Grapevine: Protekzia on parade

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 The new security measures outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home on Azza Street in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The new security measures outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home on Azza Street in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Deja vu is in the air – not only with attempts by the present government to close down public broadcasting, or to at least reduce its budget and its influence, but also in the political arena. 

Despite the decision not to engage in building public transport infrastructure on Shabbat, and to work on Shabbat only on life or death issues, there was barely a peep from the prime minister’s Orthodox coalition partners when it was revealed that a protective fence had been put up on Shabbat outside his private residence on Gaza Road. 

The excuse for the Shabbat labor was that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), whose duties include protection of the prime minister’s safety, was afraid that demonstrators against judicial reform would not limit their presence in Jerusalem to the area opposite the President’s Residence. They were concerned that demonstrators would also come in droves to Gaza Road in front of Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence which has assumed semi-official status, while his official residence is under renovation and repair. There was no real excuse for the Shabbat labor, however, because it had been known for a week that Saturday night demonstrations would continue. There had been ample opportunity to put up the fence ahead of Shabbat. 

Why the relative silence? Veteran politicians and those familiar with political history recalled that on Friday, December 10, 1976, there had been a government organized public ceremony at a military airfield in Central Israel, to welcome the first of three F-15 fighter planes which had been purchased from the US. Two days later, Yitzhak Raphael of the National Religious Party (NRP), who was minister for religious affairs, protested in the cabinet that the ceremony had taken place too close to Shabbat, and thus forced those attending to desecrate the Shabbat on their way home. 

The subject was subsequently the focus of a heated Knesset debate resulting in a non-confidence motion proposed by the ultra-Orthodox Aguda party. On December 14, the Knesset voted 55 to 48 in favor of the government. There were nine abstentions, including Raphael and fellow NRP representative, social welfare minister Zvulun Hammer. NRP leader Yosef Burg, who was interior minister, voted in support of the government. 

 Stations for security guards outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home on Azza Street in Jerusalem.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Stations for security guards outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home on Azza Street in Jerusalem. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Yitzhak Rabin was furious with Raphael and Hammer. So much so, that he expelled the NRP from the government. Left with a minority coalition, Rabin resigned on December 20, 1976, unwittingly paving the way for a political upheaval. 

Having tasted power, Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Yitzhak Goldknopf had no desire to be dismissed by Netanyahu for subordination. It was enough that he had to dismiss Arye Deri. If he had to dismiss the leaders of three additional parties, he would soon have to resign himself, and none of them wanted January 2023 to be an encore of December 1976.

Netanyahu's neighbors sell appartment

■ BY THE way, an apartment belonging to Netanyahu’s neighbors in the same building complex has finally been sold, after being on the market for many months. The previous owners had lived there for years but preferred to be closer to their children and grandchildren in Arnona. It is hardly surprising that the buyers are non-resident Americans who will be in Israel during Passover and the High Holy Day period, and perhaps for some special family occasion. After all, with due respect to the ability to say that they own an apartment in the same complex as that of the prime minister of Israel, there is far less snob value in the potential noise factor or the tight security that spills over onto the pavement.

Albert Einstein and Hebrew University

■ ALBERT EINSTEIN was one of the founders of the Hebrew University, so it is a natural progression that the Hebrew University is the custodian of the Einstein archives. Next week, the Einstein Archives will host a series of events to mark the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s visit to Jerusalem in February 1923. Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was very keen for Einstein to be Israel’s second president following the death of Chaim Weizmann. Had Einstein agreed, history might have taken a very different turn, and we might never have had an educational, research, publication and exploration of Israel institution such as Yad Ben-Zvi, named for the man who actually became Israel’s second president.

For Einstein, the Hebrew University represented a combination of his commitment to his Jewish identity and his belief in the universal values of the pursuit of truth and justice and respect for each and every human being.

Einstein served on the University’s board of governors, delivered the university’s inaugural scientific lecture, and edited its first collection of scientific papers.

He later bequeathed his literary estate and personal papers to the Hebrew University.

In October last year, the government approved the establishment of an Albert Einstein Museum on the Hebrew University’s Edmond J. Safra Campus. The museum will house the largest collection of Einstein memorabilia in the world. The estimated cost of construction is $18 million, of which the government will provide $6 million.

The events being hosted by the Albert Einstein Archives will include two screenings of the Israeli documentary Einstein in the Holy Land, a mini-exhibition, and an Einstein brand pop-up shop. Doors open at 5:15 pm, with screenings at 5:30 pm and 7 pm. Screenings will be held at the Safra Campus, on the 2nd floor of Building 8, on Thursday, February 2.

Made in Jerusalem hi-tech ecosystem

■ LEADING START-UP entrepreneurs and investors from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv congregated at a Made in Jerusalem hi-tech ecosystem event hosted by Troy Fritzhand, a young immigrant, originally from New York. He is working as the start-up lead at Made in JLM with the aim of encouraging and overseeing the start-up ecosystem in the capital. More than 200 people attended the event. According to Fritzhand, the Jerusalem hi-tech ecosystem is one of the fastest growing in the world. 

Shai Shalom Hadad, the COO of MassChallenge, one of the co-sponsors of the event, commented that in Hebrew there’s a saying, “Thought creates reality.”

Outlining her company’s commitment to the Jerusalem ecosystem, Marcy Tatelbaum, head of human resources at Jerusalem-based Triple Whale, said that in the past year, the company had grown from 15 to 60 employees, many of whom travel daily from Central Israel to the capital. For many years it was the other way around, and Jerusalemites who wanted to earn good salaries went to Tel Aviv and beyond.

Jacob Bassini, a new immigrant who lives in Tel Aviv and has been in Israel for just over four months, says that the energy in Jerusalem is very intense and exudes the sense that Jerusalem is working on the next big thing.