Grapevine: A different Alexander technique

The 'Post’s' senior archivist Alexander Zvielli tells his story in the upcoming 80th anniversary supplement.

alexander zvielli (photo credit: (David Brauner))
alexander zvielli
(photo credit: (David Brauner))
■ THIS COMING Friday’s Jerusalem Post will include an 80th anniversary supplement in which Alexander Zvielli, the Post’s senior archivist, tells his own story, weaving it in with the history of the paper.
A milestone edition of any newspaper or magazine usually features a political or cultural leader or a Nobel Prize laureate on the cover. Israel has no shortage of prominent personalities from whom to choose. But none of them personally represent The Jerusalem Post – especially on its 80th anniversary. The person who comes closest is Zvielli, who has held a range of different positions at the paper and who, at 91, probably holds the record for being the oldest employee in Israel and the longest employed at one enterprise. Zvielli is a walking Google; no one needs to consult the Internet when he’s around. He still walks faster than most of the rest of us and he goes to the gym nearly every day. He represents knowledge, information, accuracy and endurance. He has gone the route from being a linotype operator to skimming an iPad.
It was only natural, therefore, that he should grace the cover of The Jerusalem Post 80th anniversary supplement.
It is a credit not only to him but to a series of publishers and owners of the paper that they recognized his special qualities and kept him on.
■ THE MENTION of the paper’s 80th anniversary in last Friday’s column elicited several responses – the first from Hilary Gatoff, who wrote,” I am the proud owner of THE PALESTINE POST printed in Jerusalem on Thursday, December 1, 1932. Kislev 2 –Shaban 2.) Price 10 Mils.”
It’s been a long time since that particular currency existed, and only people in a certain age group would remember it. The first issue of The Palestine Post, which then contained only eight pages, is not the only historical newspaper in Gatoff’s collection.
She has quite a store of historical newspapers of the 20th century.
But she does a lot more than collect old newspapers and is living proof that good things come in small packages.
Though petite in size, Gatoff has an impressive record of major achievements, including a documentary film about Mahal, the volunteers from around the world who came to fight with Israel in the War of Independence and who, in some cases, remained to help build the state. The film is part of the permanent Mahal exhibition at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People.
Gatoff, who has lived in Israel for 50 years, has also been active in the English- speaking theater in Tel Aviv, both as an actress and a producer.
She is a regular reader of the Post and knew the family of the paper’s founder, Gershon Agron, whose daughter was her neighbor in Zahala and whose grandson was in the same class as Gatoff's son in school..
■ ANOTHER RESPONSE came from Marlin Levin, who for many years was the Time Magazine bureau chief in Israel and who, prior to that, had worked for The Jerusalem Post. When he saw the photo of Gershon Agron in last Friday’s “Grapevine,” it stirred some nostalgia in him.
The story and photo took him back 65 years to September 1947, when he and his wife, Betty, ventured into downtown Jerusalem. “We were only in the city three days, having just arrived from the US Walking down Jaffa Road, Betty happened on to a colleague from the US, Mordechai Chertoff. After they exchanged greetings, he turned to me and asked me what I did. I said that I was a journalist.
Without explaining, he grabbed me by the shoulder and said, ‘Come with me.’ We walked up Hasolel St. (now Hahavatzelet), into “The Palestine Post” and the office of editor Gershon Agron.
“Gershon was reading gallies of copy. He looked up over his glasses, a cigarette lorgnette in one hand, and asked Mordy, ‘Who’s that?’ My friend introduced me as a journalist from Philadelphia. After asking me a couple of questions, Gershon ordered me to get into the newsroom and start working.
Nonplussed, I said that I had been in Jerusalem only a few days and wanted to see the country. Without looking up from the gallies, he asked, ‘How long do you want?’ “I said, ‘Three weeks.’ “Then, get back here to work when you’ve finished traveling,’ he said curtly.
“In three weeks I was back and worked at The Post under the finest, sharpest editor that I have ever known.”
■ ESRA, THE English Speaking Residents Association, will hold its Volunteer Award Event this evening at the Beit Weil Center in Kfar Shmaryahu and will honor 16 volunteers, two of whom will be receiving special Lifetime Awards – the first time such special awards are being presented. The first award will be to Barbara Blum, a retired dentist of 87 who “brings music wherever she goes,” putting together programs based on songs by popular singers of a bygone age and tells her own life story interspersed with music. She was, until recently, the chair of ESRA’s Herzliya branch. The second will be given posthumously to Ralph Lanesman, a retired chartered accountant who did much to ensure ESRA’s finances. His wife will receive the award on his behalf.
Guest speaker will be Miri Eisen, a retired IDF colonel with a background in political science who was the official spokesperson for the administration of Ehud Olmert. It will be interesting to see if she relates to Olmert’s remarks in the United States this week. Eisen’s mother, Annette Bodie, is one of the volunteers in charge of ESRA’s database and received her own ESRA award in 2010.
■ THE PREMIER screening of the new, award winning documentary, The Resort, hosted by the World Forum of Russian Jewry (WFRJ), took place last week at a screening room in New York’s Times Square. Attendees at the screening included Israel Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni; vice president of the American Forum of Russian Jewry Dr. Igor Branovan; director of the Anti- Defamation League New York region Ron Meier and Svetlana Portnyansky, producer of The Resort, which is about the Theresienstadt internment camp, used as a model by the Nazis to dispel rumors of extermination camps by giving the false impression that Jews were being held in resortlike conditions. The film demonstrates the lie behind the façade.
Approximately 90 percent of the Jews concentrated in Theresienstadt were murdered by the Nazis. By the end of the war, only 19,000 Jews had survived out of the 160,000 who had been sent to Theresienstadt.
“The Resort is a very important film that tells the unique story of the exceptional Jews of Theresienstadt who refused to allow the Nazis to break their communal spirit,” said WFRJ president Alexander Levin at a reception prior to the screening.
“This is a story everyone should know about, and WFRJ is proud to sponsor this important event to help share the story of these special Jews who, even when facing Nazi atrocities, maintained their hope and courage.”
The movie reveals an unexpected story of a congregation of the brightest minds and the most elite and well-regarded intellectuals and artists of the European Jewish world collectively refusing to accept the likelihood of their tragic fate and collaborating even under the harshest of circumstances.
These artists, poets, writers, philosophers and composers left behind mind-boggling evidence of the cultural grandeur experienced at Theresienstadt despite the circumstances under which they lived.
The Resort has already received its first award at the Houston International Film Festival and has been chosen to be shown at the Montreal World Film Festival.
■ ISRAEL RADIO’S political analyst and commentator Hanan Kristal, said that at the Likud primary he had seen portraits of Menachem Begin and Vladimir Jabotinsky on either side of the stage and at the Labor primary he’d seen portraits of Yitzhak Rabin and David Ben-Gurion, but in his view today’s Likud bears no resemblance to the ideology of Begin and Jabotinsky, and likewise today’s Labor has lost the ideology of Rabin and Ben-Gurion.
■ FORMER KNESSET Speaker Szewach Weiss, interviewed on Israel Radio on the day that the results of the Labor primary were announced, said that the primaries don’t have the excitement of yesteryear because party members who used to regard Labor headquarters as a community-cum-cultural center no longer hang out there on a regular basis the way they used to, and the buzz of eager anticipation of past years no longer exists..
■ OF ALL the gimmicks used in the Labor primary, supporters of Stav Shaffir probably came up with the most visible form of identification with their candidate. They wore red wigs.
■ NOT ONLY did the Likud princes lose their Knesset seats, but it seems that Dalia Itzik, the first and so far only woman to serve as Knesset speaker and acting president of the State, may, in this, her 20th anniversary year as a legislator, be kissing the Knesset goodbye. Itzik, who chairs the Kadima parliamentary group, remained loyal to the party, while others deserted the sinking ship to join forces with other parties and in some cases won realistic slots in both the Likud and Labor primaries. Itzik, who during her parliamentary career also served in three ministerial posts, has only a day left in which to decide whether she will remain with Kadima or will follow those who have defected and joined former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, whose photograph in animated discussion with outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Haim Saban at the Saban Forum in Washington over the weekend was plastered over much of the Israeli media. The photograph was doubtless good publicity for Livni in her campaign and hinted that Saban, who is most politically inclined and gives generously to many Israeli causes, may be one of her financial backers.
■ QUITE A number of Labor supporters voiced reservations about Merav Michaeli’s assured entry into the 19th Knesset on the grounds that her views are too far Left. Others were also concerned that her outspokenness and disdain for what is considered to be politically correct would be harmful to Labor’s image. On the other hand, it will be interesting to watch Michaeli tackle the shrewish Miri Regev, whose ranting in the Knesset and in radio and television interviews have caused many members of her gender to recoil in horror.
There should be quite a few interesting cat fights in the Knesset next year. Michaeli’s election to fifth slot only a little over a month after joining the Labor Party is in a sense a vindication of her grandfather Israel Kastner, who was assassinated in 1957 after being found guilty of collaborating with the Nazis. Michaeli, who was born nine years later, has lived in the shadow of that accusation for much of her life even though the court subsequently revoked its decision. By that time it was much too late for his family.
■ AS AN Australian-Israeli, the writer of this column was always proud of the fact that Australia cast the first ‘yes’ vote in November, 1947 when the United Nations voted on the partition of Palestine. She was not as happy on November 29 this year, when Australia abstained from voting because Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who wanted Australia to vote ‘no’ with regard to upgrading Palestinian status, was forced to yield to pressures within her party. There were mixed responses to the decision.
Here are some extracts from a speech delivered in Australia’s House of Representatives on that date by Liberal MP Tony Smith, who represents the electorate of Casey in Victoria: “In so many ways, the conflict between Israel and Hamas terrorists is a struggle between the enlightened values of a modern democracy and the beknighted values of mediaeval theocracy; a struggle between Jerusalem, where women serve as Supreme Court justices, and Gaza, where a woman’s sworn testimony is worth half that of a man’s; a struggle between a government that rules by the ballot and a government that rules by the bullet; a struggle between a society in which liberty of conscience is protected and a society in which freedom of speech is rejected.
At its essence it is a struggle between civilization and barbarism.
“These are harsh words, but it is time for some straight talk; time to assess the cold, hard facts in the cold, hard light of day. Those facts reveal that Hamas is an armed and dangerous terrorist movement with mass murder on its mind.
“It not only seeks the destruction of Israel as a political entity but also craves the extermination of every Jewish man, woman and child. You do not need to take my word for it.
Article 7 of the Hamas covenant declares: ‘… the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews… when the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” “In other words, the official doctrine of Hamas preaches that the coming of the Mahdi, the Islamic redeemer, will be ushered in by divinely inspired genocidal slaughter of the Jews.
“The movement is not very fond of gays either. Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar calls homosexuals 'a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.’ “Nor has the Arab Christian community of Gaza fared too well under Hamas rule. There has not been a Christmas tree in the central square of Gaza City since Hamas seized total power in 2007. A few years ago, the Palestinian Christian manager of a Gaza Bible Society bookstore was shot dead after being accused of evangelizing on behalf of his faith.
“The contempt shown by Hamas for the most fundamental principles of liberty should come as no surprise.
After all, no one should be surprised that theocrats do not turn out to be democrats. But what is astounding is the aid and comfort offered to hardline Islamic extremists by hardline Australian leftists.
“This past weekend, a few hundred protesters assembled in Sydney to denounce Israel for having the temerity to defend itself from incessant Hamas rocket fire. The Greens were there, Marxists were there and so were some jihadi sympathizers.
“While speaking on the Middle East, I would be remiss if I did not mention this government’s disgraceful reversal of policy at the United Nations. Foreign Minister Carr describes Australia’s decision to abstain from the General Assembly vote on the elevation of Palestine’s status as ‘a good compromise.’ But it was no compromise; it was a cavein.
It was a cave-in by a beleaguered prime minister prepared to sacrifice anything, including support for Israel, on the altar of her own political survival.
“We all want to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but this will only be possible when those pledged to Israel’s destruction finally see the error of their ways. The upgrade of Palestine’s status at the UN will set back the prospects of peace.”
■ ON THE local scene, it’s doubtful that Australian Ambassador Andrea Falkner had considered having a Hanukka party at her residence next week, but it may turn out that way at a reception that she will be hosting for an Australian delegation of neuroscientists who are coming to Israel under the Australia Israel Research Exchange agreement. The delegation will be led by Dr. Alan Finkel, chancellor of Monash University in Victoria and president-elect of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. Also in the delegation, which includes leading neuroscientists from ATSE, the Melbourne Brain Center, Neuroscience Research Australia, the Australian National University, the Mental Health Research Institute, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Queensland, the Australian Neuroscience Society, the University of Western Australia, Hunter New England Health and Florey Neuroscience Institute, will be Australian Neuroscience Society president Prof. John Rostas.
■ POLISH AMBASSADOR Jacek Chodorowicz has been keeping a low profile, but on Sunday, December 9, he will participate in a memorial tribute to famed Jewish educator Janusz Korczak, who, in August 1942, declined the offer to save himself and together with members of his staff, accompanied the children in his care to the notorious death camp of Treblinka.
Korczak, whose real name was Henryk Goldszmit, became a hero of both the Jews and the Poles.
His memory was perpetuated in postwar Poland, even at the height of anti-Semitism. During the period in which diplomatic relations between Israel and Poland were severed, Polish representatives nevertheless came to Israel for Korczak memorial events and Israelis went to Poland for the same reason.
Massua, the International Institute for Holocaust Studies, in conjunction with the Polish Institute is hosting a seminar to compare the ways in which Korczak is memorialized in Israel and in Poland. One of the speakers at the Massua tribute to Janusz Korczak will be Prof. Jacek Leociak, a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the deputydirector of the Korczak Heritage Research Institute. In the evening ,Chodorowicz will host a Hanukka party at his residence in keeping with a tradition established by his predecessor, Agnieszka Magdziak Miszewska, who throughout her tenure in Israel held a Hanukka party every year.
■ WOMEN HAVE broken through the glass ceiling in most professions and can be seen in executive positions in business, government, academia and in numerous institutions and organizations. A 200-strong representative gathering of such women met last Friday at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv under the auspices of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, and took delight in discovering in just how many fields women are being accepted on the basis of their talents, their know-how and their experience. One of the highlights of the meeting was women in top spots in different professions interviewing each other.
Among the interviewees were president of Hapoel Beersheba Football Club Alona Barkat and Yafit Greenberg, known professionally as Gimmel Yafit, who has become a television and radio fixture through the commercials she creates and stars in through her own advertising agency.
■ WHENEVER ISRAEL is in real trouble, Diaspora Jews show up in droves to lend moral and financial support. In most cases they are members of religious organizations.
This was particularly evident during the first and second intifadas, when many non-kosher restaurants around the country became kosher because they weren’t getting as much business as the kosher restaurants, which had a steady stream of diners from abroad.
Religious organizations, primarily from the United States, were in the forefront of solidarity missions during Operation Defensive Shield.
Some also came in the immediate aftermath to see where their help was needed. Among them was a large contingent of men and women from AMIT USA who came to Israel to identify with the country and with the citizens living under constant fear of rocket attacks. Last week the AMIT delegation paid a condolence call on the Amsalem family, whose son, Itsik was killed when a missile fired from Gaza struck their home in Kiryat Malachi.
AMIT president Debbie Isaac told the family that the group represented thousands of AMIT members in the US who both sympathized and empathized with their loss and who wanted them to know that, “When we heard that an AMIT graduate has been killed, we couldn’t stay away- we felt we had to be here. AMIT is a family and we felt we lost a son.” Isaac said that AMIT will grant Itsik’s brother, Shimon, a scholarship and will continue to aid him and his family after he graduates.
Itsik’s father, Chaim Amsalem, has told the group about the hardships the family had endured after the initial trauma.. “Apart from the shock over the terrible tragedy of Itsik’s death, our apartment is ruined. It’ll take a long time to rebuild it, but we are trying to go on nonetheless.” The family is currently staying in a hotel in Ashkelon and is finding it difficult to get back to normal life. Itsik’s mother is haunted by the fact that she was unable to drag Itsik to safety when the missile landed in their living room.
Itsik was a graduate of the AMIT school in Kiryat Malachi, where the delegation visited earlier in the day, met with students and heard from them about their experiences during the series of red alerts.
■ LEKET, THE National Food Bank founded by Joseph Gitler, will hold its annual gala on January 12, 2013 at Kibbutz Nir Eliyahu. In addition to marking nine years of promoting nutritional security for Israel’s needy, Leket will be honoring two individuals and one business group in recognition of their unstinting support.
Ruth Rappoport, who is known for embracing many worthy causes, will receive Leket's True Friend Award, while Gershon Simkins will be the recipient of the Distinguished Volunteer Award.
The Strauss Group will receive the Award for Corporate Social Change. The Strauss Group was partially responsible for the rise of the social justice movement, whose members were not prepared to pay the high cost of cottage cheese and other dairy products. It must be noted that Ofra Strauss, who heads the Strauss Group, is involved with numerous philanthropic causes. But some people can’t see past their cottage and automatically brand tycoons as heartless money-grabbers instead of taking note of the fact that they also give money to worthy causes.
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