As is the case with gifts for any occasion, Hanukka presents come in a wide variety of categories, shapes, sizes and colors. Though money is traditionally a Hanukka gift, some people want to give something that is more meaningful, with thought put into the nature of the gift.
It’s a known fact that many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy lose their hair for a significant period of time. With the onset of winter, and the knowledge that bare heads under any circumstances, whether bald or not, are sensitive to cold, women from the Gordon Community Center in Upper Nazareth decided to knit warm, woolen caps for cancer patients to wear during winter. A large box of caps that had been knitted and crocheted in many colors and patterns was delivered to the Baruch Padeh Medical Center, Poriya, by Bilha Adler, the center’s coordinator, and was gratefully received by patients heartened by the thought that total strangers were concerned for their well-being.
■ JUST AHEAD of the annual reception hosted last week by Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita and his wife, Noriko, in honor of the birthday of Emperor Akihito, a special panel chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paved the way for the emperor to abdicate on April 30, 2019, and for his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, to become emperor on May 1.
In August last year, Akihito, who will celebrate his 84th birthday on December 23, indicated in a nationally televised message that he wants to step down. He will be the first emperor of Japan to do so in a period of 200 years. The last emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817. In January 2019, Akihito will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his ascent to the throne.
A series of Japanese ambassadors have held birthday receptions in the emperor’s honor some three weeks ahead of time, because his birthday is so close to Christmas, which means that the bulk of foreign diplomats on the guest list would probably be out of town and back in their home countries celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with their families and friends.
Tomita said that this year, 2017, has been a historic year for the bilateral relations between Japan and the State of Israel because it marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations. “[The year] 2017 started as a year to look back, but in fact it has turned out be a year to look ahead, and look ahead with great optimism,” he said, and forecast that “2017 will be remembered as a watershed year for the history of our partnership, because we have accomplished so much in so many areas.”
Among these accomplishments, he said, there has been an unprecedented level of political engagement between Israel and Japan, with six Israeli cabinet ministers, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, visiting Japan during the course of this year. During the same period, three Japanese ministers traveled in the opposite direction, he said. The two prime ministers met in New York in September, and then continued to communicate through teleconferences.
The bilateral economic and business partnership has really taken off during the past year, said Tomita, enthusing that it had reached “the level we could only dream of five years ago.” There has been a phenomenal increase in the interest of Japanese businesses in Israeli technology, he said, adding that he has been receiving delegation after delegation seeking partnerships with Israeli start-ups, and that these moves have started to bear fruit. He instanced Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Japan, which had just announced an acquisition of Israeli company NeuroDerm for $1.1 billion.
Human exchanges also expanded dramatically in 2017, said the ambassador, citing the huge increase in Israeli tourism to Japan and vice versa. As the year 2017 comes to a close, there is much to look forward to in the coming year, in addition to Israel’s 70th anniversary of independence, he said. “In this historic year, I am determined to work for the further progress in all aspects of our partnership, including political cooperation, economic partnership and human exchanges,” he said.
As for peace in the region, the ambassador said: “This is one goal which has eluded the people of Israel despite all the great progress achieved elsewhere since independence. In the past few days, we are being faced with new uncertainties, which concern my government.”
For all that, Tomita emphasized that “there is a big difference between 1948 and 2018 – that is, Israel is no longer an isolated country. Because of your heroic efforts to build a strong democracy in the most difficult of environments, you have gained great respect among the countries around the world. You have many friends now, and you can certainly count Japan as one of your closest friends.
“My hope is that you take courage from what you have accomplished in the past 70 years and have the confidence to renew your efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region. And I pledge Japan will be a partner you can trust in this endeavor.”
Shaked, who had never been to Japan before, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was encouraging his ministers to travel abroad to enhance ties in their respective fields. She fell in love with the country and its people as well as with its food, she said. She also made good contacts and is hoping that Japan will send a delegation to a judicial conference that will be held in Israel next year.
Tomita did not miss the opportunity to put in a huge plug for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and welcomed Dr.
Roni Bornstein, who has been appointed by the Israel Olympic Committee as goodwill ambassador for the Tokyo Games. A businessman and entrepreneur, Bornstein has been active in the Japanese market for several years, and is a past chairman of the Israel-Japan Friendship Society and Chamber of Commerce in the years 2009-2016 and later in the years 1998-2006. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the emperor of Japan and also received Japan’s Prime Minister’s Award as well as a medal from the Foreign Ministry of Japan for his work in promoting and developing relations between Israel and Japan.
Guests at the reception were transfixed by an amazing Japanese drum performance by four percussionists – only one of them Japanese – playing huge Japanese drums. They were also treated to authentic Japanese cuisine provided by three of the leading Japanese restaurants in Israel.
■ IN THE elevator at the National Library on the Edmond J. Safra Campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Givat Ram, Dame Shirley Porter, whose family foundation underwrote the “Where Balfour Meets Allenby” exhibition, was asked where she lives.
“In Herzliya Pituah,” she replied. “I have to because I don’t speak Hebrew.”
Four generations of the Porter family came to the exhibition, including Shirley’s son Jonathan, who specially flew in from London, her daughter Linda Streit, her granddaughter Joanna Landau, who is the founder of Kinetis and Vibe Israel, both of which are designed to improve Israel’s image and the way that people think about Israel, and Landau’s children.
Saying that she finds it difficult to speak from notes, Shirley, who is the daughter and heiress of Tesco founder Sir Jack Cohen, spoke of how her father, “a tailor’s son making buttonholes,” had served in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War, had been thrown off a sinking ship when he couldn’t swim and was saved by a nurse who held him up in the water for four hours. He never knew her name, and though he tried to find her after the war, he never succeeded.
Shirley also mentioned her late husband, Sir Leslie Porter, who fought in the Second World War under Montgomery in El Alamein, and saw service in North Africa, Greece and Italy. He was wounded twice and recuperated the first time in Netanya and the second in the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. On both occasions he loved what he saw of the Land of Israel.
The Cohen family was pro-Zionist, and when the War of Independence erupted, young Shirley said she was going to join the fighting Jews. Her parents told her she wasn’t going, and because she was still a teenager, she had to obey. But in that same year, 1948, she met the man who was to be her husband, and as she said, “all the rest is history.” The Porters moved to Israel almost a quarter of a century ago, and three generations of the family have been actively involved with Tel Aviv University, which has been a significant beneficiary of their largesse.
Guest speaker at the event was Prof. Shlomo Avineri, who was his usual brilliant self, speaking without notes and without hesitation of what brought about the Balfour Declaration and what ensued afterward.
Avineri has a deliciously dry sense of humor, and told his audience that Chaim Weizmann’s contribution to the Balfour Declaration was slightly exaggerated, “mainly through his autobiography.” Dr. Gil Weissblei, who was one of the curators of the exhibition, disagreed. In his view Weizmann was the greatest diplomat of all time. Then again, when did historians ever agree, especially Jewish historians? Be that as it may, Avineri noted that no other European country in the early 19th century was as involved with the Holy Land as was England. To some extent he attributed this unusual relationship to the legacy of the Puritans of the 17th century but, coming forward from then, observed that the British Exploration Society put up the first maps and identified the first sites in what was then Palestine. The British government set up an active consulate in Jerusalem, and there was also a missionary church near the entrance to the Jaffa Gate which had no Christian symbols that might be offensive to the Jews, primarily because they wanted to attract the Jews and convert them. “The first Anglican bishop of Jerusalem was a converted Jew,” said Avineri.
As for the Balfour Declaration, which in essence was a private letter sent by the British foreign secretary to a Jewish tycoon, Avineri pointed out that its importance lay in the fact that of the many promises the British made during the war to the Italians, the Russians and the Arabs, this was the only one that was more than just a piece of paper. The British remained committed to it, regardless of changes in government, and its wording was included in the Palestine Mandate of the League of Nations. It was not the Balfour Declaration as such that gave legitimacy to a national home for the Jewish people, but the League of Nations, said Avineri. Gen. Edmund Allenby wasn’t terribly happy about this but, on instructions from London, accepted the situation with grace.
■ THE FOLLOWING day was the mega celebration at the Tower of David Museum of the centenary of Allenby’s entry into Jerusalem. In addition to the masses of people who came in from Israel and abroad, were members of the Allenby family and of the family of Gen. Sir John Stuart McKenzie Shea, who commanded the 60th Division in Palestine and fought in the Battle of Jerusalem in December 1917.
The Allenbys comprised Sara, Lady Allenby, who became interested in World War I history of Palestine immediately after she was married, and accompanied her late husband on several research trips to Israel; and her son Viscount Henry Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe, who works in forestry, knows everything there is to know about trees, and was in Israel for the first time. No doubt that the Jewish National Fund will make sure that he comes again. Shea’s great-grandson John Benson was also in Israel for the first time, and chances are high that he, too, will come again.
Although the parents of the two men knew each other, the two representatives of the next generation met for the first time in Israel, where they shared a unique experience and forged a bond that they hope will continue in England.
Though naturally proud to be related to Gen. Allenby, who was his great-great-uncle, Viscount Allenby said that he doesn’t use his name or his title as a selling point, and that he was not in Jerusalem to represent himself. He had come to represent the field marshal.
Benson came because his father, who is very keen on the history of the region, was unable to make the journey.
Benson has been constantly updating him via email. A stick that belonged to the mayor of Jerusalem and a sword that belonged to the chief of police have been in Benson’s family for decades, and as the centenary was drawing near, they wondered how they would celebrate and were pleased when the invitation came from the Tower of David Museum, where the stick and the sword are currently on display in the exhibition “Allenby at the Gates of Jerusalem.”
When Allenby conquered Jerusalem, he had his proclamation read out in seven languages so that all the residents would understand what he meant. In the reenactment on Monday, it was read out eight times, to include the Armenians, who were omitted in 1917.
Viscount Allenby read the English version. The others were read by Father Joseph of the Latin Patriarchate in French, Friar Diego de la Gassa of the Gethsemane Hermitage in Italian, Rabbi David Menachem in Hebrew, Patrick Salama, a resident of the Old City, in Arabic, Archimandrite Bartholomeus of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Greek, Mother Susanna of the Mary Magdalene Church in Russian, and Father Korian Badasmian in Armenian.
Although curators found it painful to make choices and thereby discard items that might have enhanced the exhibition, to the viewer who is unaware of what was discarded it’s a very comprehensive and meaningful tribute. Sometimes a museum or a gallery will omit something that somehow spoils the whole project.
Not this time. Even the food was traditional British fare, including dainty sandwiches cut in small triangles without crusts and absolutely delicious scones with cream and jam, the culinary handiwork of Eva Edry.
■ PEOPLE ARE inclined to forget that American Jews were fighting in this part of the world during the first quarter of the 20th century. Among them was Abe Simon, whose nephew Reuven Geffen, from Moshav Nir Moshe, happened to participate in the tour of World War I sites taken by Viscount Allenby. Abe Simon fought with the Jewish Legion, including at Megiddo and other Ottoman strongholds. The soldiers from the North American units came from all over the US and Canada, and one of them, Harry Rosenblatt, who died at age 101, marched under Allenby’s command into Jerusalem on December 11, 1917.
Geffen presented Viscount Allenby with copies of photos of his uncle Abe in wartime Palestine.
As for further information about Abe Simon and other American Jews who fought in this region 100 years ago, Geffen relied on his cousin, the family historian David Geffen of Jerusalem, who occasionally writes for The Jerusalem Post.
■ FORMER US ambassador and US special envoy for peace negotiations Martin Indyk tweeted: “According to USG estimates it will take at least six years to build a new embassy in Jerusalem. It would take less than six months to convert the existing new building in Arnona in west Jerusalem. So why is Trump failing to deliver on his promise?” ■ THE POPULAR saying used to be “Join the navy and see the world.” Now it’s “Be a bodyguard to someone in the prime minister’s immediate family and see the world.” Over the past year Netanyahu has been abroad more than 20 times to countries on six continents, ranging from Russia in the north to Australia in the south.
Now, younger son Avner, having completed his mandatory service in the IDF and choosing to serve in a combat unit, is taking the traditional post-army trip abroad, but opted for neither India nor Latin America, which are the most popular post-army destinations.
Instead, he went off to Australia and New Zealand, and the bodyguards went with him, though there’s little doubt that he can take good care of himself.
Proud papa wrote on his Facebook page: “Avner, we are proud of you and love you and we share the excitement with all the parents in Israel that are going through this wonderful experience.”
■ NEWS ONE hasn’t heard or read before remains news no matter how old it is. The US State Department announced last week that American citizens born in Jerusalem would not have the word Israel on their birth certificates. There is no amended policy in this regard, despite President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On Sunday morning, Aryeh Golan interviewed retired diplomat and expert in international law Alan Baker, who is currently director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and who was unaware of the State Department’s dictum. Even when Golan assured him that this was not fake news but an official notification from the State Department, Baker remained dubious.
But later in the conversation, he himself said that regardless of changes in administration, both the US State Department and the British Foreign Office remained consistently anti-Israel.
■ POLITICAL PUNDITS say that regardless of Trump’s declaration that America sees Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the US Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is still a long way off. So apparently is the move of Army Radio to Jerusalem.
The decision by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to relocate Army Radio (Galei Tzahal) from Jaffa to Jerusalem and house it in the Museum of Underground Prisoners sparked so much opposition among the sons and daughters of Irgun, Stern Group and Hagana fighters who were imprisoned there by the British that Liberman decided that this was a battle not to be fought, and is looking for alternate premises.
However, since then, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has decided that Army Radio should remain under the helmet of the IDF and should not be transferred to the Defense Ministry, which is a political entity. The ministry has undertaken not to interfere in broadcasts, so the matter is currently up in the air both figuratively and literally.
■ THE HIGHLY irreverent satirist Lior Schleien, who is also highly secular, but seems to have a not inconsiderable grasp of knowledge of Jewish religious traditions, last Saturday night, after mocking various Haredi objections to secular education, finally appealed to the Haredi community not to cover their eyes and ears to possibilities that exist for them without infringing on their religious beliefs and practices.
Schleien is not actually against religious observance, he is against the extremism, coercion and even bribery employed in the dissemination of Jewish religious thought. His bottom line was that if man is created in the image of God, and God is all-seeing and all-knowing, why should man limit his own access to information? Part of his plea was related to singer/instrumentalist Yonatan Razel, who covered his eyes with black masking tape when performing recently in front of an auditorium of women at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. Razel apparently covered his eyes so as not to see women who were dancing close to the stage. Not only was this action covered in the news pages of most daily publications, but it was a topic of discussion on the electronic media throughout the week.
Schleien pointed out that if Razel didn’t want to see the dancing, all he had to do was close his eyes. The masking tape was superfluous. Schleien stopped short of calling it a publicity stunt, but it’s somewhat strange that someone playing the piano as he sings comes to the concert armed with masking tape, which is conveniently available when he needs to cover his eyes. He didn’t even have to take Schleien’s suggestion. He could have had the piano positioned in such a way that he would have his back to the audience. After all, conductors have their backs to the audience, so why not pianists? As a publicity gimmick, it certainly succeeded but created more antagonism than understanding in secular circles. As Schleien noted, Razel is generally regarded as some sort of bridge between the religious and secular communities, but this particular action did not exactly constitute bridge-building.
As for university education for the ultra-Orthodox, Ono Academic College introduced an ultra-Orthodox campus at which men and women have separate study days and go out into the world armed with more knowledge and qualifications without in any way compromising their religious lifestyles. But secularists are attacking this, saying that such special provisions should not be made by an educational institution that is essentially co-ed. They fail to realize that the powers that be at the college have devised the best possible solution for providing higher education for members of the Haredi community, who in general would refrain from attending co-ed classes The secular argument that Haredim in Europe and the US attend co-ed classes doesn’t hold, because in Europe and the US the overwhelming majority of students are non-Jews, from whom the Haredi students keep their distance.
In a Jewish majority environment, they could be influenced by classmates who are less observant or not observant at all.