Grapevine: And the goal is...

Australian footballers kick for peace and angry rabbis propose sending students abroad.

August 4, 2011 23:26
4 minute read.
Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Cheering from the sidelines two weeks ago at a game of Australian Rules Football was Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner. No, she wasn’t on home leave, and she wasn’t in Joshua Park in Tel Aviv, where expats from Down Under occasionally get together to indulge in their favorite sport. She was at the Wingate Institute, where the Australian Football League Peace Team, comprising Israelis and Palestinians, was playing Australian expats.

The team is going to Australia this month.

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■ AS SOMEONE born and raised in Australia, this writer has always felt a sense of outrage at the raw deal dealt the Aborigines, for whom the continent was home for thousands of years before white man set foot there.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, in his previous capacity as prime minister, apologized to the Aborigines and restored some of their land to them. But what most Australians did not know until the JTA published the story is that there are Australian citizens with both Jewish and Aboriginal roots.

One of them, Lisa Jackson Pulver, is the first Australian Aborigine to receive a doctorate in medicine from the University of Sydney. A member of the Wiradjuri tribe, she is also president of her Orthodox synagogue and has been awarded the Order of Australia, one of the nation’s highest decorations.

She told JTA that the first Jew came to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788, and since then, Jews have been marrying Aborigines because white women wouldn’t marry them.

“There’s a big mob of black Cohens out there, and they’ve got Jewish ancestry,” she said.

■ RELIGIOUS LEADERS of the three monotheistic faiths gathered in Jerusalem’s Konrad Adenauer Convention center on Wednesday to break the daily Ramadan fast and to discuss the value of interreligious dialogue in Israel.

The event, co-hosted by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) featured the kadi of Haifa, Iyad Zahalka, who spoke about “Interreligious Dialogue from a Muslim Perspective,” as well as Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kehillat Kol HaNeshama Synagogue and the Rev. Cannon Hosam Naoum of St. George’s Cathedral.

■ FRANCOPHILES WILL be pleased to know that they now have an additional news outlet accessible in Israel. As of last month, France 24, the international French news channel that broadcasts in the language, can be seen on HOT 143.

The service is available free for HOT subscribers. To celebrate the launch, Frank Melloul, the strategic development and external affairs director of France 24, and Yoram Mokady, content director at HOT, hosted a cocktail reception at the Cordelia restaurant in Jaffa. In addition to people from the communications industry, attendees included French-speaking diplomats – the most prominent being French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, for whom this reception was a boon because it was right around the corner from where he lives.

■ ANOTHER PROTEST demonstration may be in the offing, in addition to those we have already witnessed over the past few weeks. But this time the protesters will demonstrate with their feet, rather than with tents. The haredi community is livid over what it says are indignities inflicted by government and law enforcement officials on their leaders, and at an emergency meeting a week and a half ago in Beit Shmaya Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, some raised the possibility of transferring students to major yeshivot in the United States and Mexico. This would constitute a severe blow to Israel’s reputation as a world center for Torah studies.

At the emergency meeting, the yeshiva’s highly venerated Rabbi Shlomo Englander – who sent angry letters to the Education Ministry and Shas and United Torah Judaism MKs after Finance Ministry inspectors allegedly entered the yeshiva and interrupted him disrespectfully in the middle of a lesson – declared that if push came to shove, yeshiva students would go abroad to study.

State financial support for yeshivas is based on student registration, and there is some suspicion that more students are registered than the number that actually attend. Inspectors are now being sent to yeshivot to determine the discrepancies, if there are any, between reported and actual registration.

■ IN THE midst of all the bad news filling the pages of the Israeli press comes something so heartwarming that it bears repeating. Yediot Aharonot reported on a weekend in Paris for the employees of a senior citizens’ retirement home in Beersheba. Because the employees at every level, from the highest to the lowest, are so dedicated to their work and the welfare of the residents of Ganei Yaelim in Beersheba, joint managers Ilana Blum and Ya’acov Tsafrir decided that they were entitled to some meaningful token of appreciation.

So they called all 89 employees, including the cleaning staff, together and told them they were going to Paris for a weekend. There was great excitement tempered with dismay: Several of those in the lowest income brackets had never been abroad, didn’t have passports and had never even been to the airport.

One woman said she couldn’t go, because she didn’t have money for food. In Beersheba, she knew her way around the cheap markets, but in Paris, where she didn’t even know the language, she would starve, she said.

Blum and Tsafrir promptly solved the financial problem, deciding that each of the employees would receive 120 euros in small bills for minor expenses.

Those who didn’t have passports were helped in acquiring them, and the whole staff spent a memorable weekend in Paris, returning with far greater motivation to do their best for those in their care.

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