Discussing the virtual world we live in on his Friday radio program last month, Yehoram Gaon recalled that when he was a boy growing up in Jerusalem, people approached the Western Wall with awe and reverence and a placed a note that they had written at home into one of the crevices. This was their personal connection with the Divine Creator. But today there’s no need to make the journey. One can fax one’s request, and it will be duly deposited by a rabbi or a yeshiva student.
Modern technology being what it is, Gaon said that one day he received a telephone call from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef asking him for a donation. Gaon nearly fainted. The reason: the rabbi was already deceased. When Gaon shared this information with one of the daughters of the late Shas spiritual leader, she revealed that she had received the same phone call.
■ PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has a new nickname – Arella. The nickname was given to him by Israel Radio’s veteran political commentator Hanan Kristal when discussing the delay in the Labor primaries.
Kristal, in talking to Liat Regev, said that Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog was waiting for a call from Arella. Regev immediately caught on to the fact that he was referring to Arella, the star of the Mifal Hapayis (state lottery) commercials who calls subscribers, who oddly enough are usually from the Mizrahi low-income sector, to tell them that they have won a big prize in the lottery.
Herzog is not in the low-income bracket, but he is in the low-representation bracket.
Political pundits forecast that if a Knesset election will be held in the immediate future, no matter whether Labor runs on its own or continues its merger with Hatnua and runs as the Zionist Union, it will have fewer seats than in the present Knesset.
The delay in the Labor leadership election gives Herzog more time in which to possibly receive a call from Arella – meaning from Netanyahu with an invitation to join the government coalition. Even though Herzog now states that he would not join, there is no certainty that he would refuse if the conditions were ripe.
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■ RACISM IN Israel is unfortunately still alive and well. Danny Adino Abebe, a journalist with Yediot Aharonot
, and before that with Army Radio, is one of the leading activists in the Ethiopian community. It makes him angry that Ethiopians are so frequently portrayed as poor, miserable, semi-literate individuals with criminal tendencies, when in fact there are numerous Ethiopian Jews in Israel with medical and law degrees, as well as degrees in other fields. There are Ethiopian officers in the Israel Defense Forces, and members of the Ethiopian community have also distinguished themselves in politics, in social work, in entertainment and many other areas.
But what really got to the Jerusalem-based Abebe was the treatment of his five-year old Sabra son, who has a Hebrew name and whose mother tongue is Hebrew. At the kindergarten that the boy attends, other children call him kushi, which is a pejorative term for people of color equivalent to the racial slur of “nigger.” The little boy, realizing the negative implications, burst into tears, and with the naïveté of a child said to his father: “Why do they call me kushi? I’m not black, I’m brown.”
■ THE SHIN BET (Israel Security Agency) has given the green light to Minister-without- Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi, who has been tasked by the government to look into allegations that in the early years of the state Yemenite children were kidnapped from their families, from hospitals, from children’s homes in transit camps and even at points of entry when they arrived in Israel.
In some case, parents were told that children had died, but there were no death certificates and no graves, and 17 or 18 years later a number of these allegedly dead children received call-up notices to the army.
The records of commissions set up to investigate whether kidnappings did indeed occur were sealed, suggesting that perhaps there was more truth in all the stories than a series of Israeli administrations wanted to admit. Hanegbi, who is wading through literally mountains of documentation was particularly interested in unsealing the protocols relating to the testimony given by Amos Manor, who at the time was head of the Shin Bet. Current head Nadav Argaman has agreed to Hanegbi’s request. Hanegbi also wants to see the Mossad’s testimony, but is still waiting for a nod from the organization’s chief, Yossi Cohen. If what historical researcher Dr. Yitzchak Kerem says is true, the whole story is much more shameful and outrageous than anyone imagined. It involved not only Yemenite children, but children from Iraq, North Africa and the Balkan countries as well as major international Jewish organizations which he names, but for reasons of libel are not repeated here. Kerem is an Ashkenazi and has no ethnic axe to grind.
■ IT IS lucky that singer and actress Gali Atari was not among the kidnapped children. Born to Yemenite parents, the winner of the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest, she was only four years old when her father died. She is currently in the eye of the storm because left-wing fans want her to cancel her scheduled Tu Be’av performance in the West Bank settlement of Shilo., and have petitioned her on Facebook, telling her that if she sings in “occupied territory,” she will lose a lot of her following. Atari refuses to be dissuaded, saying that music was created as a bridge. It must be a source of comfort to Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who makes a point of promoting non-Ashkenazi entertainers, that all three Israeli winners of the Eurovision song contests – Gali Atari, Yizhar Cohen and Dana International – are of Yemenite background. The late Ofra Haza, who came second in the contest in 1983, was also of Yemenite background.
■ APROPOS DISAPPEARING Yemenite children whose parents were told that they had died, Yediot Yerushalayim
, the Jerusalem supplement of Yediot Aharonot
recently published a story about nonagenarian Shlomo Adani, who on leaving Yemen had taken rare religious manuscripts and several Torah scrolls, sending nearly all by ship, only to be told later by a Jewish Agency official that they had been destroyed in a fire.
Last year, when Adani moved into a new home, his children and grandchildren arranged his library, and he looked lovingly but sadly at one manuscript from a series that was still in his possession, and which had been written by a relative.
For the umpteenth time, he told his children and grandchildren about the loss of the remainder of the collection with the undiminished hope that something other than this one book had been saved. This time his daughter Ilana Drori did a Google search and discovered to her amazement and that of the whole family, that the manuscripts are currently located in the National Library. But the manuscripts were not the only loss to the Adani family.
Adani’s wife Sara came to Israel ahead of him with their one-year-old daughter Miriam, who was taken from her and put in a children’s home in the transit camp. The child was perfectly healthy and her mother wanted to visit her daily. Sara was taken to the children’s home, but never saw Miriam again and was told that she had died from a lung infection. After Shlomo had arrived in Israel, Miriam gave birth to more children – first a daughter, then a son. When Shlomo was notified of the birth of his son, he rushed to the hospital only to be told that the baby had died.
When he asked for the body, his request was denied. Although hospital records attest to the death of the infant, there is no death certificate.
■ AWARD WINNING actress Gwyneth Paltrow received Hadassah’s The Power of our Dreams award at Hadassah’s 98th national convention in Atlanta, Georgia.
The award was presented to her by Hadassah National President Ellen Hershkin who also interviewed the actress, author and philanthropist. Paltrow spoke of her long rabbinical heritage on her father’s side and her many years of study of Judaism and Kabbala. She also mentioned that she is dating Hadassah’s past president Nancy Falchuk’s son Brad Falchuk, producer of Glee and American Horror Story.
Jerusalem Post columnist Barbara Sofer, who is Israel Director of Public Relations for Hadassah, interviewed former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik about her life and leadership, and about women in politics, before a large crowd, and also interviewed Karen Lakin, widow of Richard Lakin, the teacher who died as the result of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem last October.
She also interviewed Dr. Abed Khalaileh, from Jabel Mukaber, who is one of many top notch Arab physicians working in Israel. Also at the conference were Hadassah University Medical Center’s new Director General Prof. Zeev Rotstein, and Hadassah doctor Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff, a pioneer in stem cell research.
Natan Barak, inventor of the Iron Dome, spoke of the joy of saving lives, and Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick discussed the ideas in her book: The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Her interlocutor was Rob Eschman, Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and the discussion was emceed by journalist Linda Scherzer, who used to live in Israel. Other Israelis who participated included Audrey Shimron, Executive Director of Hadassah Offices in Israel, Barbara Goldstein, the Deputy Director of Hadassah Offices in Israel, who led the session on Youth Aliyah and Young Judea, and Lauren Kedem from the Meir Shfeya Youth Village, who spoke about the dramatic improvements of youth at risk who live in youth aliyah firstname.lastname@example.org
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