Although he’s from Chicago and not from Texas, Albert Frank, a retired US Army officer, looks as if he just stepped out of a Hollywood western. In fact, he looks so much like the real McCoy that Construction Minister Yoav Galant, who is a former major-general in the Israel Defense Forces, could not resist donning his ten-gallon hat. Galant was one of more than a hundred IDF veterans and politicians at a special event in memory of Patricia Frank to whom Frank was married for 65 years before her recent death.
The Franks, long-time supporters of the Friends of the IDF, were in 2002 co-founders, with fellow Chicagoan Israel Levy of IMPACT!, the FIDF’s flagship program, which has provided more than 10,000 fouryear scholarships based on financial need to young men and women who have completed or are in the process of completing their mandatory army service.
Close to 250 people attended the memorial event at the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv. Among them, in addition to Galant, were former defense minister Shaul Mofaz; IMPACT! committee members Avi Mizrahi and Avi Zamir; FIDF national board member Harry Gross, who is co-chairman of the IMPACT! program; FIDF national director and CEO Meir Klifi-Amir; former FIDF national directors and CEOs Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon and Yehiel Gozal; FIDF national and central region board member Al Brody; FIDF Midwest Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim; IMPACT! executive director Orna Pesach; IMPACT students and graduates; as well as friends and members of the Frank family, including several of Patricia and Albert’s seven children, eight grandchildren and great-grandchild. Mofaz is a retired IDF lieutenant-general and former chief of staff; Mizrahi, Zamir, Klifi-Amir and Gershon are retired major-generals, and Gozal is a retired brigadier-general.
Earlier last week, Frank, together with Brody, Oppenheim and friends and family members from Israel and Chicago, toured Israel and met with soldiers and commanders on IDF bases across the country.
■ PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu scored points with Jerusalemites this week by bringing an end to the strike initiated by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in response to the refusal by the Finance Ministry to give the city a substantial increase in its budgetary allocation. Although the city sanitation department worked all night from late Tuesday till just after dawn on Wednesday to clean up the piles of garbage surrounding the Mahaneh Yehuda market, which by early Wednesday morning was as clean as a whistle, it took a lot longer to clean up the rest of the city, especially the haredi neighborhoods.
Barkat, who played it tough at the beginning of the week, drew the ire of Jerusalem residents, some of whom told reporters that he cares only about advancing his political career and not about Jerusalemites. Once the strike was called off, someone in the Finance Ministry tweeted “1-0,” but the tweet was removed soon after. One can’t help wondering if Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was advised about Barkat’s Achilles’ heel by his brother, Kobi Kahlon, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem who resigned in June 2015 while under investigation for corruption.
The few people who ignored media reports and went to the market early on Tuesday evening had a wonderful time. The stores, bars, coffee shops and restaurants were still open, and without crowds pushing and shoving, passers-by could get a great impression of the diversity of the market, which unlike its exterior surroundings, was extremely clean inside – a real joy for anyone doing serious shopping or just window shopping.
■ IN THE print media, Yediot Aharonot
compete to publish the most negative stories possible about Netanyahu. Haaretz
must have run out of material with which to upbraid the PM, and this week, its arts supplement Galleria ran a double-page spread in which it was critical of the PM’s attire, complaining that his suits were not sufficiently stylish considering the clothing budget and gifts he receives. The article compared Netanyahu’s wardrobe to those of other heads of state and government, and concluded that the only one who looked equally unfashionable was US President Donald Trump. The comment with regard to Trump was that money doesn’t buy taste.
Perhaps Trump should consult more with his wife, Melania, with regard to his suits because her taste appears to be impeccable.
■ PERHAPS NETANYAHU will find time to stop off in Savile Row when he goes to London next week to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May. He will also meet with his former spokesman, Mark Regev, who is Israel’s current ambassador to the Court of St. James.
■ IT’S A LITTLE difficult for political party leaders who are also cabinet ministers to fulfill their duties on both counts, but even brief encounters can sometimes be fruitful. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is head of Bayit Yehudi, was obviously a natural to come as speaker to one of the events of the 10th World Emunah Convention, given that Emunah is a religious women’s Zionist organization whose manifold activities include operating large networks of educational and social welfare facilities.
Bennett arrived late at the gala dinner honoring Dina Hahn, the outgoing chairwoman of World Emunah who, after a little over nine years in the position, is now moving into the role of president of World Emunah. Inasmuch as the education minister’s presence was a tribute to Hahn, perhaps a greater tribute was the presence of representatives of rival women’s organizations: Esther Mor, president of World WIZO; Helena Glazer, honorary president World WIZO; and Masha Lubelsky, past national president of NA’AMAT Israel.
Minutes after Bennett arrived, there was a screening of the story of a young woman from a downtrodden socioeconomic background who was abused at home, tended to move in bad company, was raped and became pregnant, and decided to keep her baby. Social workers said she was unfit to be a mother and gave her the option of transferring her baby to the care of her own mother or putting the child into foster care. Even though she was not happy to have her mother look after the infant, it was the lesser of two evils. The young woman had a lot of issues to overcome and was determined to do so. She turned to Emunah and received considerable support in turning her life around. Today, she has two children, and both are in her care.
Bennett was riveted to the screen. Later, after mounting the stage, he said: “What we just saw is the epitome of what religious Zionism is all about. Our whole mindset is looking outward and taking care of all of Israel. We’re here on a mission, and it’s not just to take care of religious Jews, but all of Israel.” He added that he could not understand why prekindergarten children are under the auspices of the Labor and Social Services Ministry. In his perception, children start learning very soon after coming into the world, and therefore all children should be under the aegis of the Education Ministry.
One of the more moving aspects of the evening was a presentation to Rabbanit Miriam Hauer, who for 20 years has written a d’var Torah for the World Emunah newsletter. Seeking a suitable means to honor her, the staff of World Emunah, headed by associate director Frieda Ross, compiled a book of Hauer’s teachings. Copies were distributed to Hauer and all present by Carole Golding, a former chairwoman of World Emunah who regularly attends Hauer’s Torah classes, and by some of Hauer’s many grandchildren, who came in from all over the country for the occasion. Hauer was so overwhelmed she could barely speak.
■ IT TOOK a long time for Austria to confront its Nazi past, possibly because Nazism brought out the worst in its adherents, and after the war, two generations of Austrians did not want their children and grandchildren to know that relatives they regarded as kind, cultural and fun-loving had a cruel, bestial side to their nature. But now, more than 70 years after the war, an exhibition that opened this week in the Elias Sourasky Central Library of Tel Aviv University became a prime example of Austria confronting one of the most shameful chapters of its history.
While antisemitism still exists in Austria, it is far from official policy, and Jewish organizations there function openly and continue to flourish. The website of the Austrian Embassy in Tel Aviv contains information about Jewish community, cultural, scientific and media organizations and institutions in Austria. This week, Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss and his wife, Susan, hosted a reception at Beit Hatfutsot, which is also on the campus of Tel Aviv University, to mark the opening of the exhibition, “Suppressed Years – Railway and National Socialism in Austria between 1938 and 1945.” The exhibition will remain on view till March 17.
Österreichische Bundesbahnen (OBB), the Austrian Federal Railway previously known as BBO, became part of the wartime Deutsche Reichsbahn and one of the most important pillars of the National Socialist regime. Without the railway as a means of transport, war logistics of the Wehrmacht and mass transports to death camps would not have been manageable, according to OBB CFO Josef Halbmayer, who called the period between 1938 and 1945 “the darkest chapter in OBB’s corporate history.” The exhibition has been shown in many parts of Austria and beyond since 2008.
In congratulating OBB for its present day integrity, Weiss noted that last year, Austria and Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, and today the two countries enjoy a close and trusting friendship that brings with it responsibility – the responsibility, for instance, to speak openly of the dark chapters of one’s history. The exhibition, he said, did just that: “It takes an unadorned look at the past and thereby paves the way for a better future.”
Kindertransport children and thousands of other Jews left Austria on BBO trains on the eve of the war. Among the youngsters on the Kindertransport was Alisa Tennenbaum, who now lives in Israel and attended the reception at Beit Hatfutsot. Commenting on the length of time it took for Austria to admit responsibility for its Nazi past, Tennenbaum said better late than never. She emphasized the importance of speaking about what happened between 1938 and 1945, saying that no one had the right to take another’s life because he or she had another faith or color of skin or was simply different.
“The atrocities of the Holocaust must not happen again and must not be forgotten,” she said.
Some of the other people at the reception included the chairwoman and CEO, respectively, of the Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot, Hana Pri-Zan and Adi Akunis; Honorary Consul of Belize Sari Tavori Korn; chairwoman of the Viennese Friends of Beit Hatfutsot Joanna Nittenberg; Beit Hatfutsot chairwoman for Israeli and European resources Einia Zeevi-Kupfer; Prof. Raanan Rein, TAU’s vice president; Yad Vashem chief historian Prof. Dina Porat; and many other well known personalities from Israel and Austria.email@example.com