Grapevine: Honors for Wallenberg

Tel Aviv unveils monument erected in memory of Swedish diplomat who recruited colleagues to help Jews in Nazi-era Budapest.

May 23, 2013 11:34
3 minute read.
Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.

raoul wallenberg 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

■ NO ONE who has received the title Righteous Among the Nations is more widely or frequently honored and remembered than Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who recruited other diplomats in Nazi-era Budapest to provide safe passage documents for Jews. Other diplomats in other countries were similarly humane and courageous – acting in accordance with their own moral compass against the orders of their respective foreign ministries – but for some reason, Wallenberg’s name seems to be etched more deeply into the Jewish and even the non-Jewish psyche.

The 100th anniversary of his birth was marked last year, and continues to be commemorated this year. Australia recently gave him posthumous honorary citizenship, and in Tel Aviv last week, a monument in his memory was unveiled at Ad 120, a prestigious residential retirement center located on a street that bears Wallenberg’s name. Ad 120’s residents are encouraged to continue their mental and physical development, including Hebrew language courses for residents who came to Israel only after reaching retirement age.Swedish ambassador designate Carl Magnus Nesser was in attendance, and found it very moving that Wallenberg continues to be honored in Israel for risking his life to save Jews. He found it even more moving that three of the people saved by Wallenberg were at the ceremony.

■ LIKE MANY malls throughout the country, Hagiva Mall in Givat Shmuel attracts shoppers by hosting many community-oriented events, festivals and exhibitions.

Every Thursday and Friday, for instance, there is an arts and crafts fair, and on Thursdays there are after-school activities for children. Next Sunday, May 26, there will be a special vintage fair that will include garments, accessories and housewares from a bygone era. There is currently a universal trend towards vintage, and people old enough to remember what was fashionable in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s are now rummaging in their closets, basements and attics to see which of their yesteryear possessions long confined to storage can now be salvaged and reborn.

■ THE FOCUS in media reports about business tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva that are in any way related to his hometown of Netanya are usually on the nature of his philanthropy.

Tshuva is a great and constant supporter of Netanya Academic College, granting hundreds of scholarships and endowing other college projects.

However, last Saturday night, residents of Netanya and beyond closed their minds to Tshuva’s largesse and instead placed the emphasis on Israel’s offshore gas reserves, in which Tshuva is a major investor. As a businessman, Tshuva obviously wants to profit from his investment in the Tamar gas field, of which he is the controlling shareholder – and the best way to do this is to export the gas. But there is now a movement afoot that claims that all of Israel’s citizens have “first rights” on its natural resources, and that a ceiling must be placed on the volume that may be sold abroad from such resources.

As such, several hundred people congregated outside Tshuva’s home. Police arrested three of the demonstrators, and held them temporarily on the premises of one of Tshuva’s neighbors, but other demonstrators blocked their path to prevent them from taking the detainees away. Tshuva is among the tycoons who have been given extravagant tax breaks. So the key slogan for the evening was “We don’t want edicts – we want gas!”

■ AT THE official opening of the Lillian and Larry Goodman Open Apartments Program of the Community Action Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Larry Goodman of Chicago recalled in the presence of family members how a chance meeting 30 years ago with Gideon Vitkon, an official with the Construction and Housing Ministry led to the allocation of the program’s first 65 apartments. Vitkon later became the director-general of BGU. Goodman had been working with Project Renewal in the North, and Vitkon had wanted a meeting with him. As it happened, both were going to be in Beersheba the following day, so they arranged to meet for dinner in the South’s capital. Earlier in the day, Goodman had heard from two women at BGU who wanted to launch a program that would enable university students to live in and contribute to the community in exchange for free housing. The problem was that they had no access to apartments. Goodman took the two women with him to his dinner with Vitkon and asked whether the government had any available apartments in Beersheba. Two days later, Vitkon called him and said that there were some, and that was the nucleus of the program, which today includes 73 apartments located in some of Beersheba’s most problematic neighborhoods.

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