Grapevine: Saluting the general

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November 14, 2017 19:37

Jerusalem's mayor, several potential candidates for office are waiting with bated breath for Barkat to announce whether he will be running for a third term or whether he will finally make a s




Einav Bar-Cohen, former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch and Elad Malka of Hiterorut at a press conferen

Einav Bar-Cohen, former deputy mayor Ofer Berkovitch and Elad Malka of Hiterorut at a press conference in Jerusalem, November 2017 . (photo credit:SHARON GABAI)

With the centennials of the Battle of Beersheba, the Balfour Declaration and the Russian Revolution behind us, there is still another centennial on the immediate horizon – the triumphant entry of Gen. Edmund Allenby to Jerusalem on December 11, 1917. In respect to the Holy City, Allenby, just before entering the Jaffa Gate to the Old City, dismounted his horse and crossed through on foot. One of the first places that he explored was the Tower of David to the immediate right of the Jaffa Gate, which on December 11 will honor his memory by opening an intriguing exhibition under the title “A General and a Gentleman: Allenby at the Gates of Jerusalem.”

At precisely 2 p.m. on that date – in keeping with the exact time of the 100th anniversary – the steps at the entrance to the Tower of David Citadel will be somewhat crowded with dignitaries from Britain, including Viscount Allenby of Meggido, Lady Sarah Allenby and John Benson, the great-grandson of Gen. Sir John Shea, who commanded the 60th Division of the British Expeditionary Force in Palestine in 1917, as well as representatives of the various Old City Christian communities, members of the diplomatic corps, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and others.

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Allenby’s Proclamation of Martial Law will be read aloud, as it was 100 years ago, in English, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Greek and Italian. This year it will also be read in Armenian, acknowledging the Armenian community in the Old City. A cast of actors in period costume will also add to the festivities.

■ APROPOS JERUSALEM’S mayor, several potential candidates for office are waiting with bated breath for Barkat to announce whether he will be running for a third term or whether he will finally make a stab for the Knesset. There are only 11 months left to the next municipal election, and Barkat has made no secret of the fact that he would like to see himself as a future occupant of the house on the corner of Smolenskin and Balfour streets, but as yet he hasn’t really been able to get a solid toehold in the Likud, even though he was invited to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s birthday party last month.

Meanwhile Ofer Berkowitz, who heads the Hitorerut (Awakening) faction in the Jerusalem Municipal Council and who has been at odds with Barkat in recent months, announced this week that Hitorerut is withdrawing from Barkat’s coalition, and that he is running for mayor. Other names in the mayoral race are Moshe Leon, who unsuccessfully ran against Barkat in the last election and then decided that if you can’t beat them, join them; Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman; Yossi Deitch of United Torah Judaism, who would not be the first haredi mayor, should he succeed; and Yossi Havilio, the former legal counsel to the municipality, who has wrangled with Barkat for years.

More recently it has been suggested that Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, who is a former deputy mayor and who came out sharply against Barkat’s decision to demolish several illegally built Arab housing projects, might also run for mayor. In all the years, there have been only five women deputy mayors.

The others were Tamar Eshel, Dalia Itzik, Naomi Tsur and present incumbent Yael Antebi – but there has never been a woman mayor of Jerusalem.

■ PARAPHRASING VERA Weizmann, the wife of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, speaking at the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund-USA National Conference in South Florida last weekend, said: “JNF is an incubator for dreamers and devotees. JNF makes the impossible possible.”

The title of Vera Weizmann’s famous book, The Impossible Takes Longer, epitomizes what KKL-JNF is all about. Or to quote David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister: “To be a realist in Israel, you have to believe in miracles.”

Speaking in this vein, Danilovich said that in Beersheba “we don’t believe there are things that are impossible.” Listing some of the miracles that have transformed his city from a desert wilderness to a thriving urban oasis which is also the cyber capital of Israel and a growing hi-tech and innovation hub that already has more than 100 hi-tech companies, Danilovich said that 20 years ago, few people would have believed that all this was possible.

It could not have happened without the KKL-JNF, he emphasized. In fact, almost everywhere one turns in Beersheba, there are signs of the contributions of KKL-JNF branches from across the Diaspora. KKL-JNF supporters from around the globe have helped and are helping the realization of Ben-Gurion’s dream to make the desert bloom. And, indeed, it is blooming – and not only with trees shrubs, flowers and agricultural produce. Danilovich was particularly excited about the large artificial lake that is in the process of construction in Beersheba’s River Park, which when completed in 2018 will include a boardwalk plus a host of leisure-time facilities such as bike trails, running tracks, islands, including one that will be a bird sanctuary, picnic areas, fountains, restaurants and commercial areas.

Despite Pew Research Center reports on the trend toward assimilation, the conference venue was fully booked, and there was simply no room to accommodate all the Jewish college students who wanted to come. As it was, 250 college students from more than 100 US campuses participated in the College Summit that was part of the National Conference, which also attracted more than a thousand committed Jewish community leaders and philanthropists from across America.

The general impression, in discussions of KKL-JNF’s vision for the future, was that if you think that the KKL-JNF wrought miracles in Beersheba over the past two decades – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

■ THE EMET Prize, which is one of Israel’s most prestigious awards in the fields of art, science and culture, is aptly named in that Emet, which is a Hebrew acronym for those three fields, also means truth. The prize, awarded annually by the A.M.N. Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Art and Culture, was founded in 1999 by Mexican philanthropist Alberto Moscona Nissim as an Israeli equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

Even though there have been several Israeli Nobel Prize laureates, Nissim simply believed that outstanding Israelis in their respective fields deserved wider recognition. A million- dollar award is shared among the winners each year.

This year’s winners in their respective categories were Yaakov Ziv, exact sciences; Alexander Levitzki and Zelig Eshhar, life sciences; Oded Kotler and Yevgenyi Aryeh, culture and arts; David Heyd, humanities; and Assaf Razin, social sciences.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues at the awards ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater last week, Heyd, a professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, came in for a round of applause from the audience when he said: “We can’t boast externally that we’re the only democracy in the Middle East, while internally we crack down on the legitimacy of mechanisms in a democracy like the Supreme Court and human rights NGOs.”

■ FORMER US ambassador Dan Shapiro, in an interview on Tuesday with Shalom Kittal on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, said that when he was ambassador, in his addresses to audiences in Israel he was almost invariably asked two questions. One was about the US Embassy being moved to Jerusalem, and the other was when will the need for Israeli citizens to acquire visas to enter America be abolished? Shapiro said that there has been some progress on the latter issue, but he doubted that it would happen at any time soon. As for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, current US Ambassador David Friedman, in an address to the Zionist Organization of America in New York this week, reaffirmed that President Donald Trump has made it clear that “it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. And I take the president at his word.”

■ HABIMAH THEATER’S musicale Sign Posts, based on the life of composer and lyricist Naomi Shemer, who wrote the words and music of some of Israel’s best-loved songs, officially premieres Wednesday evening, with proceeds going to Ruach Nashit (Women’s Spirit), which is dedicated to women’s economic empowerment and the prevention of violence against women in Israel.

Ruach Nashit sees a connection between economic distress and vulnerability to assault, and Habimah decided that since the production is about a woman, and features a largely female cast – which includes Roni Daloumi, Revital Saltzman, Dalia Dekel, Gila Almagor, Sandra Sadeh and Riki Blich – and since November 25 is the day designated by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, it would get in early and designate proceeds from this performance to Ruach Nashit.

Shemer, who died in June 2004, was a legend in her own life time, but the production attempts to show the real person and not the mythical persona. Her songs, the most famous of which is “Jerusalem of Gold,” reflect a sensitive but proud patriotism for Israel.

■ FORMER PRIME minister Ehud Barak is not the only public figure to grow a beard in order to look more distinguished. Another is celebrity chef and television personality Haim Cohen, who, at 57, is 18 years younger than Barak and could actually wait a while to transform his appearance. But the hirsute addition to his face was at the urging of Itzik, the MasterChef Israel barber, who kept telling Cohen that it would suit him to grow a beard, and Cohen eventually gave in.

That’s the big difference between Mars and Venus. If a man has a doubled chin or a turkey neck, he can easily grow a beard to improve his appearance.

■ CHRISTIAN ZIONISTS may have had even more reason than Jews to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, given that Balfour, by today’s standards, would be defined as a Christian Zionist whose deep belief in the Bible convinced him that Jews should return to the land promised them by God.

A Christian Balfour Centennial Conference was organized by Bridges for Peace and Israel365 under the headline of “From Balfour to Nikki Haley: 100 Years of Christian Zionist Diplomacy.” Within the framework of the conference, Rev. Rebecca J. Brimmer, international president and CEO of Bridges for Peace, received the Jerusalem Covenant Award from Israel365. Accompanying the award was a commemorative copy of the “Jerusalem Covenant” book, which contains the signatures of more than 150,000 Christian Zionists proclaiming they believe Jerusalem should be the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The Jerusalem Covenant dates back to the 25th anniversary of Jerusalem Day; Supreme Court justice Menachem Elon wrote the text. The original covenant is permanently housed in the Knesset. In the quarter of a century since then, Israel365 has collected more than 150,000 signed endorsements of the Jerusalem Covenant from signatories from more than 100 nations, from Albania to Zimbabwe.

In presenting the Jerusalem Covenant Prize to Brimmer, Israel365 founder and CEO Rabbi Tuly Weisz said: “As the head of Bridges for Peace, Becky has worked tirelessly and with a whole heart to build relationships between Christians and Jews in Israel and around the world. Becky is an ideal representative to share this special edition of the Jerusalem Covenant, which represents a powerful display of international solidarity between the biblical city of Jerusalem and the world.”

■ IF PRESIDENT Reuven Rivlin had arrived in Los Angeles two days earlier, he would have had the opportunity to see the jointly sponsored screening at the Museum of Tolerance of the documentary film Operation Wedding, whose Los Angeles premiere on Saturday night was cosponsored by the Museum of Tolerance and RuJuLA, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, in partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Rivlin is scheduled to visit the Museum of Tolerance on Wednesday, though it is not certain whether he will mention its controversial Jerusalem branch, which has been under construction for more than a decade, and was initially planned to open in 2007.

However, construction is now quite advanced, and scaffolding is now visible above the height of the fence, so the subject of the eventual opening may well come up during Rivlin’s visit.

Operation Wedding, which was a long time in the making while its creator, Anat Zalmanson- Kuznetsov, was trying to raise the funds required for the production, is the story of her parents, Sylva Zalmanson and Edward Kuznetsov, who in the early 1970s made international headlines when they participated in a daring scheme to buy all the seats on a 12-seater plane, under the guise that they were all going to a wedding, and hijack it before takeoff, throwing the pilots to the tarmac, while one of their members, a trained pilot himself, would take over the controls. However, the plan never eventuated, because when the group arrived at the airport they were arrested by the KGB.

They were subsequently tried for high treason, and Kuznetsov, who had previously served a long prison sentence, was one of two people in the group sentenced to death.

Another well-known member of the group, Yosef Mendelevitch, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

Zalmanson, who was married to Kuznetsov, and was the only woman in the group, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but in August 1974 she was released as a part of secret prisoner exchange between Israel and the Soviet Union. The exchange took place in Berlin, where the Soviets received their spy Yuri Linov from Israel in exchange for Zalmanson, who subsequently immigrated to Israel in September 1974.

After many global protest demonstrations against the Soviets’ refusal to allow the emigration of Jews and dissidents, Kuznetsov was released in April 1979 in exchange for Soviet spies in the US, and joined his wife in Israel, where their daughter, Anat, was born in 1980. Her parents divorced a year later.

Her mother has become a well-known artist, and her father, who headed the news department of Radio Liberty in Munich from 1983 to 1990, was subsequently the editor of Israel’s largest Russian-language newspaper, Vesti, from 1990 to 1999. In 2005 Kuznetsov participated in a four-part television series, They Chose Freedom, which documents the history of the Soviet dissident movement. Currently a resident of Jerusalem, he is a board member of the Soviet dissident aid foundation The Gratitude Fund.

Operation Wedding was released this year, and has been shown in several American cities.

■ EVEN BEFORE the Harvey Weinstein scandal resulted in the launch of the “Me Too” global campaign in which victims of sexual harassment and assault found the courage to speak up and, in most cases, name their molesters, there were six fringe theater productions in Israel that dealt with the subject of sexual assault.

Was it merely a coincidence, or was it the fact that several such cases involving so-called celebrities and public figures had increasingly come to public attention over the past decade? Former minister Haim Ramon was convicted of indecent assault in 2007. In 2008, actor Hanan Goldblatt was convicted of rape and sentenced to prison.

Former president Moshe Katsav was convicted of rape in December, 2010. Senior Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit resigned in October 2016 from the paper and from Channel 10 after a J Street staff member accused him of sexual harassment in 2014, and American journalist Danielle Berrin in 2015 accused him of harassing and sexually assaulting her while she tried to interview him about his best-selling book, My Promised Land. In December 2016, Brig.-Gen. Ofek Buchris was demoted and convicted of a prohibited sexual liaison with a junior female soldier. Also in December 2016, former Or Yehuda mayor David Yosef was convicted of sex crimes.

There have been judges, journalists, athletes, university professors, medical practitioners – in fact, people from just about every walk of life – who have been charged with or at least suspected of sexual abuse of some kind, and the victims have finally found a voice.

As part of the International Exposure to Israeli Theater taking place later this month, there will be a presentation at the Jaffa Theater at 4:30 p.m. on November 23 on “Sexual Trauma as a Creative Force.” Participants will explore the reasons for the current focus on the subject on stage and screen; whether there is a relationship between therapy, trauma and theater; whether themes representing one’s own voice, power, control, trauma and healing should be reflected on stage and screen; as well as many other facets of sexual trauma, including excerpts from performances dealing with sexuality, sexual assault, and public scandals related to sex crimes.

■ THE POWERS that be at the Begin-Sadat Institute for Strategic Studies (BESA) are not exactly thrilled with the idea that a similar institute has been launched in Jerusalem, and is headed by Efraim Inbar, who is professor emeritus of political science at Bar- Ilan University and former BESA director.

The Institute for National Security Studies on the campus of Tel Aviv University is likewise not overjoyed.

A couple of months before Inbar turned 70 in January of this year, he had to step down, but he wasn’t ready to retire. The solution was to set up another think tank in the capital, but not one that was affiliated with a university. Considering that all its members are on the right of the political spectrum, the ideal launching pad for the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies was the Begin Heritage Center. Inbar took with him some BESA stars such as Yaakov Amidror, Eran Lerman and Hillel Frisch. It goes without saying that the right of center who’s who were among the speakers and in the audience at the launch. Netanyahu had other commitments, but he sent a congratulatory letter welcoming the new institute to the capital and expressing his belief that it will be a leading diplomatic and security think tank that will bring a realist strategic perspective to public opinion in Israel and around the world.”

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Jerusalem Police commander Asst.-Ch. Yoram Halevy and the adviser on east Jerusalem affairs to the mayor of Jerusalem, Dr. David Koren, dominated the discussions.

Barkat was grilled on stage in an interview with David M. Weinberg, one of two vice presidents of the new institute (who is also a Jerusalem Post columnist). Inbar and Lerman, who are president and vice president, respectively, lectured on the strategic importance of Jerusalem and on Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem as a linchpin of regional security.

One of the most admired figures present was Australian philanthropist Greg Rosshandler of Melbourne, an early supporter of the institute, who was photographed together with Barkat and Amidror, former national security adviser to Netanyahu, who is now the Anne and Greg Rosshandler senior fellow at JISS. Rabbi Yaakov Medan, dean of Yeshivat Har Etzion, delivered a fiery address to conclude the conference in which he posed the Temple Mount against Mount Herzl and Mount Scopus as spiritual opposites.

The 300-seat auditorium was packed throughout the five-hour conference.

Among those in the crowd were Jerusalem deputy mayors Dov Kalmanovich and Antebi, former city council member Hanan Rubin, former ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval, Amir Cheshin, Herzl Makov, journalist and former politician Fiamma Nirenstein, Dr. Max and Suzanne Singer, Kohelet Forum president Prof. Moshe Koppel, and Tikvah Fund CEO Amiad Cohen.

The next JISS conference will be held on December 27, asking the question “Is the IDF Ready for the Next War?”

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