The most colorful flag of any country, organization or movement is that of the gay community, whose flag represents all the colors of the rainbow, and as such is the flag of diversity. But specific colors are also used to identify nations, movements and even campaigns.
Purple is regarded as a royal or noble color. Yellow is usually associated with cowardice, though in other circles with harmony and sunshine. Green is the color of envy or of money or of having a magic touch with plant life. Red is the color of shame or embarrassment or alternately passion, and pink the color for female babies or the one in nine women who have cancer. Blue is associated with gloom or tranquility, and orange is the color of enthusiasm, creativity, fascination, happiness and determination. It’s the national color of Holland and of the Dutch royal family, though in Israel it’s usually the color worn by displaced settlers who were evacuated from Gaza.
But it’s also the color adopted by the United Nations in 1999 in the campaign to eliminate violence against women. This year, during the period November 25-December 10, UN Women and partners around the world have been marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign under the theme of “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls.” A host of public events – ranging from marches, exhibits and concerts to sporting events – have been organized under the banner of the UN secretary-general’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, using the signature color orange.
As in previous years, iconic buildings and monuments have been “oranged” to call for a violence-free future. These include the parliaments in Bangladesh, Liberia and Morocco, Rio’s iconic Corcovado, the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, La Scala theater in Milan, the Bogota City Hall, the National Theater of Algiers, and Table Mountain in Cape Town. In Israel, at the initiative of Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons, the Canadian Embassy building in Tel Aviv has been “oranged,” and members of the embassy staff are sporting orange tee shirts, wrist bands, blouses, cardigans et al. to identify with the campaign, which concludes on International Human Rights Day, which is December 10.
The date designated by the UN General Assembly as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was chosen to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic who were violently assassinated in 1960. The day pays tribute to them, as well as urging global recognition of gender violence. Each year on this day, governments, international organizations and NGOs are invited to organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem.
“Gender-based violence affects us all. It destroys families, weakens the fabric of our society, and takes a heavy toll on our communities and our economy,” said Lyons. Canadians are reminded during the 16 Days of Activism that they can take actions, now and throughout the year, to eliminate violence against women and girls in all its forms.
The 16 Days of Activism also include the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, this day marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal. They died because they were women.
■ ON WEDNESDAY night of last week, Nechama Rivlin, the wife of the president, went to Tel Aviv to present the Women’s Leadership Award for 2017 on behalf of Women on the Frontlines to Dr. Orna Berry, who was the first woman in Israel to be appointed as chief scientist, and who is currently the vice president of Dell EMC and general manager of its Israel Center of Excellence.
Berry was born in Jerusalem a year-and-a-half after the establishment of the state, but grew up in Tel Aviv and France. Even though she is dyslexic, she served in the Israel Air Force and completed service with the rank of lieutenant. Her dyslexia influenced her choice of studies – mathematics and science. After receiving her BA and MA degrees at Tel Aviv and Haifa universities, respectively, Berry went to the University of Southern California, where she received her PhD in computer sciences and a fellowship from the Rand Corporation. After working for various hi-tech companies in the US, Berry returned to Israel in 1987 to work at IBM Haifa Research Laboratory. She later co-founded Ornet Data Communication Technologies. She also worked as a project manager for Elbit and as a consultant for Intel.
In 1996, Berry joined the public service and was nominated as chief scientist and director of the Industrial Research and Development Administration. During her tenure the R&D budget was the highest in Israel’s history. After four years she returned to the private sector, joining Gemini Israel Venture Funds. She is one of Israel’s leading entrepreneurs in the hi-tech field, and has sat on several high-profile national and international boards and committees. She has also found time for volunteer work, mostly related to knowledge empowerment, employment equality and social inclusion, Needless to say, she has been the recipient of numerous awards. But each award is a triumph in itself, and she was no less moved by her most recent award than by her first, when applauded by a full house in the auditorium of the Zionist Organization of America.
Rivlin said that in recent years she has been increasingly meeting women of all ages who are making meaningful contributions to Israel’s industrial development, and who are in prominent positions in the fields of science, industry, technology, education, art and social welfare organizations.. They are all women who are making a difference, she said. But on the down side, she added, she also meets women who have all but lost their identities, women who live in fear, oppression and distress in Israel in 2017.
“We have come a long way in all things related to the advancement of the status of women, but our mission is not yet completed,” said Rivlin, who urged that support be given to all women who, for whatever reason, have not been able to progress, so that each and every one of them will be able to realize her potential, fulfill her ambitions and reach her goals. Rivlin said that she is proud to have the opportunity to award a prize to Berry, who is an example of a leader who constantly moves forward but helps others along the way.
■ TWO HERITAGE synagogues in India have been restored and are being rededicated on December 17. The invitation issued by the Calcutta Jewish community is in the form of a tallit (prayer shawl). The two synagogues are the Beth El Synagogue, built in 1856 and restored during 2015-2017; and the Magen David Synagogue, built in 1884 and restored in 2016-2017. The first rededication ceremony will be in the morning, and the second in the early afternoon.
The local Emunah Calcutta Trust has been responsible for restoring both buildings to their former glory and has done so at great expense. According to Isaac Ashkenazy, the director of public relations for the Indian Jewish Heritage Center in Israel, some 100 former residents of Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is known in the old country, will be attending. Ashkenazy, who like many Kolkata-born Jews is of Baghdadi descent, remembers the days when the Calcutta Jewish community, which is slowly fading into oblivion, numbered in the thousands.
Once a thriving community, with influential personalities, three large synagogues, two schools, a hospital and a cemetery, today it barely has a prayer quorum. A large percentage of Calcutta’s Jews migrated to Israel.
■ IT MAY have been entirely coincidental, but it was interesting that the new banknotes issued last week, featuring women poets Rachel Bluwstein and Leah Goldberg, were released only a few days before the Sabbath Torah reading that related to Rachel and Leah. After all, there were other female poets who were no less deserving of having their faces on the nation’s currency. Among them were Hannah Senesh, Tirza Atar, Zelda, Yona Wallach, Miriam Yalan-Shtekelis, Dahlia Ravikovitch and Naomi Shemer, to name but a few.
Some of these women have been memorialized in other ways. For instance while Yael German was still in office as mayor of Herzliya, a street was named for Shemer. One of the first women to have a piece of Israel’s geography named after her was Zina Dizengoff, though most people who pass though Dizengoff Square, or Dizengoff Circle as it was originally called, believe that it was named for Tel Aviv’s first mayor, when in fact it was named in memory of his wife.
Israel Prize laureate, poet and translator Meir Wieseltier believes that it is a travesty to link poets with banknotes, because throughout history, poets have generally been impoverished, and it makes a mockery of them to put their images on the symbols of capitalism.
■ FORMER AMBASSADORS to the United Nations Dore Gold, Dan Gillerman and Ron Prosor, who were recipients of the Washington Institute’s Scholar Statesman Award within the framework of the 70th anniversary celebrations of United Nations Resolution 181, which set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the State of Israel, were in good company. Previous recipients include Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger. Other Israelis who have previously received the award include Ehud Barak, Michael Oren, Itamar Rabinovich and Natan Sharansky. It’s kind of interesting to contemplate why certain leading Israeli scholars and statesmen have been omitted or overlooked.[email protected]