Grapevine April 28, 2019: German Foreign Ministry underwrites Holocaust memorial concert

A round-up of news from around Israel.

April 27, 2019 22:19
Grapevine April 28, 2019: German Foreign Ministry underwrites Holocaust memorial concert

An exterior view of the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum. (photo credit: TIMOTHY HURSLEY)

Many Holocaust survivors and their descendants still have difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that Israel has diplomatic relations with Germany and accepted what they consider to be blood money in reparations, without which Israel would not be where it is today. On the other hand, thousands of Israelis have chosen to live Germany, as have thousands of Jews of the former Soviet Union, and several German foundations and organizations operate in Israel. Young Germans come to spend anything from a week to a year in Israel engaging in welfare activities with Holocaust survivors, as well as with adults and children with severe disabilities – people who would most certainly have been murdered under the Nazi administration. To date, the German Embassy has attended Holocaust memorial events, but has rarely been actively involved. This year, for the first time, it is working in conjunction with Yad Vashem and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, which presents an annual concert in memory of Holocaust martyrs and heroes. The German Federal Foreign Office has undertaken to pay for the cost of the production of The Janusz Korczak Symphony written by German composer Oskar Gottlieb Blarr, which will be at the heart of the concert, and it will also include works by Haydn and Mahler. German conductor Gerhardt Müller-Goldboom will conduct the orchestra. The concert will take place in the Rebecca Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theater on Tuesday, April 30, at 6 p.m. It can also be heard on radio FM 91.3

■ ON THURSDAY, May 2, the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv will host a special screening at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque of the film Touch of an Angel, a doco-feature about
Henryk Schoenker, who was a boy in Oswiecim, better known to the world as Auschwitz, which he revisits, and remembers the horror that stained his town forever. Schoenker is there in the flesh, but there is also a cast of actors to help the viewer gain a deeper insight into what Schoenker shares. Marek Tomasz Pawlowski, who wrote and directed the film, and producer Malgorzata Walczak will be present to participate in a panel discussion. If time permits, there may also be a Q&A session.

■ IT LOOKS as if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or whoever finally ends up with the Foreign Ministry, will not be replacing Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the US, any time soon. Dermer is scheduled to be the Emet Award honoree at the annual CAMERA Gala Dinner in New York on Sunday, June 2, to celebrate “The Promise of Israel and the Battle for Truth.” Dermer is Israel’s 18th ambassador to the US, and the second native-born American to serve in the position. He succeeded Michael Oren, who served from 2009-2013. The longest-serving ambassadors were Abba Eban, the second ambassador, who served from 1950-1959, and the third ambassador, Avraham Harman, who served from 1959-1968.

■ OF ALL the Israel Eurovision laureates, Dana International is best known not only for her singing but for her fashion flair. The Jean-Paul Gaultier gown she wore when she won in Birmingham in 1998 may be surpassed this year with another JPG creation. The singer was reportedly seen in Paris just over a week ago dining with the famous designer who has made other outfits for her, and who may outdo himself in what she wears next month.

■ IT’S SOMEWHAT difficult to reconcile the role of the handsome haredi widower that Yiftach Klein played in Fill the Void with the brash beardless lawyer that he plays in the recently released Love in Suspenders, starring Yehuda Barkan and Nitza Shaul with other well-known Israeli actors Shlomo Bar-Abba, Ilan Dar and Gabi Amrani. It’s interesting to note that all of the above, with the exception of Klein, are senior citizens ranging in age from their late 60s to mid 80s, but are all still easily recognizable, whereas many people go through an incredible transformation as the years go by and sometimes bear little resemblance in their third age to the way they looked in their second and first ages. Prince Charles, for instance, looks entirely different from the young royal who married Diana, yet his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, even at 97, simply looks like an older version of himself as a young man. It’s quite fascinating to observe who changes radically and who remains more or less the same, gaining slightly in weight, but losing in height. It’s also interesting to see how many women, once they go gray, dye their hair blonde, rather than the color it was originally. By the way, anyone who doubts that senior citizens are past the falling-in-love age, should go to see Love in Suspenders, which demonstrates that no one is too old to be attracted to someone else.

■ BAND LEADER and singer Kobi Oz, who has a regular weekly radio program, recently interviewed Dov Henin, who stepped down from being a Meretz MK. Henin said he was sorry that Yehudah Glick, formerly a Likud MK, will not be serving in the next Knesset. Even though their political viewpoints are at opposite ends of the totem pole, the two are friends, admire each other and worked closely to try to eliminate advertisements for cigarettes.

Just because someone thinks differently from you doesn’t make him a bad person, said Henin. “Everyone has some good in them – even the worst of people, and we should all try to find the good in each other.”

■ THE ITALIAN Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv in collaboration with Bialik House will host a panel discussion on the 18th century essay “On Crimes and Punishments,” written by Italian criminologist Cesare Baccaria to mark both a new translation in Hebrew by Prof. Eldar Shachar, published by Shalem Press, and the 100th anniversary of the birth of eminent Italian-Jewish poet and novelist and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi. Participants in the discussion to be moderated by Alex Ansky include Shachar, Dr. David Gurevich, Prof. Moshe Zuckerman and Dr. Smadar Shiffman. Some of Levi’s poems have been set to music with arrangements by Frank London and Shay Bechar. They will be sung by Charlette Ottolenghi, accompanied by Bechar on the piano. The event will take place at Bialik House on Thursday, May 2, at 8 p.m.

■ WHEN FORMER action-movie hero turned governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Israel in May 2004, to attend the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Museum of Tolerance, which is still under construction in Jerusalem, there were subsequent protests by representatives of the Muslim community, as well as by various Jewish groups, because the museum is sitting on the site of a Muslim cemetery. Rabbi Marvin Hier, known as Donald Trump’s rabbi, was offered alternative sites, but none in downtown Jerusalem, so he insisted on staying put, and when the case went to court, Hier won. As a result, the museum is referred to by many Jerusalem locals as the “museum of intolerance.” The remains of those deceased whose graves were in the way of construction were transferred elsewhere. But in the area beyond there are still graves with tombstones that serve as a grim reminder of how easy it is to sacrifice respect in the name of progress.

Haaretz reported last week that the Supreme Court has ordered the Tel Aviv Municipality to freeze construction of the homeless shelter that it had begun to build the previous week over a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa. The freeze came in the wake of a petition to the court by the Islamic Council. The municipality claimed that it was acting legally and in consideration of the sensitivities of the residents. According to the report a little over a year ago the city began to demolish a structure on Elisabeth Bergner Street in Jaffa. The building, dating from the Ottoman period, was being used as a shelter for the homeless. The city planned to build a three-story structure on the site to include a new center for the homeless, plus storefronts. But when the demolition process began, 30 tombs containing human bones were discovered. The manner of burial and other historical data indicated that this was a Muslim cemetery from the Ottoman period. Work was halted immediately after the remains were found, and the Antiquities Authority came in to excavate.

Numerous Jaffa residents, including members of the Islamic Council, protested the construction and entered the site, finding what they said was “a horrifying picture.” Dozens of graves had been opened, they said, some containing the remains of adult humans and children. The site was filled with a very large quantity of cartons and buckets containing human bones and skulls that were to be removed and buried elsewhere. The protesting residents immediately began to rebury the remains in the graves from which they had been removed, and to map them. The Islamic Council then poured concrete at the site and built tombstones over each of the graves. The executive committee of the Islamic Council, which protects properties administered by religious trusts and holy places, began futile talks with the city, which rejected a compromise proposal whereby the building would be constructed on pillars above the surface of the cemetery so as to prevent damage to the tombs.

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