Celebrating Passover in different ways

High-ranking Australian visitors, chocolate, technology and more during the Passover week.

From Left, Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Yaniv Stenger and Dudu Vaknin joint owners of Max Brenner Israel. (photo credit: Courtesy)
From Left, Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Yaniv Stenger and Dudu Vaknin joint owners of Max Brenner Israel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
• On Shabbat Hagadol, the Shabbat before Passover, English-speaking residents of Yemin Moshe, Talbiyeh, Rehavia and Sha’arei Hessed and surrounds flock annually after morning services to the Yeshurun synagogue, where Rabbi Ari Berman delivers a philosophical lecture based on certain elements of the festival. The event is cosponsored by the Great Synagogue, whose members may have had a problem in getting to the lecture on time this year. The guest of honor at the Great Synagogue’s service was Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who began his sermon minutes before the event with Berman was due to start. Congregants who left early could use the excuse that they couldn’t hear the chief rabbi, because unlike Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who spoke in the early evening, he has not mastered the gift of voice projection. Berman doesn’t have that problem and delivered an interesting thesis on the order of importance of the four sons, saying that the odd man out was the wicked son because the other three were judged on their intelligence, whereas the wicked son was judged in accordance with his character.
• For North African Jewish communities, as soon as one festival ends, another begins. Immediately after Passover, North African Jews, primarily those from Morocco, celebrate the Mimouna, which is the ultimate example of hospitality, fraternity and friendship. With the exception of moufletas, Moroccan crepes made with regular flour, all the delicacies, including a variety of nougat candies and meringues, are made during the intermediate days of Passover because they do not contain any forbidden ingredients. Tables are set with symbols of fertility and good fortune. There are many people of Moroccan background in Jerusalem who along with relatives, friends and acquaintances also host total strangers in their homes.
The central Mimouna celebration, organized by the Jerusalem-headquartered World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, will this year be held in Ramat Eshkol in the synagogue adjacent to the home of former Sephardi chief rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar.
Federation chairman Sam Ben-Chitrit has been at the forefront of the dissemination of Moroccan Jewish culture, and it was at his initiative that the first Mimouna mega-celebrations were held in this country.
• Jerusalem's own Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Robert Aumann last week added yet another award to his lengthy trophy list. Aumann won the Lev Prize, which is awarded every three years in memory of physicist and Torah scholar Prof. Ze’ev Lev, founder of The Jerusalem College of Technology. The award, jointly organized by JCT and Bar-Ilan University, is in recognition of people who have successfully combined Torah study with modern life and respect for others in their daily life.
• While the future of the Hadassah University medical centers in Ein Kerem and on Mount Scopus is being hotly debated, a new exhibition, “A Medical Diagnosis,” will open at the Tower of David Museum on April 30. The exhibition, curated by Dr. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, takes a broad and original look at the struggle for a healthy life in the holy city over centuries from the period of King David to the contemporary history of Hadassah and Shaare Zedek. The exhibition takes into account the types and uses of cures that have survived from biblical times to the present day, and also notes the effects of sickness and plague on history. Exhibits have been brought from around the world, and many are being shown to the public for the first time. Among the artifacts are photo albums from the Rothschild Archives in England, the door knocker from the Order of St John’s hospital (lent by the Order of St. John in London) which according to belief came from the original Crusader hospital, lotions and potions, diaries of nurses and doctors from the early 20th century and cuddly toys from 1908 that made children smile despite their illness.
Every artifact tells a distinct story.
• Former OC Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu, whose current positions include that of co-chair of the Board of Governors of Beit Hatfutsot, was joined by his significant other, Ravit Tarlovski, in hosting a gala reception in honor of the launch of the new Museum of the Jewish People. The museum is largely being financed by philanthropist Leonid Nevzlin, a member of the Board of Governors who was present for the launch, as was his daughter Irina Nevzlin Cogan, who chairs Beit Hatfutsot’s Board of Directors. Also present were Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri and Patrick Gelbar, the new museum’s designer.
• Israeli chocolate maker Max Brenner, whose franchisee the Strauss Group has opened several stores in Australia, was three years ago subjected to violent boycott demonstrations there by pro-Palestinians, who continue to call for boycotts of Israeli brand names. Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, who has been an outspoken advocate for Israel, during a visit to Israel last week made a point of sitting in a Max Brenner coffee bar and chocolate shop on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Others at her table included Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, as well as Yaniv Stenger and Dudu Vaknin, the joint owners of Max Brenner Israel, who asked staff to bring several items from the new menu to the table. Gillard said that she was fond of Max Brenner chocolates and had even bought some as gifts from one of the Australian outlets.
• Another high-ranking Australian visitor to Israel was Assistant Minister for Defense Stuart Robert, heading a delegation of business and academic leaders. His itinerary included a visit to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to look at what the university is doing in terms of innovation, entrepreneurship and defense, including its role in fostering the development of hitech industries in the Negev.
The delegation met with Netta Cohen, CEO of BGN Technologies, the university’s technology transfer company, as well as researchers from the Telekom Innovation Laboratories at BGU who focus on cyber security. They also met with Prof. Dan Blumberg, R&D VP and dean (elect) and head of the Homeland Security Institute, and visited Prof. Hugo Guterman’s Autonomous Robotics Laboratory.  THE HOUSING problem in Tel Aviv is so acute that even people in their mid-30s who are reasonably well off sometimes have to move back into their parents’ homes. That’s the case with actor Yehuda Levi, who after splitting up from Ninet Tayeb last August and moving out of the apartment they shared together, has not yet been able to find a permanent abode in Tel Aviv. So for the time being, he’s living with his parents in Netanya. Levy was among the celebrities who figured in a recent police round-up of marijuana users. It’s not certain whether he will also be smoking joints in Netanya.
• In Givatayim last week at a Dun & Bradstreet-sponsored forum of Israeli mayors, much of the discussion focused on the shortage of affordable housing. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said that there was plenty of affordable housing in peripheral cities and towns, but that people will not buy homes in these places unless the government invests more in peripheral areas. In general, people will buy homes in places where they can get jobs, he said, and if the government does not create the infrastructure for increased job opportunities, the demand will remain largely where it is now – in Tel Aviv.
• Bnei Dekalim families, mostly former Gush Katif residents from Neveh Dekalim, who live in the Lachish region, close to Kiryat Gat, once again received a generous donation for Passover from The American Friends of Yisrael Hatzair, under the leadership of Meir Mishkoff in New York. The group works in close cooperation with the Israel branch of the International Young Israel Movement. The two organizations have been helping the Gush Katif evacuees for almost nine years. The first 20 families of the community have finally moved into their new homes, and many other houses are currently under construction. By the time stage A of the project is completed there will be 150 houses in Bnei Dekalim.
Prior to the start of the holiday period, Daniel Meyer, executive director of IYIM Israel, visited the Bnei Dekalim community to present a check to ensure that all the families there would be able to purchase necessities for Passover.