JUST AS the Australian Light Horse Brigade vanquished the Turks in the Battle of
Beersheba at the end of October 1917, so too on September 23, 1918, the Indian
Cavalry Regiments triumphed over the Turks in the battle for Haifa, which is
generally believed to be the last great cavalry battle in history. Their victory
has long been an annual cause for celebration and commemoration in India, but
here the historical record was buried in the dust of time, which was cleared
last Wednesday when a ceremony commemorating the sacrifice of Indian soldiers
was observed at the Indian Cemetery adjacent to the Haifa Commonwealth War
Defense attaches from several countries were in
attendance, as were Indian Ambassador Navtej Sarna, members of the Haifa city
council, the Defense Ministry, the Haifa Historical Society and representatives
of the Commonwealth Graves Commission.
Wreaths were laid in their honor,
and Sarna gave the memorial address, underscoring the important role played by
Indian soldiers during World War I. He also thanked the Haifa Historical Society
for its efforts in documenting India’s history in the region Close to 900 Indian
soldiers were killed in action and were cremated or buried in cemeteries across
Israel. A two-member delegation of the Indian army led by Col. M.S. Jodha,
grandson of Capt. Aman Singh Bahadur, who was awarded the Indian Order of Merit
for his bravery in the battle, came from India to attend the memorial
■ GUEST OF honor at the opening of the Yemenite folklore
festival in Rosh Ha’ayin was Kadima leader MK Tzipi Livni, who has no Yemenite
forebears, but whose father, the late Eitan Livni, as chief operations officer
for the Irgun, was responsible for a series of actions against the British
including an assault in 1945 on the quartermaster stores of the British army in
the heart of Rosh Ha’ayin.
■ AS RECENTLY as 25 years ago, it would have
been difficult to imagine the US and Russian ambassadors holding hands and
smiling blissfully as they danced in a circle with a group of hassidim. But that
was definitely the scene at the Jerusalem home of haredi consul Matityahu
Cheshin, a ninth generation Israeli and a sixth generation Jerusalemite, and his
wife Hinda who invited diplomats and hassidim from different courts to their
succa in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.
The American diplomats all
brought their wives, who remained outside the succa but were able to get a good
view of what was going on inside because the succa was built on a large balcony
leading directly from the wide doorway of the dining room. The women all crowded
in the doorway, and Leslie Cunningham, the wife of US Ambassador James
Cunningham, was thrilled to see the extent to which her husband was enjoying
himself. She likes to take on local traditions wherever she and her husband are
stationed and got the embassy staff to help build a succa at the US residence,
and she put up some of the decorations. The Cunninghams had their meals in the
succa for the duration of the festival, and just loved doing so.
and neighborhood Rabbi Menahem Mendel Fuchs explained the messages of peace and
concern for one’s fellow being which are integral to Succot, with Fuchs speaking
in a mixture of English and Ashkenazi Hebrew that didn’t seem to bother the
diplomats at all.
Cheshin also brought in a top haredi klezmer group
comprising accordionist Aharon Leib Burstein and brothers Hilik and Nahman
Frank, who respectively play clarinet and drums. Cheshin is one of several
people working to improve relations between foreign diplomats and the haredi
community. He initially served as an adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office and
the Foreign Ministry on matters relating to Israelis traveling to Uman to pray
at the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslav.
He developed a strong
relationship with Ukrainian officials and thus it was natural that Hennadii
Nadolenko, the ambassador of Ukraine, was among the guests.
included ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav and Pinhas Avivi, deputy director-
general and head of the division for Central Europe and Eurasia at the Foreign
■ INTERVIEWED ON Israel Radio, Jerusalemborn Ladino singer
Yasmin Levy said that of all the places in which she sings, the one where she
feels most at home other than in Israel is Turkey. Although relations with
Turkey are currently at a low ebb, Levy said she encounters only friendliness
and goodwill when she is there, in addition to which Turkey has a special pull
for her because her father, who died when she was an infant, was born there and
because she can never forget that Turkey opened its doors to the Jews who were
exiled from Spain and allowed them to practice and perpetuate their
■ “SOME OF you came to hear if I speak
English,” quipped Rabbi Benny Lau to an audience at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue
who had come to listen to him at the launch of the English translation of his
book The Sages. “The answer is no, I can’t. This the first time that I can’t
read a book I wrote.” He then proceeded to speak in almost unfaltering English,
proving that his vocabulary is more than passable, but that his grammar is about
as Henglish as one can get.
Anyone reasonably fluent in Hebrew instantly
recognized the transposed Hebrew grammar construction. Lau noted the “terrible
gap” between Hebrew and English speakers in that neither can truly reach the
thoughts of the other. “We understand so-so, we speak a little bit, but we
cannot read,” he lamented. “Most of my American colleagues can’t read a book in
Hebrew, and my Hebrew-speaking colleagues can’t read in English.”
high praise for publisher Matthew Miller of Koren Publishers, who together with
Jay Pomerantz who sponsored the publication of the book, had become a bridge
between Hebrew and English. Lau was the first speaker in a new People of the
Book series which is part of the Great Synagogue’s expanded cultural
■ WHEN THEIR three sons Daniel, Micah and Jeremy were small,
psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Amnon Gimpel, who has won international fame
for the brain exercises he devised to cure ADHD, and his wife Dr. Lynn Gimpel
never imagined that they would be the parents of three rabbis. They were living
in Atlanta, Georgia, and the family was not religious, although the boys did
attend yeshiva high schools and were subsequently sent to Jerusalem, where Amnon
was born, to acquire more Jewish knowledge.
Daniel was the first to
become religious. His parents and siblings gradually followed his example and
the whole family came here.
Micah returned to the US but did not make
professional use of his rabbinical ordination.
Instead he worked in high
finance in New York. Daniel also chose not to make professional use of his
ordination, and Jeremy the youngest, who has just been ordained, already has
degrees in law, finance and Jewish studies, so it’s not quite certain which way
he will go.
Meanwhile he’s enjoying great success as an international
public speaker and as the coanchor of the popular television program Tuesday
His parents hosted a kiddush at Hildesheimer Synagogue in
Jerusalem last Saturday to celebrate not only the fact that all three of their
sons are rabbis, but also that Micah has made aliya.
■ WHILE FORMER US
president Bill Clinton sees Russian aliya as an impediment to a peace agreement,
former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak has a different take and regards it
as the country’s demographic savior. Speaking at a public meeting sponsored by
the Movement for Quality Government, he was asked how Israel can remain Jewish
in light of the high Muslim birthrate.
His spontaneous reply was: “The
Russian aliya makes the difference.”
■ THE MOST famous of all Russian
olim, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, was the guest speaker at what was
supposed to be the cornerstone setting ceremony for the Shir Hadash Max and
Jenny Weil Community Center. Shir Hadash founder Rabbi Ian Pear explained that
the Jerusalem Municipality which had donated the land said that the stone
setting would have to wait because of the concerns of certain neighbors. At
first he was disappointed, Pear admitted, but on consideration decided that it
was more of a challenge than a disappointment.
“We’re not going to fight
the neighbors,” he said. “We’re going to come to the center, find common ground
and hug, and create a place that will be a source of pride not only to us but
also to our neighbors. If we can’t build a small center here, how can we build a
Temple? We want to create a model for overcoming differences.”
though the stone wasn’t set, it was presented, replete with inscription to Pear
by Shir Hadash president Alan Lurie.Sharansky is a Shir Hadash
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, of Kehilat Jeshurun on the Upper East
Side of Manhattan, has known Pear’s wife Rachel “since before she was born” and
used to teach Pear homiletics at Yeshiva University. He was extremely proud of
the fact that Pear had opted to hug rather than to fight. Germanborn Weil, who
was educated according to the philosophy of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who
combined religious study and observance with the teaching of culture, said that
he had been looking for something within this genre ever since he came here, and
had found it in Shir Hadash. Usually, a project goes in search of a donor, he
noted, but in this case after hearing about Shir Hadash, he had contacted Pear,
and had asked to be included among his donors.
To celebrate the event,
Lurie and his wife Lori hosted close to 150 people in their home. “This is the
biggest party we’ve ever had,” said Lurie who is a frequent host for large
gatherings on Shabbat and on other occasions.
■ SIX MEMBERS of the
British Embassy’s staff proudly donned their GO UK T-shirts and joined thousands
of other bike enthusiasts, including representatives from the country’s top
companies, in the Tel Aviv bike rally. The “GO UK” global campaign aims to
promote the UK as a preferred investment location and trading partner. Richard
Salt, Israel director for UK trade and investment, along with his team members
Ofir Ben-Natan and Deborah Moher were joined in the rally by Dean Hurlock, Tim
Simpson and Fred Cabuga from the embassy’s political section.
signed up for the grueling 31-kilometer route, while the others proudly
completed the 15-kilometer track. The bike fest was organized by the Tel Aviv
Municipality and the Winner sports lottery.
■ TWO GOVERNMENT ministers
combined their Succot celebrations last Wednesday with milestone birthdays. Both
Limor Livnat and Isaac Herzog were born on September 22. She celebrated her 60th
birthday and he celebrated his 50th.
■ NOT ONLY former prime minister
Ehud Olmert, certain members of the Labor Party, some of the top brass in the
defense establishment and the citizens of Judea and Samaria have a bone to pick
with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The Foreign Ministry is also displeased with
him, to put it mildly. The reason: his wife, who not for the first time has
caused him a spot of trouble. While Michelle Obama, the wife of the president of
the United States; Carla Bruni, the wife of the president of France; and Yoo
Soon-taek, the wife of the secretary-general of the United Nations, all sat in
the gallery during the opening of the UN General Assembly, Nili Priel-Barak sat
with the Israeli delegation just behind President Shimon Peres, who was sitting
She was not a member of the delegation, but an appendage
to her husband, and as such should have been sitting in the gallery instead of
displaying an unpopular brand of Israeli chutzpah.
■ THERE WAS some added
excitement in the service on the first day of Succot at Jerusalem’s Hazvi
Yisrael congregation, where congregants witnessed the induction into the faith
of Shmuel Ze’ev Stein, whose circumcision was held on the lectern from which the
Torah is read. Synagogue attendance was boosted by the large number of visitors
from abroad, but also by relatives and friends of the proud parents and
grandparents, Elkie and Yehuda Stein, Perry and Mark Spitzer and Shosh and Renee
Stein. In fact there were so many visitors that regular congregants felt
somewhat displaced by the guests who had taken their seats. It is rare for a
congregant at Hazvi Yisrael to ask someone who has usurped their seat to move,
so the regulars had to look around for empty seats.
■ GREETING NON-JEWS
at the rally at Revava to mark the end of the building freeze, Ayoub Kara, the
deputy minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, a Druse,
looked around at the national flags and the clusters of blue and white balloons
and declared: “This is what I wanted to see – blue and white in every corner. I
am an integral part of what is happening here. I’m more Jewish than every Jew
and more Zionist than every Zionist.”
■ SEVERAL YEARS ago, actor and
director Ze’ev Revach called a press conference to complain that he and other
actors of North African background were not getting the attention they deserved,
and that the films they appeared in, while popular with the public, were treated
with disdain by the critics.
Time went by and attitudes changed, so much
so that Revach was given a life achievement award at the 2005 Jerusalem Film
Coincidentally, Lia Van Leer, founder of the festival and the
Jerusalem Cinematheque where much of it is held, was sitting right behind Revach
at the Jerusalem Theater last week when he received a life achievement award at
the Film and Television Academy’s annual Ophir Awards ceremony. Another
coincidence was the fact that Amnon Salamon, who won the award for best
cinematography, has been the man behind the camera for most of Revach’s
Revach who received a standing ovation as he mounted the stage,
said that if he had succeeded in making people forget their problems for a
couple of hours, then he had achieved what he set out to do, but added that
there is still so much he wants to do.
It was fitting in more ways than
one that Revach received the Ophir statuette from Moshe Edri, who together with
his brother Leon founded the Cinema City chain of movie theaters, owns the
United King film distribution company and is one of the largest producers of
Israeli feature films. Edri, like Revach, was born in Morocco, and came here at
a time when Moroccan Jews were treated as inferiors.
■ POLITICS IS
everything, and these days so is Gilad Schalit, who has unwittingly become the
focal point of the political discourse.
Former minister of industry and
trade Micha Harish, who these days serves as chairman of the Israel Film
Council, visited the Schalit tent on his way to the Jerusalem Theater, and once
on stage at the Ophir Awards recruited members of the academy individually and
as an influential group with contacts in high places abroad to do everything
within their power to bring Gilad Schalit home. Harish was the first of several
people who urged that more be done.
■ VERSATILE STAGE and screen actor
Aki Avni, who emceed the Ophir Awards, also had a word of advice for the Israel
Broadcasting Authority with regard to the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest. He
noted that Izhar Cohen, Gali Atari and Dana International, who had each won the
contest, were of Yemenite background and suggested that this might be the
winning formula. He seemed to have forgotten that Achinoam Nini who competed
together with Mira Awad in 2009 is also of Yemenite background, and yet didn’t
score anywhere near the highest number of points.
■ KEYNOTE SPEAKER at
the opening session on October 3 of Yad Vashem’s four-day International
Conference on “Polish Attitudes to Jews and the Holocaust after World War II and
the Return of Jewish Survivors to Life in Poland,” will be Jan Tomasz Gross,
author of the controversial groundbreaking books Neighbors: The Destruction of
the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland and Fear – Anti- Semitism in Poland
after Auschwitz that chronicle the interaction between Jews and the local
population and deal with plunder and killings.
Other speakers will
include well known scholars, among them several Holocaust survivors who will
recount their interactions with Poles in the immediate aftermath of the war.