Grapevine: Screaming sumo

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 Teva building in Kfar Saba (photo credit: SIVAN FARAGE)
Teva building in Kfar Saba
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAGE)

The announcement was somewhat bombastic. It promised a return to Paris Square, big time. The date was last Saturday night and the time for which the demonstration was called was 8 p.m. even though there was still almost half an hour before the end of Shabbat.

Unlike the demonstrations which had caused disturbances in Rehavia and Talbiyeh more than a year ago, this one was not against the government or its leader but designed to help preserve the government.

At approximately 8:40, someone speaking through a microphone could be heard almost a block away, but the demonstration in support of the government for change was in a word – pathetic.

There were less than a hundred people present, and the intention was not to continue till 11 p.m. as in the anti-Bibi days. The demonstrators dispersed at 9:07, but not before singing “Hatikvah” off-key. It was unbelievable that none of the voices that penetrated the night air of Jerusalem could sing the national anthem in tune.

 'Judaism 3.0: Judaism’s Transformation to Zionism' by Gol Kalev (credit: Courtesy) 'Judaism 3.0: Judaism’s Transformation to Zionism' by Gol Kalev (credit: Courtesy)

Just before that, a swarthy, heavily built man, his face contorted with rage, showed up and began shouting. He was apparently a well-known professional heckler paid to disrupt demonstrations and well known to the organizers, who urged everyone to ignore him.

Some of the organizers and a policeman stopped him from entering the area where the demonstrators were gathered.

Indeed, had he not been stopped just outside Paris Square and prevented from moving forward, he would have undoubtedly created an aura of violence. Built like a sumo wrestler, he came charging down the street like a bull, screaming as he ran. To anyone who was unaware of the purpose of his mission, he gave the impression of being a deranged person who needed help. But to some of the people present he was no stranger and will probably show up again this coming Saturday night if the next meeting goes ahead as planned.

■ AFTER FOUR weeks in Israel, James Snyder, the executive chairman of The Jerusalem Foundation, Inc., the New York-based fund-raising arm of The Jerusalem Foundation, left to return home last Friday, full of admiration for Jerusalem’s creativity, its potential and its ability to combine for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises in all sectors of the community. Snyder makes it his business to come to Jerusalem approximately every six weeks or so, to look at projects where grants have been made to see how they are progressing, and whether they will need and be deserving of further grants. He always comes away impressed by what is being done in the mainstream Jewish community, in the ultra-Orthodox community and what is being done in the Arab community toward a shared society. This time was no exception, but Jerusalem Foundation business was not the only reason that he was in town.

Snyder who spent 20 years as executive director of the Israel Museum and two more years as international president, holds no office at the museum at this time, but continues to take an interest as emeritus director. As his current visit coincided with the meeting of the museum’s International Council and the celebration of the museum’s 57th anniversary, Snyder was invited to attend, and has high praise for current director Denis Weil, who Snyder said is taking the museum right into the digital era. The museum already entered into the digital realm in Snyder’s time, but much of what is being done now and is planned for the future, was not feasible then. Today it is, and Weil has the expertise to see it through, says Snyder, who expects to be back in Israel at the end of July. He and his wife, Tina, own an apartment in Talbiyeh, which means that although they returned to the US, they still have a foothold in Jerusalem.

■ THOUGH HEADQUARTERED today in Petah Tikva, Teva Pharmaceuticals was founded in Jerusalem on February 13, 1944.

Despite major financial losses over the past couple of years, Teva is still one of the world’s largest producers of generic drugs. It has other interests as well.

Of all its CEOs and chairmen of the board, none guided the company more toward expansion and profitability than Jerusalem-born industrialist Eli Hurvitz, who died in 2011.

An economics graduate of the Hebrew University, Hurvitz was such an astute businessman that he served as chair of the Israel Export Institute, president of the Israel Manufacturers Association, chairman of the board of Bank Leumi, chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority and a member of the boards of several other organizations and institutions, some of which he also chaired.

Following his death, the annual Eli Hurvitz socioeconomic conference was established and generally held in Tel Aviv.

This year – on the 90th anniversary year of his birth – it is being held in Jerusalem on June 22 and 23 at the Orient Hotel. Subjects to be discussed included: economic strategies for growth; expanding innovation; advancing climate control initiatives; the new challenges in the labor market; the role of the education network in the labor market; and the future of science in Israel.

Among the many listed speakers are politicians, economists and academics, among them Foreign Minister and alternate prime minister Yair Lapid, who is a former finance minister; Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Amir Yaron; Economy Minister Orna Barbivay; and MK Moshe Gafni, the former long-time chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee plus many others.

■ JUNE 22 will also be the date of the third book launch event of Judaism 3.0: Judaism’s Transformation To Zionism by Gol Kalev – who idolizes Herzl – and who in his book seeks to prove that Jews and non-Jews alike now tend to relate to Judaism through the prism of Zionism. Kalev argues that Zionism is the one aspect of Judaism that evokes emotions, anger, love, support, dissent and engagement. Therefore, in his eyes, it has become the most relevant aspect of Judaism.

The June 22 event will feature a panel discussion that will focus on the aspect of the book that argues that there is a shift in the Zionist ethos from the secularism and a rejection of religion that characterized Zionism in the early days to a greater embrace of the Jewish religion. This is both due to a shift of power in Israel from the secular minority to the religious/traditional majority, and a Jewish religious fashion and rapprochement amongst the seculars, while staying secular.

The panel will include Daniel Gordis, author and senior vice president of Shalem College, Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Kalev himself. The program will begin with a keynote address by Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency.

Entry is free.

Interestingly, this is the 120th anniversary year of the publication of Herzl’s Altneuland.

■ WHEN ONE thinks of the huge deployment of police and border guards during the Jerusalem Day flag parade, it will be minimal compared to the security forces that will be employed to safeguard US President Joe Biden if he goes ahead with his stated intention to visit east Jerusalem.

Unless the proposed date is changed yet again, Biden will arrive on July 14, which happens to be Bastille Day. The question is: should anyone read anything into that?

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