Regular readers of The Jerusalem Post may have last week read an article by Los Angeles correspondent Tom Tugend about a Mahal monument that will be unveiled Sunday afternoon at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. Mahal is a Hebrew acronym for Mitnadvei Hutz La’aretz, or volunteers from abroad. Tugend was one of those volunteers.
Born in Berlin, he fled with his family to the United States in May 1939. In 1944, when he was 18, Tugend joined the US Army and fought in France. Three years later he was again fighting, this time in Israel as a Mahalnik, heading an anti-tank crew during the War of Independence.
After returning to the US, he was called up to once again serve in the US Army, this time during the Korean War, but was not sent to the front. Following his return from Israel, Tugend had established himself as a journalist, and he was asked to edit an army newspaper published in San Francisco. He’s been a journalist ever since, and at 92 is still widely syndicated and working on a huge variety of subjects.
■ WHILE EVERY human being represents a whole world, there are those whose names or the names of their immediate relatives are engraved in the history of a country. One such person was writer Geulah Raphael, who died last week. Raphael was the only daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hakohen Maimon, the founder of the Mizrahi movement and one of the signatories of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. He was also Israel’s first religious affairs minister and one of the founders of the Rav Kook Institute.
Geulah Raphael was also the widow of Yitzhak Raphael, who was a member of Knesset and, like his father-in-law, a religious affairs minister. She was also the mother of the late Rabbi Shilo Raphael, who was head of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. Geulah Raphael, who was born in New York, wrote historical nonfiction about religious Zionism and biographies of religious Zionist leaders.
The reason that Raphael was born in New York is that her parents had been banished from the Land of Israel by the ruling Turkish administration. They returned to the Holy Land after the British conquest of Palestine, initially settling in Tel Aviv in 1919 and relocating to Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood in 1920.
During the riots of 1929, they were among three families that did not abandon their homes, despite the dangers posed from the adjacent Arab village of Lifta. Raphael was married in 1936 and later completed a teachers course, after which, in 1942, she graduated from the Hebrew University with a degree in general history and the history of the Land of Israel. She was active on the home front in the War of Independence and was for many years a central figure in Hapoel Hamizrahi. Seeking to honor her father, she wrote under the pen name of Ge’ulah Bat-Yehudah
■ NEARLY ALL major hotels in Israel, as well as several of lesser ranking, have charitable causes which they support. The Tel Aviv Hilton has more than one such cause, and every Hanukka for the past 23 years, in conjunction with Variety Israel, has held a festive reception for children with special needs and their families.
The reception this year was held in the hotel’s main lobby in the presence of hundreds of guests. They witnessed the candle- lighting ceremony and were moved by a blind young singer, Eden Taharany, who thrilled studio guests and television viewers when she performed on television in the Israeli version of The X Factor. Ori Slonim, chairman of Variety Israel, and Ronnie Fortis, director of Hilton Israel, were equally moved by the amazing quality of her voice. Following Eden’s performance, hotel staff distributed doughnuts and beverages to all present.
■ LONG BEFORE the proclamation of Israel’s Independence, the country had a violin virtuoso in the person of Haifa-born Ivri Gitlis, who was one of the very few Sabras, if not the only one, who possessed a Stradivari Sanci violin made circa 1715. Born to Russian immigrant parents in 1922, he was five years old when given his first violin, and only 10 when he gave his first recital.
When internationally acclaimed violinist Bronislaw Huberman, the founder of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, heard him play, he was so impressed with the boy’s talent that he sent him to study at the Conservatoire de Paris, where at age 13, he won the first prize in a competition. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Gitlis went to England, where he worked in a munitions factory, and subsequently joined the entertainment unit of the British Army.
He returned to Paris in 1951 and began giving concerts around the world and befriending the leading violinists and other great musicians of his time. He has played with the world’s most celebrated orchestras and has won many prizes. Not only is he a performer, but also an innovator. In 1972, he founded the Festival de Venice, and has also inspired and organized other prestigious musical projects.
In 1990, Gitlis became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in support of education, culture, peace and tolerance, though one suspects that he would have a problem with UNESCO today in view of its denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
He has given master classes and has been one of the instructors at Keshet Eilon in the Galilee, where every August young string instrumentalists from around the globe come together to play and to learn. Today at age 95, Gitlis continues to make music and on December 26 will be among the performers at a tribute concert in his honor at the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. Other performers will include Itamar Golan, Guy Braunstein, Bashara Hrouni, Gili Schwartzman, Ravital Raviv, Shmulik Atzmon and other wellknown performers. Entry to the concert, which begins at 8 p.m., is free of charge, but prior registration is required. Anyone wishing to attend should telephone (03) 546-6228.
■ IF ANYONE could get Teva out of its crisis, it would probably be some giant Chinese industrial conglomerate. China has already made considerable investments in Israel, primarily in hi-tech. There are also increasing numbers of Chinese students studying science and technology in Israel, and on Friday the Technion’s Guangdong Institute of Technology was inaugurated in China in a joint venture between the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Shantou University. The project is sponsored by the Li-Kashing Foundation, which gave it a $130 million kick-start.
Chinese investors are interested in more than hi-tech and also have the controlling interest in Tnuva dairy products. Teva has been active in China, but has not been as successful there as its former management had anticipated. That of course does not mean that the Chinese are not interested, but under the current situation it would cost Chinese investors a lot less to salvage the situation than it might have done three years ago.
Be that as it may, Chinese President Xi Jinping has mapped out a strategy that will make China the world’s foremost economic development, innovation and transformation leader by 2050. This long-range plan has greater chances of success than trying to create new facts on the ground in a hurry.
Although Israeli tourism to China and Israeli business ventures in China have increased, Israelis still do not know enough about China and the Chinese. In an attempt to overcome this lacuna, the Israel Asia Center organizes and hosts regular seminars in Israel with influential Chinese figures as speakers. Coming up on Sunday, December 24, at 9.30 a.m. at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is an inter-active panel co-hosted by the Israel Asia Center and the Chinese Media Center.
The panel discussion will focus on an in-depth exploration of the 19th Chinese Communist Party National Congress and its significance to the global economy: the “grim challenges” cited by President Xi at the Congress in October, the problems of economic reform with which China is currently grappling, the increasingly dominant role that China is playing on the global stage, and what this all means for Israel. Speakers will include Huang Shan, deputy managing editor, Caixin Media Group; Roi Feder, managing director, Israel - APCO Worldwide, and Alexander B. Pevzner, founding director, Chinese Media Center.
■ HOW CAN ISRAEL commemorate one of the darkest chapters in Jewish history, whose conclusion was in some respects in 1945, but will not really end until the last man or woman with an Auschwitz number tattooed on their forearm will die. Even then, it will not be over, because there are still second- and third-generation Holocaust survivors who are victims of the aftereffects endured by parents and grandparents.
Some people are able to go back in time to explore what happened to their families and to create a documentary film that will clarify many issues, even if it does not necessarily ease the pain. Filmmaker Robert Bober, now in his late eighties, went in search of his past and that of his great-grandfather, Wolf Leib Frankel, a Polish- born Jew who migrated to Vienna and died there in 1929, at a time when Vienna was still vibrant and had not yet been annexed by Germany.
Though the main focus of the documentary is Bober’s own family, the story is intertwined with the fate of Jewish intellectuals and also deals with Viennese life in the 1920s and early 1930s. The film will be shown at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Wednesday, December 20. Bober will be present to answer firstname.lastname@example.org