Grapevine: New Jerusalem

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Isi Leibler addressing the third World Conference of Soviet Jewry in Jerusalem, 1983. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Isi Leibler addressing the third World Conference of Soviet Jewry in Jerusalem, 1983.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

The color-revised version of the prizewinning documentary series Pillar of Fire was aired on KAN 11 last Saturday night, 42 years after it was first shown in black-and-white on Israel Television (KAN 11’s precursor). It showed a Jerusalem completely different from that which we know today.

It was different as recently as 10 years ago, but at least the roads were paved, whereas scenes of drumbeating British troops leaving the city at the end of the British Mandate over what had been Palestine showed dirt roads – and, of course, there were very few high-rise buildings. Those that did exist were nowhere near as tall as those of today.

The series, known in Hebrew as Amud Ha’esh, was produced in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War and in reaction to the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism – a resolution rescinded several years later.

But at the time, it was considered imperative to make the world understand what Zionism is all about. Yigal Loussin, who edited the series, which was produced by Yaakov Eisenmann, noted in the introduction of a book based on the ambitious Pillar of Fire series “the need to explain Zionism to the world and to ourselves.”

Given events in Israel in recent months, and more so in recent weeks, it would seem that the lesson has not been fully learned.

Fireworks explode near the Sydney Opera House as part of new year celebrations on Sydney Harbour, Australia, December 31, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY/FILE PHOTO)Fireworks explode near the Sydney Opera House as part of new year celebrations on Sydney Harbour, Australia, December 31, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY/FILE PHOTO)

The Zionism of Australian Jewry

■ THE AUSTRALIAN Jewish community is strongly Zionist, with members of Habonim Dror, Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, Betar, Hineini, Netzer, Tzofim and alumni of the various Jewish schools among the thousands of Australian expats living in Israel on kibbutzim, moshavim and in the various cities and towns.

Steve Sattler, who, among other things, is a voluntary policeman who is often sent abroad to lecture about Israeli law enforcement, is a former member of Bnei Akiva. His group, Shevet Alumim, held a reunion in downtown Jerusalem last week, 50 years after some of the members had made aliyah. The average age of those attending was 75, “in honor of the 75th anniversary of the state,” quipped Sattler. They plan to have a second reunion in Tel Aviv in the summer, when they anticipate that attendance will be larger.

2 years since the passing of Isi Leibler

■ AMONG THE leaders of Bnei Akiva in Australia, and later president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and a vice president of the World Jewish Congress, was the late Isi Leibler, familiar to Jerusalem Post readers through his incisive weekly columns, which were published for many years. Last week marked the second anniversary of his death.

His wife, Naomi, a former president of World Emunah, was the co-hostess of a kiddush in his memory at the Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue in Talbiyeh.

Other than during the High Holy Days, there are no set places in this synagogue, although most congregants tend to regularly sit in the same seats at services. But there is no such thing as seat ownership or asking someone who sits in one’s usual seat to move. One simply finds another place.

Isi Leibler used to sit in an aisle seat in the third row. Since his death, his seat has been occupied by others, but last Saturday that seat and the whole row were available to Leibler sons and grandsons, who usually attend services elsewhere in Jerusalem and in Ra’anana.

At the kiddush, Romi Leibler, the eldest of his sons, recalled that before making aliyah, when he still lived in Melbourne, where his father’s column was also published in The Australian Jewish News, people would come up to him in synagogue to tell him that his father had written a really good column that week.

His father’s clarity and acumen were always appreciated, he said, but even when his father, who was born in 1934 in Belgium, during a dark period before the establishment of the State of Israel, was critical of the situation in Israel, he always underscored that Israel was stronger and more united than ever.

Romi Leibler was back in Melbourne before Passover, and this time was asked what he thought his father might say about what has been happening in Israel in recent months. Though unable to give a complete reply, he was certain that despite the sharp differences among different sectors of Israeli society, his father would still say that Israel has never been stronger or more united.

The synagogue board co-sponsored the kiddush in honor of the 80th birthday of one of its former chairmen, Larry Wachsman. His wife, Marsha, who currently heads the board and is the first woman to do so, declared that the kiddush was not in honor of Larry because he is her husband but in recognition of his many years of service to the congregation, his many acts of kindness and his willingness to always help people resolve their problems.

Hassan Diab sentenced in absentia to life in prison

■ THE NEWS that suspected terrorist Hassan Diab, 69, had been sentenced in absentia by a Paris court to life imprisonment was something that Jerusalem brothers Hagai and Oren Shagrir had been waiting for 43 years to hear.

Diab, a Lebanese-born professor with Canadian citizenship, who is believed to have been a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was the sole suspect in an October 1980 bomb explosion outside the Rue Copernic synagogue on the outskirts of Paris.

Among the people killed was Jerusalem filmmaker Aliza Shagrir, whose husband, Micha Shagrir, one of the founders of the Sam Spiegel Film School, as well as being one of Israel’s most prolific filmmakers and creator of television documentaries, set up a special fund in her memory.

Diab was previously extradited in 2008 and imprisoned in France for three years before returning to Canada. He was subsequently indicted in 2014 but denies any involvement in the explosion. Neither the Shagrir family nor people in France believe him, as no other suspects have been named. 

As Canada is reconsidering its extradition laws, it may not be as easy to bring him back to France yet again. But Aliza Shagrir’s sons at least have the satisfaction of knowing that he was sentenced. Unfortunately, Micha Shagrir cannot share in that. He died in 2015.

Aroma on Emek Refaim under new ownership

■ THE AROMA franchise on Emek Refaim is under new ownership and has undergone a major renovation. All the coffee shops on Emek Refaim are well patronized, but Aroma, because of its general popularity, is nearly always full. The new owner is Yuval Ben Ami, who invited Mayor Moshe Lion to affix the mezuzah on the revamped premises.

It should be remembered that Aroma espresso bars, which can be seen all over Israel, as well as in the US, Canada, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, are a Jerusalem export founded in 1994 by brothers Yariv and Sahar Shefa. The original link in the chain was on Hillel Street, where it continues to do brisk business, despite the heavy competition that has sprung up around it.

In regard to espresso bars, the powers that be at Safra Square are encouraging them to be opened in public parks. After giving the green light to espresso bars in Independence Park and Sacher Park, they have now added the Rose Garden in Talbiyeh.