Grapevine: Dershowitz in conversation

In Dershowitz’s view there should be a complete separation of religion and state in Israel.

December 15, 2016 20:54
JERUSALEM POST Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz (left) interviews Alan Dershowitz at Matan Ra’anana.

JERUSALEM POST Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz (left) interviews Alan Dershowitz at Matan Ra’anana.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Being brilliant and world-famous takes a toll on a person’s time. Thus, during his current visit to Israel, internationally renowned lawyer and civil rights activist Alan Dershowitz had no less than five speaking engagements, one of which was for Matan in Ra’anana, where Mayor Ze’ev Bielski was also in attendance.

Dershowitz didn’t actually deliver a speech. The current trend is for the celebrity speaker to have a conversation with a journalist, which makes it more interesting. Even if they have discussed the topics of the conversation in advance, there’s almost always an unexpected twist, simply because they’re talking to each other, rather than one of them reading a prepared text to the audience. On this occasion, Dershowitz was interviewed by Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz. They discussed the region and of course US President- elect Donald Trump.

In the case of the latter, Dershowitz said that the best word to describe the situation is “uncertain,” but he also advocated a wait-and-see attitude on the part of the public.

He warned that if the settlement bill passes, Israel will come under International Criminal Court jurisdiction. In Dershowitz’s view there should be a complete separation of religion and state in Israel.

Dershowitz was in Ra’anana because Matan dedicated a room in the name of his mother, Claire Dershowitz, who was the aunt of Debbie Tannenbaum, a major supporter of Matan. The main beit midrash at Matan is named for the late Mindy Greenberg, who was Tannenbaum’s sister and the daughter-in-law of Blu and Yitz Greenberg.

Later in the week at a Daniel J. Elazar memorial event in Jerusalem hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, world-acclaimed expert in pediatrics Prof. Arthur Eidelman, who went to elementary school, high school and college with Dershowitz, splitting up only when one went to law and the other to medicine, introduced him.

Dershowitz acknowledged several of his relatives in the audience, and also Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff, whose father, the late Rabbi Avraham Noach Zuroff, was Dershowitz’s principal at the Brooklyn Talmudical Academy, which Eidelman also attended. Eidelman, according to Dershowitz, was a brilliant student, but Dershowitz was just not cut out for Talmud. Rabbi Zuroff had said to him, “Dershowitz, you’ve got a good mouth, but not a Yiddishe kopf. You could be a lawyer, or you could be a Conservative rabbi...,” and the rest is history.

■ IT’S EXTREMELY rare for Jerusalem society photographer and journalist Sarah Davidovich to go anywhere without a camera.

But for the wedding this week of her son Shiran to Rotem Neuman, she was so busy greeting guests that she left the camera at home. There were several professional photographers on hand, including, among the guests, one of her best friends, Eti Salansky, who likewise is seldom seen without a camera.

For Davidovich and her investment broker husband, Mati, putting together a guest list was a really big headache. The two have so many close friends plus clients that they found it extremely difficult to leave people out. And of course the bride’s parents, Osnat and Eyal Neuman, also had a guest list. The bridal couple met through their individual affiliations with Chabad, and thus there were also large contingents of Chabadniks among the guests.

All in all, the guests ranged from ultra-Orthodox to ultra-secular.

There were more head scarves than wigs among the Orthodox women, and among the secular women, many wore pants, and one even wore a backless evening gown, held together with spaghetti straps. In the men’s section, there were various degrees of ultra-Orthodox. The Chabadniks came with their fitted black kapotes and their oversized fedoras. There were also other branches of ultra-Orthodoxy in which the men had long, belowthe- shoulder pe’ot and their tallit katan was visible. Among the secular men, there were those who had not thought to bring a kippa.

At the start of the wedding ceremony at the Leonardo City Tower Hotel in Ramat Gan, a blessing was sung by an impromptu Chabad men’s choir, after which a video was screened in which the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, speaking in Yiddish, blessed the bride and groom. The ceremony was then conducted by Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, who was introduced as an emissary of the rebbe. As soon as the glass was broken, it became obvious that this was not a purely Ashkenazi wedding, as some of the women began ululating in joy. Moments later, many of the younger Chabadniks leaped onto the stage under the bridal canopy and began dancing feverishly with the groom.

Some of the more familiar faces among the guests belonged to restaurateur Nava Bibi, expert on international law and former government minister Prof. Shimon Shetreet, retired diplomat Esra Sofer and his wife, Dorin, venture capitalist Shlomo Kalisch, Jerusalem City Council member Moshe Leon, Prof. Joseph Shenker, former director of obstetrics and gynecology at Hadassah and his wife, Kitty, Prof. Eliezer Rachmilewitz , professor emeritus of hematology, Etya Simcha, international jurist, Moshe Nissim, former justice minister, and his wife, Ruth, Shmuel Flatto- Sharon and his wife, Klara, majority shareholders in Dizengoff Center, Vered Koplovich of the Government Press Office, Sima Zini who heads the Frankfurter Center for Senior Citizens, Dr. Zvi Berkowitz, the personal physician of the prime minister, and his wife, Elizabeth, who taught piano to the prime minister’s elder son; and fashion designer Michal Azulay, who made the exquisite lace embroidered dress of the mother of the groom.

Toward the end of the evening, Mati Davidovich, who used to be a professional singer, and who sings at all the celebrations of his family and friends, did not disappoint, and sang from the heart to huge applause.

■ EVERY HEAD of a diplomatic mission in Israel tries to infuse something of his or her home country into national day celebrations.

But Kenya’s chargé d’affaires Jon Chessoni outdid his colleagues with the entertainment at the reception marking Kenya’s 53rd anniversary of independence, known as Jamhuri Day, when he presented a former second-generation Israeli diplomat who has become a singing star in Kenya, and who sings in Kiswahili, which is one of Kenya’s four official languages.

The singer in question is Gilad Millo, who was Israel’s deputy chief of mission in Nairobi, and quit the Foreign Ministry in 2008 to settle in Nairobi permanently.

All in all, he has lived in Kenya’s capital for 12 years. Millo is the son of the late Yehuda Millo, who served in the Foreign Ministry for 37 years. Before becoming a journalist and later a diplomat, Gilad Millo had planned to become a musician, and some 20 years ago was a member of a Jerusalem rock group known as White Donkey.

Millo performed at the Kenyan reception with Wendy Kimani, a well-known Kenyan singer who now lives in Amsterdam with her Dutch husband. The two have performed together many times in the past. The backup was by the lively Groove Ambassadors, a band founded by Ivorian Elisee Akowendo and made up of musicians from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, France, Ivory Coast, Israel, Brazil, Russia and Colombia.

The band specializes in a variety of African rhythms and sings in a dozen languages. Guests swayed and danced on the spot to the catchy music.

The invitation to the event contained a request for guests to wear business suits or national dress.

The latter is one of the beauties at national day receptions of any African state. The national dress reflects national pride, and both men and women from the host country as well as from other African countries are attired in colorful eye-catching garments in wonderful weaves and prints enhanced by intricate embroideries.

Chessoni noted that Israel’s relations with Kenya go back beyond independence. In 1963, three days before Kenya’s independence, Golda Meir visited Kenya and together with Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta laid the foundations for the Israel Embassy. Current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Israel in February, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a reciprocal visit to Kenya in July.

Chessoni is proud of the fact that Kenya has one of the most robust economies in Africa, with annual GDP growth of 5%. He also emphasized Kenya’s commitment to peace in the region.

The government was represented by Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara, who spoke of mutual high-level visits by representatives of both countries and also referred to the first bilateral dialogue between Israel and Kenya, which took place in January of this year and was hosted by the Foreign Ministry.

Kara emphasized the challenges faced by both countries in fighting radical Islam extremism, singling out al-Shabaab in East Africa, Boko Haram in West Africa, Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel’s borders and Islamic State in much of the Middle East.

“The cooperation between our countries in the regional strategic context is very important in dealing with the terrorist threat,” said Kara.

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