Grapevine: A time for remembering

It’s a season for remembering both the good things and the bad things that happened to our people.

Hideo Sato, Uriel Lynn and Shai Hermesh 390 (photo credit: Federation Chambers of Commerce)
Hideo Sato, Uriel Lynn and Shai Hermesh 390
(photo credit: Federation Chambers of Commerce)
■ IN SYNAGOGUES around the world last Saturday, regardless of what stream of Judaism was followed by congregants, the common denominator was the reading of the Torah portion: Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey out of Egypt. Many newspaper and electronic media commentators drew a parallel between Amalek and Ahmadinejad, while others also compared Haman to Ahmadinejad. It’s a season for remembering both the good things and the bad things that happened to our people.
For instance when we commemorate the passing of great leaders, their death is a bad thing, but the lives they lived often serve as inspiration. Over the past month we have commemorated the milestone anniversaries of the deaths of Lechi leader Avraham “Yair” Stern and Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
This week, we commemorated the 92nd anniversary of the death of Josef Trumpeldor, who fell in battle in defense of Tel Hai. Ninety-two is not a milestone number, but the reason that the anniversary of Trumpeldor’s demise became news was the victory of the Trumpeldor taxi drivers, who waged a battle no less heroic than that of the Zion Mule Corps, of which Trumpeldor was one of the pioneers.
According to a story in Yediot Aharonot, the Trumpeldor Taxi Company, located in Trumpeldor Street, Tel Aviv, was acquired by the Sufa Taxi company which wanted to change the name of its acquisition from Trumpeldor to Sufa. This pained all the veteran taxi drivers who perceived it as desecrating Trumpeldor’s memory. Their protest was initially to no avail. What saved the day was the calendar. The changing-of-the-guard ceremony was scheduled for the 11th of the Hebrew calendar month of Adar, which happens to be the date of Trumpeldor’s death.
A delegation of veteran taxi drivers went to see Sufa CEO Moshe Shirazi to ask him to change the date. Shirazi was moved by their plea. The ceremony would go ahead as scheduled, he said, but this branch of the company’s operations would continue to be called Trumpeldor Taxis.
■ BACK TO milestone commemorations: On March 12 and 13, the National Library on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus will host a conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the passing of Gershom Scholem, the great scholar of Kabbala and Jewish mysticism. Jewish tradition tells us that one must be a remarkably good scholar to get a proper grasp of Kabbala. In Scholem’s case, this was particularly pertinent because he did not have the religious background for the study of Kabbala. He came from a totally assimilated German-Jewish family.
■ IT’S DOUBTFUL whether on March 25, the family of renowned historian Benzion Netanyahu will place 102 candles on his cake for him to blow out, but they’ll certainly make the most of the triple-digit occasion.
The centenarian happens to be the father of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
■ HAD HE lived, Yitzhak Rabin would have celebrated his 90th birthday last Thursday. Rabin’s bureau chief Eitan Haber, who is a columnist for Yediot Aharonot, was the guest anchor of a regular program on Israel Radio which different journalists are invited to anchor each week. Like Dan Patir, Haber was the servant of two very different political masters – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.
Whereas Patir had been an adult when he served as media adviser to each man when they were prime ministers, Haber had been a child when he served Begin, and an adult when he served Rabin. Haber’s father was a revisionist, who was a devout follower of Begin’s, and had taken the boy along to political rallies. At one rime, Haber had the task of riding ahead of Begin during a campaign rally to announce that he was on the way.
Haber, who joined Yediot Aharonot after completing his army service, specialized in reporting on military affairs, and when Rabin was defense minister, he took him on as adviser. During the period of Rabin’s second stint as prime minister, he was invited to visit Russia. No leading Israeli figure had visited Russia since before the 1997 Six Days War, after which the Soviet Union had severed relations, which did not resume until after Perestroika.
When Russian ambassador Alexander Bovin inquired if there were any special requests, Haber, who since childhood had been impressed by the exploits of the Red Army, asked whether it was possible for Rabin to address the general staff. He did this before he had even consulted with Rabin, thinking that the Russians were not likely to accede. But surprise, surprise, Bovin returned with a positive reply.
Although Haber wrote many of Rabin’s speeches, on this occasion, Rabin did not ask him to do so, and until he actually heard the address, Haber was unaware of what Rabin’s topic would be. Rabin chose to talk about the Six Days War. Haber was somewhat nonplussed. Of all the topics that Rabin could have spoken about, why this one?
As soon as they were alone, Haber lost no time in asking him. Rabin reminded him of the support that the Soviet Union had given to the Arab States during the Six Days War. Rabin’s intention was to subtly drive home the fact that tiny Israel had not only vanquished the Arab armies, but had also triumphed over the Red Army.
By the way, Haber has a birthday coming up next week. He will turn 72 on March 12.
■ WHILE ON the subject of Rabin, his grand-daughter-in-law Shiri Benartzi , who is married to his grandson Jonathan Benartzi, has made quite a reputation for herself in Israel’s art world. A visual arts graduate of New York University, and a leading gallerist in Israel, Benartzi together with Aya Shoham, founded ArtSation Production, which is dedicated to creating projects in the arts, and initiating public-theme exhibitions and projects that feature varying perspectives in the realm of art.
Their upcoming project is ArtFi – a fine art and finance conference that aims to strengthen the Israeli art market as a business and investment arena. Despite the global economic crisis they say the art market is showing signs of investor confidence. This global success has directly impacted the flourishing Israeli market. In addition to a bevy of new galleries, Israeli developers have invested in art-themed hotels, and attendances at art fairs and exhibitions are on the rise. Israelis have realized the importance of supporting the arts and their local artist community.
Israeli corporate and philanthropic investors continue to invest in emerging young artists and understand the importance of supporting Israel’s invigorating cultural awakening. With this in mind, Benartzi and Shoham want to utilize fine art as yet another means of boosting Israel’s economy, and have therefore organized the ArtFi Conference which will take place at various Tel Aviv venues including Jaffa Port and the newly refurbished Hasbima Theater on March 20-21.
Speakers at the conference will include Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai; Michael Moses, founder of The Mei/Moses Art Index; Moti Shniberg, founder of Artist Pension Fund ; Al Brener, CEO of; Gil Brandes, founder and managing partner of Artpartners Art Fund; Rivka Saker, chairman and Founder of Artis; Ben Clark, director of business at EMERI, Christie’s; Adriano Picinati di Torcello, director of art and finance at Deloitte Luxemborg; Dr. Renate Wiehager, head of Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin; Uzi Dayan, chairman of Mifal Hapayis, Israel’s national lottery; as well as other gallery owners and collectors.
Organizers are hoping that James Snyder, the director of the Israel Museum, will also join the speakers.
■ THE ANNUAL Yung Yidish traditional subversive Purimshpiel starring Mendy Cahan, Polina Belisovski and other popular figures from the Yiddish entertainment circuit will take place this evening, Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Yung Yidish at the YY Jerusalem branch in Yermiyahu Street, Romema. The event will include an amusing reading of the Megilla, community singing and alcoholic refreshments.
■ YIDDISH AFFICIANADOS should be aware that the fourth Yiddish Festival on the Dead Sea will take place from March 18-21 at the Leonardo Club Hotel. Mendy Cahan will MC the event. Avraham Burstein and his Klezmer band will provide some of the musical entertainment.
But the star of the festival will be Hava Alberstein whose Yiddish repertoire is simply amazing. There will be several other well-known singers and musicians, as well as stand-up comedians. Aside from that there will be pick-up points throughout the country from places as far north as Nahariya, and as far south as Beersheba, to bus festival attendees to the Dead Sea. Information about the complete program, reservations, contact information for personnel in local areas etc., can be obtained from [email protected] or by telephoning 057-2794873 or 052-3201834.
■ AN UNUSUAL ceremony took place in Tel Aviv last week when members of the Dajani family gathered in Jaffa to pay tribute to the memory of Fouad Ismail Dajani, a highly-respected physician who in 1933 founded the Dajani Hospital in Jaffa, which took care of the medical needs of both Arabs and Jews.
The Dajani family can trace its history in the Holy Land back more than 500 years. Much of that time was spent in Jerusalem, but the family has branched out to different parts of the country, to Ramallah and to countries around the globe. Those who fled in 1948, thinking to return after the fighting was over, were not permitted to do so until last month (and then, only as visitors) when at the invitation of the Tel Aviv Municipality, some of them and their offspring came to honor Dajani, in whose memory the municipality has named a square. Among those attending were some of Dajani’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The person responsible for enabling them to enter Israel is Tel Aviv retired architect Samuel Giler, who after seeing a television documentary by Esther Dar about the reunion of two Jewish Israelis and two Palestinian Arabs who as girls shared a room in the same Anglican boarding school for four years, and who in their 70s returned to the scenes of their childhood, was incensed by the complaint of one of them, who happens to be Dajani’s eldest daughter, that there was no headstone on her father’s grave. Dajani died in 1940.
Giler was outraged that there was no proper memorial for a man of Dajani’s prestige who had done so much for his community, regardless of political or religious persuasion. There were Jewish doctors and nurses working in his hospital alongside their Arab colleagues. Giler mounted a decade-long campaign which resulted not only in the minimal honor Dajani deserved, but in something that will remind the whole of the population of Tel Aviv-Jaffa that Palestinians, as well as Jews, were making positive contributions to the development of the city. The ceremony was attended by Mayor Ron Huldai and some of the members of the City Council.
■ NOT EVERYONE welcomes a slap in the face. But it’s a well known fact, certainly among Shas adherents, that a slap by Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is a sign of approval and affection. Thus when former Shas minister Shlomo Ben Izri was released from prison last week, he wasted little time in going to Yosef for a blessing. He got more than he bargained for. He also got a slap in the face, which was as good a coming- out gift as he could hope for. In return, he kissed the rabbi’s hand. President Shimon Peres has received several slaps from the rabbi.
■ BULGARIAN AMBASSADOR Yuri Sterk deviated from the usual hotel venues at which heads of foreign missions host their national-day receptions and celebrated his country’s 134th Independence Day at the Dan Accadia Hotel, Herzliya. Most ambassadors who host such celebrations outside their residences choose the Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv; the David Intercontinental Tel Aviv; the Dan Tel Aviv; the Carlton Tel Aviv; the Sheraton Tel Aviv; Herods Tel Aviv; or the Tel Aviv Hilton.
As most of the diplomatic community lives in Herzliya Pituah, Sterk brought the celebration closer to home. Representing the government was National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau who praised Bulgaria as a ray of light in the darkness for having protected its Jewish community during the Holocaust.
Among the prominent Israelis of Bulgarian background who attended the reception were popular author Michael Bar Zohar and actor and electronic-media personality Alex Ansky. Also among the guests was Moni Bar, the honorary consul for Bulgaria, who noted that as a result of the political crisis between Israel and Turkey, and the resultant decline in Israeli tourism to Turkey, Bulgaria has become a much more attractive destination. Some 360,000 Israelis are expected to visit Bulgaria this year he said, which is double the number who visited in 2011. Several travel organizations, as well as hassidic groups, have arranged for Passover tours to Bulgaria where the hotel kitchens will be made kosher for Passover.
■ ALTHOUGH THIS is his third time in Israel, and it is generally known that he is a fluent Hebrew-speaker, Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato continues to surprise those people who were unaware of his linguistic abilities. At the conference organized by JETRO, the Japanese Export Institute, at the Tel Aviv Hilton attended inter alia by Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Shai Hermish, who heads the Israel Japan Parliamentary Friendship League, Lynn commended Sato for being the best Hebrewspeaker among all the foreign diplomats. Sato may have some competition from US Ambassador Dan Shapiro who is also a fluent Hebrewspeaker, but Sato has the better accent.
By the way, one should be careful not to make derogatory remarks in the presence of foreign diplomats. It is quite surprising how many of them have managed to get a fairly good grasp of Hebrew, even if they haven’t achieved the fluency of Sato and Shapiro.
■ EVEN THOUGH he has been designated as Israel’s next ambassador to China. Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai will first experience the lot of the Irish. No, he’s not being posted briefly to the Emerald Isle. But he is scheduled to be among the guests at the St Patrick’s Day reception that will be hosted by Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly and his wife on March 15.
It won’t be the only St Patrick’s Day celebration in Israel. The Israel Ireland Friendship Association is stretching Purim to combine it with Paddy’s Day on March 18 and its annual reunion replete with Irish music, song and dance at Murphy’s new Irish Pub in Sderot Giborei Israel in the new industrial center of Netanya accessible from the Poleg interchange.
March is always an Irish month but will be even more so this year.
Other Irish events include a National Library of Ireland Travelling Exhibition on Ireland’s most famous poet and Nobel Prize laureate William Butler Yeats which will be on view till the end of the month at the Sourasky Central Library at Tel Aviv University; a March 20 program of selected readings from Yeats’ poetry organized by the Embassy in cooperation with TAU’s Theater Studies department; and the annual Irish Film Festival that is held at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa Cinematheques in cooperation with the Irish Film Institute.
This year’s festival runs from March 27-31 in Tel Aviv, with subsequent screenings at other cinematheques. The Embassy is also trying to arrange screenings in Sderot, Rosh Pina and Nazareth, with subtitles in Arabic for Nazareth audiences. The films are relatively recent. With the exception of one that was made in 2010 all were released in 2011.