Grapevine: Some fascination

VALENTINE’S DAY does not necessarily comprise red roses, champagne and heart-shaped pastries. It can also have an aura of mystery, lust and even murder.

David Friedman (photo credit: REUTERS)
David Friedman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
FOR SOME inexplicable reason, the Hazvi Yisrael synagogue in Talbiyeh holds a kind of fascination for statesmen, politicians and diplomats.
On the occasions that he attended synagogue services, president Shimon Peres used to go there. President Reuven Rivlin frequently joins the congregants. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attended services on several occasions. The late justice minister Yaakov Neeman was a regular congregant. America’s ambassador designate David Friedman worshiped there during his visits to Israel. Mayor Nir Barkat has been there, and this past Saturday, City Council member Moshe Lion read the Torah for the congregation.
Lion is a front-line runner to be the next mayor of Jerusalem if Barkat decides not to run for a third term. Lion missed out the first time he ran in the mayoral race, but so did Barkat the first time that he ran. Lion is probably better qualified to be a first-term mayor than was Barkat. Lion is a former director general of the Prime Minister’s Bureau and a former chairman of the Israel Development Authority. He also served as chairman of Israel Railways, so he certainly knows his way around.
In the synagogue Lion fused the Sephardi and Ashkenazi styles of Torah reading, so that it wasn’t quite one or the other. When one of the congregants remarked on this, another retorted: “What do you expect? He’s a politician.”
ONE WONDERS why an Orthodox rabbi who is president of the Israel region of the Rabbinical Council of America and is the chief rabbi emeritus of the Sydney Great Synagogue in Australia, wrote a book under the title New Testament People: A Rabbi’s Notes.
Many Jews, not only those of the Orthodox ilk, would hesitate to admit to delving into the New Testament, but Rabbi Raymond Apple, who was very active in interfaith relations in Sydney, points out that even though the New Testament is a Christian holy book, many of its authors were Jewish, and it therefore is a work of Jewish interest.
Apple has risked the wrath of both Jews and Christians by writing in the book’s preface: “There is still a feeling that Jesus was a Christian who worshiped in a church. In fact, he was a Jew who would be more at home in a synagogue than a church. Whatever later became of the religion about Jesus, the religion of Jesus was Judaism. Whatever others made of his life, death and teachings, he himself believed he was within the Judaism of the time.”
After having launched the book in Australia, Apple will launch it in Israel at Beit Avi Chai on Monday, February 13. The launch will immediately be followed by a lecture on Four Rabbinic Eccentrics, which will be delivered to members and friends of the Israel Branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England. Here too, Apple has some background affiliation as he served in London synagogues early in his rabbinical career. The four eccentrics he will be speaking about are Rabbi Dr. Hayyim Samuel Jacob Falk, who was also known as the Ba’al Shem of London; Joseph Crool, a man of strange habits and little learning; Abraham Belais, a poet who fled to London to escape his creditors; and Herman Hoelzel, who set himself up as Chief Rabbi of the British Empire Nathan Marcus Adler’s rival in the Antipodes.
VALENTINE’S DAY does not necessarily comprise red roses, champagne and heart-shaped pastries. It can also have an aura of mystery, lust and even murder.
That’s the essence of “The City,” a rap opera with a detective-story plot that had its heyday a generation or two ago, but still works admirably in 2017. Performed in English, it stars Amit Ulman as the detective. Ulman was also one of the script writers. Others in the cast include Omer Havron, Omer Mor, Dorit Lilien and Roni Rocket. The show was originally written in Hebrew, but the English version comes across just fine.
The date is Tuesday, February 14. The venue is the Incubator Theater at Beit Mazia, 18 Mesilat Yesharim Street, which is on the halfway mark between Bezalel Street and Jaffa Road, behind the former Hamashbir Lazarchan department store.