Grapevine: Smile power

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 Illustrative photo of a smile.  (photo credit: PXHERE)
Illustrative photo of a smile.
(photo credit: PXHERE)

Last week, on his weekly Thursday late-night radio show broadcast on Reshet Bet, political analyst Yoav Krakowski went on an apolitical trip down memory lane when the Israel Radio studios were located on Helene Hamalka Street. Krakowski broadcast snippets of recordings of former radio icons, some of whom are still living, and spoke of others – both those who are still with us and those who have gone to the radio station in the sky. 

Recent archaeological excavations reveal that the building sits on what remains of a palace that once belonged to the Queen of Sheba, but not enough is yet known about it. Like many historic buildings in Jerusalem, the one that housed the radio station will be only partially preserved, and the rest will be torn down to make way for yet another new hotel. 

There is a huge difference in the way that Jerusalem and Tel Aviv relate to their historic buildings. In Jerusalem, the greed of real estate developers overrides the value of history, whereas in Tel Aviv old buildings may be modernized and transformed from the inside, but the outside is spruced up and gives both residents and passersby a concept of the architecture of yesteryear, some of which is simply magnificent.

 JAMES GRAY’S ‘Armageddon Time.’ (credit: TULIP ENTERTAINMENT) JAMES GRAY’S ‘Armageddon Time.’ (credit: TULIP ENTERTAINMENT)

Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival

■ GIVEN ALL the advertising and publicity that preceded the opening of the 24th annual Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, one might have expected that Armageddon Time, the prize-winning film opening the festival, would draw a full house. Surprisingly, it didn’t. There were quite a few empty seats, some of which were eventually filled by latecomers. 

American film director James Grey, who also wrote the script for the film, appeared on screen to say how honored he was that his film, based on his childhood, was opening the festival. He also said that film festivals were essential to bring people back into the theater.

Before that, Jerusalem Cinematheque CEO Roni Mehadav Levin and Daniella Tourgeman, the artistic director of the festival, thanked everyone – especially the guests from abroad – for coming. Among those attending were chairman of the board of the Cinematheque, Daniel Mimran; Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, and directors and actors from abroad.

Mehadav Levin said that he was proud of the fact that the Jerusalem Cinematheque is the only movie house in Israel showing such a large variety of Jewish films, from haredi to secular, and from many countries and cultures.

Lion took it a step further, saying that just as Jerusalem is a demographic mix, so the Jewish Film Festival is a mix of genres. It was appropriate, he said, for the country’s only Jewish film festival to take place in Jerusalem, which he predicted will become Israel’s cultural capital. Jerusalem is already a city of culture and creativity, he said.

Missing from the lexicon of most cinema-goers is a three-word expression in English and a one-word expression in Hebrew – “Excuse me please,” or slicha. It is astounding how many people may cause anything from a half to an entire row of film, theater or music buffs, to stand up as they pass, without a single word of apology as they make their way along the row. 

One couple, who had two seats across the aisle, took the aisle on the left instead of the aisle on the right. Had they walked along the latter aisle, no one would have been discomfited. Anyone who has previously been to the Cinematheque knows that the seat numbers begin on the left as they walk down the aisle, so logic would dictate that high numbers are better approached from the opposite aisle.

The power of a smile: Perpetuating a memory

■ NO ONE KNOWS exactly how much power there is in a smile, but there is consensus that it denotes both caring and happiness and can have a strong, positive impact – especially on people who are depressed. Fourteen-year-old Maor Wolf knows just how effective a smile can be. If more people had smiled at his older sister Ronit – a pretty girl with a sunny personality who gave generously of her goodwill, her time and her talents, and exuded an aura of brightness and joy – she might be alive today. 

She was known for her warm smile, her love of gymnastics, and her passion for music. She seldom went anywhere without her guitar. But during her military service, Ronit underwent an inexplicable change of character and became depressed. She was given numerous private treatments but failed to respond to all the attempts by family and friends to bring her back to her former self. In the end, she took her own life. 

Wanting to do something to perpetuate his sister’s memory, Maor, together with his friend Benny Spierer, Ronit’s friends, her sister Shiran and her grandfather Marcel Hess, established an organization called Sherack Techayech (You should only smile). Maor and his family want to help people like Ronit by smiling at them and encouraging them to receive professional help as quickly as possible, while simultaneously creating greater awareness of the importance of mental health, and the professionals who can treat people who have various mental problems.

Maor spoke to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who was supportive of the initiative, as was Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who in a foreword to an explanatory book about the organization, released in time for Hanukkah, wrote that when we pray for the sick, we pray for the healing of both their physical and mental ailments.

Jerusalem deputy mayor holds business talk

■ DEPUTY MAYOR Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council and the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum, is at the forefront of promoting Jerusalem’s business sector. She will speak about her efforts, with a focus on the evolution of Jerusalem as a global business center, when she addresses members and friends of Telfed on Wednesday, December 28, at 7:45 p.m. at the World Mizrachi Building, 54 King George St., adjacent to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

Who is Emunah's Woman of the Year?

■ EVEN THOUGH International Women’s Day is not until March, the Emunah organization is asking members of the public to nominate possible candidates for its Woman of the Year awards. Winners will be in two categories. One will be proposed by the executive committee of Emunah, whose members will naturally confine themselves to a religious female Zionist who has demonstrated considerable initiative and professional excellence, and who has made a meaningful contribution to Israeli society. 

The nominations by members of the public do not necessarily have to conform with all of the above qualifications. However, in the category of a Religious Zionist woman, one of the people who cannot be overlooked as a potential nominee is Beit Shemesh Mayor Aliza Bloch, an educator, born in 1967, who in 2018 became the first female mayor of the city. In 2019, she was named by The Jerusalem Post as one of the world’s 50 most influential Jews. Fearless in the face of the radicalism that exists among certain sectors of the residents of Beit Shemesh, the fact that Bloch has succeeded in remaining in office, despite the divisive factors in her male-dominated community, is definitely to her credit.

Nominations close on January 6, 2023, and can be lodged on the Emunah Facebook page or via [email protected]

The winners will be announced at the 11th Emunah Conference taking place at the Vert Hotel on February 21.

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