
hotel venues at which heads of foreign missions host their national-day
receptions and celebrated his country’s 134th Independence Day at the Dan
Accadia Hotel, Herzliya. Most ambassadors who host such celebrations outside
their residences choose the Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv; the David Intercontinental
Tel Aviv; the Dan Tel Aviv; the Carlton Tel Aviv; the Sheraton Tel Aviv; Herods
Tel Aviv; or the Tel Aviv Hilton.
As most of the diplomatic community
lives in Herzliya Pituah, Sterk brought the celebration closer to home.
Representing the government was National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau who
praised Bulgaria as a ray of light in the darkness for having protected its
Jewish community during the Holocaust.
Among the prominent Israelis of
Bulgarian background who attended the reception were popular author Michael Bar
Zohar and actor and electronic-media personality Alex Ansky. Also among the
guests was Moni Bar, the honorary consul for Bulgaria, who noted that as a
result of the political crisis between Israel and Turkey, and the resultant
decline in Israeli tourism to Turkey, Bulgaria has become a much more attractive
destination. Some 360,000 Israelis are expected to visit Bulgaria this year he
said, which is double the number who visited in 2011. Several travel
organizations, as well as hassidic groups, have arranged for Passover tours to
Bulgaria where the hotel kitchens will be made kosher for Passover.
ALTHOUGH THIS is his third time in Israel, and it is generally known that he is
a fluent Hebrew-speaker, Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato continues to surprise
those people who were unaware of his linguistic abilities. At the conference
organized by JETRO, the Japanese Export Institute, at the Tel Aviv Hilton
attended inter alia by Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Chambers of
Commerce and Shai Hermish, who heads the Israel Japan Parliamentary Friendship
League, Lynn commended Sato for being the best Hebrewspeaker among all the
foreign diplomats. Sato may have some competition from US Ambassador Dan
Shapiro who is also a fluent Hebrewspeaker, but Sato has the better
By the way, one should be careful not to make derogatory remarks
in the presence of foreign diplomats. It is quite surprising how many of them
have managed to get a fairly good grasp of Hebrew, even if they haven’t achieved
the fluency of Sato and Shapiro.
■ EVEN THOUGH he has been designated as
Israel’s next ambassador to China. Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai will
first experience the lot of the Irish. No, he’s not being posted briefly to the
Emerald Isle. But he is scheduled to be among the guests at the St Patrick’s Day
reception that will be hosted by Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly and his wife
on March 15.
It won’t be the only St Patrick’s Day celebration in Israel.
The Israel Ireland Friendship Association is stretching Purim to combine it with
Paddy’s Day on March 18 and its annual reunion replete with Irish music, song
and dance at Murphy’s new Irish Pub in Sderot Giborei Israel in the new
industrial center of Netanya accessible from the Poleg interchange.
is always an Irish month but will be even more so this year.
events include a National Library of Ireland Travelling Exhibition on Ireland’s
most famous poet and Nobel Prize laureate William Butler Yeats which will be on
view till the end of the month at the Sourasky Central Library at Tel Aviv
University; a March 20 program of selected readings from Yeats’ poetry organized
by the Embassy in cooperation with TAU’s Theater Studies department; and the
annual Irish Film Festival that is held at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa
Cinematheques in cooperation with the Irish Film Institute.
festival runs from March 27-31 in Tel Aviv, with subsequent screenings at other
cinematheques. The Embassy is also trying to arrange screenings in
Sderot, Rosh Pina and Nazareth, with subtitles in Arabic for Nazareth audiences.
The films are relatively recent. With the exception of one that was made in 2010
all were released in 2011.