Grapevine: War with Iran? Not in the stars

Let it be known to all the pundits engaged in the Iran obsession that there will not be a war between Israel and Iran in the foreseeable future.

By
August 28, 2012 21:35
Yehuda Ledgley

Yehuda Ledgley 370. (photo credit: Sarah Levin)

Let it be known to all the pundits engaged in the Iran obsession that there will not be a war between Israel and Iran in the foreseeable future – not before the US elections, not after the US elections; not an air strike by Israel, nor one by America, nor by both of them together. So says veteran astrologer Miriam Binyamini, reputed to be among the more accurate of horoscope readers.

Binyamini, who appears on Yoav Ginai’s weekly program on Israel Radio, told him that she could not see a war in the offing. She might not even have referred to Iran, but Ginai told her that people were nagging him to ask, so she set his mind at rest.

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■ AFTER MAKING an impassioned farewell speech at the Bastille Day reception last month, it transpires that French Ambassador Christophe Bigot will not be leaving us after all – at least, not yet. For reasons that have not been disclosed, his successor designate has been posted elsewhere and Bigot has had his stay in Israel extended, possibly by a year. Considering his many friends and contacts in Israel, it’s more or less a given that he has no complaints.

■ NONAGENARIANS ARE not often among the passengers on international flights, but there was no way that Londoner Lena Jayson, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday and who is the oldest member of the Dunitz family, whose roots are in Poland, was going to miss the family reunion in Jerusalem. The reason for the gettogether was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the aliya of Jacob and Rachel Dunitz and the 87th anniversary of the aliya of Jacob’s cousin, Shlomo Dunitz. Last week, close to 100 members of the family congregated for brunch in the reception hall of the Yedidya synagogue in Jerusalem. Altogether there are some 250 Dunitz descendants in the world.

Insofar as its lineage can be traced, the family hails from Bialystok.

Jacob and Shlomo’s grandfather in Bialystok was Yehuda Yidel Dunitz, a rabbi held in high regard who became the head of the Beit Din (religious court) of Slonim. In order to avoid the draft into the Russian Army, many Jews gave their second sons different family names because, although the first born was exempted from the army in order to be the breadwinner of the family, the Russian authorities wanted to know who was the second born for conscription purposes. Yehuda Yidel, therefore, had a different surname to that of his brothers. He was the first Dunitz, which was an acronym for Dayan Zedek (righteous judge), because his father, Noach, believed – correctly, as it turned out – that Yehuda Yidel was destined for great things.

In 1887, following the Kishinev pogroms, Jacob, Rachel and their three children emigrated to England. They lived in the East End of London, where most of the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled, and had four more children.



Jacob opened a small grocery store and became very involved with the Machzikei Adath Synagogue in London. He worked hard to maintain his religious standards, which was not always easy in the surrounding environment. As they grew up, the children found it difficult to keep to Jacob’s rigid commitment to religion and began to absorb British customs.

In 1912, disappointed with his children’s declining religious practice and keen to be in Jerusalem to greet the Messiah’s arrival, Jacob and Rachel came to live in what was then Palestine. They brought with them their youngest daughter, Janie, who was 11. Their other six children remained in London.

Palestine was a very poor country in those days, and conditions for Jews were made more difficult by the policies of the ruling Ottoman Turks, World War I and a devastating locust plague.

Jacob died in 1918, Rachel in 1929 and Shlomo in 1932. All three are buried on the Mount of Olives.

At the reunion last week, there were family members who had not seen each other in a long time and others who had never met before. But all were eager to exchange information about experiences and to fill in gaps in the family saga.

Despite Jacob’s fears, some 60 percent of the family has remained religiously observant and nearly 30% live in Israel. At the brunch, representatives of different branches of the family from different parts of the world spoke of their personal histories.

Although she was born five years after Jacob and Rachel left London, Lena Jayson is the most knowledgeable on matters related to the family, and everyone was eager to hear what she had to say. They celebrated her 95th birthday at the reunion, where her great- and great-great-grandchildren sang a birthday song to her that had been composed by Sofia, her eight-year-old great-great-granddaughter, after which she was presented with a birthday cake as everyone sang “Happy Birthday.”

It was a memorable occasion not only for her but for each branch of the family, which received an album containing the family tree, descriptions of each family branch and almost 70 photographs.

Following the brunch, the family travelled to the Mount of Olives to visit the graves of Jacob, Rachel and Shlomo and to recite Psalms in their memories.

Although Jacob and Rachel essentially came to the Holy Land to die, their descendants gathering around their graves symbolized a celebration of life.

■ OF THE many performances that singer Shlomo Artzi has given over the years, nothing will be quite as stirring to him personally as the performance that he will give next month at the wedding of his son, Ben, to actress Andrea Schwartz. Artzi has written a special song for the couple, and, together with other family members, will make a disc of it at a recording studio this coming Friday. In keeping with what seems to be the current norm in Israel’s entertainment industry, Ben, who is also a well-known singer and guitarist, and Andrea were living together quite happily until she became pregnant. Now, with a baby on the way, they’ve decided to tie the knot before the next generation of the Artzi family arrives in the world.

■ ADVERTISING AND public relations agencies are forever dreaming up gimmicks on behalf of their clients, on the premise that it’s the gimmick that helps to sell a brand name or a product to the public.

Some of these ideas backfire, but some are effective, especially if the brand name and the gimmick coincide, as in the case of Gali Shoes.

“Gal” and “Gali” are common Israeli names which mean “wave” and “my wave,” respectively. “Wave” is a word often used instead of “trend,” so getting well-known people named “Gal” or “Gali” to be the presenters for Gali Shoes was a great way to ensure that the brand name would stay in consumer consciousness. Following the success of a previous campaign in which people from the crowd who answered to any version of the name “Gal” were chosen as presenters, the NIS 7 million fall/winter campaign, which includes electronic and print media and posters throughout the country, features four celebrities: singer and actress Gali Atari, who won the 1979 Eurovision contest; windsurfer and Olympic gold medalist Gal Fridman; leading fashion designer Galit Levy, who is particularly well known in Israel and abroad for her wedding and evening gowns; and actor Gal Lev, who has appeared in numerous feature films and popular television series.

■ AT THE Jerusalem Post, and presumably in any other work place, the test of a person’s popularity is the number of people who show up for an office birthday celebration or a farewell. In the case of graphic artist and music man Yehuda Ledgley, it was almost a full house. The easygoing, fun-loving Canadian who has twice made aliya – the first time by riding a bike – is leaving Israel again after a fairly long stint to go to California to help care for his wife’s aging parents.

Ledgley, 42, made quite a name for himself as a singer-guitarist on Israel’s music scene and he was greatly admired by his colleagues at the Post for the speed with which he could put together a page, for his unique brand of honesty and for the music that he occasionally brought into their lives. Fellow graphic artist Ronnie Remeny, who has worked with Ledgley for most of his long career at the paper, could not control the lump in his throat as he spoke of the fun working years they had enjoyed together, surviving four Israeli prime ministers, four editors-in-chief and three US presidents.

Managing editor David Brinn, who frequently writes on musical subjects and is a singer-guitarist himself, has played late into the night and early morning with Ledgley and thanked him for helping him to realize his dream of making a disc. Brinn said that Ledgley is an amazing musical talent who deserves wide audiences and that he will cherish the times they played together. Editor-in-chief Steve Linde, who likes to write special occasion tribute poems to people those close to him, read one in praise of Ledgley’s attributes.

Ledgley was also presented with a Jerusalem Post “front page” in which he was headlined as a musical superstar and a graphic wonder. Ledgley, who has been playing guitar since he was 15, is hoping to build up his musical career in Los Angeles, but he realizes that he also has to eat so he has secured a job with an architect.

He was most appreciative of the many friends he’s made in Israel, particularly because he came without family and has been “adopted” by many surrogate families. He said that he regarded his friends at the Post as “a kind of dysfunctional family – just like Israel” and that he would miss them all. He also put on one last performance for the crowd.

■ ON THE subject of music, invitees to the opening of the Jerusalem Music Conference at Zappa Jerusalem on Monday night went wild over the performance by Berry Sakharof and Rea Mochiach. It was an extraordinarily contagious experience with the 10 musicians on stage obviously enjoying themselves and whipping into a musical frenzy that had everyone standing on the dance floor tapping their feet and swaying to the primal rhythm, sending positive vibes back to the musicians. The connection was almost tangible. Even Mayor Nir Barkat, whose appearances at major events of any kind are usually hit-and-run affairs, stayed till the end with his wife, Beverly, and was as caught up in the music as anyone else.

The producer of the conference is Jeremy Hulsh, CEO of Oleh Records, who has been busy promoting Israeli musicians at home and abroad and who is convinced that conferences of this kind will give them another platform and even greater exposure.

Barkat, who is keen to make Jerusalem the culture capital not only of Israel but of the Middle East, was enthusiastic about the idea of a music conference in Jerusalem and is already looking forward to the second one next year, which promises to be even bigger and better.

Erel Margalitm who heads the JVP Media Quarter where Zappa Jerusalem is located, said that the idea behind the conference was to link technological innovators and business leaders with Jerusalem’s cultural and artistic creativity and to bring this to the attention of the world. There is no doubt that Margalit, a highly successful venture capitalist, has put his money where his mouth is and has more than just a finger in the pie of Jerusalem’s incredible increase of cultural activities.

■ IT’S BEEN a while since MK Dr. Ahmed Tibi has practiced medicine. Tibi is an extremely active parliamentarian, aside from which MKs are supposed to refrain from their professions while serving in the Knesset. Tibi, who is trained as a gynecologist, was vacationing in Barcelona last week and saved the life of another Israeli tourist, Fadi Masrawa of Taybe, who had broken his neck when he dove head-first into a shallow section of the beach.

Somehow, Masrawa’s family was able to make contact with Tibi soon after the 28-year-old was taken to hospital and Tibi wasted no time in racing to his bedside. Tibi saw that the young man was in bad shape and contacted an Israeli medical colleague whose expertise is in orthopedics and who, on hearing Tibi’s description of Masrawa’s condition, decided that Masrawa should be instantly airlifted to Israel for surgery.

The problem was that Masrawa had failed to take out health insurance before his trip. Tibi using his political clout, persuaded El Al to make two seats available in a fully booked plane, after two passengers, in a humanitarian gesture, agreed to give up their seats. Tibi invoked a compensatory law, which he himself had drafted and which was recently voted into effect by the Knesset, whereby passengers bumped from a flight should be compensated.

Since El Al was not to blame, Tibi arranged for Masrawa’s family to compensate the two passengers who had given up their seats.

■ CHIEF RABBIS Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar will conclude their 10- year terms next year. There are many people who think that the chief rabbis, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, are too isolated from the Israeli public and are not sufficiently familiar with latter day realties to be able to relate to the secular community. This impression is somewhat erroneous, as Metzger also functions as the Chief Rabbinate’s “foreign minister” and travels widely in Israel and abroad to participate in international conferences, Jewish community events and special campaigns. He was a frequent presence in the Schalit tent in the years when Gilad Schalit, who yesterday celebrated his 26th birthday, was in captivity, and last week he traveled to Germany to defend the religious rights of Jews and Muslims to practice circumcision.

Curiously, when President Shimon Peres sent a letter on the circumcision issue to German Chancellor Angela Merkel while Metzger was still in Germany, there was no hue and cry about him overstepping his role, as there had been in reference to remarks he had made previously about Israel’s capability of attacking Iran.

Putting all that aside, Tzohar, the rabbinic organization dedicated to making Judaism more palatable to the less observant, has launched a campaign to enhance the relevance of the Chief Rabbinate. This is in response to the defiance of Chief Rabbinate rulings by certain rabbinic court judges. Tzohar wants the Chief Rabbinate to appoint only people who agree to uphold and implement its rulings as judges in the rabbinic court. Because there is sometimes a conflict between civil law and Jewish law, Tzohar also wants the Chief Rabbinate to appoint a team of halachic experts who would offer opinions of legislation proposed in the Knesset if such legislation runs counter to Jewish law.

Three of the most important things that feature in the Tzohar campaign are prenuptial contracts that would prevent men from denying their wives a religious bill of divorce and would thus free many women to marry again and create new families; removing obstacles to conversion by offspring of mixed marriages in which the father is Jewish but the mother is not; and creating a single unified standard of supervision of kosher products that would be more transparent and would end the questionable relationship between restaurant and banquet hall proprietors and kashrut supervisors. Tzohar wants the public to partner in its campaign, and on its Facebook page is asking web surfers to contribute their views on what they perceive to be the most important functions of the Chief Rabbinate.

■ WHAT MAY well be the last of the current Siyum Hashas celebrations marking the end of the seven-and-ahalf- year daily study of the Talmud took place this week in Bnei Brak, a little later than originally planned. Yisroel Hager, the rabbi of Viznitz, was vacationing in Llandudno in England, a favorite retreat for the haredi community, when he was approached by a young man who is an orphan who asked him to officiate at his wedding. Under the circumstances, Hager could hardly refuse, and so he extended his stay and made the bridegroom very happy.

■ HAREDI WOMEN are increasingly coming into the public eye and, unlike their great-grandmothers and in some cases their grandmothers, are not only literate but well-versed in Torah and Talmud. Thousands of them, from all strata of haredi communities, gathered in Bnei Brak last week for their Siyum Hashas celebrations, and in what in some circles might be interpreted as a form of religious feminism came together under the slogan “And give us our share in Your Torah”. Also participating were the wives of rabbis heading hassidic dynasties, such as Gur, Belz, and Visnitz, who drew sustained applause both for their attendance and for what they had to say, which was in line with the slogan of the event.

Credit for the success of the turnout goes to Rutie Attias, who runs the Dimyon (Imagination) Public Relations Agency and is a sister-in-law to Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias. Rutie Attias thought that women don’t get enough credit for persuading their husbands to engage in daily study, nor do they get sufficient credit for their own study. She presented a convincing argument to Bnei Brak Mayor Ya’akov Asher, who was persuaded by her earnestness and helped her to make the event a resounding success.

■ IMMIGRANT ABSORPTION Minister Sofa Landver almost caused a diplomatic incident last Thursday when she represented the government at the Uruguay Independence Day reception hosted by Ambassador Bernardo Greiver in the impressive new auditorium of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Landver was reading from a typed speech, so whether the mistake was hers or that of a Foreign Ministry typist remains a mystery, but toward the close of her address, when she congratulated the president and people of the first Latin American country to recognize Israel on May 19, 1948, instead of saying Uruguay, she said Argentina. A roar of disapproval erupted from the audience, and an embarrassed Landver quickly corrected herself.

Speaking in flawless Hebrew, Greiver said that it was a tradition at his country’s national day events to introduce some aspect of culture, and on this occasion it was documentary film El Barrio de los Judios (The Jewish Neighborhood), whose director, Gonzalo Rodriguez Fabregas, came to Israel for the occasion. The film presents a broad view of Uruguay’s Jewish community and tells the story of the first Jewish immigrants who came to Montevideo.

In the new auditorium of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, it was obvious that you can take the Jew out of Uruguay, but you can’t take Uruguay out of the Jew. The Uruguayan National Anthem was played without prior announcement and the invitees who filled the auditorium spontaneously stood up and began to sing loudly and proudly. The sound was slightly more subdued for “Hatikva.”

Israel was the first country outside Latin America to sign the Mercosur Free Trade Agreement and, according to Greiver, this has ranked Israel in eighth place for Uruguay’s exports.

Uruguay’s exports to Israel in 2011 reached $130 million. Uruguay was a member of UNSCOP, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, created in 1947 to investigate the conflict in the area. As a result of its recommendations, the UN General Assembly subsequently voted for the partition of Palestine, paving the way for the creation of the sovereign State of Israel. Uruguay was among the countries that voted in favor at the General Assembly on November 29, 1947. Uruguay has retained an abiding interest in Israel “and we want Israel to have peace and security,” said Greiver. “I want to see a film that shows the end of the Middle East conflict, in which the conclusion shows two leaders signing a peace treaty and children from both sides waving flags as a dove with an olive branch appears in the sky.” Landver also referred to the historic ties dating back to 1947 and said that Israel would be happy to welcome President Jose Mujica if he cares to make a state visit. Like Griever, she spoke of the importance of the Mercosur agreement, which includes most South American countries, and said that two-way trade between Israel and Uruguay was expected to reach $200 million this year. She noted that Uruguay had been the first Latin American country to host an Israeli Embassy and said that Israel values Uruguay’s continued support in the struggle against terrorism. Landver urged Uruguay to vote with Israel in the UN and in other international forums.

greerfc@gmail.com


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