Grapevine: A historic visit remembered

The who's who of Israel news.

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November 23, 2017 20:22
Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin

Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. (photo credit: US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/WIKIMEDIA)

Nearly all of the living Israeli diplomats who served in Cairo were among the huge crowd of Israeli and foreign diplomats who came to the President’s Residence on Wednesday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the arrival in Jerusalem of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

For some of the Israelis who have not seen each other in a while, it was in the nature of a reunion of members of a very special club that includes Nitza Ben Elissar, whose late husband, Eliyahu, was Israel’s first ambassador to Egypt. Also from among those in the initial diplomatic mission in 1980 were Zvi Mazel and his wife, Michelle, who returned there in 1996 when Mazel was appointed ambassador.

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Conspicuously absent was current Israel Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin, who was busy with preparations for a 40th anniversary reception that he was hosting on Wednesday night. In addition to the inspiring speeches at the event, greetings also flowed in Arabic and Galit Giat delighted everyone by singing in Hebrew English and Arabic.
THE RECOMMENDATION by the committee tasked to make recommendations for election reforms reminded veteran journalist Shalom Kittal of the absurd situation prior to the 1981 elections. One of the key recommendations of the committee was to abolish the 60-day ban on election propaganda prior to a Knesset election. Propaganda includes interviewing politicians or showing their faces.

In 1981, prior to and after the elections, then-prime minister Menachem Begin was busy negotiating with Egyptian president Sadat, but it was forbidden to show Begin’s face on television, only to report what he was doing. So when such reports were aired, the television camera focused on Begin’s legs.

Kittal, who covered Sadat’s arrival in Jerusalem for Israel Radio and now broadcasts on Kan Reshet Bet, found it ironic that while Israel is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Sadat in Jerusalem, Begin’s son, Bennie, who like his father is a model of courage and integrity, should be ousted from the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee. This was his reward for voting in accordance with his conscience and going against the coalition in opposing a bill that would prohibit police from informing prosecutors that their investigation indicated that there were grounds for an indictment.

THE INTERNET
is well stocked with tales of Rabbi Natan Gamedze, the Swazi prince who became a rabbi. As fascinating as it is to read his story, it us even more fascinating to meet him in the flesh and to hear him tell it. There’s obviously something magnetic about him, because this week he attracted a much larger attendance to a Telfed-Wits-Mizrachi lecture at World Mizrachi headquarters in Jerusalem than is usually the case.

Roy Scher, who heads the Jerusalem branch of Telfed, was overwhelmed by the fact there was a full house, beyond all expectations. The multi-lingual Gamedze, who grew up in an Evangelical Christian family but always felt himself to be different, came to Judaism via a Hebrew text.

While at university, he saw a classmate writing from right to left instead of left to right. This intrigued him. He subsequently met Prof. Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University, who more or less adopted him and arranged for him to come to Israel – and the rest is history. Gamedze studied at the Hebrew University and at various yeshivot and was a quick learner.

“My journey to Judaism is a journey of the soul,” he said. “To me, becoming Jewish was coming into my own element.” Because his story is in many ways unique, Gamedze is frequently invited to lecture abroad. “The only thing I like about leaving Israel is coming back,” he said.

What is no less intriguing than the milestones in his journey to Judaism and since is his personality changes as he speaks, virtually taking on different persona as he drops a few words in excellent Yiddish, skips between Ashkenazi and Sephardi pronunciation of Hebrew, goes into the stereotypical image of the indigenous African speaking high pitched English in a distinct un-English accent, and then speaking the sophisticated English of the well-born and highly educated.

His New York-born wife, Shayna Golda, a personality in her own right, grew up secular and became observant in Israel before they met. They have two children, a boy and a girl. When the children were little, they noticed that there was a significant difference in the complexions of their parents.

Noting that three members of the immediate family were brown, the little boy called his mother a livani (whitey) and told her that if she wanted to have some of her livani friends come to the house, no-one would mind. On another occasion, the child asked why she as a white person had married a brown person. “I wasn’t looking at his skin outside,” she replied. “I was looking at his soul inside.” This was a satisfactory answer and the child did not pursue the subject.

AMONG THE recipients of honorary doctorates at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Thursday was Israel Prize laureate Prof. Elihu Katz, the American-born founder of communication studies in Israel and the pioneer of television in the country, beginning with experimental Educational Television and then moving on to what used to be Israel Television, of which he was one of the founding fathers. Katz also founded the Institute of Communications at the Hebrew University, of which he is a professor emeritus.

SULTRY BEERSHEBA-born actress, film maker and former model Ronit Elkabetz, who died of cancer in April 2016 at age 51, was considered one of Israel’s great cinematic jewels. A tough perfectionist with a generous heart and a sometimes whirlwind personality, her memory was honored at last year’s Jerusalem Film Festival and will be honored again this coming week at the Holon Design Museum at an exhibition called “Je t’aime, Ronit Elkabetz,” in which there will be a display of garments from her personal wardrobe alongside those she wore in films and as a model.

In addition to being a cultural icon, Elkabetz was also a fashion icon whose strong sense of drama was reflected in what she wore. The exhibition, which includes enlarged photographs, videos and installations, also features one of the last photographs taken of her as a model by photographer Gil Hayun, who at the 2015 Gindi TLV Fashion Week captured the barefoot Elkabetz in a magnificent canary yellow gown designed by Alber Elbaz, another Israeli luminary of Moroccan background, who like Elkabetz became an international household word.

Her death was reported in publications around the world. Journalists referred to her as an icon, a luminary of the French and Israeli screens, the diva of Israeli cinema, and in other superlative terms, all of which were genuinely applicable. Elkabetz was fluent in French and Arabic as well as Hebrew and employed all three languages in her films. In addition to being a superb prize-winning actress with an extraordinarily expressive face, she was also a talented director and script writer.

The gala opening will take place on Monday, November 27 in the presence of Holon Mayor Moti Sasson and other dignitaries and will remain on view till April 30, 2018.

FINANCE MINISTER Moshe Kahlon, in advance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, this week visited a shelter for battered women and told the women who are rebuilding their lives there that they should not be the ones cut off from society while the men who abused them go free. It should be the other way around, he said, and the men should be locked up so that the women could go free.

BECAUSE NOVEMBER 25
, the actual date set down by the United Nations for eliminating violence against women falls on a Saturday this year, most Israeli events that relate to it were held in advance. One of the more disturbing elements that keeps emerging year after year is that no sector of society is immune from violence or sexual offenses.

It might seem that the latter have become more prevalent than ever before in ultra-Orthodox society, but this is only partially true. In the past it was the norm in Haredi circles not to air dirty linen in public. Not only were criminal offenses kept secret, but even disabilities of family members for fear that knowledge of such would harm the marriage prospects of their siblings.

While this is still the case in some ultra-Orthodox enclaves, in general this community is much more open and aware and cooperates with social workers and law enforcement authorities in apprehending offenders. People with disabilities are no longer hidden away, but are encouraged to make the most of what they can do, rather than focus on what they can’t do.

Liora Minka, who chairs the religious women’s organization Emunah, has called on the chief rabbis of Israel as well as city rabbis, neighborhood rabbis, heads of yeshivot and synagogues to pray for the welfare of victims of violence and to integrate this prayer into Sabbath services tonight and tomorrow.

Minka says that Israeli society is undergoing a scourge of violence against women, the elderly and children, and if this is not bad enough, there is plenty of evidence of road rage, violence in hospitals and in youth clubs. Sexual harassment is also a form of violence, declares Minka, and an unwanted kiss is also a form of violence, as are curses and foul language. She is particularly concerned, however, at the increase in the number of battered women and the number of women who have died from domestic violence. All Torah institutes and organizations must work together to uproot and eradicate this vicious phenomenon, she says.

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