Exactly one month after his induction into office, President Reuven Rivlin – for whom the past month has not been easy – performed his most heartrending task to date on Sunday, when he eulogized four-year-old Daniel Tragerman, killed Friday by shrapnel from a Gazan mortar shell.
Daniel; his parents, Gila and Doron; and his two younger siblings came home to Kibbutz Nahal Oz, following assurances by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that it was reasonably safe for residents of the region who had temporarily moved to the Center and North to return to the Negev.
But Ya’alon did not come to Nahal Oz following Daniel’s tragic death, thus provoking extreme anger on the part of the kibbutzniks.
Rivlin was among the many who on Sunday accompanied Daniel to his final resting place in the small Hevel Shalom cemetery in the northern Negev, under the jurisdiction of the Eshkol Regional Council. The defense minister was not among the mourners, though during a far more dangerous period in 1956, both prime minister David Ben-Gurion and IDF chief of staff Moshe Dayan came to talk with the young founders of the kibbutz.
For the most part, Rivlin’s first month in office was dedicated to visiting the bereaved families of fallen soldiers, as well as visiting wounded soldiers in the hospital.
All of these visits were painful for him, but none were as difficult as attending the funeral of a bright, intelligent four-yearold, who in his Lionel Messi soccer shirt has inadvertently become a symbol for the unrealized dreams and potential of all children who have been victims of the current conflict. The president, a keen soccer fan himself and a former chairman of Beitar Jerusalem, in his opening sentence at the funeral mentioned the image of Daniel in the jersey, and the fact that the child had been one of Messi’s young admirers.
Rivlin, who had seen video footage of the energetic young Daniel, said, “I saw you dancing happily in the joy of life. I thought about you, and I thought about us. I thought about a four-year-old boy who loved balloons and hot corn, [cartoon icon] Yuval Hamebulbal and [oldtime children’s comedian] Saba Tuvia.” All these things about Daniel were familiar to Rivlin, who has grandchildren in the same age group.
He talked about the affection Daniel’s parents had showered on the little boy, and how despite his age, Daniel had been a responsible child who knew exactly how to react to Color Red alerts. He alluded to the injustice of a child who had a huge yard being confined to a security tent, of a child too young to cross the road by himself but old enough to understand the meaning of Color Red.
Empathizing completely with Daniel’s parents, Rivlin said he had thought of the flower that had grown in this place – and how cruelly it had been plucked. “We were afraid of this moment, which we anticipated with dread,” he said. “Today, we are accompanying Daniel, who is the son of us all, the son of the whole state, the child for whom we fought and are fighting, the child who paid the highest price here in our country, in our homeland.”
Rivlin noted that Kibbutz Nahal Oz has been the gateway to Gaza for more than 60 years, and has carried a heavy burden on its shoulders, soaked in blood. The kibbutz has served as a defense buffer for Israel and continues in this spirit, said Rivlin. “We have no right to ask you to remain here,” he said to the kibbutz members, “but we can promise you that you are not alone, and that we will stand with you.”
There was a direct link between Roi Rothberg, the Nahal Oz pioneer and security coordinator who was killed in April 1956, when the kibbutz was ambushed by Egyptian soldiers, and the death of Daniel Tragerman, said Rivlin. For Daniel, Rivlin continued, the kibbutz represented both the line of fire and conflict, and the line of life and hope.
“From here we will triumph. From here we will overcome. From here the evil that surrounds us will be vanquished. The generation of settlement lives here. The generation of settlement will continue to build here,” Rivlin declared.
Ironically, when Rivlin met privately with Gila and Doron Tragerman, they told him that Daniel had been among the youngsters Rivlin had hosted at the President’s Residence on August 7, at an event for children of the South.
Former president Shimon Peres also went to the Negev on Sunday to offer his condolences to the bereaved Tragerman family. In the months prior to the conclusion of his term, Peres, a disciple of Ben-Gurion, visited the Negev many times to take pleasure in flourishing communities and watch the realization of Ben-Gurion’s dream to make the desert bloom. But over the past month, this dream has become a nightmare – and many of those who have left the Negev temporarily are unlikely to return, other than to pack up their belongings.
■ WITH THE notable exception of National Day receptions hosted by the ambassadors of France, the US and UK, and Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, it is rare to have more than one government minister in attendance. But at Moldova’s 23rd Independence Day reception hosted by Ambassador Anatol Vangheli and his wife, Anastasia, at Tel Aviv’s Einav Cultural Center, there were three ministers present.
It was in the cards that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman would be there. While he attends the Independence Day ceremonies of almost every country that was once part of the Soviet Union, he has a special reason for attending the Moldova event – since it is the country of his birth.
Liberman arrived exactly on time, and though he had other appointments and glanced at his watch from time to time, he stayed an hour and was warmly hailed by fellow Moldovans.
The other two ministers were Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, who officially represented the government, and Immigrant and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, who arrived early and took the opportunity to go window shopping in the Gan Ha’ir Mall in which the Einav Center is located.
In the buzz of conversation, Russian was the predominant language, followed by English and Hebrew. Among the guests were Japan’s new Ambassador Shigeo Matsutomi, for whom this is his first ambassadorial posting; and Nigerian Ambassador David Oladipo Obasa, who will be hosting his own country’s Independence Day reception next month. Uzbekistan Ambassador Oybek Eshonov came bearing a large bouquet of flowers.
Vangheli began his welcoming address in excellent, almost unaccented Hebrew, then switched to English. Landau spoke in English, but introduced one Hebrew expression into his address. Landver spoke first in Hebrew, then with much greater fervor in Russian, comparing similarities between Israel and Moldova. Liberman was not among the speakers, leaving before the speeches were over.
Vangheli said it was delightful to see so many people at the celebration of this important day for his country, and thanked them for joining in the celebration despite the tensions. He also pledged Moldova’s support for Israel in the current conflict, and said Israel had been a friend and reliable partner since 1992.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries are based on reciprocity, trust, mutual support and democratic values, he said, adding that there is an excellent political dialogue between Jerusalem and Chisinau; the two countries are united in their fight against terrorism and anti-Semitism, which threaten international peace and stability.
He was also appreciative of the fact that the Israeli government has abolished entry visas for Moldovan citizens visiting Israel, and credited Liberman – “a Moldovan-born Israeli” – with being at the forefront of promoting friendship between the two countries.
Historically, Bessarabia, the bulk of which is now part of Moldova, was home to a vibrant and important Jewish community, said Landau, noting that Bessarabian Jews had contributed significantly to the development of both Moldova and Israel. “This special link between us is reflected in the fact that Israel recognized the Republic of Moldova immediately upon its declaration of independence in 1991,” said Landau. He recalled that when Moldova was grappling with a state of emergency brought on by natural disasters, Israel was the first country to extend concrete support and humanitarian aid.
Landau referred to his own visit to Moldova in July, as co-chairman with Moldova’s Agriculture Minister Vasile Burnacov of the Moldova-Israel Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation. His visit will be followed up in September by that of Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, to examine options for improving cooperation in those areas.
Aside from Liberman, one of the most constant guests at such events is Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, whose radiant countenance is almost magnetic. Several guests of the faith of the Eastern Church came towards him with heads bowed for a blessing, and kissed his hand.
The Greek Orthodox Church owns considerable tracts of land in Israel that are leased to the state; among national iconic properties on such land are the Knesset, the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue and the President’s Residence.
When asked by the writer of this column what would happen if the church decided to crack down on its ownership rights, the patriarch smiled and replied: “Don’t worry.
We’ve already extended the contract.”
■ ARGUABLY, NO one in Israel today has a greater foothold in Israeli cinema than brothers Moshe and Leon Edery, especially since Yoram Globus recently divested himself of many of his interests in the motion picture industry. Angel investors, producers, distributors and owners of valuable movie archives, the Ederys are best-known as the founders and owners with partner Yaakov Cohen of the chain of multiplex Cinema Cities.
The first Cinema City was launched in 2002 at the Glilot junction, followed by Rishon Lezion and Jerusalem, with others under construction in Beersheba and Kfar Saba due to open next year; there are also plans to open Cinema Cities in Haifa and Hadera. This week, construction began on Cinema City Netanya. The complex, which in addition to cinema halls will include a shopping mall, restaurants and parking facilities for 1,000 cars, is adjacent to Netanya’s new soccer stadium and is a joint venture with real estate developers Rogosin-Federman. The estimated investment in the project is NIS 90 million.
Curiously, before the advent of Cinema City and its Globus, Yes Planet and Lev rivals, movie theaters around the country were closing down. But the Ederys brought a new leisure-time culture to Israel, combining various options under one roof.
The brothers have encountered a major problem in Jerusalem, where there is strong opposition within the Jerusalem Municipal Council to the opening of Cinema City on Shabbat. This is despite the fact that it is not in a residential area and would therefore not be offensive to anyone, aside from which it has no outdoor activity, so no one would even be aware of what was happening inside. The Jerusalem Cinematheque has been screening films on Shabbat for decades, and although haredim demonstrated against this in the beginning, they soon tired of the battle.
Uzi Wexler, who heads the Sherover Foundation, signed a deal with Yes Planet to build a multiplex in the Abu Tor complex that was initially touted as a cultural center. He is going ahead despite objections by neighborhood residents, some of whom are religiously observant. Wexler has already announced that when completed, the project will operate on Shabbat.
Meanwhile, Orlando Films has announced they will begin screening films – including on Shabbat – at Beit Shmuel, the Jerusalem multipurpose center that is part of the large headquarters complex of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.
Beit Shmuel is located in Mamilla, a hop, skip and a jump from the Mamilla Mall, whose construction was held up for years by developer Alfred Akirov – because the municipality would not grant him the license to build a multiplex cinema bank within the mall, for fear that films would be screened on Shabbat. When that problem was finally resolved, Akirov backtracked on his initial intention, and what had been designated as the cinema area is now occupied by shops and eateries.
■ THE BEGIN Heritage Center, currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of its opening at its present site, held its central festivities on Monday, with a variety of programs attended by a huge number of people – not all of them-old guard Likudniks like the center’s late founders, Harry Hurwitz and Yechiel Kadishai.
However, Kadishai’s wife, Esther, was present and so was veteran Likudnik and center chairman Yehoshua Matza, who came with his wife, Rachel. Yet the audience was very mixed in terms of age and religious and secular, with a lot of young people including children.
The keynote event on Monday was a oneman show, Mr. Begin, featuring Danny Shteg in a remarkable depiction of the late prime minister on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the death of his beloved wife, Aliza, to whom he was married for 43 years. Shteg manages to look and sound like Begin, and even emulates his body language.
The script has Begin talking to his wife, with whom he fell in love when she was 17 years old – and with whom he remained in love long after her death. He reviews their life together, his career and their unfailing loyalty to each other. The extraordinarily moving portrayal earned the applause it justly deserved.
Immediately afterwards, on the lower terrace of the complex with its panoramic view, there was an even larger and more enthusiastic audience for a riveting performance by singer Kobi Aflalo, who raised a laugh when he said it was his big dream to come and live in Jerusalem – but that he would have to give many concerts in order to be able to afford to do so. The price of Jerusalem stone was just too expensive, he said.
Aflalo also spoke of how impressed he was with the soldiers he had met when together with other colleagues from the entertainment industry, he gave pro bono concerts in the South. He was particularly taken by the spirit of the wounded soldiers to whom he sang in hospital. “We thought that this was a decadent generation without values,” he said. “But they surprised us all. We raised a generation of great fighters, who are ready to put their lives on the line for the national flag.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also referred to the soldiers, and said it was because of their dedication and that of the police that civilians can come together on such a festive occasion. Begin Heritage Center director- general Herzl Makov said that since its opening, the center has hosted 1.2 million visitors – including 50,000 soldiers.
■ LAST SUNDAY marked the 85th anniversary of the Hebron Massacre of 1929, in which 67 Jews were killed. During the riots that took place at the time, Jews were also hidden and protected by local Arab families.
It is therefore a rash generalization to say that all Arabs want to kill Jews.
During the massacre, synagogues were vandalized, and Torah scrolls were torn and strewn about as their silver casings were plundered. The desecrated scrolls were subsequently rescued; those that could not be repaired were placed in a geniza. Of those that could be restored, some were given to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and lodged in the ark in his home, while others have since been placed in the rebuilt and rededicated Avraham Avinu Synagogue in Hebron.
This past Tuesday, at the initiative of Rabbi Shlomo Levy and the Saluk family, the remaining scrolls were restored and rededicated, in the rededicated ark of what is now the Rav Kook Museum in Jerusalem – once the home of the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi in British Mandate Palestine. The ceremony took place in the presence of President Rivlin, Rabbi Haim Druckman, Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, Mayor Barkat and other dignitaries.
Although the 80th anniversary of Rav Kook’s passing will be commemorated next year, anniversary events have begun this year to usher in the shmita year – the sabbatical year in which strict Jewish law mandates the fields should lie fallow. However, in his time, Rav Kook found a way around this prohibition to enable continued cultivation; the solution was to sell the land to non-Jews, and redeem it a year later.
This was because in 1910, when he served as rabbi of the agricultural settlements of the Land of Israel, he knew the farms would be in danger of collapse if they were not worked for a whole year.
Extremists among the ultra-Orthodox opposed the ruling, saying he was putting Zionism ahead of the Torah. Yet his ruling continues to be observed to this day.
A memorial ceremony for Rav Kook will be held on Thursday night of this week at the museum, and on Friday morning there will be an even larger gathering at the Mercaz Harav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, following a graveside ceremony at the Mount of Olives that will be attended by many leading rabbis and prominent figures in the religious-Zionist movement.
■ AMONG THE veterans of Israel’s celebrity chefs is Shalom Kadosh, 67, the prize-winning executive chef of the Leonardo hotel chain. Kadosh works primarily out of the Leonardo Plaza in the capital, and while many people in the hotel business come and go, he has been a constant culinary force in all the various incarnations of the main Jerusalem branch of the Leonardo – throughout its various changes of ownership and management, beginning with Canadian Pacific in the mid-1970s.
A series of prime ministers from Begin onward have called on his culinary creativity for dinners at which they hosted monarchs, presidents and prime ministers; he was also the first Israeli to be invited to join the Club des Chefs des Chefs, whose members cook for heads of state. Among those who sampled Kadosh’s cuisine were the late King Hussein of Jordan and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands. He also satisfied the presidential palates of US presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, to name but a few.
Kadosh attended the recent annual gathering of the Club des Chefs des Chefs in London that was hosted by Mark Flanagan, head chef to Queen Elizabeth. Not only is it a great personal honor for Kadosh, who is only unofficial chef to a prime minister, to be a member of the club – but it also a sign of global recognition for Israeli gastronomy.
Kadosh is hopeful that he will host a future meeting of the club in Jerusalem. He has hosted several groups of high-class chefs from abroad in the past, and has enviable connections in international hotel and restaurant kitchens – so there is good reason to be optimistic that there will be a gathering of Chefs des Chefs here.
■ THROUGHOUT THE year, television and radio personality Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes – who also happens to be the wife of Minister Silvan Shalom – is one of the mainstays of an organization called Hom, which in Hebrew means warmth. Together with well-known broadcaster Nissim Mishal, she collects donations dedicated to feeding hungry children throughout Israel, though over the past month and a half their efforts have been directed primarily towards children living closest to Gaza. Hom has also been behind massive supportive efforts for the IDF.
Earlier this month, when Nir-Mozes celebrated her 56th birthday, she decided she would host 150 women from Ashkelon for a morning of breakfast and pampering at the Akoya Spa in Hamei Yoav. Now, she and Mishal are redirecting their efforts towards children whose families live near Gaza, and are on the brink of poverty due to their inability to work or run a business in these troubled times. Lawyer Yossie Cohen and his wife, Renana, are opening their home at 13 Hadafna Street, Rishpon, to a happening to benefit children of the South on Wednesday evening, September 10.
Entertainers will include Eyal Golan, Sarit Hadad and Filipina caregiver Rose Fostanes, the winning contestant in the first season of The X-Factor Israel. Catering is by Falafel Production, and lots of surprises are promised. Tickets are NIS 3,000 per couple.