Events of the past week bring to mind a song written by British playwright, director, actor, composer and singer Noel Coward, the chorus of which was The last time I saw Paris Her heart was young and gay No matter how they change her I’ll remember her that way Sadly, Paris does not have much cause these days to conform with Coward’s memory of the city of light and enlightenment.
The only measure of comfort for Parisians right now is the knowledge that they are not alone and that so many countries and communities around the world have identified with their tragedy and grief.
As French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave said in reference to Israel at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Wednesday: “At this time of crisis and sorrow, France does not stand alone, and Israel is one of the countries that has stood by its side.”
In fact, at almost every event that Maisonnave has attended over the past week, there have been signs of this solidarity expressed by the presence of the French flag, calls for a minute’s silence, the spontaneous singing of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, and personal assurances by other participants of their sympathy and shock.
■ PERHAPS MORE than any other country, Israel, which has been subject to terrorist attacks since before the establishment of the state, can empathize with France.
One of the ways in which terrorism is defeated in Israel is through memorials to the victims. Such memorials usually take the form of something that will be beneficial to society and either improve the quality of life or contribute to the preservation of life, as in the case of Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, who was among those who were murdered a year ago when terrorists attacked worshipers in the Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Originally from Liverpool, Goldberg worked for many years in publishing in London’s Golders Green Jewish enclave, before moving to Israel in 1991. In Jerusalem he built computer programs for various projects and was an adviser to haredim who wanted to enter the job market.
His family and friends in England and Israel believed that the best way to honor his memory was through contributing to something that would save other people’s lives.
Through the UK Friends of Shaare Zedek, they raised funds for a three-bed unit in the hospital’s emergency department, and this week, on the first anniversary of Goldberg’s death, held a dedication ceremony at the hospital with the participation of political figures and families of terrorist victims.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Michelle Hirschfield described Goldberg as a man whose values mirrored those of the hospital.
“He had respect and tolerance for all, no matter what their level of religious observance.
He was nonjudgmental. He could mix with the greatest rabbis and the simplest of men. The doctors here are Jews and Arabs. They are nonjudgmental. All they want to do is save people’s lives.”
The 100-strong crowd was also addressed by Goldberg’s widow, Bryna, who called for people to unite in “tolerance, kindness and being good to one another.... When tragedy strikes, we suddenly forget our differences and remember we are brothers and sisters ready to help each other,” she said.
Patrick Haughey, head of the political section at the British Embassy, who was previously posted in Paris, spoke of the “dark times” we live in and how when watching terrorist attacks unfold on an almost daily basis, it would be very easy to lose hope.
Addressing the family directly, he described their work as an example of hope, praising them for choosing to respond to their own personal tragedy not with anger and hatred but instead through generosity in supporting Shaare Zedek, a place which itself gives hope through its approach to care.
Shaare Zedek UK executive director Simi Ben Hur said: “It is both sad and pertinent that we dedicate a special project in memory of one terror victim as the world is mourning the loss of so many more this week. For all those trying to take life, there are many more working to preserve it, and the staff and supporters of Shaare Zedek are leaders in this battle.
Referring to a visit to the hospital a few days earlier by Sir Eric Pickles, the British government special envoy for post-Holocaust issues and former secretary of state for communities and local government, Ben Hur said that Shaare Zedek was honored that its doctors and nurses were seen by Pickles and the Goldberg family as a symbol of coexistence, inspiring everyone they meet with their dedication and commitment during difficult times.
■ MACEDONIAN AMBASSADOR Pajo Avirovikj this week celebrated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Macedonia and Israel with something on which to feast the eye, the stomach and the soul.
It started off with a kosher reception at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv, where most ambassadors who have functions there are not particularly sensitive to Jewish dietary laws.
Then there was an impressive photo exhibition under the title of a Macedonian Eye on Israel and an Israeli eye on Macedonia, the idea for which Avirovikj credited to his Israeli counterpart, Dan Oryan, who was also present.
Finally, there was a delightful concert by the Skopje Woodwind Quintet, which included Yiddish and Hebrew works in its repertoire.
Photographers Ljupcho Blagoevski and Carrie Hart were also present, with each speaking of how they had been enchanted by the other’s country, where history and modernity coexist in harmonious contrast.
It was a trilingual evening, with Avirovikj, who speaks both English and Hebrew fluently, using one or the other depending on whom he was speaking to, and reverting to his native Macedonian when conversing with some of his fellow countrymen.
During the official part of the evening, Avirovikj said that he didn’t want to make speeches and preferred for Macedonian culture to speak for itself. But he felt the need to voice solidarity with both France and Russia and to convey sympathy to the families who lost loved ones in recent terrorist attacks.
“When innocent people are targeted, we are all targeted,” he said.
■ PRIZE-WINNING Jerusalem Post journalist Sam Sokol is among the contributors to a new series of books that may be of interest to English-language readers in Israel.
Part of a joint venture by Gefen Publishing of Israel and Jewish Lights Publishing of America, the project will start off with two books: I am Jewish: Personal reflections inspired by the last words of Daniel Pearl, the American-Israeli journalist kidnapped and brutally murdered in Pakistan. The second book is God, Faith and Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors.
The first book has 149 contributors from 12 countries. The writers range in age from nine to 90. The anthology, which won the National Jewish Book Award in the United States, was edited by Daniel Pearl’s parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl.
The second book, edited by Menachem Z.
Rosensaft, the founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors, with a prologue by world-acclaimed writer and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel, was published in time for the 70th anniversary of Europe’s liberation from the Nazi slavery and death machine. It includes the writings of close to 90 children and grandchildren of survivors from 16 countries.
■ WITH THE number of Holocaust survivors gradually depleting, the torch of memory is being carried on by the second and third generation survivors. Gefen Publishing’s CEO Ilan Greenfield’s late mother was a Czech Holocaust survivor who wrote of her experiences, which explains why many of the Gefen books deal with different aspects of the Holocaust. However, there are still a few first generation Holocaust survivors who are producing books and films to leave as a legacy of testimony for future generations.
One such person is Auschwitz survivor Mordechai Ronen of Toronto, whose son Moshe is a vice president of the World Jewish Congress, which gives him connections to the Israeli leadership as well as the world Jewish leadership. Moshe Ronen, who is obviously proud of his father, arranged for a reception in Israel to be hosted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to mark the launch of Mordechai Ronen’s autobiography, I am a Victor. Among the guests were Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, MK Avi Dichter, former MK and ambassador to the United Kingdom Dr.
Dror Zeigerman, and Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici.
■ US CONGRESSMAN Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), during a recent visit to Israel, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he described as “a true partner of the American people.” Pompeo said that their conversation had been “incredibly enlightening.” He was full of admiration for Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and to fight against the forces of radical Islamic terrorists.
Pompeo also met with various elements of Israel’s security establishment, including Uzi Dayan, a former head of the IDF Central Command, deputy chief of staff, and national security adviser to the prime minister.
Dayan, who now chairs the national lottery, also discussed the forces of radical Islam, Iran, the situation in Syria and the fight against terrorism in general, emphasizing the need for international cooperation following the terrorist assault on Paris, and warning that conflicts in the Middle East are getting out of hand and could result in World War III unless quickly contained.
■ THERE IS anticipation that convicted American Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard will finally regain his freedom today after 30 years of incarceration.
Rafi Eitan, the former Mossad agent who was Pollard’s Israeli operator, and who let him down in the final analysis and was reviled by Pollard’s family, even though he tried several times to make amends, will reveal previously unpublished details about the case and about other related operations, including the apprehension of a naval officer who sold classified information to Egypt, and of the successful attempt to prevent the joint Egyptian-German development of a potentially destructive rocket that could reach a target 600 kilometers away and completely tear asunder the targeted area, which could have meant the beginning of the end of Israel.
The program will be screened on Saturday, November 21, at 10.30 p.m. on Channel 1 and on HD. Eitan will celebrate his 89th birthday on November 23.
■ LAST WEEK, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog and his older brother Brig.-Gen. (res.) Mike Herzog were in New York to participate in the 40th anniversary commemoration of the infamous November 10, 1975, United Nations resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism and the eloquent address against the resolution by their father, Chaim Herzog, who was then Israel’s permanent representative to the UN.
The address concluded with Herzog dramatically tearing up the paper on which the resolution had been printed. In later years, Herzog, as Israel’s sixth president, was able to rejoice in the fact that the resolution was rescinded.
This coming Sunday, the Herzog brothers will again be participating in a commemoration of that event, this time at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
The rescinding of the UN resolution has not prevented Israel’s enemies from accusing Israel of racism and apartheid, regardless of the fact that people of different religions are free to practice their faith; there is no segregation on public transport; no quota system in schools and universities; and no place that people are forbidden to enter on the basis of color or creed. Those who hate us continue to disseminate lies about us. But where racism truly existed for centuries was in South Africa, where ironically the worst kind of anti-Israel incitement is spewed, despite the fact that numerous South African Zionist Jews were involved in the ANC’s struggle against apartheid.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Frederik Willem de Klerk, who was president of South Africa at the end of the apartheid era, and who 25 years ago released Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years of incarceration, will be in Israel next week, and will participate in the Berl Katznelson conference on the War against Racism, at which Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will be among the speakers, as will members of Israel’s Ethiopian and Arab communities.
The conference will be held in the Smolarsz Auditorium of Tel Aviv University on Monday, November 23.
■ VIOLENCE CONTINUES to plague society not only in the Middle East but around the world, with children and women as the main victims. Friday, November 20, is United Nations International Children’s Day, which is marked around this time but not necessarily on the same date in different parts of the world.
Pope Francis, in a statement released this week, said: “I wish for the international community to keep watch over the living conditions of little children, especially where they’re exposed to recruitment by armed groups, as well as be able to help families to guarantee every little boy and girl the right to school and to education.
“It is everyone’s duty to protect children and put their welfare above all else, so that they’re never subject to forms of slavery and mistreatment and forms of exploitation,” said the pope.
In Israel, the National Council for the Child, headed by Yitzhak Kadman, monitors what happens to children, advocates for their rights and publishes an annual highly detailed statistical report. It is not the only organization interested in child welfare, but arguably has the most comprehensive coverage.
International businesswoman Ronit Raphael, who was one of the sponsors of the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference held this week at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem, is primarily interested in protecting children from sexual abuse, and together with the Israel Association of Rape Crisis Centers has produced an animated film that encourages sexually abused children to confide in their parents and not to walk around with an awful secret.
The film is intended to raise awareness of child abuse and has been shown across the United States and in 600 schools in Israel.
According to statistics quoted at the start of the film, 64 percent of all sexual abuse cases in Israel are children.
■ WOMEN ARE no less subject to violence than children, even in an age in which women are no longer chattels and have broken through the glass ceiling in almost every profession. Nonetheless, they continue to be victims of human trafficking and other forms of violence.
The UN has declared November 25 as the international day for the elimination of violence against women, and women’s organizations around Israel will be holding special awareness events.
Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the WIZO women’s shelter in Jerusalem, which last year was visited by President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama.
In Haifa, Mayor Yona Yahav and the Law Faculty of the University of Haifa will host a conference on the harm caused by prostitution, with participants discussing the link between prostitution and sexual harassment; prostitution as an industry; prostitution, health and collective trauma; and the social network that exists between men and women engaged in email@example.com