Grapevine October 13, 2019: Honoring the righteous

The physicians in the course are participating in a program initiated by Jewish Agency subsidiary, the Israel Experience, which specializes in educational tourism.

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October 12, 2019 20:15
STUDY OF King David, 1866. (Depicts Sir Henry Taylor; Wikimedia Commons)

STUDY OF King David, 1866. (Depicts Sir Henry Taylor; Wikimedia Commons). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A festival of David’s Psalms Respecting the Righteous will be held at the Jerusalem Theater on October 16 to honor the memories of Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. A joint Polish-Israeli musical tribute, the concert will feature conductors, composers and soloists from both countries. The first part of the concert will feature the Jerusalem Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ellie Jaffe with cantors Chaim Setren, Shlomo Seltzki and Israel Rand.

The latter is no stranger to musical tributes to Holocaust heroes and survivors. In April 2008, as a climax to the 65th anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, he sang at the Warsaw Opera House in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Holocaust survivors from Israel and other parts of the world, Polish dignitaries and Polish heroes who had been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. The musicians were members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the conductor was Zubin Mehta. Rand, draped in a large prayer shawl, sang a heart-rending interpretation of “El Male Rahamim,” for which the congregation stands when it is sung in synagogues or in strictly Jewish memorial events. But this was the packed Warsaw Opera House, in which the bulk of the audience seated in seven galleries, was not Jewish. Among the Jews were survivors of the Sobibor death camp and of the Warsaw Ghetto, including Simcha Rotem, who had fought in both the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Polish Uprising. Rotem died in December 2018. Among the other Warsaw Ghetto survivors was Israel Levin, who had been the only child among the ghetto fighters. Rotem had led those who survived through the sewers to the Aryan side. He did not recognize Levin when they met. “I can’t forget you,” said Levin. “You’re the one who lifted me out of the sewer and saved my life.” When Rand began to sing, the Jews in the audience looked around at each other. A couple in one of the galleries rose slowly to their feet and the man took a kippah out of his pocket and covered his head. Two seats away from them, someone else stood up, then all over the auditorium, people began to stand. The whole audience had stood for “Hatikvah,” because it is customary to pay respect to any country by standing for its anthem. But to stand for “El Male Rahamim” in the gigantic national opera house of Warsaw was more than an expression of respect; it was an expression of Jewish pride and courage, especially by those who, more than six decades earlier, had been transported to a living hell for no reason other than the fact that they were Jewish.

The Polish artists in the program include Piotr Rubik, Marta Moszczynska, Anna Jozefina Lubieniecka, Olivia Wieczorek, Michal Gasz, Grzegorz Wilk and Michal Bogdanowicz.

■ SUKKOT IS one of three pilgrim festivals in which all roads lead to Jerusalem, even though there are many events elsewhere in the country. But somehow people, whether religiously observant or not, are drawn to Jerusalem during Sukkot. If the city was not already in a state of chaos due to all the construction projects and diverted traffic routes, it becomes a nightmare on Sukkot when tens of thousands of people converge on the capital. As difficult as life has been for pedestrians up until now due to the fact that bicycles, scooters, etc., are permitted on the pavement, it is now much worse because so much of the pavement has been taken over by sukkah structures put up by restaurants or by residents of apartment complexes, in which there is no surrounding garden or courtyards and no halachically suitable balconies. In addition, there seems to have been some kind of a fertility epidemic in Jerusalem, with what appears to be an incredible number of births of twins, judging by the double baby carriages taking up space on pavements, in shops and on public transport. The worst day will be on Thursday, October 17, when there will be endless lines of people queuing up to enter President Reuven Rivlin’s sukkah, at the traditional Open House at the President’s Residence.

The annual Jerusalem March, at which marchers will begin lining up along the different routes from as early as 7 a.m. with the main colorful parade taking place at 3 p.m., is also on October 17. In the evening of that date, The Revivo Project will be performing in Safra Square in the presence of Mayor Moshe Lion, although there will be ongoing day and night performances by other artists throughout Sukkot. It’s also the date of Simchat Beit HaShoeva, the joyous water-drawing commemoration of pouring water on the altar of the Temple, which will take place in congregations throughout the city. There’s also a glut of tours which will add to the chaos and confusion.

■ REGULAR INVITEES to German Unity Day might have thought that there would be no reception this year because of the proximity of Rosh Hashanah. But the Germans who are reputed to be so correct in what they do, have also learned to be flexible, especially in this part of the world. There was an even better reason for the German people for delaying German Unity Day celebrations to enable them to be combined with a milestone anniversary. Invitations sent out by German Ambassador Dr. Susanne Wasum-Rainer note that the event is also in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A lot of people, Germans included, may not realize the significance of the Berlin Wall, the construction of which began in August 1961. Not only did it separate eastern and western Germany politically and geographically, but it also prevented contact between families. They couldn’t see each other, and quite often could not correspond with each other. Among the thousands of people who tried to cross from the threatening Communist regime of eastern Germany into the freedom of western Germany, approximately 100 lost their lives, though many did succeed in escaping from the darkness into the light.

IS IT that traffic congestion has become so intolerable that several ambassadors are moving their national day celebrations from their residences in Herzliya Pituah to venues in Tel Aviv? The Germans have been doing this for several years now. Initially, it was because the residence was undergoing renovations, and then it just proved to be more convenient to move the event to Tel Aviv. The Russians, because of the huge number of guests they invite, have always done it outside the residence. Initially it was in a couple of different locations in Tel Aviv, then once in Jerusalem, and once in Herzliya – but not at the residence. The Chinese used to have it at the residence, but in recent years have opted for Tel Aviv University’s Smolarz building, which has a large reception area and state-of-the-art auditorium. Spain and Hungary will be celebrating their respective national days on the same date this month and Spanish Ambassador Manuel Gomez Acebo and Hungarian Ambassador Levente Benko have each chosen Tel Aviv locations which are not too far from each other, so many people who have been invited to both events will also be able to put in an appearance at each of them.

■ IT’S COMMON knowledge that Israel is sadly lacking in physicians. According to Health Ministry figures from 2018, Israel has 3.1 active physicians per 1,000 people. This statistic is lower than the average in OECD countries, and is a red alert to the desperate need to train more local doctors and to do more to prevent an exodus of medical students. Too often, applicants to medical schools in Israel fail to make the grade for whatever reason, and because they don’t want to explore alternative career options, they go abroad to study, overcome their weak points, and frequently go on to become excellent physicians. They develop reputations which put them in high demand in medical centers in many parts of the world, and Israel has a hard time luring them back home. Moreover, many overseas physicians and nurses with long years of practice and a desire to live in Israel are told that their qualifications are inadequate and that they have to undergo additional training and exams. This is an insult to experienced doctors and nurses who come from countries in which high medical standards are demanded. Some decide to forgo aliyah. Others are prepared to undergo the humiliation because they so much want to live in Israel and to contribute to the health of the population. This may explain why last Sunday, 60 physicians from Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Nations gathered at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa to begin the state’s preparatory course for the Health Ministry’s licensing exam. Once they pass it, they can begin working as physicians in Israel.

The physicians in the course are participating in a program initiated by Jewish Agency subsidiary, the Israel Experience, which specializes in educational tourism.

The physicians’ course at Rambam was the 12th in a series. A welcome ceremony was held by Rambam Deputy Director Dr. Avi Weissman. All the doctors in the course came to Israel as tourists, but once they receive a license to practice in Israel, they can immediately apply for aliyah under the Law of Return.

Israel Experience CEO Amos Herman believes that by bringing doctors to Israel to undertake the course, the Israel Experience can be a vital contributor to changing the face of medicine in Israel.

Anyone who has had to wait for months to see a specialist at a hospital or health clinic or pay through the nose to reduce the waiting period and go as a private patient, knows the value of having more doctors and nurses. This is especially so when Israel’s population is constantly on the rise despite the number of road fatalities, spousal murders, so-called honor killings and death through illness or natural causes.

greerfc@gmail.com


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