Grapevine August 11, 2019: A tribute to Manya

A roundup of news from around Israel.Less than a week after Tisha Be’av is Tu Be’av, the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day, and commercial outlets are busy with heart-shaped cakes and chocolates a

August 11, 2019 21:20
Men pray at the Western Wall, Tisha B'av, 2018

Men pray at the Western Wall, Tisha B'av, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Less than a week after Tisha Be’av is Tu Be’av, the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day, and commercial outlets are busy with heart-shaped cakes and chocolates and anything that shows her how much he loves her. There’s also a cultural aspect to Tu Be’av. Among its various day-long Tu Be’av activities, Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in Jerusalem will host a play based on the life of pioneering political revolutionary Manya Shochat who was born in Grodno in 1880 and died in Tel Aviv in 1961.

Shochat arrived in what was then Palestine in January 1904, preceded by her older brother, Isaac, in 1882. The play by Pnina Gary was inspired by the book by Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi, and is directed by Gabriella Lev, the founder and artistic director of Theater Company Jerusalem, which will perform the play. Shochat, born Maya Wilbushevitz, met Israel Shochat at the home of Yitzhak and Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi. Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi is part of what was then the presidential compound.

Manya and Israel had two children, Gideon and Ana. Gideon became a pilot in the British Royal Air Force and later was one of the founding pilots in the Israel Air Force. In 1971, his daughter, Alona, married singer Arik Einstein, whom she later divorced.
Manya helped found the Hashomer Jewish self-defense organization, and with her husband, was also active in workers’ rights and clandestine immigration. She went on fund raising missions to Europe and the United States. Soon after her arrival in Palestine, she returned to Russia and was involved in smuggling arms to Jews fighting the pogroms. She was quite a formidable woman.

■ MEMBERS OF Israel’s Ethiopian community are not the only ones discriminated against and profiled by a few trigger-happy police. Journalists, particularly Israeli Arab and Palestinian journalists, are also singled out, even when they have proof of their journalistic credentials, wear vests that have “Press” written on them in large letters, and obey whatever the rules may be at any given site. Not only are Arab journalists and photographers mistreated by certain officers of the law but other journalists, press photographers or video crews as well.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel is deeply concerned by “a wanton act of violence by a Border Police officer against an accredited and clearly identified reporter covering a protest in Wadi al Hummus on Friday, August 2.”
AP cameraman Eyad Moghrabi, 61, was viciously kicked by a Border Police officer while covering a protest that day. Moghrabi had been detained for close to an hour before the protest while the border police verified his credentials. Moghrabi was kicked while he was filming by the same officer who had earlier detained him. Moghrabi had to subsequently go to the hospital, where his leg was bandaged. The tragedy is that his is not an isolated case.
■ IT IS a custom in many ultra-Orthodox movements for disciples of a rabbi not to make any significant move without consulting with him. Although Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman is fairly strong-minded, he is also a very loyal Gur hassid who takes his orders from the very powerful, very wealthy Rabbi of Gur, Yaakov Aryeh Alter.
If Litzman is indicted, he could argue that it was solely on the instructions of Alter that he acted as he did. But it is highly unlikely he will implicate his rebbe, or that his rebbe will come forward in his defense. On the other hand, there may be some legal loophole that will save Litzman from being charged, going to court and going to prison. Other religious MKs who survived a prison term include Interior Minister Arye Deri; former minister of health, labor and social welfare Shlomo Benizri; former minister of immigrant absorption, welfare and social services Aharon Abuhatzira; along with former MK Ofer Hugi and MK Yair Levi. Several other non-religious MKs, former MKs and mayors have also spent time behind bars.
It is on the one hand a mark of shame that a chief rabbi, president, prime minister, finance minister, interior minister, national infrastructure minister and several MKs have been imprisoned. Several other public figures have been convicted of various crimes, been fined, given suspended sentences or sentenced to community service. On the other hand, Israel can take pride in the fact that despite all the corruption in the country, no one is above the law, and rank does not guarantee immunity.
■ ASIDE FROM all the guessing games related to the September 17 elections, another question being asked in many circles is whether State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman will last out his term. The Movement for Quality Government has launched a petition to prevent Engelman from abrogating his duty to fight corruption by closing the special anti-corruption unit in the State Comptroller’s Office. The media are equally critical of Engelman, whose immediate predecessors were dedicated to fighting corruption. Just how much character assassination will Engelman be able to take before he decides to resign? If Likud fails to win the election, he may very well do the wise thing and step down before the media make mincemeat of him.
■ THE NEW YORK Jewish Week has a new editor. Following the resignation of Gary Rosenblatt after a 26-year run as editor and publisher, award-winning Andrew Silow-Carroll, a highly respected Jewish journalist, will take over at the end of September, virtually on the eve of Rosh Hashana. Rosenblatt will continue to serve as editor at large and write for the paper in addition to being involved in several educational projects.
Silow-Carroll, 58, has worked in a leading capacity in a number of America’s Jewish publications, and has more than 30 years’ experience as a journalist, columnist and editor. He has written on almost every subject published by Jewish media, giving him a broad understanding of Jewish life in the United States. He also spent two years in Israel studying Jewish education as a Jerusalem Fellow, from 1996-1998.
■ CONSIDERING ITS geographic distance from the rest of the Jewish world, the diversity of Jewish culture and tradition in Australia is truly amazing. Australia has often been referred to as the lucky country, and for many of its immigrants, especially Holocaust survivors, it has been just that.

Even people who do not have much money enjoy a good quality of life in Australia. Despite antisemitic incidents here and there, Australia has offered wonderful education and subsequent career opportunities in politics, law, medicine, science, academia, the arts and more. There is even a university in Melbourne named for a Jewish general, Sir John Monash, who to this day is regarded as one of Australia’s most outstanding soldiers. Monash University also has an Australian Center for Jewish Civilization which is funded by the Pratt Foundation which funded the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba, and has funded many other projects in Israel. The ACJC has courses in diverse Jewish subjects including Yiddish, and has recently announced two new appointments: Prof. Rebecca Margolis as director and Pratt Foundation chair of Jewish Civilization; and Associate Prof. David Slucki who has been named the Loti Smorgon Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life and Culture. The Smorgon family has also donated generously to Israel.

Margolis and Slucki join fellow new recruit Rebecca Forgasz, former director and CEO of the Jewish Museum of Australia, who has accepted the role of associate professor in community engagement and intercultural communication.

Margolis was previously a director in the Faculty of Arts, coordinator of the Vered Jewish Canadian Studies Program and director of the Masters in World Literatures and Cultures at the University of Ottowa. She is a prize-winning author for her history of Yiddish cultural life in Montreal and the recipient of significant research funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada.

Slucki is a Monash University PhD graduate, and returns to his alma mater from his position as assistant professor in the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. At Charleston, he served as co-director of the Zucker/Goldberg Center for Holocaust Studies and as director of the Perlmutter Fellows, a leadership program for incoming students. He is the author of The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945 and the soon to be launched Sing This at My Funeral: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons, and the recipient of a Fellowship at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Doomsayers who are worried about Jewish assimilation and the loss of Jewish culture and religious practice should take comfort in the fact that there are still flag bearers for Jewish life around the globe. It will have its highs and lows, but if it has lasted this long in the face of so many efforts to extinguish it, it will last till the end of time.

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