Even though he has not yet succeeded in forming a coalition, Jerusalem’s new mayor, Moshe Lion, seems to have better luck with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon than did his predecessor Nir Barkat.
It might be because Lion is an accountant by profession, or because they’re both called Moshe, or it may simply be a matter of chemistry; but whatever the reason, when Lion met with Kahlon last week, the latter agreed that the Finance Ministry would contribute NIS 950 million to the 2019 budget of the Jerusalem Municipality – a sum beyond anything that Barkat was able to achieve while in office. Most recently, Barkat received NIS 877m. for the 2018 budget and argued that it was insufficient.
It’s certainly a good start for Lion. Of the NIS 950m., NIS 750m. is a grant to the municipality. NIS 67m. will be used for developing the city, NIS 40m. for raising the standard of city services, and NIS 78m. for the municipality’s operating costs.
Following the conclusion of his negotiations with Lion, Kahlon said that he is proud that the ministry could make the largest contribution ever to the capital. He is confident that in coming years an excellent relationship will develop between the ministry and the municipality.
Meanwhile, aside from trying to cobble a coalition, Lion has the ongoing problem that he inherited from Barkat – namely, will there or will there not be light rail service on the city’s Emek Refaim Street? The committee seeking to save Emek Refaim, Hamesila Park and the quality of life enjoyed by residents has still not given up on the idea of finding an alternative solution to the problems of public transport in the capital’s German Colony, Baka and Katamon.
Lion has voiced his willingness to review the situation, but that is no guarantee that anything will change. But at the very least, it will result in a further delay. The committee seeking to prevent the light rail from running is angry that Barkat, almost to his last day in office, tried to push it through, even though he would not be personally affected by it, since he lives on the other side of town.
■ PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu must be vying with the late president and prime minister Shimon Peres for the record of the most peripatetic politician in the country. Peres was definitely a frequent flyer in every role that he had, and it seems that Netanyahu may be even more so.
Last Wednesday, when addressing the foreign press in Israel, he happened to mention while talking about Israel’s improving relations in the world that he would soon be paying another visit to Chad, and that he would also be traveling to Brazil. Before leaving for South America, he will try to introduce a new air route which will considerably reduce travel time from Israel to South America. If not exactly direct, the new route will definitely be shorter. There are no direct flights between Israel and any South American country.
■ ON TUESDAY of last week, Yediot Aharonot celebrated its 79th anniversary. Israel’s oldest daily tabloid is a few years younger than The Jerusalem Post, which celebrated its 86th anniversary on December 1. The Post, in turn, is younger than Haaretz, which next year will celebrate its centenary on June 18.
Yediot’s most veteran journalist Noah Klieger, 92, who died on Thursday, was a death march survivor and an inmate in Auschwitz and Ravensbruck, who arrived in Israel onboard the famous illegal immigrant ship Exodus 1947. He published a front-page column last week in which he shared memories and feelings.
Before arriving in Israel, he began his career as a journalist covering the trials of Nazi war criminals in Belgium, France and Germany. During his first decade in Israel, he worked as a foreign correspondent and joined Yediot in 1957, writing primarily about sport but also about Holocaust survivors. Needless to say, he covered the trials of Adolf Eichmann and John Demjanjuk. He also accompanied Israeli presidents and prime ministers on their official visits to Auschwitz and Treblinka, and was a frequent participant in the March of the Living.
In his column last Tuesday, he recalled that he was 13 years old when Yediot was first published. He also remembered his joy in reading the headline “A Hebrew State” following the UN resolution of November 1947. Since then, he wrote, Yediot has been there in times of great joy and painful sadness, during wars and peace agreements, during terrorist attacks and during periods of hope. He spent most of his life, 61 years to be exact, as a member of the paper’s editorial staff – “a Holocaust survivor who dreamed of migrating to the Land of Israel and to write for a newspaper in the Hebrew language – and I succeeded.”
■ MEDITERRANEAN MEAN time and Israeli bureaucracy often go hand in hand. That might explain the Jewish Agency’s foot-dragging in appointing a successor to the organization’s CEO and director-general, Alan Hoffman, who nine months ago informed the agency’s board of governors of his intention to retire at the end of this year. At the time of going to press no successor had been named, though there have been rumors that the position may go to veteran Jewish agency official Amira Aharonovich, who for more than two decades has headed various agency departments. If she is appointed in Hoffman’s stead, she will be the first female CEO in the organization’s almost 90-year history. It was founded in 1929 by Chaim Weizmann, who later became Israel’s first president.
■ JEWS SOMETIMES receive support from the most unexpected quarters. Recently this column had an item related to William Cooper, an Australian Aboriginal who led an anti-Nazi demonstration in Melbourne after reading about what the Germans had done to Jewish places of worship and Jewish commercial enterprises on Kristallnacht – the night of the shattered glass. Now, with new global outbreaks of antisemitism and in the immediate aftermath of the survey released by the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Hindus are urging the EU to put a stop to antisemitism and all other forms of racism.
Indo-American Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada last week, said that it was disheartening to find that Jews in the EU continued to face “a sustained stream of abuse expressed in different forms”; persistent negative stereotyping; “vandalism, insults, threats, attacks and even murder”; discrimination in education, employment, health, housing; frequent harassment; hate speech; antisemitism in the classroom, etc.
Zed, who is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated that it was sad to know that in the EU antisemitism is prevalent everywhere – Internet, social media, public spaces, media, political life – and it is increasing.
He called for the EU to become serious in its efforts to counter, prevent, combat and eradicate antisemitism. Rolling out hollow resolutions/initiatives in Brussels appeared to have proved ineffective, he said. Some decisive and sustained actions are needed on the ground to tackle this serious problem, he insisted.
He found it baffling that even the religious elite of Europe had not come out strongly against this unacceptable harassment of the Jewish community, and urged Pope Francis to press this issue.
Zed pointed out that if Europe “really and wholeheartedly” wants to counter rising antisemitism, a big change of heart, serious motivation, effective implementation, an honest feeling of responsibility and firm political commitment are urgently needed to deliver concrete outcomes.
It is the moral obligation of Europe to take care of its hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Jewish communities, which have contributed greatly to Europe and European society, Zed declared.
■ SOCIAL EQUALITY Minister Gila Gamliel has urged immigrants from North African countries to tell their stories so that they can be preserved for posterity. Many came from families that lived well before the establishment of the State of Israel, after which their properties were confiscated and they suffered harassment and persecution, and in some cases were expelled, and in others forced to flee.
A similar idea has been mounted by Jimena (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) and Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People. Jimena is headquartered in San Francisco, and Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv, but both have connections throughout the Jewish world, and Beit Hatfutsot specializes in gathering information about the communities of the Diaspora and digitizing the data so that it can be made available to anyone who may be interested anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, the initiative is a little late in coming, although there are institutions in Israel and abroad that have established museums and galleries for this purpose, but nothing as extensive as the projects that will result from the Jimena-Beit Hatfutsot alliance.
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