The 103rd anniversary of the birth of former prime minister Menachem Begin, who was Israel’s first Likud prime minister falls on August 16. Begin preferred to celebrate his birthday in accordance with the Jewish calendar. He was born on Shabbat Nachamu, which this year falls on the Sabbath immediately following his Gregorian calendar birthday. Begin’s memory was honored in perpetuity last week by Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis who dedicated the central meeting room in the Ministry’s premises in Tel Aviv in Begin’s name. Present at the ceremony were Begin’s son and two daughters, MK Bennie Begin, Hassia and Leah. Also present were former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens, who as a former professor at the Haifa Technion, has been appointed by Akunis to serve as chairman of the National Council for Research and Development. It’s not every day that a nonagenarian is given a new job, but Arens betrays no sign of his biological age. Also present was Herzl Makov, the director of the Begin Heritage Center and several other people close to the Begin family. The memorial plaque is inscribed: “Menachem Begin, the leader who loved the people and was loved by the people.”
■ AUSTRALIAN Ambassador Dave Sharma is among those diplomats who have not only observed what goes on in Israel, but who have participated wholeheartedly in social welfare, cultural and sporting events.
Embassy staff have individually and collectively gone along the same route. Last Thursday, Sharma together with several members of his staff, spent half a day volunteering at LaSova House, a project founded more than thirty years ago by Gilad and Sharona Harish. Gilad Harish, a lawyer, is the son of the late Yosef Harish who served as Attorney General from 1986-1993.
“I think that it’s important to absorb ourselves in the many facets of reality in which we live,” said Sharma prior to taking up his volunteer role. “Volunteering at ‘LaSova House – Multi Services Center for Needy People’ is a great opportunity for me and some of my team to give back to the community. I am really looking forward to getting out of our air-conditioned office and serving those who aren’t as fortunate just around the corner. It is also great to be helping such an active organization in the community.” The Australian Embassy is located in that part of South Tel Aviv which in recent years has undergone gentrification.
LaSova feeds around 2,000 people every day at its various venues – primarily the homeless and the needy. It also provides a women’s shelter, and is committed to reducing food wastage. Most of the food served is donated by the IDF, food manufacturers and restaurants, and is collected by LaSova’s ‘City Harvest’ vehicles.
LaSova restaurants are located in Tel Aviv, Acre and Karmiel where every diner receives a nutritious, filling, kosher hot meal, and may eat as much as he or she desires. Diners are served free of charge, with no questions asked, no criteria for admission, and no referrals or paperwork.
Contrary to the somber and often humiliating image of soup-kitchens, any person can come to a spacious, clean LaSova restaurant to dine in a respectable manner, with no fear of loss of dignity.
One of LaSova’s subsidiaries is Kadima which operates a network of youth clubs in poor neighborhoods. The centers operate five days a week from 12:00 to 19:00, with longer hours during vacations. Each center accepts about 50 children, based on referrals from the city’s welfare and/or education departments, and is run by one paid counselor together with many volunteers who provide the children with help in their studies as well as other supplemental educational programming. The children also receive lunch and dinner there. At the end of 2005, Kadima was operating fifteen such centers and was investigating additional potential locations. There are now 20 such youth centers providing supplementary education to almost a thousand youth at risk, who come from socio-economically disadvantaged families. At the present time there are three LaSova restaurants, three shelters for the homeless and three transitional apartments for homeless individuals in advanced stages of rehabilitation. These shelters accommodate 110 homeless individuals each night.
■ SOCIAL ACTIVIST and journalist Tsega Melaku who broadcasts in Amharic on Radio Reka says that racism is much worse in Israel than people realize. Speaking last Wednesday to Aryeh Golan on Reshet Bet, Melaku said that despite the fact that Ethiopians can be seen in reality shows on television as well as in prominent positions in many walks of life, there’s a kindergarten in the South in which Ethiopian staff members are kept hidden when parents arrive in the morning to drop off their children and when they pick them up later in the day. The Ethiopians can come out only after there is no risk of them being spotted by any of the parents. She also mentioned a well-known hospital where the head of security had given orders that no Ethiopians were to be employed as security guards.
This is in breach of the Equal Opportunity in Employment Law, and another example of this violation was the reason that Golan had interviewed Melaku. An employment agency acting on behalf of the Expose Fashion Company in Tiberius had advertised for workers in the company’s storage department and after listing the conditions of employment stated that the company is not interested in employing Ethiopians. Both the employment agency and the fashion company were highly embarrassed. The fashion company said that it would never make such a stipulation and the employment agency explained that the text was written by a temporary worker who has since been dismissed, but not before she apologized for introducing the discriminatory remark into the text at her own initiative.
Melaku sits on the Government Committee for the Advancement of People of Ethiopian Background. What is amazing about racism based on ethnicity is that if no-one makes a fuss about the color of another’s hair or eyes, why should the color of skin matter? A person’s character is much more important than the color of his or her skin.
Martin Luther King in his famous “I have a dream speech,” declared: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
■ AT THE appointments ceremony for new judges last week, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked disclosed that in 2015 alone, 762,000 new case files were opened, with only 716 judges, including the 14 new appointees, dealing with all of them. In the European Union, she said, the ratio of judges to population is 21 judges for every 100,000 residents. In Israel, there are only eight judges for every 100,000 residents.
Nonetheless, she said, Israeli judges fill their positions with distinction. Given some recent news items, that is not always the case.
■ IT HAS previously been mentioned in this column how much controversial broadcaster Keren Neubach is doing to bring the plight of the mentally ill to public attention with the aim of improving the conditions under which they are hospitalized.
She has been doing this for several months now focusing on cases in which patients were virtually incarcerated as distinct from hospitalized and tied to their beds without access to toilets or any other facilities. In most cases patients are denied the right to make contact with their families and when close relatives battle for the right to come to visit and learn of some of the iniquities to which their loved ones have been subjected, hospital staff deny all allegations and say the patient is unstable and was merely ranting.
One recent case involved a young woman who went through a bout of post partum depression following the birth of her baby.
According to her and her family, there was no valid reason for committing her to a psychiatric facility. The nurses, including a male nurse pumped milk from her breasts daily and would not allow her to telephone her mother. When she was finally able to leave the facility, she told Neubach that she felt totally degraded while she was there and that she regarded a male nurse pumping her breasts as a form of sexual assault. It also transpires from experts that Neubach interviews on the program that unlike physical ailments whereby a patient is free to choose whether to be hospitalized and which hospital to go to, this same freedom does not apply to patients with psychological ailments. Once they are pronounced dangerous to themselves or to society (whether this happens to be true or not), they lose all freedom.
■ SOMEONE AT Yediot Aharonot
has a puckish sense of humor. At the bottom of a full page story about Donald Trump and his perceived incitement to violence against Hillary Clinton was an advertisement, headlined as such which stated Messiah! Shout: We want Messiah! Advertise Messiah in the media! Raise the flag of Messiah and participate in parades and conventions for Messiah! Observe the Sabbath and the Commandments of the Torah! And then (he) will appear immediately!