In Jerusalem

Grapevine: Grace under fire

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has both class and courage.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Photo by: REUTERS
■ Whether one likes her or not, one has to admit that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has both class and courage. At her press conference in Jerusalem on Monday night, she was asked whether she had been insulted when Egyptian protesters began chanting “Monica” and throwing tomatoes when she left Alexandria on Sunday following the reopening there of the US Consulate. The reference to Monica was to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern with whom her husband had a highly publicized affair during his presidency. Clinton said she wasn’t insulted. She was just glad that no one was hurt but thought it was a waste of tomatoes.

She also had the courage to answer a question about Jonathan Pollard. Most American dignitaries avoid the question – or at least the answer – and if they do answer, they say that they’re not the address for the question. Clinton was not afraid to say that Pollard was serving a life sentence and that she had no expectations that this would change. It was bad news, but at least she didn’t try to pass the buck.

■ IN ADDITION to the usual Thursday night musical fare at YUNG YiDiSH this week, lovers of klezmer and Shlomo Carlebach also got to participate in the launch of Volume 29 of the Yiddish literary magazine Jerusalem Almanac. The editor Prof. Dov Ber Kerler was on hand, along with several of the contributing poets, essayists and short story writers.

Despite the fact that it has been frequently eulogized over the years, Yiddish is still alive and well, and creative writers are using the language as a vehicle of expression.

■ DAF YOMI students from all over Israel will converge on the Jerusalem Great Synagogue on August 9 for the Siyum Hashas, the completion of seven and a half years of daily Talmud study. Men and women, separately and together, participate in Daf Yomi groups not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world. Not all participants are religiously observant. Some study there because they want to enhance their knowledge of things Jewish.

A Siyum Hashas is always a festive occasion, and this one will be even more so, with male and female participants from Israel and abroad, including world-renowned Torah luminaries rabbis Adin Steinsaltz, Dovid Miller, Shlomo Riskin, Dovid Gottlieb, Moshe Lichtenstein and Shmuel Hershler and other great scholars. The master of ceremonies at the event will be Jeremy Gimpel, who recently announced his intention to run for Knesset, while Chaim Adler, the chief cantor at the Great Synagogue, will provide the musical interlude.

Taking into account the influence and membership of sponsors, which include the International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) – Israel Region, Yeshiva University Israel Alumni, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, Kollel, Torah Mitzion, RCA – Israel and the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, the siyum has all the makings of a mega event. Admission is free of charge and, according to Daniel M. Meyer, executive director, IYIM-Israel and coordinator of the evening’s activities, everyone is welcome.

■ IT HAS taken the powers-that-be in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry for Public Diplomacy more than half a year to find a replacement for Oren Helman as director of the Government Press Office. In the interim, the GPO has moved from its longtime headquarters in Beit Agron to new premises in Malha, and many foreign news bureaus whose offices were previously located in and around Beit Agron have followed suit.

In November last year, the Israel Electric Corporation announced that it had appointed Helman as senior vice president of regulation. The job may not be as interesting as that of director of the GPO, but the salary was certainly more enticing.

When tenders for Helman’s successor at the GPO were initially published, the intention was to find someone from within the organization, but none of the applicants was considered suitable, so a further search was conducted beyond the GPO.

The result is that the new director is veteran television personality Nitzan Chen, 48, who most recently chaired the Cable Television Council after spending 20 years working for Channel 1 in a variety of positions.

Although his career has been largely marked by success, he has never been able to live down his most embarrassing moment when, as a political reporter who is religious and Sephardi, he was ordered out of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s home following the conviction of Aryeh Deri. Yosef believed that the media was largely responsible for turning public opinion against Deri. It would have been bad enough if Yosef had issued the order without any of Chen’s media colleagues as witnesses. But the scene was captured for posterity by television crews and aired on Channel 1.

Together with fellow journalist Anshel Pfeffer, Chen has since written a comprehensive biography of Yosef, which reviewers have concurred is well balanced.

■ PARKING HAS always been a problem in Jerusalem, and frustrated drivers frequently leave their vehicles in no-parking areas, including sidewalks.

Sometimes vehicles parked on the sidewalk are so close to the fence, that pedestrians are forced to walk out into the street.

This is particularly annoying to people who live in old buildings on small streets in which there are no parking facilities in the buildings themselves and very limited space on the street. This becomes a source of constant irritation to find a parking spot, especially when the few spots have been taken by non-residents, who think nothing of backing into a one-way street and parking on the sidewalk when they can’t find a legal spot.

One Jerusalem resident who was sick of drivers breaking every rule in the book when parking on her street has taken matters into her own hands.

Romema resident Rachel Gewirtz has found a nonviolent way of dealing with the situation. She has not resorted to slashing tires, scratching surfaces or breaking windows and mirrors. Instead, according to Yediot Aharonot, she photographs the offenders in action or their illegally parked vehicles, making sure that the license plate is in sharp focus. She then fills out a complaint form, which she downloads from the Internet, and sends it to the police.

Some of her neighbors have joined her in this project and have mounted a neighborhood watch.

The police take these complaints very seriously and go after the offenders, who are subsequently fined.

In some cases, the drivers have their license suspended or confiscated.

Ariel Street, where Gewirtz lives, is a one-way street that leads to the exit to Tel Aviv. Many drivers ignore the legal direction of the traffic and use the street as a shortcut to the highway. Residents have asked the municipality to turn the street into a pedestrian mall but have met with refusal, even though there have been traffic accidents, some of them fatal. Meanwhile, Gewirtz and her neighbors are making sure that some offenders are paying through the nose.


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