One of the talking points between President Reuven Rivlin and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist Movement, who was born in Odessa, as was Poroshenko.
Jabotinsky is Rivlin’s ideological hero, whom he frequently quotes when explaining his own beliefs, derived from Jabotinsky’s philosophy.
When Rivlin visits Ukraine early next year, Poroshenko will be his personal guide when he tours Odessa.
Jabotinsky was mentioned by both presidents at the welcome reception that Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, hosted for Poroshenko and his wife, Maryna, on Tuesday morning, and again in the evening at the state dinner that the Rivlins held in honor of the Poroshenkos.
Aside from the general camaraderie and the musical entertainment, the dinner featured the added bonus of the presence of Jabotinsky’s granddaughter Karni Jabotinsky- Rubin and his grandson of the same name accompanied by his wife, Anat. Rubin and the latter-day Ze’ev Jabotinsky are the offspring of the late Eri Jabotinsky who was a member of the first Knesset. The 105th anniversary of his birth is Saturday, December 26.
Among the other guests were Ukraine-born Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who this coming February will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his release from a Soviet prison and his arrival in Israel.
Also present were several rabbis and other religious notables from both Ukraine and Israel, among them Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, the American-born and raised chief rabbi of Ukraine; Chief Rabbi of Kiev Moshe Reuven Azman; Rabbi Yonatan Markovitch, director of Chabad in Kiev; and among the local haredi representatives was ninth-generation Jerusalemite Matityahu Cheshin, known as the haredi consul due to his close relations with the diplomatic community.
While waxing enthusiastic over the ever-developing good relations between Israel and Ukraine, Rivlin admitted that the one thing that made him unhappy was the fact that on December 9 Dynamo Kiev, beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 in a closed-door match in Kiev within the context of a UEFA ruling that three home games must be played in an empty stadium due to racist actions by Dynamo fans in October. The win against Maccabi Tel Aviv enabled Dynamo to qualify for the Champions League competition.
It’s the attention to detail that often signifies the importance of a person or an event.
Whenever there is a visiting head of state, the floral arrangements at the President’s Residence are usually as close as possible to the colors of the national flag of the visitor’s country. Sometimes the arrangements are luxurious, but this time the collection of blue and yellow blooms in the colors of Ukraine’s national flag were nothing short of opulent.
In the morning two large urns filled with a sumptuous array of tall flowers flanked the Ukrainian flags standing alongside the Israeli flags and the president’s standard. Another long horizontal arrangement stood on the dais from which the two presidents made their speeches. In the evening the blue and yellow flower arrangements on the tables were simply magnificent.
However, there was one problem that repeats itself whenever the particular caterers that were hired for the dinner are responsible for the table settings. Whereas in most parts of the world the bread rolls are on the left of the flatware setting, this particular outfit put them on the right, and places individual salad bowls in front of each of the plates of bread rolls. This leads to a lot of confusion, because most people automatically reach for the plate on their left, while others, taking note of the proximity of the plate to the knife, reach for the plate on their right. The Ukrainians and the Israelis have a shared word for that kind of situation – balagan.
■ IT’S NOT easy to get into one of WIZO’s two Shelters for Battered Women – not if one needs its protection, and not if one simply wants to see the services that it provides. The facility in Jerusalem is well guarded to ensure the safety of women and children from across the social spectrum and the religious divide.
The problem is that neither WIZO nor any of the other organizations that maintain shelters for battered women have sufficient space to accommodate them all. It is one of the tragedies of Israel that there are thousands of battered women across the country. Social workers and police don’t get to all of them, because not all cases of domestic violence are reported.
Some women have been raised to believe that whatever happens in a marriage, no matter how awful, it stays behind closed doors. So they lick their wounds and spend a life of fear and suffering. Some are simply too ashamed to share their experiences with others.
But others are either fed up or so fearful for their lives or about the traumatic effect of domestic violence on their children that they seek help. WIZO, the Women’s Zionist Organization, is one of the sources providing that help. Among the others are the Netanya Foundation; Bat Melech, which provides shelter and social services for abused religious women; No to Violence, which runs three shelters; and Na’amat, which operates a shelter in Tel Aviv and two centers for the prevention and treatment of violence, in Tel Aviv and in Haifa.
Altogether, there are 14 such shelters plus various daycare facilities for those women who have the courage to turn their backs on an abusive environment. Constant physical, emotional, psychological and economic abuse strips women of self-confidence and self-esteem. Fear of how their husbands will react if they discover that they are seeking help is in many cases a strong deterrent.
Social workers and women’s organizations estimate that there are some 250,000 abused women in Israel, many of whose children were born into a cycle of violence.
WIZO’s Jerusalem shelter, currently marking its 20th anniversary year, has helped some 1,200 women to embark on a new future by providing legal aid, emotional support and career training. Some of those women who have since gone into the world and carved new lives for themselves were in the audience at Beit Shmuel on Wednesday night for a gala benefit performance by Nurit Galron, who remarked that, sometimes, knowing who is in the audience and the nature of the cause makes the lyrics of a song much more meaningful. Galron belted out most of the favorites in her repertoire and the audience went wild with enthusiasm.
But before she came on stage, Pnina Omer, one of the stalwarts of WIZO Jerusalem who acted as moderator, provided some of the history of the organization, which was founded in London, in July 1920.
The founders, Rebecca Sieff, Vera Weizmann and Romana Goodman were all married to leading figures in the Zionist Movement, and they felt that women should play an equal, albeit independent role, but working in cooperation with the men.
Women were barely represented in Zionist and general Jewish organizations, and even today, said Omer, they are greatly underrepresented in political, business and academic circles. Out of more than 200 local authorities, for instance, only six are headed by women.
While WIZO is dedicated to advancing the status of women in all fields of endeavor, this is not to the exclusion of men. In fact, although men are generally barred from the shelter, there are a few who are welcome guests, such as Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir, who together with his family has been a volunteer at the shelter for seven years. His home is in the same neighborhood, and other members of the community also volunteer to celebrate Sabbath and Jewish holidays with the women and their children.
Many of the children in the neighborhood play with children in the center, and Nir himself actually spends time cooking with the women.
Sarah Kovarsky, the chairwoman of WIZO Jerusalem, noted that as a preventive measure against domestic violence WIZO also works in schools to educate against violence.
Rinat Leon Lang, head of the Women’s Shelter, underscored that women from every walk of life and every religion are among those who have been accommodated and helped at the shelter. Jews, Muslims, secular, religious, veteran and new immigrant are all included. Even though some appear weak, Lang emphasized the courage it takes to make the decision to leave home. Despite all their differences, she said, women of diverse backgrounds live together in harmony at the shelter.
■ THE DEMISE of the Israel Broadcasting Authority is drawing ever closer, and this week Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel, who heads the Knesset Economics Committee, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the Communications portfolio, answer questions that are vital to the future of the remaining IBA employees. Cabel wanted to know if there were any more dismissals in the pipeline, what has been done so far with regard to setting up a team for the projected Israel Broadcasting Corporation, and what progress has been made toward its establishment.
At the start of a committee meeting this week, Cabel said that inasmuch as he believes in public broadcasting and the need to fight for its existence, as time passes he has experienced growing doubts about whether the plan to set up the IBC will ever come to fruition. Meanwhile, if it does, unlike the IBA, it may not be headquartered in Jerusalem.
Unless Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat steps in to make an issue of the fact that the IBC that is due to replace the IBA at the end of March will begin operations in Modi’in rather than Jerusalem, it’s possible that even more IBA employees than originally envisaged will lose their jobs. Due to Barkat’s intervention and relentless lobbying, the Channel 10 News division moved to Jerusalem.
The IBA, which is in the process of liquidation and due to be fully dismantled by the end of March 2016, has been gradually losing staff to rival broadcasting networks. A source within the IBA who is well informed on this particular issue, and who asked not to be named, said that up until the end of October, more than 300 people had taken “voluntary” retirement. The most highly publicized departure was that of Ayala Hasson, a top-flight investigative reporter and the head of the Channel 1 News division.
Hasson defected to Channel 10, to where some of her former colleagues had preceded her. Others went to Channel 2 long before the crisis situation that was generated by former communications minister Gilad Erdan, who pushed hard to close down the IBA and to replace it with a more streamlined and cost-efficient public broadcasting entity.
Despite many objections, Erdan last year managed to steer his plan through the Knesset.
Notwithstanding the fact that the law governing the IBA and the IBC specifies that they must be headquartered in Jerusalem, according to a report in Tuesday’s Haaretz, IBC will be temporarily located in Modi’in, in the former studios of Channel 9. The reason: the IBC will require a large, specially equipped building, and so far nothing suitable has been found in Jerusalem. In view of this, permission was received from Avi Licht, the deputy attorney-general responsible for fiscal and economic matters, for IBC to temporarily broadcast from Modi’in.
Sources within the IBA claimed not to know anything beyond what they had read in the report, though there was consensus that in Israel nothing is more permanent than that which is temporary.
No one could say whether the existing IBA buildings had been sold or which IBA employees would be making the transition to IBC. “They don’t tell us anything,” was the common complaint. “You want to know something, ask Netanyahu or the Finance Ministry. Close to a thousand IBA employees are still in limbo, not knowing what the future holds for them, or whether the IBC will indeed go to air within the stipulated time frame.
No one bought the excuse that there are no suitable facilities in Jerusalem. Numerous Israeli and foreign networks broadcast out of Jerusalem Capital Studios, and if the IBC needs a temporary home, JCS is arguably the best-equipped facility in the region.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch, the founding chairman of the Hitorerut (Wake Up) movement, has written a letter of protest to Netanyahu reminding him of that all government ministries are committed to strengthening Jerusalem, and by allowing the removal of a state-owned facility in which so many Jerusalemites are employed, the government is weakening, instead of strengthening, Jerusalem.
■ MANY SINGERS and musicians claim that music paves the way to peace. When people sing together or make music together, they tend to harmonize rather than antagonize, and their differences are cast aside.
A prime example of this can be seen in the Galilee Orchestra founded in 1995 by composer Nabil Azzam, who was the first Arab student at the Rubin Academy of Music, and who subsequently went on to receive degrees in musicology and ethnomusicology from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University and UCLA.
Jews and Arabs play together in the Galilee Orchestra, and last Saturday night they performed at a concert hosted by industrialist Stef Wertheimer at his Nazareth Industrial Park, in cooperation with the Polyphony Foundation, the Orpheus Group and the Nazareth Tourist Information Center.
Among the guests were head of the European Union Delegation Lars Faaborg-Andersen and his wife, Jean Murphy; Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, head of the Polyphony Foundation and Conservatory; and some 370 other invitees.
In welcoming the guests Wertheimer said that inasmuch as he loves culture, everyone present should be aware that they were sitting in an industrial park whose main purpose is to provide work for the people of Nazareth and other parts of the Galilee and the Jezreel Valley, who can come here to create and produce, and with their earnings can enjoy cultural experiences such as the cinema and stage productions.
■ SHAS LEADER and Development of the Negev and Galilee Minister Arye Deri and his wife, Yaffa, married off their daughter Margalit to Raphael Peretz on Monday night, and as is the case at every Deri wedding, there were more than a thousand guests, including past and present chief rabbis, politicians, businesspeople and of course a huge Shas representation, with men and women eating and dancing separately.
Some of the same people got together subsequently at one or more of the sheva brachot gatherings in honor of the bride and groom that took place during the week. Deri and his wife hosted such an event on Wednesday.
Wedding and sheva brachot guests included Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef; Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen; Netanyahu and his wife, Sara; opposition leader Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal; Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein; Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon; Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon; Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman; Education Minister Naftali Bennett; Moshe Lion, who holds the Communications portfolio in the Jerusalem City Council, and many other notables.
■ WAS IT chutzpah or making a political point when Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer sent blue-and-white-striped gift packages bearing the national crest of Israel to members of Congress with best wishes for a happy holiday? The packages contained products from settlements in Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights. In the accompanying letter Dermer stated that he had decided that this year he would send a holiday gift that would also help combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The gift packages contained wine, olive oil, halva and body cream.
Dermer characterized the key forces behind BDS as “fanatics who actively seek to eliminate Israel,” adding that “unfortunately they are occasionally joined by fools who naively believe that in promoting BDS they are advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” Regardless of why they promote BDS, wrote Dermer, “they are simply promoting anti-Semitism. Once, Jews were singled out and held to a different standard than other peoples. Today, the Jewish state is singled out and held to a different standard than other countries.”
The gift made headline news with mixed reactions in the American media. It might have been more effective had he stated exactly how many Palestinian households rely on an income from factory plants in which boycotted products are produced.