Grapevine: Shimon Peres opens the ‘Box’

A round up of Jerusalem news.

Former president Shimon Peres at the Peres Peace House, on the shores of Jaffa (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former president Shimon Peres at the Peres Peace House, on the shores of Jaffa
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
♦ Five years ago when he was president of the state, Shimon Peres was one of the guests of honor together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the gala opening of the revamped Israel Museum. Peres will again be the guest of honor on Monday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Ruth Youth Art Wing for Art Education ceremony for “Exhibition in a Box,” which is part of the Israel Museum’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Later that evening, there will be the launch of a new display of Israeli art in the museum’s Israeli Art Galleries.
♦ On Sunday, May 10, the Israel Museum will be the venue for a somewhat different event. Over the past decade, Jerusalem has undergone tremendous change. People who have not visited the city in a dozen or more years are amazed by the light rail, the high-rise buildings, the variety of restaurants and bars, the glut of large and small hotels, the number of shopping malls, the nightlife in Mahaneh Yehuda, etc. More changes are on the way.
The five-year plan for a surge in tourism, for increased cultural activities, for enhanced efforts to turn Jerusalem into a hi-tech hub, a world-acclaimed academic center, a city of economic growth and a much more developed public transportation network will be discussed at the Jerusalem 2020 conference by Mayor Nir Barkat and one of the world’s leading strategists, Prof. Michael Porter of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School. It will be interesting to see if the conference program, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., also includes strategies for the proper integration of religious and ethnic minorities into mainstream society. Jerusalem could well become a laboratory for social integration.
♦ If people living in and around Rehavia, Talbiyeh, Yemin Moshe, the German Colony, Baka and environs saw a lot of women walking around on Friday night and Saturday, it wasn’t quite a feminist invasion or an extension of Women of the Wall. It was a global gathering of some 400 women from around the world who were in Israel under the auspices of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, whose mission it is to empower women to change the world through Jewish values that transform them, their families and their communities.
Founded in 2008 as the outcome of a dialogue among eight Jewish women from different walks of life, affiliations, levels of observance and ages, JWRP has since brought thousands of women from 19 countries to Israel. In the course of an eight-day trip through Israel, the women explore not only the country but also themselves. JWRP works in partnership with a wide spectrum of community organizations in the countries from which the delegations come.
In most cases, JWRP self-transformation trips have been an extremely emotional experience with many tears. After touring the country this past week, the 400 from around the world spent Friday night praying, singing and dancing at the Western Wall, and later ate and sang together at the David Citadel Hotel. On Saturday, they were dispersed to 23 private homes. A group from Sydney, Australia, headed by Ariane Schneider, was sent to the home of Rabbi Emanuel and Rena Quint. It was only the second time that Sydney had sent a group to JWRP. Schneider’s first experience had been courtesy of a group from Melbourne, after which she brought a small pilot group from Sydney last year and some 20 women this year.
Qualification includes being active in a sister group of JWRP and being the mother of at least one child who attends a Jewish day school.
Half of the Sydney group was originally from South Africa.
At Shabbat lunch, Rena Quint, a child Holocaust survivor who was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, had all her guests introduce themselves around the table and talk about the highlights of their experience.
Several broke down and wept as they spoke, and some were embarrassed at having done so. They were comforted by Schneider, who, quoting JWRP founding director Lori Palatnik, said: “When you exercise the body, you sweat. When you exercise the soul, you cry.”
One of the highlights for some of the women was a naming ceremony on Masada, where those who did not have Hebrew names were given a Hebrew name in addition to the one that appears on their official documents. For others, it was the togetherness at the Western Wall, where women from so many different backgrounds chanted the same prayers and sang the same songs.
They had yet to visit Yad Vashem but were disappointed that there would not be sufficient time to have a Holocaust survivor address them. When they learned that their hostess was a Holocaust survivor, they asked her to tell her story. Kim Alpert, one of the South Africanborn members of the group, moved to Sydney soon after South Africa became an apartheid-free democracy and works with people with dementia. When she said that her grandmother had two brothers who had been sent to Bergen-Belsen, Quint said that she had an alphabetical list of the Jewish prisoners of Bergen-Belsen. She showed it to Alpert, who found the names of her great-uncles.
This was yet another emotional experience among the many crowded into an intensive eight-day visit. More was in store. Schneider, who is an education officer at the Sydney Jewish Museum, celebrated her 50th birthday on Sunday, and her extended sisterhood made it a very memorable occasion.
♦ Former Jerusalem deputy mayor Yigal Amedi has a new title. He is now the honorary consul for Georgia. The appointment became official on Sunday at a ceremony at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The event was attended by staff from the Ministry’s Protocol Department, Georgian Ambassador Paata Kalandadze and senior members of the Georgian Embassy, as well as members of Amedi’s family.
♦ The Hebrew University, which this year is celebrating its 90th anniversary, held a gala reception last week at its Rehovot campus, which is the home of the university’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The gathering was generally a reunion for the university’s alumni, which include leading personalities from many fields and of different age groups. Among those in attendance was the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, who received her master’s degree in psychology in 1995. University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, who is also a HU graduate, welcomed the guests. Other graduates in attendance included Nobel Prize laureate Aaron Ciechanover; Dan Hotels chairman and chairman of the university’s Board of Governors Mickey Federman; best-selling author Meir Shalev; MKs Prof.
Manuel Trajtenberg, Eli Alalouf, Nahman Shai, Danny Danon, Ksenia Svetlova and Omer Bar-Lev; former justice minister Yaakov Neeman; Honorary Consul of New Zealand Gad Propper; former Israel ambassador to the UN Prof. Gabriela Shalev; Market Watch proprietor and CEO Avinoam Brog (the brother of Ehud Barak); Mifal Hapayis chairman Uzi Dayan; National Insurance Institute director Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef; former governor of the Bank of Israel David Klein; and many others who have become household names. The event was moderated by television personality Dana Weiss, who is also a HU graduate.
♦ With regard to the Hebrew University, Martin Buber, one of the greatest Jewish intellectuals of the 20th century, was among the pioneers of the Hebrew University and actively promoted its establishment. Forced to leave Germany in 1938, the Austrian-born Buber, who before the Nazis came to power had been an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt Am Main, settled in Jerusalem and joined the university’s Faculty of Humanities.
The 50th anniversary of his death at age 87 at his home in Talbiyeh is being commemorated with multiple conferences convened by the Leo Baeck Institute of Jerusalem, the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Martin Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.
They are jointly conducting conferences to highlight and evaluate Buber’s ramified contributions to the cultural and political life in Israel before and after the establishment of the state.
Buber was also active in promoting German-Jewish and interfaith dialogue. Accordingly, the conference that began on May 7 at the Leo Baeck Institute continues at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University and concludes on May 12 at the National Library on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University is dealing with Christian- Jewish dialogue, German-Israeli dialogue, Arab-Jewish rapprochement and several other subjects in which Buber was interested and involved.
Buber’s great-granddaughter Tirzah Agassi was a writer and music critic for The Jerusalem Post for 10 years from the late 1980s to 1990s.
She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in England, Hong Kong and Boston, and studied at Boston University, The Hebrew University and the Sonoma State University in California, where she received her MA in psychology. She was a dedicated activist for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, which she wrote about extensively in several publications.
She lived for some years in Tel Aviv before moving to California where, after a long battle with cancer, she died in March 2008 at age 58.