Grapevine: Putting the blame on Bibi

Headlines from around Israel.

April 22, 2017 22:18
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The prime minister is frequently blamed for things that are not only not his fault, but of which he has no knowledge. Case in point: the dumpsters opposite his official residence on Jerusalem’s Smolenskin Steeet (not Balfour, as is so often erroneously stated).

There are three apartment buildings in the street whose residents share a single dumpster, whereas opposite the Prime Minister’s Residence there are three dumpsters which are chained to the electric light pole to ensure that none of the people living in the apartment blocks move them for their own convenience. There used to be two dumpsters, and only recently was the number increased to three.

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The single dumpster shared by other residents in the street is often moved by members of the prime minister’s security detail when parking their private vehicles, even though there is a parking lot for them behind one of the buildings on Balfour Street that faces the side of the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The dumpster that is moved clearly has the address of the building in front of which city hall sanitation people first placed it, but it keeps being moved closer and closer to the far corner of the street.

There is little doubt that the prime minister has no knowledge of the three dumpsters, but complaints would naturally be directed against him. Whoever decided on the extra dumpster obviously has no sense of public relations. After the pink champagne stories, the clever thing to do would have been to remove one of the dumpsters instead of turning them into a trio. While it is certainly true that the prime minister does a lot of entertaining, it should be noted that all the dumpsters in the neighborhood are emptied at least three times a week, so why the extra?

■ EVEN THOUGH he did something positive for young families last week, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon could also use a few lessons in PR. Given the fact that his press conference was on the same day as the publication of the Comptroller’s Report on the abysmal treatment of Holocaust survivors, Kahlon could have made a sweeping gesture to compensate them for the deprivations they have suffered for the past 70-plus years.

While adding little more than a symbolic amount to any grants or pensions that they currently receive may be a gesture of sorts, it certainly doesn’t contribute to their dignity and doesn’t do much for their welfare. As former MK and former diplomat Colette Avital, herself a child Holocaust survivor who heads the umbrella body of Holocaust survivor organizations in Israel, told Israel Radio’s Aryeh Golan, a son of Holocaust survivors, it’s the same story every year, just before Holocaust Remembrance Day. There’s a report about the shocking conditions under which Holocaust survivors live in Israel, the media makes a big fuss, and the next day it’s all forgotten, and hardly anything changes.

■ WHILE PEOPLE on the home front are celebrating the jubilee of the reunification of Jerusalem and the Israel Festival, Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer will be not in Washington but in New York, where he will deliver the keynote address and receive an honorary doctorate at Yeshiva University’s 86th Commencement on Thursday, May 25, at Madison Square Garden.

The American-born Dermer has been ambassador to the United States since 2013. Previously, he served as senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from 2009-2013, and before that was the economic affairs attaché in the United States from 2005 to 2008. He was also a columnist for The Jerusalem Post for nearly three years, and together with Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky co-wrote the best-selling book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.

Unlike the situation with the previous US government, where he was often kept at arm’s length, he works closely with the current US government to enhance America’s relationship with Israel.

Outgoing Yeshiva University president Richard M. Joel, who will be succeeded in July by Rabbi Ari Berman, will also confer an honorary doctorate upon university benefactor Tzili Charney, who with her late husband, Leon Charney, a YU alumnus, has given generously to YU and most recently committed $1 million to establish the Leon Charney Legacy, focused on Israel studies. She also supports many organizations and institutions in both America and Israel, including the University of Haifa, Florida Atlantic University, The National Project on Trauma, Disaster and Civic Resilience in Israel, Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, and the NIAD Art Center in California.

Rabbi Dr. Manfred Fulda, chairman of the division of Jewish studies and associate professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, will be awarded the Presidential Medallion.

Fulda received rabbinic ordination from YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1959 and has served as chairman of the division of Jewish Studies for nearly three decades. He continues to teach Talmud at the Isaac Breuer College of Hebraic Studies and Stern College for Women. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he was interviewed for the Names, Not Numbers project, and often speaks at the university on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. He served as principal of the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls more than 50 years ago and has taught thousands of students throughout his career at YU.

In 2002, the Rabbi Dr. Manfred Fulda Scholarship was established by Walter and Randie Lowenthal as a personal endowment for both Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women students.

“Ambassador Dermer, Mrs. Charney, and Rabbi Fulda are sterling representatives of the highest Jewish ideals that are at the heart of the Yeshiva mission,” said Joel in congratulating them and all of YU’s graduates of 2017.

In total, more than 1,700 students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, as well as graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies and psychology, will be awarded degrees from Yeshiva University during its commencement season.

■ UNLIKE JEWISH festivals and commemorations which depend on a lunar calendar and therefore are never on the same Gregorian calendar date from year to year, the dates of Gregorian calendar festivals and commemorations are permanent fixtures in our brains.

We know that New Year’s Day is January 1, American Independence Day is July 4, Bastille Day is July 14, Armistice Day is November 11 and Christmas Day is December 25.

Each nation has additional dates etched in the collective brains of its citizens.

For Australians and New Zealanders, one such date is April 25, Anzac Day, which originally commemorated the ill-fated landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli in 1915 and the huge toll in their battle against the Turks so far from home, has over the years commemorated all those Diggers and Kiwis who died while serving their countries in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

For popular Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, Anzac Day this Tuesday at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem will be his last in Israel before leaving in the summer, after having made his mark in many quarters.

He and his wife, Rachel Lord, would happily have stayed on for much longer, and indeed it would have been to Australia’s benefit because, separately and together, they enhanced Israel’s long-held good feelings toward Australia and Australians and would have been able to do so much more, but for the fact that they’d already stretched the rules of the game for Australian diplomats. Still, if they decide to stay in Australia for a while so that Lord can resume her own career and their daughters can have an undisrupted education, they will make excellent unofficial envoys for Israel down under.

■ ANOTHER AMBASSADOR who finds it difficult to tear himself away from Israel is Italian Ambassador Francesco Maria Talo, who had been scheduled to leave last summer and even made his farewells at his country’s national day celebrations, saying that this would be the last time that he would host the hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of his residence. But he managed to get a second extension of his term, so he will repeat the farewell in June, and will return to Rome soon after.

Also returning to Rome this summer is Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, who has reached retirement age. Apparently, nuncios have to retire at age 75, and although the archbishop does not look anywhere near 75, his birth certificate says otherwise.

There is a special program for retired nuncios which they can join if they wish. Lazzarotto has already put his name down for the program and will be working in a research capacity. His predecessor in office, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, remained at the post for 12 years and is currently apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate.

■ TOURISM MINISTRY director- general Amir Halevi, who is a keen cyclist and avid proponent of cycling tourism, will host a cycling trip on May 7 for invited members of the diplomatic corps. The 9-kilometer route will start from the First Station in Jerusalem, taking riders through the capital’s metropolitan park, following landmarks and attractions into the open areas of the Refaim Stream and ending at Ein Lavan.

■ COMEDIAN AND impersonator Moti Giladi, who performs in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, in doing a Yiddish take on Donald Trump, said that Trump was thinking of renaming the White House “Trump Platz.” In Yiddish, platz has more than one meaning. It could mean “place,” or it could mean “burst,” and chances are high that Giladi was thinking of the latter.

Giladi’s daughter Dorin, who has performed with him since the age of nine, is now, at age 36, striking out on her own. She was part of the entertainment troupe when doing her army service, and later studied theater. She also had a couple of television appearances, but then took a five-year time-out to spend quality time with her three children, during which time she also became an interior decorator. But now she’s put together a program in memory of her late mother, Orna, that includes Orna Giladi’s favorite songs from the fifties and sixties.

Moti Giladi is understandably proud to have a legacy of continuity in the world of entertainment, but it was also a very emotional and nostalgic experience for him to hear the songs of which his first wife was so fond.

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