For Israelis, September 1 signifies the commencement of the school year after a long summer vacation. But for Europeans, especially Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans, the date marks the 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, thereby sparking the Second World War.
For former prime minister Ehud Olmert, September 1 of this year is a fateful day – because it will be the beginning of the Supreme Court hearing on his appeal against his conviction in the Holyland trial.
The judicial panel, presided over by Justice Salim Joubran, includes Justices Isaac Amit, Yoram Danziger, Neal Hendel and Uzi Vogelman. Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis is not a member of the panel, since he will be retiring in January and the case could possibly drag on beyond that time.
Miriam Naor, who is expected to succeed Grunis as president of the Supreme Court, thereby becoming the second woman to reach the position, has recused herself from the Olmert case – as she and her husband, former cabinet secretary Arye Naor, are on much more than nodding acquaintance with Olmert and his wife, Aliza.
The appeal hearing will enable Olmert to celebrate his 69th birthday on September 30 with family and friends instead of behind prison bars, but his freedom is likely to be ephemeral.
■ ON A happier note, Koren Publishing – which has published several books on Talmud and Mishna by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz – has published yet another, the launch of which will take place this coming Monday, September 1, at 8 p.m. at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.
The event will be in Hebrew, and Steinsaltz will speak about discovering the Mishna anew.
■ WHILE MANY people in Israel, both officially and unofficially, are concerned with public diplomacy, there’s also such a thing as health diplomacy – in which Israel collaborates on health issues with other countries, thereby making friends and influencing people beyond the line of the regular diplomatic radar. This doesn’t mean diplomats are not involved, as for instance at the opening ceremony on Monday (again September 1) of the Israel-Shanghai Collaboration of Health Emergency Management.
A ceremony marking the launch of a threeweek course within the framework of this collaboration will be addressed by Amir Lari, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asia department. Other speakers will include Prof. Alex Leventhal, director of the Health Ministry’s international relations department; Dr. Bruria Adini, head of international emergency medicine programs; Prof.
Rivka Carmi, who in addition to being president of Ben-Gurion University – which is hosting the collaborative effort – is also a pediatrician and geneticist by profession; and He Zhichun, director of the Office for Health Emergency Management, Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning.
■ CONSIDERING HER strong opposition to the shuttering of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and having it replaced with another streamlined, cost-efficient public broadcasting entity, it is a double feather in the cap of political reporter and commentator Ayala Hasson- Nesher to be appointed acting head of the news division of Channel 1, until such time as the new entity is established.
First and foremost, it’s a tribute to her professionalism; secondly, she is the first woman in the history of the IBA to hold this position.
An intrepid investigative reporter with influential connections, she has numerous scoops to her credit, and is relentless in her pursuit of what she believes to be the truth behind a story – even when everyone else has all but given up on it. A recent example is the Harpaz Affair, where she kept digging and coming up with evidence that was subsequently investigated by police, who have recommended that the key players be charged and brought to trial.
Hasson-Nesher has also enjoyed a close relationship with a series of prime ministers, frequently traveling abroad with them, but never allowing her close connections to interfere with her professionalism. Although she will probably cease being a reporter in her new role, she will continue to host her regular weekly television and radio programs.
In fact, this past Thursday, without trying too hard she succeeded in getting normally polite opposition leader Isaac Herzog to lose his cool. It is usually Herzog who speaks in quiet, measured tones while interviewers aggressively raise their voices. This time it was the other way around, with Hasson-Nesher speaking softly while Herzog’s voice rose to a crescendo, as they discussed the pros and cons of Operation Protective Edge and its outcome.
Hopefully, it is her professionalism alone – and not his own close connections with Hasson- Nesher’s husband, television producer Shai Nesher – that led Yona Wiesenthal, the new boy on the block at the IBA as editor-inchief, to decide to offer this highly important and sensitive position to Hasson-Nesher. The job is of six months’ duration, with a possible extension to a year, during which time she can make changes but cannot fire or hire anyone or purchase new equipment.
Likewise, Wiesenthal – who is reportedly hoping to become head honcho of the new enterprise – cannot hire or fire, except in extreme cases pertaining to management such as radio and television heads; he can make changes which could radically affect the IBA’s already low ratings, however.
On the day following the announcement of Hasson-Nesher’s appointment, Wiesenthal appointed Shimon Elkabetz, former director of culture and the arts at the Culture and Sport Ministry, to head Israel Radio in place of Mickey Miro, who resigned last week. Elkabetz comes with good professional qualifications; a former journalist and deputy editor of Yediot Tikshoret, he was also among the founders of regional radio stations, and helped set up Radio Darom, Radio Jerusalem and Radio Tel Aviv. The appointment still requires court approval.
There are still a number of interim executive positions at the IBA, including that of overall director of Channel 1, so Wiesenthal will be busy in the immediate future.
Rumor has it that Wiesenthal is not altogether keen on English-language broadcasts, and while he cannot eliminate them, he can transfer them to inconvenient time slots. The argument that English is important when it comes to relaying news to the diplomatic community (not to mention the not inconsequential number of residents whose English is infinitely better than their Hebrew), apparently did not go over well. Wiesenthal’s reported reaction was that the IBA is not into public diplomacy, and Hebrew is the language of the country.
Meanwhile, there has been a modicum of change in programming. Mabat News has been extended from half an hour to an hour, and will be preceded by an hour-long current affairs program hosted by Geula Even, who Hasson-Nesher has decided will also present news bulletins. A new program lineup is anticipated after Rosh Hashana, when Channel 1 will enter into serious competition with commercial channels.
■ THE PRESIDENCY is giving Reuven Rivlin the opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues with whom he served in the Knesset, and are now engaged in other enterprises.
A case in point was this week when he met up with Rabbi Yitzhak Levy, who served in Knessets 12-17 and held various government portfolios – including, among others, Religious Affairs and Education. Levy, a former chairman of the National-Religious Party, was among the initiators of a Torah rededication ceremony in Jerusalem at the Rav Kook Museum, once the home of Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Abraham Isaac Kook. Rivlin was the guest of honor at the event that was attended by hundreds of people, including many past and present students of the Mercaz Harav Kook Yeshiva.
■ WHEN IT comes to events with and for children, Rivlin is likely to involve his wife, Nechama.
He has indicated he will do so this coming Sunday, on the eve of the opening of the new school year, when he visits Zichron Menachem – a Jerusalem-headquartered facility established in 1990 in memory of Menachem Ehrental, who from the age of 18 months until his death in his mid-teens spent more than 14 years suffering from cancer.
Knowing the many difficulties and anxieties experienced by parents of children with cancer, Menachem’s parents together with some of their friends created a suitable memorial for their son, dedicated to helping other children like him and easing their families’ problems. A nonprofit, Zichron Menachem offers: a network of trained volunteers throughout Israel who can provide assistance and quick solutions for a variety of problems; support groups for parents, siblings and children; big brother and big sister programs; weekly parties to bring happiness to sick children; three camps a year; a guesthouse; a reservoir of blood products; and many other services. It also provides wigs for young cancer patients who are embarrassed by their hair loss; the wigs are made from hair donated by volunteers through a campaign designed to encourage empathy and responsibility.
Rivlin and his wife, accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, will visit the Zichron Menachem Educational, Recreational and Rehabilitation Center, where they will meet the children who benefit from the organization’s loving care. Most of these children cannot attend regular schools for fear of infection, or because their treatments require them to be absent on many school days.
■ DURING A visit to the Tel Aviv head office of Natal – Israel’s Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War, Dr. Benedikt Heller, deputy chief of mission at the German Embassy, met with Natal director-general Orly Gal and presented her with a check for €50,000 (equivalent to about NIS 230,000). This is not the first time Germany has given financial support to Natal, and is one of the ways the German Embassy is demonstrating solidarity with Israel’s residents who have been suffering relentless assaults via rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Already this past spring, during government- to-government consultations between Jerusalem and Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed interest in the work of Natal, especially in its therapies for children who have spent their whole lives under the threat of rockets.
■ AFTER KLEZMER Festivals in Safed and Jerusalem, it’s now Tel Aviv’s turn. It won’t be a festival per se this year, but it may be by next year.
YUNG YiDiSH, which inter alia promotes Yiddish song and drama, is hosting Eli Preminger, who is reviving old Yiddish Klezmer tunes that he is delighted to teach to both instrumentalists and singers. He’s quite happy with just an audience of people who want to listen, but not necessarily learn; those who do want to learn will participate in a klezmer concert towards the end of the evening on Tuesday, September 2. Depending on the response, this could become a regular get-together, and klezmer could well be a significant feature of next year’s Layla Lavan (White Night) in Tel Aviv.
YUNG YiDiSH is located on the fifth floor of the Levinsky Street entrance of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.
■ ONE OF the important aspects of the reopening this week of Nariman House, the Chabad center in Mumbai, was a simultaneous gathering of more than 25 emissaries from Chabad centers throughout Asia. The Chabad regional conference was organized by Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, who in addition to being chief rabbi of Thailand is also regional director of Chabad, and in Thailand alone provides up to 300 meals every Friday night to visiting travelers – mainly from Israel.
Although the resident Jewish population is small, tens of thousands of Jewish travelers and vacationers come to Thailand each year, and more than half find their way to Chabad house. The presence in Mumbai of so many emissaries – plus other leading Chabad personalities from the US and Israel, as well as Chabadniks and non-Chabadniks from other parts of the world – guaranteed that the spirit of the opening would ring out into the street.
Nariman House bears the names of its purchaser, Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg, and his wife, Rivka, who were murdered by Islamic terrorists in November 2008, five years after they arrived in India as Chabad emissaries. Miraculously, their two-year-old son, Moishie, survived and lives with his maternal grandparents in Israel.
The current Chabad emissaries at Nariman House are Rabbi Yisroel and Chaya Kozlovsky, whose second child, a boy, was born in Mumbai and named Menachem Mendel after the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. There’s a Menachem Mendel in almost every Chabad family, but as far as anyone is aware, Menachem Mendel Kozlovsky is the first Menachem Mendel to be born in India. If there were others, they were not Chabadniks.
■ IF YOU’VE never heard of CUFI, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a mispronunciation of coffee; it’s an acronym that stands for Christians United for Israel. In times of trouble, CUFI stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel and not surprisingly, organized a 51-member solidarity mission of pastors from across America to come to Israel during the current crisis. The pastors were addressed by Foreign Ministry personnel, and met with local mayors and ordinary residents of the South.
“It is vital that as Americans, we show solidarity with Israel – not just in the US but here in the Jewish state,” said CUFI executive director David Brog. “We will take what we heard in Jerusalem and what we saw in Sderot and Ashdod back to our communities, so that every one of our 1.8 million members might better understand the challenges that Israel faces, and better make the case for Israel to our friends and neighbors.”
Preachers could not bypass an exhibition of “Bible in the Land of the Bible” at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, and made a point of visiting the “Book of Books” exhibition, which because of extraordinary public interest was extended beyond its original closing date.
Museum director Amanda Weiss, who was raised in the US but has spent most of her life here, said it was gratifying for her as an Israeli to see the representatives of so many hundreds of thousands of Americans demonstrate their love and encouragement for the Jewish state. “It was impressive to witness how empowered and inspired the group was, in their connection to the ancient sources to contemporary challenges and current political realities. The Bible is our ‘Protective Edge,’ and our friends around the world are an ‘Iron Dome’ for Israel,” said Weiss.