Grapevine: When the media is consistently wrong

The black curtains were down on Monday morning when police were expected to arrive, and even residents of Smolenskin and Balfour had difficulty in being allowed to pass.

January 3, 2017 20:40
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry: ‘Not anti-Israel, anti-settlement.’

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry: ‘Not anti-Israel, anti-settlement.’. (photo credit: REUTERS)

If asked about Peretz Smolenskin, few people would know that he was a 19th-century Jewish novelist who wrote in Hebrew, and who, in addition to his novels and short stories, edited periodicals in Hebrew. He was also a Hebrew teacher, and for additional income gave lectures and sang in choirs. Even though a small but nonetheless important street in Jerusalem bears his name, hardly anyone, including taxi drivers, has heard of him.

Some years ago, the street was defined by the presence of the Rubin Academy of Music, but after it moved to the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University, the street was defined by its most illustrious resident – the prime minister. Even though the front entrance and the doors to the garage of the Prime Minister’s Residence are in Smolenskin Street – Number 9, to be exact – the media persist in referring to the residence as “the house on Balfour Street” or “the official residence of the prime minister on Balfour Street.”

Yes, there is a side door in Balfour Street, as the building is situated on the corner of Smolenskin and Balfour, but any resident of either street, or anyone who is allowed to pass through what has now become a citadel – sealed off in both streets by metal gates and barriers and fortified by heavy black curtains whenever Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming or going, or sometimes when he has special guests – can testify that the main entrance to the building is in Smolenskin Street.

The black curtains were down on Monday morning when police were expected to arrive, and even residents of Smolenskin and Balfour had difficulty in being allowed to pass, and in some cases had to take the long way around to get to their destinations.

Media representatives spent a long and fruitless period in both Smolenskin and Balfour streets, hoping to catch sight of the police arriving to question the prime minister on matters of alleged graft, but in the final analysis the meeting took place in the evening, with photographers and reporters being denied entry beyond the barriers.

However, both electronic and print media reports contained references to the house on Balfour Street. If they can’t get it right on something that is so obvious, is it any wonder that the public is losing confidence in the accuracy of the media? ■ NONETHELESS, THE Israeli media must be commended on one thing. When reporting on Israelis who had been killed or wounded in the New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in Turkey, they kept reporting on them as Israelis, even though it was obvious from their names and where they came from in Israel that they were Arab. It’s just a shame that it took a tragedy such as the death of the beautiful young 18-year-old Layan Nasser from Tira at the hands of Islamic State to create that feeling of national inclusiveness that had eluded the Arab sector of Israel’s population for so long.

■ TWO FEMALE judges, Gen. Orly Markman and Col. Maya Halach, were officially appointed as judges in the Military Court of Appeals in a ceremony at the President’s Residence on Monday. The two women, who have known each other since their university student days, have remained close friends. Each is married and a mother of children. Marriage and motherhood have not interfered with their careers. Both have graduate degrees and have managed to successfully interface their domestic and professional lives. In fact, Markman’s youngest child, her six-year-old son Yoav, had a great time doing cartwheels in the main reception hall a few minutes before the ceremony took place.

Rivlin said the appointments of the two judges were yet another signpost in Israel’s attitude toward the status of women and a policy of equality in the workplace.

Rivlin declared the law professions and those in the military to be the most stable and sturdy components of Israel’s society as well as the most respected and admired, especially when they are combined.

The military judicial process is being tested day in and day out and currently more so, said Rivlin, emphasizing that the two judges have been appointed in the eye of the storm of public opinion.

Without mentioning the case, it was obvious that he was alluding to the drawn out trial of Elor Azaria, the 20-year-old soldier who in March 2016 shot dead a Palestinian terrorist who apparently had already been neutralized. The incident not only has been aired in a military court but also has been judged in the court of public opinion, and even by Avigdor Liberman before he became defense minister. The judicial verdict is due to be handed down by a three-judge panel on Wednesday.

While expressing confidence in the professionalism and compassion of the new judges, Rivlin cautioned them to be constantly aware that they are responsible for the fate of the people who come before them in court.

Liberman said that he is proud that the Military Court of Appeals chose the best people in the IDF’s legal system to serve as judges. He regretted the fact that after Deborah, the only female judge mentioned in the Bible, it had taken centuries for Israel to appoint another female judge, but he is glad that as far as the legal profession is concerned, women have broken through the glass ceiling and have reached the highest ranks. He was pleased to say that out of the 14 judges serving in the military courts, eight are women.

■ FOR MANY years, Tova Teitelbaum, who was an infant Holocaust survivor protected by decent and courageous Christians, wanted to honor her late father, Jonas Eckstein, an Orthodox Jew from Bratislava, who was instrumental in saving Jews who lived or passed through his hometown during the Nazi era. He hid orphans in his home. He collected food and money for them and for fleeing adults who had somehow heard of this courageous man who risked his life to save the lives of other Jews.

A large man with a talent for wrestling, Eckstein had before the war been a member of Hakoah, the Jewish sports club where he made many friends and acquaintances – both Jewish and non-Jewish, including government officials and law enforcement officers. These connections came in very handy during the war, some of them to lifesaving significance.

Many Bratislavan Jews were sent to forced labor camps. Eckstein and his brother Samo somehow maneuvered a job of delivering food – even kosher food – to the camps, and although they were told not to speak to the prisoners, they managed to disobey this order without being caught and to bring information and messages back to the relevant people in Bratislava. Eventually, Samo was caught smuggling a letter and, together with his wife and children, was deported to Auschwitz. They did not survive.

In 1942 and 1943, 43 Polish Jewish orphans passed through Slovakia en route to Hungary and found shelter with Eckstein, who had sent his own child away not only for her own safety but for the safety of other people. An infant’s cry could very easily betray a hiding place.

Many children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are not particularly interested in hearing the stories until the people who lived through them are dead, “and then there’s no one left to ask,” said Teitelbaum in an interview with The Jerusalem Post in August 2009.

She had hoped before then to have her father posthumously recognized by Yad Vashem, but Yad Vashem at the time was dealing with righteous gentiles, not with righteous Jews. But after the story was published, Teitelbaum was contacted by people who had either known her father, been rescued by him or whose own relatives had worked with him in rescue operations.

It was quite amazing. Even a former Slovak ambassador, in conjunction with B’nai B’rith, held a memorial event for her father.

The connections that resulted from the article in the Post enabled Teitelbaum to begin researching her father’s history.

The upshot is a book written by her son, Israel Radio broadcaster Benny Teitelbaum, who, based on his mother’s research, wrote the book about his grandfather.

The book has been published and will be launched this coming Saturday night at Beit Ha’edut in Moshav Nir Galim.

■ ISRAEL RADIO’S veteran early morning current affairs anchor Aryeh Golan, who habitually signs off with the words “Israel Broadcasting Authority in liquidation,” on January 1 extended the sign-off by adding the words “or in expansion – who knows?” A lot depends on what happens between now and April 30, when the IBA’s replacement, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, is scheduled to become operational. But there have been so many changes, protests, announcements and decisions with regard to the future of both the IBA and the IBC that no one knows for certain what will happen vis-à-vis public broadcasting on April 30.

■ AMONG THE people interviewed by Golan on the first day of the new year was Prof. Shlomo Avineri, Israel Prize laureate in political science and a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, who said it was just cheap propaganda to characterize any opposition to the settlements in Judea and Samaria as being anti-Israel. He was referring specifically to the kumbaya address of outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry and the resultant castigation of both Kerry and US President Barack Obama, who were charged in many quarters with having an anti-Israel policy. Avineri made the distinction between being anti-settlement and anti-Israel, and from his perspective the Obama administration, though anti-settlement, was definitely not anti-Israel.

■ IT WAS a bittersweet farewell for Israel Radio Foreign News Editor Oren Nahari, who was also a foreign news reporter and commentator on Channel 1. In a review of the year that was on New Year’s Eve, Nahari presented his final broadcast for the IBA, for which he had worked for more than three decades. Nahari is transferring to Walla!News, as did Yaakov Eilon in mid-November.

Many of Nahari’s colleagues from Israel and around the globe wished him well, spoke of what a pleasure it had been, personally and professionally, to work with him and voiced confidence that their paths would cross again. Nahari was commended for his broad range of knowledge and for always having his finger on the pulse of world events. Nahari, for his part, spoke of what a privilege it had been to work for the IBA and emphasized the importance of having a public broadcasting network.

■ AMONG THE phenomena of the online era are the ever-increasing websites of Jewish news and opinion. Some are simply bloggers who want the world to know what they think and somehow manage to collect email addresses of people whom they want to impress. But there are others who monitor media items of Jewish interest and send them out en bloc to a myriad of “subscribers.” Not all the recipients are actual subscribers. In other words, they didn’t ask to be on a mailing list. But that doesn’t deter the senders from asking them for money.

Admittedly, some of these websites, such as Chabad, are part of the outreach activities of a movement or organization, but some of the others are vanity sites, even when they don’t necessarily carry the name of the operator.

Toward the end of the Gregorian calendar year and the Jewish calendar year, the people operating these websites send out requests for funds to help them stay afloat. Requests this past month came from The Jewish Voice, Chabad, the Wiesenthal Museum, The Forward, Ted Belman, Jewish Insider, Tablet Magazine, Algemeiner and a few others.

Algemeiner was among those that set a fairly modest goal of $360,000, telling potential donors: “At The Algemeiner our mission is to serve as a steadfast voice of truth in the media, and to combat the widespread misinformation about the Jewish state and the Jewish people.” Editor Dovid Efune, on the last day of the campaign, kept sending out emails to say how many hours were left. But in the final analysis, the goal was not only reached but passed – albeit not by much. The amount pledged came to $361,026.

■ WHILE THERE are confusing reports as to whether Netanyahu has or has not received an invitation to attend the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, there are at least three Israelis whose invitations are secure. Tommy Waller, the Christian founder of Hayovel, has announced that he is bringing two Likud MKs, Yehudah Glick and Sharren Haskel, to the US for the Trump inauguration. Glick was born in the US, and Haskel in Canada.

In all probability, Israel’s senior diplomats in the US are on the president-elect’s invitation list, and yet another Israeli who will be present will be Dvora Ganani, the Jewish Agency’s goodwill ambassador to the Christian world.

Ganani received her invitation in mid-November from Hank Marion, the chairman of One Mission. This was followed by a notification that her official event ticket will be emailed to her next week.

Meanwhile, she has received a ticket to one of the many inaugural balls that will take place in Washington and will be visited by the president or the vice president at some stage of the evening. Ganani has been invited to the Faith Freedom & Future Inaugural Ball at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, and has already been notified about security requirements and precautions.

All streets around the hotel, which is just three blocks from the Capitol, will be closed to vehicular traffic on Thursday, January 19, from 6 p.m. through Friday, January 20, at 6 p.m.

■ THE ISRAEL Women’s Network on Wednesday of last week sent a letter to Rivlin and simultaneously launched a Facebook campaign for the release of Dallal Daoud, 48, a mother of three who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing her allegedly cruel, bestial husband, Ali. She has been incarcerated for 14 years to date.

In the letter to the president, the IWN states that Daoud was a battered wife who was physically and psychologically assaulted by her husband throughout the whole of their married life. He allegedly beat her so brutally that he broke nearly all the bones in her body, raped her time and again, locked her up in the house and consistently abused her, physically and mentally, even when she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

Over the years, Daoud tried desperately to escape her predicament and sought the help of various authorities, but to no avail.

Though well aware of the violence to which Daoud had been subjected, none of the authorities, including social welfare, came to her assistance.

Desperate and fearful that she would spend the whole of her life in an ongoing cycle of violence, Daoud became increasingly depressed and realized that her only salvation lay in killing her husband.

The IWN, in its letter, tries to impress upon Rivlin that Daoud is not a criminal but a victim of horrendous circumstances, a woman whose fate was determined by the indifference of people whose job it was to help her.

The IWN has appealed to Rivlin for clemency.

■ AS HAS previously been reported in this column, no one knows the Jerusalem hotel and real estate market like Kuti Fundaminsky, who writes for “Bonus,” the financial section of the Jerusalem weekly tabloid Yediot Yerushalayim. Last Friday he had some very interesting hotel-related tidbits.

One was about the new 24-room boutique hotel in Sergei’s Courtyard in the Russian Compound that was vacated by the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and returned to the Russian Federation headed by President Vladimir Putin.

The compound was built over a 30-year period from 1860 to 1890, and in its heyday contained several hospices for Russian pilgrims who came in great numbers to the Holy Land.

Sergei’s Courtyard, built at the behest of Grand Duke Sergei, a brother of Czar Alexander III, which was completed in 1890, was not for regular pilgrims but for the rich and the nobility. There was nothing spartan about its luxuriously furnished rooms.

During the First World War, the Russians were regarded as enemy aliens and were expelled. After the war, most of the buildings in the Russian Compound were rented to the British Mandate authorities and converted into government offices plus the central prison of Jerusalem. After the proclamation of the State of Israel, most of the compound was purchased by the government for $3.5 million, which was paid in oranges, as Israel had no money and the Soviets had no citrus. The church properties were returned to the Moscow Patriarch.

The restoration and renovation of Sergei’s Courtyard was completed last month, and one of the first guests was Omri Shalmon, the head of the Society for the Preservation of Heritage Sites.

No less titillating a piece of news was the report that the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which was restored and rebuilt by the Reichman family, may be up for sale. Motti Verses, the Israel public relations director for Hilton Worldwide, which manages the Waldorf Astoria, would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying that it was up to the Reichmans to supply that information.

Meanwhile, Isrotel is gearing up to open its luxury Jerusalem hotel the Orient in the capital’s German Colony. The hotel was scheduled to open in December, but a new opening date has been set for soon after Passover. On January 11, the hotel’s management will conduct an employment fair to recruit staff for the new facility.

The German Colony seems to court controversy.

There was a great deal of opposition to the construction of a hotel in the neighborhood. Now there is opposition to the construction of part of the route of the light rail system, which, if Mayor Nir Barkat succeeds in pushing it through, will negatively affect all business enterprises on the main street of Emek Refaim as well as the value of residential properties. Aside from that, there is a possibility that the historic Smadar movie house, which was built in 1928, may close down in May, unless it receives yet another reprieve.

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