PHOTOGRAPHS OF US ambassador David Friedman joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall for the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle were widely published in Israel and abroad.
But that wasn’t the only “first” candle kindled by either Friedman or Netanyahu. The prime minister participates in several candle lighting ceremonies almost every day during Hanukkah, and when the US ambassador happens to be Jewish – so does he, though not necessarily the same ones. It’s not even all that unusual anymore for a US ambassador to celebrate Jewish holidays.
After all Friedman was preceded by Martin Indyk, Dan Kurtzer and Dan Shapiro.
One suspects that it didn’t take nearly as long for arrangements to be made between the US Embassy and the Prime Minister’s Office, as it did between the Jerusalem City Hall people and the powers that be at the US Embassy.
Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum spent the better part of half a year talking to Aryeh Lightstone, the Chief Adviser to the US Ambassador, before the matter was finalized.
Friedman later wrote on his Twitter account: “The Ambassador’s Residence in Jerusalem received today its first Chanukia made by volunteers from Yad Sarah of obsolete parts of medical equipment. A beautiful start to the holiday.”
It was a truly triumphant occasion for the Yad Sarah volunteers who for three years had been trying to present the Hanukkia to either the US ambassador or to President Donald Trump in appreciation of America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
When the problem was presented to Hassan-Nahoum, she took the matter very seriously. She appreciated the work that had gone into the making of the Hanukkia, and how important it was to the volunteers to complete their mission.
In the final analysis, it was a case of all’s well that ends well. The volunteers were joined by representatives of the management of Yad Sarah and by Hassan-Nahoum at 18 Agron Street in the building that for many years served as the US Consulate. Friedman said that the building was approximately 100 years old, but that the Embassy had been in Jerusalem for only a year and a half, and that it was the first time that a US ambassador had officially lit Hanukkah candles in the capital.
Candle lighting was not Friedman’s only Hanukka activity in the capital. He also found time during the day to help Pantry Packers to prepare meals and wrap gifts for less fortunate people in need of a little kindness and consideration.
NEXT MONTH President Reuven Rivlin will pay his third visit to Poland since assuming office in July 2014. His first visit was in October of that year to participate in the opening of the Polin Museum on the site of what had been the Warsaw Ghetto.
He returned to Poland in April of 2018 to lead the March of the Living, and in January 2020, he will again be in Poland for ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau.
Both Rivlin and Federal President of Germany Frank Walter Steinmeier will attend memorial events in Jerusalem, Poland and Germany.
Representatives of countries from around the world will attend some or all of these commemorative events which come at a time when the world is once again being engulfed in hatred, xenophobia, racism, incitement and murder. Representatives attending commemorative events will also commit themselves to doing their utmost to eliminate this dangerous and pervasive trend.
Rivlin will be hosting the many heads of state and other dignitaries who will be coming to Jerusalem, including Australian Governor General David Hurly, the former chief of the Australian Defense Forces, whose predecessor Sir Peter Cosgrove canceled an overseas trip in order to be on hand in Canberra to welcome Rivlin who had been scheduled to arrive in Australia on March 13, 2016, but canceled at almost the last minute and opted instead to go to Russia to hobnob with President Vladimir Putin, who will also be coming to Jerusalem next month.
This was a major humiliation for Australia and Australian Jewry – more so because Australia has given support to Israel and the Jewish people for a century, was indirectly instrumental in the issuing of what came to be known as the Balfour Declaration, and directly active in promoting the UN vote for the partition of Palestine in November 1947.
Australian soldiers serve in peace-keeping forces in the region, and Australia is engaged in numerous ventures with Israel. The state of Victoria has a trade office in Jerusalem.
When former Australian Prime Minister John Howard visited Israel in October of this year, he met with Rivlin who told him that he would be coming to Australia in early 2020.
Hopefully, there will not be another reason for him to make an urgent trip to Russia instead.
IT’S CUSTOMARY to make a big deal out of round figure anniversaries or those that can be divided by 25. In Jewish tradition, an 80th anniversary symbolizes fortitude. That can certainly be said of singer and actor Yehoram Gaon who will celebrate his 80th birthday on December 28, and still attracts massive audiences to his concerts. Gaon, a native son of Jerusalem and a former deputy mayor of the city which he still loves and sings about, but in which he no longer lives, had an early 80th birthday celebration this week at the rooftop restaurant of the Mamilla hotel where guests included Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai.
YEDIOT AHARONOT, which used to be the most widely read newspaper in the country, is currently celebrating its 80th anniversary and is facing stiff competition from Israel Hayom which was launched in 2007 by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson – and not just because the latter tabloid is a freebie. Israel Hayom also boasts some very fine writers. Be that as it may, Yediot has gone way beyond other publications in celebrating a milestone anniversary, and has gone all out for the best part of this year to prove its fortitude and its diversity.
Many publications no longer rely solely on the written word to attract subscriptions. It has become very fashionable in recent years for publications to also host conferences which give the public a chance to see some of the people behind the by-lines as well as well-known personalities whose names are frequently in the headlines.
Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post held a conference this week, and The Jerusalem Post itself hosted its annual diplomatic conference last month.
Yediot is hosting two conferences in even closer proximity to each other timewise – albeit not geographically.
On Tuesday, December 31, its economic supplement Calacalist will hold a Forecast for 2020 conference at EXPO Tel Aviv, and on January 6, Yediot will hold its 80th anniversary conference under the title of The People of the State at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma).
The interesting thing is that Rivlin is scheduled to be at both conferences. Anyone who cares to investigate the president’s relationship to the media will draw the conclusion that Rivlin favors Yediot above all other publications. Like conferences generally hosted by newspapers, one of these two conferences will include a fairly large number of politicians representing most but not all political parties.
Arabs, for instance, have been excluded from both conferences, and there would also be an absence of haredim, but for the fact that Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer, the founder of Ezra LeMarpe which for no charge whatsoever, helps people to receive the best possible treatment for any number of illnesses, will be honored at the Jerusalem conference.
It may be remembered that a tribute concert that was scheduled at the Bronfman auditorium in Tel Aviv last month in celebration of singer Shlomo Artzi’s 70th birthday with proceeds going to Ezra LeMarpe, was canceled because Firer declined to attend if there were women singers.
This caused a furor which he had not intended. Haredi men do not listen to women singing. That is part of their lifestyle, and though it may be annoying to feminists, it is actually more in the nature of a compliment to women than it is an insult. The rule exists because of the effect that women can have on men. Among the participants listed for the Jerusalem conference are singers Miri Mesika and Einat Sarouf, who presumably will not be singing while Firer is in the auditorium.
ON THE subject of 70th birthdays, another female singer, Miri Aloni, celebrated her 70th birthday on December 25. Aloni is best known for singing “Shir LaShalom” which was written by Yaakov Rotlblit and set to music by Yair Rosenblum
She first sang it 50 years ago during the War of Attrition. It subsequently became the anthem of the Pace Movement, and Aloni also sang it at the peace rally on the night that Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.