Grapevine: A haredi with a gun

WITH ALL the political chaos in which Israel is presently engulfed, there’s no stopping the carnival of summer entertainment festivals and special events.

SUNDOR CEO Yair Barbi and Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss launch the Sundor route to Salzburg.  (photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
SUNDOR CEO Yair Barbi and Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss launch the Sundor route to Salzburg.
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
There’s good and bad in every demographic sector of a community, along with many shades of gray. It is a form of racial bias to characterize a whole sector on the basis of its negative elements. To judge a whole demographic sector in relation to its negatives rather than its positives affects Israel’s Arab communities, citizens of Ethiopian background, immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the ultra-Orthodox known in Hebrew as haredim, and most recently immigrants from France. Unfortunately, there are still those who are also prejudiced against Israelis of North African birth or parentage, even though members of these communities have reached top positions in academia, diplomacy, politics, technology, sport, business and entertainment.
The people who are currently the most frequent victims of prejudice are Israeli Ethiopians and haredim – the latter mostly with regard to the ongoing dispute over army service. But not all haredim refuse to serve in the army. Yediot Aharonot ran an eye-catching photograph last week of a man in traditional haredi garb with long pe’ot (side curls) protruding from beneath his black hat, and ritual white fringes from beneath his black coat, as he aimed an assault rifle during target practice at a shooting range, getting a bull’s-eye, each time. The man in question is Rabbi Meir Ohana, the rabbi of Kfar Yovel in Kiryat Shmona, who is also a superintendent in the Galilee Border Police and who served with the Golani Brigade in the IDF.
Ohana is one of 12 siblings whose father served in the army during the 1967 Six Day War. Following his father’s example, Ohana, now 54, signed up for the Civil Guard when he was 16, and later became a combat soldier in the Golani Brigade. “Whoever receives rights and privileges also has obligations,” he says. He has educated his eight children to live by this philosophy. His son Yaakov and daughter Michal each served in the Border Police. His son Yoel is currently serving in a combat unit with the armored corps, and his daughter Oriah is due to join a combat unit next month
■ WITH ALL the political chaos in which Israel is presently engulfed, there’s no stopping the carnival of summer entertainment festivals and special events, such as the first-time appearance in Israel of Jennifer Lopez, who is due to perform at Hayarkon Park on August 1. Lopez had been negotiating for some time with Israeli impresarios who wanted her to come to Israel, but all the talks came to nothing, although it was rumored as far back as 2012 that she was on the way to this part of the Mediterranean. Each time that the word went out over the years that there was a possibility that she would come to Israel, there were protests from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists. The current Israel gig – if it indeed takes place – is part of a 29-stop tour headlined “It’s My Party.”
■ IT’S NOT unusual for American and other Diaspora youngsters to give the money they received as bar mitzvah gifts to some cause in Israel. In the case of Benjamin and Brian Barth of New York City, it’s a double whammy because the boys are twins and both happen to be passionate about Israel and the transformative power of sports. Cooperating with the UJA Federation of New York’s Give a Mitzvah Do a Mitzvah program, the boys contributed a total of more than $122,000 to two Israeli not-for-profit organizations that work to empower people through sports.
The twins, who have visited Israel many times, are both sports enthusiast and, when not watching their favorite teams, enjoy playing tennis, sailing, biking and golfing. In the winter, they love to ski. Benjamin, a tennis enthusiast, gave his share of the money to the Israel Tennis Centers’ programs that teach children peaceful coexistence through tennis and also offer academic support enrichment, and mentoring. Brian, who loves sailing and cycling, chose to donate to Etgarim, which utilizes the two activities, among others, to rehabilitate individuals with cognitive, sensory and physical disabilities. He is keen to encourage children in Tel Aviv, Nahalal and Holon to pursue athletic excellence and participate in otherwise inaccessible sports.
■ AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR Martin Weiss, before winding up his posting here, joined Sundor CEO Yair Barbi in launching Sundor’s direct flights to Salzburg. For the foreseeable future, there will be two flights a week leaving Ben-Gurion Airport on Mondays at 2:30 p.m. and on Thursdays at 12:10 p.m., with the flight time approximately 3.5 hours. Return flights are at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and 4:05 p.m. on Thursdays. From October, flights will leave both countries an hour earlier.
Barbi said he was grateful to Weiss for the support he had given to introducing the route, which Barbi said is a significant addition to the company’s choice of destinations, especially with regard to passengers who are interested in vacationing there or in the immediate environs. Curiously, less than an hour’s drive from the Salzburg airport are hotels and holiday apartments in great demand by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox travelers who like to vacation in mountain areas in summer.
Salzburg itself is a beautiful city which has hosted many cultural and music festivals throughout the years. It’s a shopper’s paradise for anyone who arrives early at the airport with a couple of hours to kill. There is an absolutely fabulous shopping mall less than 10 minutes’ walk from the airport with shops stocking some of the top European brands in fashion and home accessories.
Weiss said that the inauguration of a direct route to Salzburg is cause for celebration, because Salzburg is so much more than just the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is also one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Weiss is slightly biased. He happens to have been born there.
He is hopeful that there will be such a demand for the direct flights that the two flights per week will soon be increased to three. Barbi said that this might happen in the winter season, because Salzburg is a favorite with skiers.
■ WHILE IN New York to receive an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University, US Ambassador David Friedman, a longtime strong supporter of United Hatzalah, received an award from the organization at a Friends of United Hatzalah gala dinner which was attended by 1,300 people from all over the Big Apple . This was the second annual event of this kind, and the amount raised came to $5.5 million.
UNITED HATZALAH founder Eli Beer at a fund-raiser in New York
Prior to his ambassadorial appointment, Friedman was a board member of United Hatzalah and needed no prompting when it came to telling the crowd how vital it is to support the work of the organization. He was introduced by United Hatzalah chairman and serial philanthropist Mark Gerson. Also present was Israel Consul-General Dani Dayan, plus a surprise guest in the person of actor and writer Dov Glickman, who plays Shulem in the wildly popular television series Shtisel, which offers the world a glimpse of ultra-Orthodox life in Jerusalem. Glickman happens to be a personal friend of United Hatzalah founder and president Eli Beer. Other guests were thrilled to see Glickman in the flesh and in his off camera guise. Glickman was not the only Israeli entertainer to grace the event. MC for the evening was Rona-Lee Shimon from the hit TV series Fauda, and popular singer Dudu Aharon totally wowed the crowd.
The event was aimed at enlisting the support of a younger generation of budding Jewish leaders and included the inauguration of the Ezra Schwartz memorial award to honor young people who care about acts of loving-kindness, charity and supporting Israel. Ezra’s mother, Ruth Schwartz, spoke about the award named in memory of her son who was murdered in a terrorist attack in Gush Etzion on November 19, 2015. Ezra, together with four friends, had donated an ambucycle with money he had received for his own bar mitzvah. Since his death, two other ambucycles have been donated in his honor.
“The gala has been the most successful event that Friends of United Hatzalah has organized in the United States,” said vice president Michael Brown. The organization held similar gala dinners in March in Los Angeles and another back in November in London.
Beer was exceptionally appreciative of the outpouring of support at the New York gala. “The community here in this city loves Israel and truly understands the importance of the work that we do in saving lives,” he said. “We are always looking for new and exciting ways to engage the community here and get them involved.”
He voiced a “special thank-you” to Stewie Rahr for matching 36 ambucycles. Beer said that Rahr’s gesture no doubt inspired many young people who have never donated before to start getting involved, which will hopefully result in many more future donations.
As things stood, earmarked proceeds from the evening resulted in 76 ambucycles, two ambulances, a special command center vehicle, 2 ATV ambutractors, 50 defibrillators and other miscellaneous equipment.