Grapevine: No free rides

Speculation as to who will run in the next mayoral race for Jerusalem continues to grow.

ORTHODOX JEW PILGRIM READS IN UMAN 521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)
■ THE ANNUAL exodus to the grave of Rabbi Nahman in Uman in Ukraine in the week prior to Rosh Hashana this year included fewer Breslov hassidim than in years past, even though Nahman, who died just over 200 years ago, is the ongoing source of their inspiration. The reason: the economic crisis has resulted in fewer free flight tickets.
Wealthy supporters of Breslov hassidim in the United Sates and Israel used to send vouchers for free tickets to the Jerusalem-based World Committee of Breslov Hassidim, whose members include Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the head of the Shuvu Banim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter of the old city. Berland was responsible for the distribution of the free tickets. On top of the economic crisis, Malev, the cash-strapped Hungarian national carrier that offered the cheapest flights to Uman closed down after 66 years of operation.
■ SPECULATION AS to who will run in the next mayoral race for Jerusalem continues to grow. Although Yisrael Beytenu’s David Rotem is not exactly a popular figure in some haredi circles, others regard him as a potential candidate and asked him to throw his cap into the ring. Rotem neither agreed nor disagreed. The decision will be that of party leader Avigdor Liberman who is out of favor with the haredim both for his call for the introduction of civil marriage and his insistence that haredim join the IDF and share the burden of ensuring national security.
Kadima’s Nachman Shai is still exploring his options. Way back in 1993, when it was thought that then-senior deputy mayor Amos Mar-Haim would succeed Teddy Kollek as mayor, Kollek dumped him because he was not sufficiently charismatic in relation to Likud contestant Ehud Olmert. Amid great fanfare, Kollek introduced Shai, the former IDF spokesman and former commander-in-chief of Army Radio, as his choice for mayor.
Politics was not yet Shai’s cup of tea and he backed out of the race a week later – and the rest is history. Now, after experience in the Knesset, he feels better equipped to fight the battles of local politics, but he wants to check out what kind of support he can rely on before he makes a final decision.
■ AMONG THE recipients of awards at the annual ceremony at the President’s Residence, where citations are given to the most outstanding IDF reserve units and the contributions of reservists to the IDF are recognized in the presence of their immediate families, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Chief of the Reserves Brig.-Gen. Shuki Ben-Anat was David Berlin. In private life Berlin is the administrative manager of Avney Resha, the Israeli Institute for School Leadership, which seeks to help school principals in their complex role as leaders and promoters of values and responsibility. Berlin, a lieutenant-colonel and battalion tank commander, at age 51, could just as easily say he’s done his duty for the army, but has opted to serve for as long as he is capable and for as long as he is permitted. He serves in the reserves for at least 100 days a year. He was one of 12 recipients of awards and delivered the acceptance address on behalf of his comrades in arms.
Working towards educational leadership is apparently a genetic calling. Berlin is the son of Roz and Moshe Berlin of Jerusalem. Moshe Berlin was for many years the Israel director of the Rothschild Foundation, known in Hebrew as Yad Hanadiv, and worked out of its Jerusalem office. In his address, Lt.-Col. Berlin said that he had served in the reserves for 29 years, 12 of them as a battalion commander. He noted the ratio of reservists who fought in the Second Lebanon War, as well as the fact that several of them paid the supreme sacrifice. In recent months, he noted, the subject of shared responsibility had become a major topic in Israeli discourse. Berlin expressed disappointment that not enough people are doing their share on behalf of the state, whereas the reservists, who come from all strata of Israeli society, were volunteering again and again.
He hoped that the introspection that is part of Jewish tradition during the month of Elul would prompt more people to take on the national responsibilities they have shirked to date.