The euphoric wave of publicity that Yarden Gerbi received in the Israeli media for saving Israel’s honor at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro illustrates how desperately Israel was in need of good news. Without any intention of detracting from her triumph or from her obvious patriotism or her generosity of spirit in thanking so many people who helped to pave her way toward victory, so much media attention when she is not Israel’s first-ever Olympic medalist – though she is the first and will probably be the only Israeli medalist in Rio – points to one or both of two considerations.
The first is that in view of all the negative things that are happening in Israel to Israelis at this moment in time, the media decided that the nation needed a morale booster.
The other is that the current season in media terms is known as the “cucumber season,” which is basically a quiet time news-wise – unless, as happened two years ago, there is a war. Thus, Gerbi’s win helped to fill newspaper space and air time on radio and television.
On Tuesday night both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Brazil to congratulate Gerbi on her bronze medal and to tell her what pride she had brought to the country.
Netanyahu immediately featured a huge photograph of Gerbi in action on his Facebook page.
Winners have many friends; losers have few. An exception is male judoka Sagi Muki, who, despite a serious back injury, went ahead and competed at the risk of exacerbating the injury, because he wanted to give his all to Israel. He failed to win a medal, but sports reporters were very sympathetic in writing about his match. The Tadiran Group, which has been sponsoring the Israeli judoka team, placed a full-page advertisement in one of the Hebrew newspapers with a large photograph of Muki and a brief text headlined “Power is giving your all.” The rest of the text stated, “Tadiran salutes Sagi Muki for his courageous performance at the Rio Olympics. Continue to represent us with honor. We are always behind you.”
■ FOR THE record, since 1992, Israeli athletes have won a total of eight medals – six bronze, one silver and one gold. Sailing champion Gal Fridman is the only Israeli to have won two Olympic medals – a bronze in 1996 in Atlanta, and a gold in 2004 in Athens. Other medal winners were Yael Arad, Oren Smadja, Michael Kalganov, Arik Zeevi, Shahar Zubari, and now Yarden Gerbi.
■ “NOTHING IN this country gets done without a strike,” says Ilana Cohen, chairwoman of the National Nurses Union, which may call a nationwide strike at the start of the school year if privatization of nursing services in schools is not canceled. Unwilling to listen to the experts, the Finance Ministry initiated the privatization of nursing services in schools close to a decade ago, and the measure proved to be a highly flawed move.
Almost every major crisis in Israel can be traced back to the ministry, which should change its name to the ministry of national sabotage.
The ministry backtracks on signed agreements and consistently introduces new means of depriving the public of their rights and their money.
Ignoring the community facilities constructed all over the country through the profits of Mifal Hapayis, the ministry is attempting to take a huge chunk of the revenues for itself. This has the Union of Local Authorities up in arms, and one can only imagine how community services will deteriorate if the ministry wins this battle. Israel will become a third-world country overnight.
When doctors and nurses go on strike, it’s not because they want to. They realize the responsibilities they have toward their patients, and they sincerely want to save and prolong lives; but if the ministry refuses to understand that needs grow in tandem with population growth, doctors and nurses have no option. They don’t want to treat patients in the corridors, and they don’t want to expose them to the variety of infections that could pose greater threats to their health than before they were admitted to hospital.
Such arguments have for years fallen on deaf ears.
The ministry was to a large extent responsible for the impending dissolution of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the anguish suffered by hundreds of veteran and loyal employees; and if the ministry had not relented and yielded to the demands of Airports Authority workers, Israel would have been shut off from the world.
■ ONE OF the strange exchanges that Jews have with each other on the eve or day of a fast is “Have an easy fast.” Logic would dictate that there’s no point to fasting if it’s an easy thing to do. Then again, most people who are fasting would not want to feel hunger pangs, light-headed and desperately in need of liquid refreshment.
The easiest way to get through a fast is to watch movies – a Tisha Be’av pastime that has become a tradition at Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai. The movies are not for entertainment but for contemplation. All have something to do with conflict and its impact on family and community relationships. Conflict can lead to blind and baseless hatred, which according to Jewish tradition was the cause of the destruction of the Temple. In other words, one man’s unrelenting hatred for another to the extent of public humiliation led to collective punishment because no one intervened to put a stop to the situation.
The films, which are extracts from feature movies and television documentary and drama series, are screened from 1 p.m. onward, but the crowd starts to gather at 12 noon because entry into the auditorium is on a first come, first served basis.
The films are interspersed with discussion between critics, filmmakers, actors and audience.
Sometimes it can be annoying because the moderator is so busy putting forward his own point of view that discussion time is cut short. But in general it’s an opportunity to bump into friends and acquaintances not seen in a long time, and it’s also interesting to see the variety of films that are presented.
Yuval Rivlin, an expert in Jewish representation in film, will present Shemi Zarhin’s prize-winning feature film The Kind Words about three siblings in search of their mother’s secret. This will be followed by David Ofek’s documentary No. 17, which deals with the search for the identity of the last of 17 victims in a terrorist attack.
When it seems that the investigation cannot be resolved, a vague lead suddenly appears. This film will be discussed by film director Yair Agmon. Among the other films to be screened in full or in part are: Credit for Murder, a real-life thriller to be discussed by director Valeri Antonevicz; Hitchhikers, a film about people who stand at the side of the road and also on the sidelines of public consciousness; as well as excerpts from Ushpizin, Summer Vacation and Watchful Eyes, with director Yochai Rosenberg leading the discussion.
■ NEARLY ALL roads of late have led to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. Among the most recent of dignitaries to visit the facility was United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Israel Eichler. Unlike most other dignitaries, Eichler did not come to see for himself the good work that hospital staff are doing with regard to patients from Syria who have been wounded in the civil war. He was much more interested in a young boy from Jerusalem who in the course of a family vacation in the North complained of feeling unwell and was brought to the medical center for a diagnosis. Doctors detected that the boy was suffering from a rare, life-threatening illness, for which he is now being treated.
Eichler visited with the boy and his family, and subsequently, accompanied by Moti Fried, the chairman of Saad V’Marpeh, toured the hospital’s new children’s wing.
Eichler was impressed with the new building and the state-of-theart equipment.
■ ISRAEL’S RELATIONS with African states were largely based on humanitarian aid and teaching new techniques in agriculture, medicine and other fields to help countries to develop. Now that Israel’s relationship with Africa is being renewed and strengthened, Israel continues to offer aid, as was the case this week when President of Togo Faure Gnassingbé met with President Rivlin, who told him that “Israel is interested in being involved in assisting with humanitarian issues, initiatives, and the rebuilding taking place in Africa.” Rivlin said that Israel, together with many European nations, “sees that Africa is the future.” Rivlin also thanked Gnassingbé for Togo’s stance alongside Israel in international forums.
■ WHEN HE’S not on the basketball court, former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire, who recently signed with Hapoel Jerusalem, can be found in museums and art galleries.
Stoudemire is also an avid collector of contemporary art, and this week visited the Israel Museum and later met with emerging Israeli artists at Ticho House.
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