Grapevine: The end of ‘schnorr’?

President Reuven Rivlin agrees that the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry should not be based on charity.

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November 25, 2017 20:06
Grapevine: The end of ‘schnorr’?

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN at the memorial for David Ben-Gurion in Sde Boker Thursday. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

Way back in January 1994, Yossi Beilin came in for a lot of flak when addressing a World WIZO convention in Tel Aviv. At the time he declared that Israel, with its relatively strong economy, should not be asking Diaspora Jews for handouts, especially as Israel’s economic situation was better than that of some of the countries represented at the convention. The executive of the World Zionist Organization was aghast. Beilin was robbing it of its raison d’etre.

Terrified that reports of his remarks would harm fund-raising efforts abroad, WZO chairman Simcha Dinitz issued a statement in which he declared: “The greatest mistake that Israel can make is to separate Diaspora Jewry from the State of Israel and to callously stop the contribution of Diaspora Jewry to the ingathering of the exiles and the building of the State of Israel.”

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President Reuven Rivlin, who as a legislator was on the opposite side of the fence to Beilin, nonetheless agrees that the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry should not be based on charity but on a new path of mutual responsibility. At the annual memorial for Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion in Sde Boker on Thursday, Rivlin said that future relations should be based on a mutual commitment to justice, and joint Jewish and humane responsibility. Rivlin also called for a genuine partnership, more openness and cooperation in the relationship, based on truth rather than idealization.

He also urged that mutually authorized institutions find solutions to problems and for policies to be worked out jointly.

■ EVEN THOUGH there have been a few hiccups in diplomatic relations between Israel and Sweden, Rivlin is bound to have a specially warm welcome for the ambassadors of Uruguay and Sweden when they present their credentials on Wednesday, which happens to be November 29, the 70th anniversary of the historic United Nations resolution for the partition of Palestine.

Sweden and Uruguay were among the 33 nations that voted in favor of the resolution, and there is no doubt that this will come up in the separate conversations that Rivlin has with the two ambassadors. Also to present their credentials on November 29 are the ambassadors of Portugal and the Vatican.

■ HANUKKA IS just around the corner, and for at least two ambassadors it’s not just a doughnut spree from one candlelighting ceremony to another. There’s also work involved.

British Ambassador David Quarrey has to make himself available to members of the Allenby family and other British dignitaries for the centenary celebration of Allenby’s entry to Jerusalem; and following events in the capital in commemoration of that great day, he will host a Hanukka reception at the British residence in Ramat Gan in honor of the special guests.

US Ambassador David Friedman, for whom Hanukka is somewhat more important than it is for Quarrey, will be busy preparing for the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence, who will address the Knesset, and could possibly decide to spend Christmas in Bethlehem. It’s actually a risky time for a visitor to address the Knesset. So many legislators have children and grandchildren who expect them to be present for candlelighting ceremonies that it’s possible that Pence will be speaking to a near-empty plenum.

■ ALSO COMING up during Hanukka in Jerusalem on Monday, December 18, is a lecture by Prof. David Newman on “David Hillman’s Stained- Glass Windows” at the Ra’ananim Synagogue at Heichal Shlomo, where there is a particularly fine set of his windows. The lecture, under the auspices of the Israel Branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England, will not only be about the beautiful and unique style of Hillman’s windows, but also about the social and family context of the windows and the relationships between the various rabbinical families that were in the UK during the middle part of the 20th century.

There are many fine examples of his windows in London (in nearly 10 of the larger synagogues) because of Hillman’s relationship with both chief Rabbi Herzog, who was his brother-in-law, and Sir Isaac Wolfson, with whom he grew up in Glasgow in the early 20th century. While on Sabbatical in London, Newman attended services at Saint John’s Wood Synagogue, where there are more than 100 specimens of Hillman’s art, which Newman studied in detail. Hillman was a great-uncle to opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

■ THOUGH HIGHLY educated, with a string of degrees, and proficiency in several languages, David Rozenson, the executive director of Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem, does not pretend to be an art critic. But after having seen the work of Leonid Balaklav, he was eager to meet him, and had a mutual friend take him to Balaklav’s studio.

“The door was opened by a rather tall man, with disheveled hair, a matching beard, large, smooth hands, and a kind yet wry smile and deep-set piercing eyes,” Rozenson relates. “The lines on his face told a story of a complicated life, offset by the softness of his smile and the gentleness of his voice.”

There were paintings everywhere in the room. “Large canvases battled for space with smaller frames, easels stood at attention, parallel palettes with a multiplicity of colors lay on old stools awaiting their turn. Canvases blocked entrances to adjoining rooms, slender wooden planks leaned against walls, hardboards and large artist notebooks of various sizes found space near a threadbare couch and unexpectedly comfortable chairs.”

Near the kitchen, Rozenson noticed a paint-stained bookcase filled with well-worn art books – Rembrandt, Velázquez, Serov, Repin – some opened, others with notes, many protruding from underneath another, “as if the inspiration that lay within them breathed life into the room.”

Rozenson’s eyes took in images of childhood, a young boy reclining on a sofa, with feet tucked underneath, his relaxed body leaning toward a younger sibling; a young girl, a book propped on her lap, a tranquil pose that bespoke youth, merriment, adventure, intelligence; children riding on bicycles, grass swaying in the wind; scenes of golden Jerusalem homes; images of families together, yet each in their own world; a young Ethiopian boy resting ethereally in a wicker chair, an open book in one hand, his gaze turned away, sadness mixed with happiness. Rozenson found the images captivating, the colors bright, at times subdued, but filled with a spirit and a language that immediately drew him toward them.

The upshot was an invitation to hold an exhibition at Beit Avi Chai.

Rozenson was taken not only with the art but with the Moldova-born artist, who was quite well known in the Soviet Union before coming to live in Jerusalem in 1989. The exhibition, curated by Menahem Halberstadt, includes Balaklav’s early works in Israel. The opening is on Monday night, November 27.

■ THE STAR Wars Helmet design project within the framework of Disney’s Project Legion resulted in the “Star Wars Helmet Show,” which was exhibited at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, in the same manner as similar projects in South Africa, the United States, Belgium and elsewhere. The launch of the exhibition was attended by some 60 Holon Institute of Technology design students, brand fans and celebrities, some of whom personally designed stormtroopers helmets, to which they gave their own interpretations.

All the helmets in the exhibition will be sold exclusively as a donation to Make-A-Wish Israel, which fulfills the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. The sale will operate via a special store that will open on eBay, where the helmets will be sold for an initial amount of NIS 250 each.

Among the celebrities who designed helmets were Static and Ben El Tavori, Uri Geller, Dvir Benedek and Lior Kalfon. Also on hand at the opening of the exhibition were Tammy Landesman, Disney Israel franchisee; Denise Bar- Aharon, CEO of Make-A-Wish Israel; Dan Piltz, CEO and co-owner of Dizengoff Center.

To enhance the value of his helmet and to put in a subtle plug for his better-known talent, Geller added a spoon that had belonged to Michael Jackson.

■ IT’S NOT just concert performances for Eyal Golan; he’s also a bit of a cowboy – or at least that’s the impression that he wanted to give at the opening of his Rodeo Bar in Rehovot. He’s one of many entertainers who are deriving an additional income from food and beverage enterprises, which are a form of insurance against the day when they lose their fans or their talent or both. Golan served up a huge array of drinks and food platters.

Among the guests who came to wish him well were Moshe Peretz; Dudu Aharon; Lior Narkis, who brought his wife, Sapir; Regev and Helen Hod; and Haim and Sagit Revivo.

Golan looked like he was having a really great time.

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