Grapevine: Lessons of the past

There were several Jerusalemites among the guests at the American Independence Day-cum-farewell party hosted by US Ambassador James Cunningham and his wife, Leslie.

yaakov neeman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yaakov neeman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ THE DAY did not start well for Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman on Thursday of last week. Neeman decided to go to Hebron for morning prayers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs on the eve of the Hebrew month of Tamuz. He did not expect it to be a humiliating experience.
But then extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman shouted at Neeman and asked how he dared show his face in Hebron after having been involved in the decision for police to ambush Rabbi Dov Lior and take him in for questioning. As it happens, Neeman was not directly involved in the decision.
Some of those present declared they wouldn’t pray together with Ne’eman and left. Then right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir began heckling Neeman who, surrounded by security personnel, stayed put until the conclusion of the service.
The experience may later have served Neeman’s interests for two other events that day. One was a ceremony at Beit Morasha’s Israel Institute for Conversion Policy where 20 neighborhood rabbis and heads of yeshivot marked the completion of an intensive one-year training course that will spare would-be converts with whom they come into contact some of the harrowing and humiliating experiences they have endured through the Chief Rabbinate.
The other was a book launch at Mishkenot Sha’ananim of Rene H. Levy’s book Baseless Hatred, published by Gefen, which is a study on how this emotion impacts people’s relationships with each other and the world around them. Neeman, one of the speakers at the launch, called for an end to baseless hatred in Israeli society.
Referring to former Knesset Speakers MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima) and Szewach Weiss (Labor), who were both present, Neeman said, “We all want the same thing: to prevent hatred in Israeli society – especially this week. After all we’ve seen with Rabbi Lior’s refusal to be investigated and the reactions of his supporters, this message is more relevant than ever. If we don’t do something to restrain violence and hatred in Israel, our society will be torn apart.”
Referring specifically to the book, Ne’eman commented, “Ironically, after a day like today, we are discussing a book that offers insights about the issue of hatred in the Jewish world and offers solutions. If the book was published only for a week like this one – dayenu!” Using the Hebrew term for baseless hatred, Itzik voiced support for Ne’eman saying, “You suffered from sinat hinam today in Hebron. This was perpetrated by people purporting to represent Jewish tradition. I don’t believe this is what Jewish ethics is supposed to look like. I don’t think God approves.”
■ TO CELEBRATE the fact that her husband Ben Corn was among the recipients this week of the President’s Prize for Volunteerism in recognition of his commitment to and impact of Life’s Door-Tishkofet- Maagan on Israeli Society, his wife Dvora (Phyllis) who is also his partner in this endeavor that puts quality into the lives of the terminally ill and their families and enables them to face the inevitable with a sense of tranquility, organized a gala celebration at their home in Ramot with the participation of family, friends, beneficiaries and supporters.
■ THE JERUSALEM Great Synagogue is expanding its outreach programs.
In addition to bar and bat mitzva ceremonies for children from the Ethiopian community, invitations to soldiers undergoing the IDF conversion course to join congregants and other guests at the annual Independence Day gala dinner, monthly dinners for Lone Soldiers, occasional functions for young singles and its monthly winter lecture programs in English, the Great Synagogue is now reaching out to young people with cancer, 50 of whom will tonight participate in Shabbat services and will be feted at a dinner afterwards. They will also participate in services tomorrow, after which they will be hosted in the homes of various members of the congregation for lunch.
■ THERE WERE several Jerusalemites among the guests at the American Independence Day-cum-farewell party hosted by US Ambassador James Cunningham and his wife, Leslie. One of them, peace and interfaith activist Elana Rozenman, was leaving at the same time as Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. “We all sleep better since you became chief of staff,” she told him. “I don’t,” replied Gantz.