Grapevine: Competing to be heard

This weeks roundup of current affairs.

Naomi Tsur 370 (photo credit: DANIEL K. EISENBUD)
Naomi Tsur 370
(photo credit: DANIEL K. EISENBUD)
■ WHEN A single candidate for office appears at a parlor meeting, the event is often a fund-raiser, in that it is assumed that most of the people present are supporters or potential supporters of that candidate. But when there is a panel discussion in which more than one candidate running for office participates, it should be free of charge. After all, these people want to be elected, and they’re appealing to the public while competing with each other for votes.
But this week’s meeting at AACI initially designed to engage with mayoral candidates and hear their vision for and commitment to a cleaner, greener and healthier Jerusalem, did not offer free entry. Members of the public were asked to pay NIS 30, reduced to NIS 20 for AACI or Jerusalem Green Fund members. As it was, those attending didn’t get to hear all the mayoral candidates, some of whom sent substitutes.
The event was organized by former deputy mayor Naomi Tsur, the founding executive chair of the Jerusalem Green Fund. She also chairs the Israel Urban Forum. While many agree that Jerusalem needs more parkland, especially during a period in which so much high-rise construction is going on, environmentalists should realize that the greening of Jerusalem should also include in its implementation public toilets in every park, large or small. It is ridiculous not to take into consideration that when relatively large numbers of people make use of parks for long periods of time, some of them will have a call of nature while they are there.
■ IN THE feminist world, German-born, London-educated and long-time Jerusalem-based educator, peace and reconciliation advocate and Israel Prize laureate Alice Shalvi, who founded the Israel Women’s Network, is a much admired icon. Now 92, she has recently published her autobiography Never a Native.
American journalist Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a former editor of Ms magazine, first met Shalvi just over 40 years ago during a visit to Jerusalem, and in reviewing Shalvi’s memoir and her personal knowledge of Shalvi, Pogrebin calls her in Tablet magazine “The most famous Israeli you’ve never heard of.” That is also the title of the article. She says that the average American Jew has never heard of Shalvi, and the unfortunate truth is that the average Israeli Jew hasn’t either. Only those who have been sufficiently fortunate to be taught by her, or to be her colleague or to listen to her eloquent addresses on various issues know at least a little about Alice Shalvi.
It’s not just Alice Shalvi whose name should be but isn’t a household word. Recently in conversation with the head of communications of major global Zionist organization, I mentioned a deeply involved and much publicized political figure, only to realize that the person I was talking to didn’t have a clue who I was talking about. It was the second time in less than a month that I mentioned a globally famous Jew to another Jew in a fairly responsible position who had never heard of that famous person, who was a highly respected writer and historian. Perhaps that’s why so many people reveal so much about themselves on Facebook. The fear of anonymity is apparently stronger than the desire for reticence.
■ THE BIRTHDAYS of outgoing Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are two days apart. Barkat was born on October 19 and Netanyahu on October 21. Both, though born in Israel, speak English with an American accent, but Netanyahu is somewhat more eloquent. Both had distinguished military careers and each is the son of a professor.
Netanyahu celebrated his 69th birthday and Barkat celebrated his 59th, and has made no secret of the fact that before he’s 69 he’d like to move into the house on the corner of Smolenskin Street and Balfour Road, even though his own house in Beit Hakerem is far more elegant.
Barkat is waiting until after the municipal elections to celebrate his birthday with a really big bash, even though 59 is not exactly a milestone year. But the Knesset election campaigns have already started, and Barkat is getting off to a good start towards inclusion on the Likud list with a so-called surprise party organized by his wife Beverly and scheduled for the first week of November at the Avenue Conference Center at Airport City. It will be a good occasion on which to congratulate Barkat’s successor, assuming that he’s invited. And if the Netanyahus are invited and happen to show up, it will be a real surprise party for Sara Netanyahu, who is celebrating a milestone birthday in the first week of November when she kisses the fifties goodbye.