Grapevine: A year of anniversaries

A weekly round up of news briefs from around Israel.

December 29, 2016 20:33
DISMOUNTED GENERAL Edmund Allenby enters the Old City of Jerusalem by foot in 1917 to show respect f

DISMOUNTED GENERAL Edmund Allenby enters the Old City of Jerusalem by foot in 1917 to show respect for the holy place.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow, 2016 will come to a close and we will embark on 2017 which already promises to be a frenetic year filled with meaningful, milestone anniversaries. A few things to anticipate are a likely visit by the 45th president of the United States and the 20th Maccabiah Games. The many anniversaries which will be celebrated or commemorated include the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, the centenary of the end of Ottoman rule, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the centenary of the triumphant yet respectful entrance into Jerusalem on foot by Gen. Edmund Allenby, commander of the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force, the centenary of the Russian Revolution, the 80th anniversary of the Peel Commission, the 70th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly vote in favor of partition and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Philippines, the first Asian country to exchange ambassadors with Israel.

More recent anniversaries include the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, the 50th anniversary of Israeli control of Judea and Samaria, the 40th anniversary of the historic visit to Jerusalem by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, the 30th anniversary of the arrival in Israel of refusenik and guardian angel of the Prisoners of Zion Ida Nudel, the 25th anniversary of Israel and China’s establishment of diplomatic relations, the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and India and the 10th anniversary of the Institute for National Security Studies in its present form, in honor of which it will hold a conference on Strategic Assessment for Israel at the Eretz Israel Museum on January 23-24.

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If the conference had been scheduled for a week earlier, there is little doubt that one of the speakers would have been US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who over the past five years has been invited to speak at most major conferences in Israel, especially those with American politicians, leading public figures and academics amongst the line-up of speakers. But the inauguration of Donald Trump takes place on January 20, by which time the extremely popular Shapiro will technically no longer be ambassador as it is customary for all American ambassadors to resign when a new administration comes into office, though Shapiro’s presumed successor David Friedman is due to arrive in Israel some time in February.

Because the conference more or less coincides with the Trump inauguration, which is a significant factor in the winds of change in leadership that are sweeping around the globe; participants will closely examine some of the global changes influencing public opinion in many countries; creating new social frameworks that facilitate the renewed prevalence of extremist movements.

■ ANOTHER MILESTONE anniversary will be the 80th birthday on June 1, of Israel’s most celebrated Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau who was freed from Buchenwald extermination camp when he was not yet eight years old. Lau went on to become chief rabbi of Netanya, a position now occupied by one of his sons, and then Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. His son, Rabbi David Lau was chief rabbi of Modi’in and is now Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. His youngest son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, is a rabbi in North Tel Aviv. Lau is now chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in addition to being chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. His nephew Rabbi Benny Lau, is an educator, religious Zionist activist and television and radio personality. The rabbis Lau were very busy this Hanukka lighting candles with congregants, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, senior citizens, people in hospitals, school children and even with tourists.

■ THE CONCEPT of Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and the Palestinian state is not a new one. In fact almost 10 years ago, at a discussion at the Jerusalem YMCA between author Amos Oz and former president of Al-Quds University Sari Nusseibeh shortly before the 40th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, Oz said that “the problem of Jerusalem is the easiest one to solve.

Everyone knows that at the end of the day Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israelis and Palestinians,” as part of an overall two-state solution. Yet Oz did not visualize a divided Jerusalem, but rather a shared Jerusalem in which the Israel ambassador to Palestine and the Palestinian ambassador to Israel would merely cross the road to have coffee with each other.

■ THE FACT that the protocols of committees appointed to investigate the disappearance of Yemenite and other children, mainly of non-Ashkenazi background, were classified for so long a period, gives rise to suspicions that contrary to what was told to their parents, these children did not die, but were kidnapped and given to childless Ashkenazi couples, mostly Holocaust survivors, for whom an infant would have been emotionally beneficial.

But no thought was given to the emotional and psychological harm that was inflicted on the parents and siblings of such children. Well known entertainers such as Boaz Sharabi, Avihu Medina, Nissim Garame and Shimi Tavori all lost siblings in this manner – siblings for whom there are no death certificates and no graves.

It is not surprising that Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who is of Yemenite background on his mother, former MK Geula Cohen’s side, was tasked with looking into the tragedy of the children who disappeared during the early years of the state. What is surprising is that it took so long for something of this nature to happen.

Hanegbi is one of several MKs or former MKs of Yemenite background. Others include Eitan Cabel, Gila Gamliel and Saadia Kobashi, who was one of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence, and served in the first Knesset. Zecharia Glosca, also Yemenite, was an MK from 1949-51, and Shimon Garidi, another Yemenite was elected in 1951. Other MKs of Yemenite background include Avigdor Kahalani and Yisrael Yeshayahu, who served in the Knesset from 1951 to 1977 and was even Knesset speaker from 1972-77.

And yet the protocols remained sealed until this week.

There were also MKs from Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Morocco from whose communities infants disappeared. The mind boggles at the length of time it has taken for the protocols to become accessible to the public. It is known however, that some documents were destroyed, and these documents may well have been vital. Not all children who were taken and given to Ashkenazi families know that they are adopted, and even those who do may not be interested in meeting their biological families who are, after all, strangers to them. Of those who know that they are adopted and who want to make contact with their biological families, the government is wisely considering the setting up a special DNA data bank. In some cases, DNA testing may not even be necessary, because some of the people may already be registered as potential bone marrow donors, so their DNA is already on file with Ezer Mizion.

Now that the government has taken the first step, it should go all the way in order to bring to a close what was a shameful chapter in Israel’s history. Attorney Yael Nagar who is in the forefront of all legal action related to the children who disappeared is still fighting a battle with the courts for permission to open the graves of all the children who allegedly died. Graves that have already been opened were found to be empty. She also wants the state to publicly apologize to the families for being a co-conspirator to what she calls the kidnapping, the falsifying of records and the long silence on the part of the state and the media. In Israel, it is illegal for adopted individuals to publicize the fact that they are adopted, and adoption files are generally sealed. Nagar wants to open all adoption files related to the children who disappeared, but this may be tougher than what she already achieved by appealing to the courts, because not everyone who was adopted knows that the parents who raised them are not their biological parents, and may not want to know.

■ TEN JEWISH players from Major League Baseball will visit Israel on January 3 for a week as part of Team Israel, participating in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. WBC rules say that anyone eligible for citizenship in a country other than the one(s) in which they already hold citizenship is eligible to play on that country’s team.

The visiting players include: Ike Davis (formerly of the New York Mets), Ty Kelly (New York Mets), Ryan Lavarnway (Oakland Athletics), Sam Fuld (Oakland Athletics organization), Josh Zeid (New York Mets organization), Cody Decker (Boston Red Sox organization), Jon Moscot (Cincinnati Reds), Corey Baker (St. Louis Cardinals organization), Jeremy Bleich (Philadelphia Phillies organization) and Gabe Kapler (Los Angeles Dodgers Director of Player Development).

The group will visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, an air force base, Masada and the Dead Sea. They will also spend time meeting with local Israeli baseball players, and will practice for the tournament on fields around Israel.

“This is an extremely exciting event for Israel baseball in particular and for sport in Israel in general,” said Peter Kurz, president of the Association of Israel Baseball. “The team is clearly the most impressive Jewish baseball team ever assembled, and we are very proud that they will be representing our country at the WBC. The trip will be an excellent opportunity for them to learn about Israel and meet the teams and players in Israel who will be supporting them at the WBC.”

The players will be accompanied by their wives, parents and children. The trip’s co-sponsors include JNF Project Baseball and Jeff Aeder, founder of the Jewish Baseball Museum.

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