Grapevine August 2, 2023: Reviving Odesa

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM LEFT: Anat Heifetz and Shahar Avnet bring Israeli fashion to China. (photo credit: sinojing)
FROM LEFT: Anat Heifetz and Shahar Avnet bring Israeli fashion to China.
(photo credit: sinojing)

History buffs know that there are sometimes extraordinary links between different events that seem unconnected. A case in point is the “Odesa – Tel Aviv” exhibition at ANU – Museum of the Jewish People, which opened in the second half of July, and was curated by Lecia Voiskoun and Asaf Galay.

In June, in the midst of the bitter strife between the opponents and supporters of judicial reform, Israel commemorated the 75th anniversary of another period of violent confrontation between the newly created Israel Defense Forces and the paramilitary right-wing Irgun, which had loaded a ship called Altalena with weapons, fighters, and Holocaust survivors. The Altalena sailed from France to the nascent State of Israel, where pre-state paramilitary organizations were being absorbed into the IDF. The European division of the Irgun, which was more militant than the Israeli division, kept the most important aspects of its plans secret and did not inform the Israeli high command. In the interim, a truce had been reached in the Israel-Arab war, the conditions of which specified that no weapons should be brought into the country. It was subsequently discovered that this clause had been violated by both sides. Once he was aware that the Altalena had set sail, Menachem Begin, who was chief of the Irgun, notified David Ben-Gurion, the head of the provisional government.

Begin had learned about the impending arrival of the ship through a Radio London broadcast, and a decision was reached that it should land at a shore at which it would be easier to escape the attention of United Nations observers. But there were serious disagreements between Begin and Ben-Gurion as to how the arms and ammunition were to be distributed.

Ben-Gurion did not want Begin to have any military power, and after the ship’s arrival, there was a fierce confrontation between the fighters on board and the IDF.

There was also fighting on the beach at Kfar Vitkin, where the Altelena had first landed, and again in Tel Aviv, to which it had continued from Kfar Vitkin.

 FROM LEFT: Norwegian Ambassador Kare Aas, Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, and Gil Haskel. (credit: Moshe Menagen)
FROM LEFT: Norwegian Ambassador Kare Aas, Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, and Gil Haskel. (credit: Moshe Menagen)

Irgun members who had already joined the IDF refused to fire on their comrades, mass arrests were carried out against them, and some were court-martialed.

The upshot was that three members of the IDF and 16 members of the Irgun were killed, and 200 members of the Irgun were taken prisoners.

Hoping to avoid a civil war, Begin, who had managed to come aboard, ordered his people to desist from firing back, and the ship hoisted a white flag, which was ignored, and shelling against the ship continued. After it subsided, Begin refused to leave the ship until the last of the wounded had been evacuated.

As a matter of interest, the 110th anniversary of Begin’s birth was marked last Saturday. Though born on August 16, he always celebrated his birthday in accordance with the Hebrew calendar, albeit not on the exact date, because he was born on Shabbat Nahamu, the first Sabbath after Tisha Be’av.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky was the founder of the Revisionist movement, which advocated an aggressive political and military struggle to ensure the realization of the Zionist vision. It is in the Revisionist movement that the Irgun and ultimately the Likud have their roots.

Jabotinsky was born in Odesa, and wrote for publications there under the nom de plume of Altalena. He died in New York on August 4, 1940, and in his will asked that his remains be transferred to Israel only on the orders of a Jewish-led government. Ben-Gurion refused.

But when Levi Eshkol was prime minister, he had no ax to grind with Jabotinsky, and decided to honor Jabotinsky’s request. A reinterment ceremony for Jabotinsky and his wife, Joanna, was held on Mount Herzl in July 1964.

Odesa was an amazing incubator for Jewish cultural creativity. It produced great writers and artists, to whom the exhibition is dedicated. The artists are probably not so well known, but the writers are in most cases integral to both Israeli culture and the culture of Jewish Odesa. Among the more familiar names are Hayim Nachman Bialik, Shaul Tchernichovsky, Ahad Ha’am (whose real name was Asher Zvi Ginsberg), Mendele Mocher Sforim (known to family and friends as Shalom Yaakov Abramovich), Moshe Leib Lilienblum, Joseph Klausner, Sholem Aleichem (Shalom Rabinovich), and, of course, Jabotinsky. Not all were born in Odesa, but most spent a large portion of their lives there.

Water on Tisha Be'av

■ ACE REPORTER Suleiman Maswada, who is not Jewish, was hesitant about bringing a bottle of water into the KAN Reshet Bet studios on the morning of Tisha Be’av. But then he saw that most of his Jewish colleagues were eating and drinking, so he understood that it would not offend anyone if he did the same.

Tent cities briefly rise

■ TENT CITIES rose up briefly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last month. A tent city is nothing new in Tel Aviv. In 2011, Daphne Leef , a young social activist protesting against the impossibly high rentals of apartments in Tel Aviv, started a grassroots movement for social justice that was quickly joined by Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, for whom this was a platform for carving out successful political careers when the Labor Party still held sway. A tent city was established on Rothschild Boulevard.

A tent city is not a novelty in Jerusalem either.

Supporting single mothers

■ IN JULY 2003, Vicki Knafo, a 43-year-old single mother, marched 250 kilometers from her home in Mitzpe Ramon to Jerusalem. She was accompanied by a small group of supporters and set up a tent outside the Finance Ministry, in protest at a cut in benefits to single mothers. A week later, 100 single mothers and their children demonstrated outside the home of then prime minster Ariel Sharon. The protest gathered momentum, and on July 13, two groups of women from Ofakim and Sderot also began a march to Jerusalem, while women from other parts of the country either joined them or pledged to join them. Together, they set up a tent city.

On July 15, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then finance minister, canceled a trip to the United States in order to speak to the female protesters and to indicate that he recognized the importance of their campaign. But recognition did not result in reinstatement of their allowances. Instead, he urged them to go to work.

The situation created a lot of tension in the Knesset, with legislators divided over whether the allowances should be restored.

Although municipal authorities tried to evict the women from their camp, many of the residents of Jerusalem sided with them, brought them food, and took them into their homes, where they could shower and wash their clothes.

As is always the case, there are those who want to oppose the leader. Although all the women from the south of the country were loyal to Knafo, a second leader emerged in the person of Ayala Seberg of Jerusalem. The two women did not see eye to eye on how to achieve their goal, and each used different strategies and different arguments in their meetings with officialdom.

In August, as other important issues caught the attention of the public, support for the quest of the single mothers began to wane, and by the end of the month the whole matter became history, with nothing gained, other than a brief period of glory and a sense of sisterhood on the part of some of the participants.

Last week, there were tent cities in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Ben-Gvir has harmed Israel Police

■ TO SEE the damage wrought by certain ministers would suggest that rather than judicial reform, Israel needs election reform to prevent radicals from entering the Knesset and using political leverage against the head of a major party to receive a ministerial position. One suspects that National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir would have sowed chaos in even the most minor of ministerial roles, but what he has done in the police force and Prisons Service has endangered the safety and security of all of Israel’s residents.

There has been an upsurge in the excessive use of force and unjustified arrests by police. There has been the humiliation of Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai, whose tenure Ben-Gvir refuses to extend. There has been the demotion of Tel Aviv District police chief Amichai Eshed, whom Ben-Gvir transferred to the police training division; and more recently, Prisons Service commissioner Katy Perry announced that she has no desire to extend her term and will leave the service in January. All three – Shabtai, Eshed and Perry – have long years of service to the state behind them, and all three will have to look for new careers. All three have also complained publicly and privately that it is impossible to work with Ben-Gvir, who refuses to understand that the professionals know more about their work and how it should be conducted than he does.

In less than a year in office, Ben-Gvir has caused more harm than any of his predecessors throughout the whole of their ministerial tenure. Heaven help the country if the government manages to last its full term.

Shlomo Karhi is destroying the Israel Post

■ BEFORE He became a diplomat, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, was a politician, serving in various ministerial roles, including one year as communications minister. During that year, he set the ball rolling for the dismantling of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the loss of jobs and income for many of its employees. Happily, the Knesset realized the need for public broadcasting, and the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation was set up in place of the IBA, retaining many of the people for whom the IBA had been a second home. But if present Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi has his way, the IPBC will also become history, with nothing to replace it.

Logic would dictate that ministers come to their positions in order to build, not to destroy. Very few ministers serve more than one term in any particular ministry, and if their party is reelected or joins a government coalition, they are given a different ministerial portfolio the second time around. So why allow people who serve in a position for a relatively short period of time to have so much power to destroy? The IPBC is not the only enterprise that Karhi seeks to destroy. He also wants to do away with the override structure of commercial television so that he can better control it.

Even though the Israel Postal Company is in the final stages of privatization, Karhi refuses to leave well enough alone. In a bid to reduce expenditure, the company closed down several post offices throughout the country, including in peripheral areas. Perhaps before that happened, arrangements should have been made with banks to extend their services to include postal services. The problem is that many banks are also closing branches, with the idea that in an Internet age, more transactions can be carried out online. That policy seems to be changing now, and more banks are advertising human voice and face-to-face connections.

It’s doubtful that a private investor in the Israel Postal Company will start building new post offices, but it should be mandatory that the municipal offices in every city, town, and village have postal services on the premises. Even if that means that there will be fewer post offices, it guarantees that every resident has access to one, and fairly conveniently, even if far away, because municipal offices are generally near a bus stop or a light rail stop.

Ticho House and Piccolino

■ TICHO HOUSE, one of the iconic buildings in the center of Jerusalem, is part of the Israel Museum network. For many years it was famous for both its galleries and its cuisine. People came from far and wide to dine either indoors or in the garden, which has a certain old-world serenity about it.

There was quite a long period in which Ticho House was closed for renovations, but it was officially reopened on Tuesday, August 1, with an exhibition under the title of “Homegrown,” in which four artists – Einat Amir, Orly Maiberg, Elinor Sahm, and Yifeat Ziv – will present their impressions of the garden. The exhibition has been curated by Timna Seligman. The event included a performance by Ziv. This was the first of a new series of content-based pop-up events in the garden of the house, bringing creative artists in different fields into close contact with the community in an informal setting.

The house, which originally belonged to Dr. Abraham Ticho and his artist wife, Anna, has been renewed and refurbished while maintaining its original charm. The restaurant and kitchen areas have been transformed into galleries. The renovation process took a little more than a year.

The restaurant at Ticho House was run for several years by the late Nava Bibi, who had a very special personal rapport with the clientele.

After leaving Ticho House, she opened Piccolino in the Music Square in Jerusalem’s Nahalat Shiva, which is among the oldest neighborhoods in west Jerusalem.

Piccolino, which is a 10- to 15-minute walk from Ticho House, is now run by Bibi’s daughters, and is a popular meeting place, especially on Thursday nights, when it is almost impossible to get a seat.

Nava Bibi’s name has been perpetuated in an auditorium in the Music Center, aside from which visitors can hear live and recorded music almost all the time from the immediate area and its immediate surrounds.

In addition, soldiers are fed free of charge on Fridays, and any food left over on a Friday is donated to a yeshiva or a facility for youth at risk.

Klezmer at Yad Vashem

■ KLEZMER MELODIES are often defined as Jewish soul music – perhaps more so when the venue for a klezmer concert is the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The concert – on Wednesday, August 16, the day before the new Hebrew calendar month of Elul, when preparations start for the High Holy Day period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the penitential prayers that precede them – will be performed by Clarinet and Klezmer in the Galilee (CKG). Anyone intending to be at the concert should confirm this by August 6 at

Although the concert is timed for 8 p.m., a shuttle service from the entrance of Mount Herzl to the entrance to Yad Vashem will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Prior to its appearance at Yad Vashem, CKG will be playing klezmer and folk music in the Old City of Jerusalem up to August 5, having begun on July 20. During this period it has also conducted a seminar and master classes as it has done in previous years. The master classes took place at the Jerusalem Academy of Music on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. For further information contact CKG artistic director Hanan Bar Sela, 052-335-2797. Musicians who are performing and who participated in the master classes are from Israel and abroad, and have backgrounds in varied musical disciplines. Among them are Prof. Philippe Cuper, the key clarinetist in the Paris Opera Orchestra, and Boris Allakhverdyan, the chief clarinetist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York.

Noa Kirel gets a new boyfriend

■ FOLLOWING HER recent breakup with her longtime boyfriend Tomer Hacohen, it took very little time for superstar pop singer Noa Kirel to find a new beau in the person of soccer player Daniel Peretz, the goalkeeper of Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Israel National Team. The two have been friends for quite a while, but their relationship is beginning to look more serious. On Thursday of last week, Kirel went to watch Peretz play, and videotaped the match. Afterward the two went to dinner in a restaurant with friends.

Likud torn between rock and a hard place

■ LAST WEEK, Likud legislators were torn between a rock and a hard place, or rather between personal integrity and party loyalty. Had they allowed personal integrity to triumph, there was a strong chance that the government would fall, and few parliamentarians are conscience-driven to that extent. But in a case of “once bitten, twice shy,” people such as Yuli Edelstein, whose experiences under the Soviet regime made him a little more fearless and a little more honest than some of his colleagues, began to lead a Likud movement for broad consensus relating to the final text of the judicial reform legislation.

Training shofar blowers

■ THE MOST embarrassing thing that can happen to a shofar blower on Rosh Hashanah is a sudden inability to make a sound, or to make the appropriate sounds. In the hope of avoiding this, Lior Frishman, the head of the Rehovot Religious Council, has invited shofar blowers and leaders of prayer services to come to Rehovot for a training course. As traditions between Ashkenazim and Sephardim tend to differ, the Ashkenazi course will be led by Sagi Ben Baruch, and the course for Sephardim and Yemenites by Shaul Hudfi. To enroll and for further details, call Sagi Ben Baruch at 050-817-1542 or Shaul Hudfi at 052-423-8439.

New honorary consul of Norway

■ TEAM 8 Managing Partner Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, who was previously president and CEO of Bank Leumi, has been appointed as honorary consul of Norway, a position that gives her quasi-diplomatic status. She is considered to be one of Israel’s pioneers in digital banking. In her Team 8 capacity, she regards Israel as a fintech hub no less than Silicon Valley, New York, or London. At the ceremony, in which Russak-Aminoach’s latest appointment was announced, outgoing Norwegian Ambassador Kare Aas said that there is great potential for strengthening relations between Norway and Israel. He expressed great confidence that with the help of Russak-Aminoach, this would become evident in the fields of economics, commerce, and technology.

Among those present at the ceremony were Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel, dean of honorary consuls Ami Orkaby, former IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi, president and CEO of Bank Leumi Hanan Friedman, chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries and former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office Harel Locker, plus a large representation from Team 8, Norwegian and Israeli diplomats, academics and industrialists.

Israel and China: It's a fashion

■ IT’S ANYONE’S guess as to whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will indeed visit China in the near future. The subject is just another controversy clinging to the prime minister. But when the bilateral relationship revolves more around fashion than around politics, criticism is minimal, if at all.

It’s common knowledge that copycat couture Made in China and selling at the most affordable of prices can be found all over the world. But China wants to be the creative fashion capital of Asia, and toward this aim organized an international fashion show in Beijing, to which it invited designers from around the globe – including Israel. The two Israeli designers, Anat Heifetz and Shahar Avnet, showed their creations to an audience that included government officials, public influencers, and leading figures from China’s fashion industry. The two young women did Israel proud.

Israel's president is a crossword clue

■ THERE WAS a minor tremor of excitement at the President’s Residence this week when staff discovered the president as a clue in the mini crossword of The New York Times. Getting headlines when he meets with the president of the United States or tries to mediate between Israel’s coalition and opposition factions is par for the course – but being a clue in a NYT crossword puzzle is a sure sign of global recognition.

More on Yigal Amir

■ EVERY NOW and again, someone on the extreme Right or a member of his family comes out with a statement that Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, should be released. It happened again this week when his former lawyer Ari Shamai declared on Channel 14 that it was time for Amir to be released. Following angry reactions from viewers as well as in the studio, Channel 14 declared Shamai to be persona non grata, and will not allow him to appear on any of its programs in the future.

In some countries, conjugal visits are not allowed. Amir was permitted a conjugal relationship with his wife Larissa Trimbobler, who in October 2007 gave birth to a son, Yinon, whose circumcision ceremony was held in prison – ironically on exactly the 12th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination. Thirteen years later Amir was denied a request to attend his son’s bar mitzvah. Israel has been sufficiently generous with the religiously observant Amir in permitting him to carry out the commandment of increase and multiply. But that’s as far as the authorities are prepared to go. Release from prison is out of the question.