GRAPEVINE: Commemorating women equally

The situation is not much better when it comes to street names. Almost every city and town in Israel has a Weizmann, Ben- Zvi, Jabotinsky, Herzl and Herzog street and/or institution.

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April 27, 2016 21:16
A Jewish female activist (C) from the Women of the Wall prayer rights group

A Jewish female activist (C) from the Women of the Wall prayer rights group wears a prayer shawl and tefillin during a monthly prayer session near the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Compared to most other countries, Israel was quite progressive in including women in its banknote illustrations, although it was more of a token gesture than the norm.

There was an anonymous female soldier alongside the tomb of the Sanhedrin on the half-lira note of 1958. There were a boy and girl – poster figures for the kibbutz – on the 50-lira note of 1960. Henrietta Szold was honored on the five-lira note of 1973, and Golda Meir on the 10,000-shekel note of 1984. Following the advent of the New Shekel, her visage was placed on NIS-10 note. More recently, a fictional female by the name of Ziva David was immortalized on five-, 10- and 20-shekel notes in 2015 – but those particular notes are not legal tender.

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The situation is not much better when it comes to street names. Almost every city and town in Israel has a Weizmann, Ben- Zvi, Jabotinsky, Herzl and Herzog street and/or institution. The Weizmann streets are named for Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, but not much has been done to memorialize his nephew Ezer Weizman, who was Israel’s seventh president and the commander-in-chief of the Israel Air Force.

The Ben-Zvi streets and institutions are named for Israel’s second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, though his wife, Rachel Yana’it Ben-Zvi, who was a great personality in her own right, is all but overlooked, other than by women’s organizations which have tried to give her her due.

Jabotinsky was the great Revisionist leader Binyamin Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who shared a Hebrew moniker with Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, whose Hebrew name was also Binyamin Ze’ev. Thus when a son was born to Irgun leader Menachem Begin, the latter instinctively knew that there could be no more ideological name for the boy than Binyamin Ze’ev Begin, who today is a second- generation member of Knesset.

Herzog is a little more complex in that the original Herzog streets and institutions were named for Israel’s first chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Isaac Halevi Herzog, whose grandson of the same name is currently head of the Knesset opposition. But the Herzog family is brimming with achievers.

Chaim Herzog, the elder son of the chief rabbi, who has had academic institutions named for him, was Israel’s sixth president and was prominent in many fields before his election to the presidency. The chief rabbi’s wife, Sarah, was the founder of World Emunah and was dedicated to the welfare of patients in the geriatric facility in Jerusalem that now bears her name.

The president’s younger brother Yaakov was a diplomat and adviser to and confidante of prime ministers of Israel. Yaakov’s wife, Penina, was Israel’s longtime representative at the World Health Organization and the president of World Emunah. So there will have to be explanatory notes to indicate the specific Herzog after which a street or institution was named.

Although Meir had asked in her final years that nothing be named for her, the request has fallen on deaf ears. There are streets, institutions and even a park named for her, but she is one of the very few exceptions to the rule.

In general, the women who helped to build the country are ignored or given only token appreciation, as for instance the low denominator note that featured Szold. When she served as the prime minister’s adviser on social issues and the status of women, former Netanya mayor Vered Swed urged mayors around the country to name more streets after women, and although many agreed, not much was done.

Currently waving the flag for memorializing women and their contributions to the creation and upbuilding of the state is Debbie Ben-Ami, a member of the World Zionist Organization executive, who is so passionate about bringing Israel’s female pioneers out of anonymity that she is not only pushing mayors to name their streets after them but is also compiling material on 500 outstanding women Zionists, including the biblical Miriam, the sister of Moses, whom Ben-Ami credits with being no less responsible for the Children of Israel becoming a nation than were Moses and Aaron.

Speaking earlier this month at the Labor Party pre-Passover toast, Ben-Ami said that were it not for the care that Miriam, who was only a child, took to ensure that Moses would be safe and well looked after, the history of the Children of Israel would be much different, and there is a strong possibility that their scattered progeny would have forgotten what it was that united them.

■ IF WOMEN are not getting the recognition they deserve in Israel, the situation is infinitely worse for women in most of the other countries of the region.

An extremely poignant photographic exhibition of the last photographs by German photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was assassinated in Afghanistan in 2014, will open to the public at 11.30 a.m. on Friday, May 20, at the Museum on the Seam Jerusalem in the presence of German Ambassador Dr. Clemens von Goetze.

Joining the management of the Museum of the Seam in sponsoring the exhibition curated by Gisela Kayser of Berlin are the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the German Embassy.

Niedringhaus was a prize-winning photojournalist who captured rare documentation of the lives of women of Afghanistan during and following the Taliban regime.

She really cared about the subjects who were immortalized in the lens of her camera.

The exhibition is therefore titled: My Beloved Afghanistan.

■ THE SELFLESSNESS of some women, in particular nursing mothers, knows no bounds. A heartwarming story in Yediot Aharonot this week told of jewelry designer Or Carmi who was unable to breast-feed her baby because she was a recovering breast cancer patient.

Yet she was determined that her son Noam would be fed on mother’s milk. This determination transferred itself to her sister Zohar, who briefly told Or’s story on Facebook and asked for donations of mother’s milk. Within 24 hours the page was burgeoning with offers and suggestions; but better still, the refrigerator at her parents’ home was packed to capacity with sacks of mother’s milk which came in from all over the country.

Just think how many mothers made the sometimes painful effort to squeeze milk out of their breasts for a baby they didn’t know and for a woman with whom they could empathize on more than one level. Carmi received more milk than she would need in a month of Sundays and decided to share her bounty with other mothers of newborn babies who are either unable to breast-feed them at all, or who do not have sufficient milk in their own breasts to feed the baby adequately.

The story conforms with the Hebrew adage “Mitzva goreret mitzva,” which roughly translated means one good deed leads to another. This good deed by many women has developed a life of its own and has spread way beyond what anyone involved intended. Perhaps the names of the mother and her baby had something to do with it.

“Or” means light and “noam” means pleasantness.

That’s a pretty good combination.

■ ISRAEL RADIO’s Reshet Gimmel is bidding farewell to British music editor and DJ Tony Fine, who is retiring after 40 years of bringing the best of global music to Israeli listeners.

Born on Passover in Liverpool, the home of The Beatles, Fine was a very successful DJ with the BBC before coming to Israel, and had offers of good jobs elsewhere in Europe, but because he was a Zionist and wanted to make sure that he would marry a Jewish girl, he opted for Israel.

His Hebrew was far from perfect, but his in-depth knowledge of music and his professionalism instantly got him a job at Israel Radio. Outside of the studio, he didn’t know anyone, but used to hang around on the beach a lot, hoping someone would strike up a conversation with him. If someone asked him for a cigarette, it made his day.

In 1978, two years after his arrival, he was hosting the Tony Fine Show, which was followed by the Tony Fine Disco, which in turn was followed by the Tony Fine Hour. He broadcast together with many top-notch Israeli broadcasters, but is best known for the programs he ran together with the late Shosh Atari, who loved his acute British accent and occasionally made good-natured fun of it.

Fine’s colleagues took turns at the microphone on Reshet Bet as well as Reshet Gimmel to sing his praises and to say how much they had learned from him. They also credited him with bringing computerization to broadcasting in Israel. Fine tendered his resignation on the eve of Passover and, still speaking with a distinct British accent, assured his fans that even though he might be retiring from the IBA, he was not retiring from the world of music, and there was a good chance that they would hear him again soon. His personal theme song, which is as British as they get, is “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

■ REGARDLESS OF who may be anchoring a political program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, as soon as the subject of the French peace initiative is raised, discussion and speculation begins as to who will or will not be attending the May 30 conference of foreign ministers who will work out a summit strategy to get the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

The program anchor will inevitably comment something to the effect that everyone has been invited to the wedding except the bride and groom. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is due to pay a visit to the region prior to the conference to sound out the lie of the land, but if the purpose of the conference is to push Israel back to the 1967 borders, he and his colleagues will be wasting their time.

One of the reasons that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been excluded from the invitation list may well have something to do with the fact that Israel’s foreign minister also happens to be its prime minister, and it’s very difficult not to think of Benjamin Netanyahu in the latter capacity.

Aside from anything to do with the Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry is going through a tough time right now. It doesn’t have a full time foreign minister, and as of this week, the deputy foreign minister is out on maternity leave.

To make matters worse, there’s been a tightening of budgetary constraints which inter alia has reduced the participation of Foreign Ministry officials at the national day and other receptions hosted by heads of foreign missions.

In happier times, the ministry would hire a minibus to transport a dozen or more representatives, including retirees who were former ambassadors.

But now that they have to get to faraway places outside of Jerusalem under their own steam, many, including current staff, are opting to stay home. It doesn’t augur well for bilateral relations or for general diplomatic networking.

■ JUST AS there is a gradual decline in the numbers of Holocaust survivors, there is also a decline in the number of soldiers from the Allied forces who liberated the Nazi death and concentration camps.

Opportunities for Holocaust survivors and their liberators to get together are fading fast, but next week three nonagenarian American liberators, one a retired colonel who can still get into his army uniform, will team up with Holocaust survivors from Israel, plus 50 Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), plus soldiers from the IDF, to undertake the annual Auschwitz-Birkenau March of the Living.

It will not be the first time that representatives from all four categories have been on the March of the Living at the same time, but they haven’t participated as a united front representing the past, the present and the future.

Three nonagenarian liberators will travel to Poland as part of this contingent. They are former GIs Sid Shafner, 94, of Colorado, who was one of the first US soldiers to enter Dachau with the 42nd Infantry Division and was awarded two bronze stars for heroism; Cranston Rogers, 91, of Massachusetts, who liberated Dachau with the 45th Infantry Division on April 29, 1945, and retired as a colonel; and William Bryant Phelps, 90, of Texas, who liberated Mauthausen-Gusen with the 11th Armored Division.

Shafner and Dachau survivor Marcel Levy, who now lives in Israel, will be reunited at an Israel Air Force base. After Levy got out of Dachau, he traveled with Shafner’s unit, working as a cook. Shafner and Levy developed a friendship and have stayed in touch for 70-plus years. They last saw each other 21 years ago at the bat mitzva in Jerusalem of Shafner’s granddaughter.

The Holocaust survivors traveling with the delegation are: Martha Weiss, who together with her sisters was sent to Auschwitz shortly after her 10th birthday; and Giselle Cycowicz, who survived five months in Birkenau. At the invitation of Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Weiss, who has been living in Jerusalem for the past 18 years, was in New York in January to represent Israel at the International Holocaust Day marked by the UN.

The delegation will be led by FIDF national president Peter Weintraub along with FIDF national director and CEO Maj.-Gen. (res.) Meir Klifi-Amir. Like all delegations that travel to Poland and then on to Israel at this time of the year, its focus will be from Holocaust to independence.

The delegation will tour Poland prior to coming to Israel to learn the history of Jewish communities that are no more, which is more or less in accord with what other delegations do, but the essential difference with this delegation is that they will travel from Poland to Israel on an Israel Air Force transport jet. They will arrive in Israel in time to participate in Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and for Victims of Terrorism ceremonies, after which they will celebrate Independence Day.

The delegation will be accompanied by Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, MK Michael Oren, who originally came to Israel as a lone soldier.

■ SPECIAL POSTHUMOUS recognition will be given to Leon Charney, the recently deceased author, philanthropist and political pundit, at an award ceremony taking place Monday, May 2, at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem.

The event, which includes an exhibition of male and female Jewish pilots in the air forces of various countries, is an opportunity to confer the Mensch Award on Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Speakers will include Amunition Hill CEO Katri Maoz; Steve Geiger, founder and director of the Mensch International Foundation; Rona Ramon, founding director of the Ramon Foundation; retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach; Hungarian Ambassador Dr.

Andor Nagy; Israel adviser to the Mensch Foundation Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yehuda Golan Aschenfeld; and Eitan Senesh, the chairman of the Hannah Senesh Foundation.

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