Grapevine August 18, 2023: It’s party time

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 A TOAST and a taste of new wines in the Barkan Altitude series. (From left:) Ido Lewinson, Olivier Prati, Lee Boldes, and Nir Gil. (photo credit: LIOR GOLSAD)
A TOAST and a taste of new wines in the Barkan Altitude series. (From left:) Ido Lewinson, Olivier Prati, Lee Boldes, and Nir Gil.
(photo credit: LIOR GOLSAD)

Regardless of the intolerable heat, everyone loves a party. Regular guests at the Tel Aviv home of long-time peace activist Alice Krieger, who is known for unabashedly speaking her mind about mistreatment of Palestinians, democracy under a cloud, and the evils of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, were not disappointed when she included her feelings on these issues in the address that she traditionally gives at her birthday parties.

Most of the guests had previously attended one or more of the Friday night dinners in which she introduces diplomats to representatives of NGOs in the peace camp, as well as to well-known academics, and people from various spheres of the arts. Some had been regulars at her birthday parties for years.

Though often outrageous in her criticisms of government policies and those who frame them, Krieger is an extremely affectionate individual, who gives most people the suffix off “bubele” and is not only liked by her friends but loved, as evidenced by the many warm embraces she received.

Her birthday parties and her Friday night dinners are also an occasion for those of her guests who have not previously met Palestinians, to make up for missed opportunities. There are almost always Palestinians at events that she hosts, including last year, at the ceremony in which she dedicated a Torah scroll at the Yakar synagogue, where she is a member.

In addition to the Palestinians, among the guests at her birthday party this week, there were several rabbis, numerous diplomats of varying ranks, a large representation of NGOs who work for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, well-known singer Shlomit Aharon, actress, writer, producer, and political activist Einat Weizman, and many others.

 FROM LEFT: Orna Shlomov, Rachashei Lev’s VP; Rola Brentlin; Ze’ev Yanay, Baysberg Team’s VP; MK Uriel Buso, the Knesset Health Committee’s chairman; Shimi Gsheyed, Rachashei Lev’s CEO.  (credit: DANIEL EDRI)
FROM LEFT: Orna Shlomov, Rachashei Lev’s VP; Rola Brentlin; Ze’ev Yanay, Baysberg Team’s VP; MK Uriel Buso, the Knesset Health Committee’s chairman; Shimi Gsheyed, Rachashei Lev’s CEO. (credit: DANIEL EDRI)

Among the rabbis were Rabbi Moshe Yehudai and Anton Goodman from Rabbis for Human Rights, Chabad Rabbi Nir Menoosi, who happens to be Krieger’s upstairs neighbor, and Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman who is a Yakar educator and a composer, producer, and performer of Jewish music. Diplomats included the ambassadors of Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and Ghana – Steffen Seibert, Muzishimo Koishi, Ly Duc Trung, and Lydia Amartey, along with charge d’affaires and deputy chiefs of mission of Denmark, Singapore, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, and France.

Representatives of NGOs included Yuval Roth and Yael Noy of Road to Recovery,  and Avner Gvaryahu and Nadav Weinman from Breaking the Silence. Dr. Tal Steiner from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Mauricio Lapchick from Peace Now, James Alexander who teaches Yoga to Palestinian children, Eli Safran from the Peace Forum, Osama Eliwat and Eli Avidor from Combatants for Peace, and several others.

Also present were Uzi Biton who has formed his own news service with tens of thousands of subscribers, and Hillel Schenker the co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, former chairman of the Friends of the University of Haifa Amos Shapira who now lives in Tel Aviv and aims to be the city’s next mayor after the upcoming October elections, and former Meretz MK Mossi Raz.

The size of the crowd, which age-wise spanned just over three generations, was a true tribute to Krieger in that the invitation stated that it would be unwise to come by car, because there were no nearby parking facilities. That meant that anyone who did come by car, had a long walk to her home and back. Some who came by public transport were late in arriving, because with all the construction and closure of roads that is going on in Tel Aviv, public transport has become chaotic.

Tel Aviv light rail is launched amid chaos

■ CHAOS TO even greater degrees may be the order of the day today in Tel Aviv with the long-delayed launch of the Red Line in Tel Aviv’s light rail system. Protest groups, angry that the light rail will not be running on Saturdays in what is overwhelmingly a secular city, have threatened to disrupt the launch ceremony and to demonstrate in front of the home of Transport Minister Miri Regev.

None of this has deterred Jerusalemite and Australian expat Steve Sattler who heads the Trains and Tram Society of Israel, and who intends to take the 8.37 a.m. train from the Navon Station in Jerusalem to the Savidor Station in Tel Aviv which is quite close to the Red Line terminal. He has every intention of riding the Light Rail from Tel Aviv to Bat Yam and on to Petach Tikvah.

But bearing in mind the politicians who will attend, plus the demonstrators, security is going to be very tight, and it’s doubtful that even the greatest train enthusiasts will be able to take that ride on the opening day. Then again, Sattler who is also a voluntary policeman, may have Israel’s legendary Vitamin P – protektzia.

What former Chelsea Football Club antisemitism official Rola Brentlin is doing now

■ DURING THE years in which Roman Abramovich owned Chelsea Football Club, before he was forced to sell it last year when the British authorities clamped down on Russian oligarchs living in England, and froze their assets, Rola Brentlin was head of the club’s special projects, which largely focused on fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism. After the new owners took over, and Abramovich was not allowed to pocket the proceeds of the sale, Brentlin and Chelsea Football Club parted company.

She has now joined the board of Rachashe Lev, which is a leading supporter of child cancer patients and their families. In her new role, Brentlin has the title of deputy chairperson.

Brentlin has extensive experience in the philanthropy and business worlds and has served in a variety of capacities in marketing and public relations. During her work with Chelsea, she oversaw the club’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign launched in January 2018, which tackled racism and discrimination on the pitch, in the stands, and in wider society.

Brentlin attended Rachashei Lev’s end-of-year event in Jaffa and met with the staff, the volunteers, the children, and their families to hear their stories. During the evening, she received as a gift a painting prepared for her by May, an 11-year-old, who is battling cancer and who appreciates whatever help she gets.

Efraim Zuroff: Veteran Nazi hunter

■ ANYONE MEETING Efraim Zuroff without prior knowledge of his background, would assess him as being a pleasant and friendly person, which he is. But professionally, as director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs, and its chief Nazi hunter, he is relentless in his quest to see all Nazi war criminals brought to justice, regardless of their age.

He would also like the governments of those countries which acted in collusion with the Nazis, to admit their guilt, and work toward the restoration of Jewish individual and community property to rightful owners and their heirs. In the course of his work as a Nazi hunter, Zuroff has discovered the escape destinations of more than 3,000 suspected Nazi war criminals all over the world, and has facilitated the exposure and prosecution of dozens of them. In recent years, he has played a key role in identifying the phenomenon of Holocaust distortion in post-Communist Eastern Europe, and is considered to be one of the leading spokespersons in the world on Holocaust-related issues.

On Thursday of this week, he addressed the Jerusalem Anglo Women’s Rosh Hodesh Club. His topic was titled “My Life as a Nazi-Hunter – Successes, Failures, and Insights.” Tackling such a gruesome subject on the first day of the of Elul, was perhaps appropriate, given that it was in the month of Elul that the Nazis invaded Poland, and war was declared.

Deliberately mixing kosher and non-kosher

■ JUST AS religiously observant people will not eat in a restaurant until they ascertain that it’s kosher and meets their standard of kashrut, secular people are entitled to open and patronize restaurants that serve all the forbidden foods that those who obey the laws of kashrut cannot eat. But to deliberately mix kosher and non-kosher when two companies get together, is somewhat illogical – especially when the event is a pre-Rosh Hashana wine promotion.

Barkan Winery trades on the fact that its wines are kosher all year round. But it’s kind of baffling when they organize a wine tasting of their new wines in the Altitude series, for the powers-that-be at Barkan, to choose a non-kosher restaurant for the occasion. Barkan’s best and most consistent customers and consumers are surely religiously observant Jews, and presumably, such people should be among the tasters of the new blends. But they could not be seen in Shila, the distinctly non-kosher seafood restaurant owned by Master Chef Sharon Cohen.

A selection of quality wines was served with the meal, and leading wine tasters and reviewers were among the drinkers and diners. One might say that the religiously observant Jews did not have to eat, as the wine tasting was the main purpose of the event. But there’s an obstacle to that kind of thinking in Judaism. It’s called Ma’arat Ayin, which essentially means what is visible to the eye. A passerby, seeing an obviously religious person in a non-kosher restaurant, might assume that the restaurant is kosher, or if he or she knows the person in question, may decide that this person is a hypocrite, even though he or she may not have eaten anything.

Perhaps the next time around Barkan’s CEO Nir Gil, Master of Wine Ido Lewinson, winemaker Olivier Prati, and deputy CEO and marketing manager Lee Boldes, will select a kosher restaurant. There’s no shortage of good ones.

Dan Panorama gets new executive chef

■ ON THE subject of kosher restaurants, Boaz Dror has been appointed Executive Chef of the Dan Panorama Hotel, Tel Aviv. Dror has an impressive background as a restaurateur and hotel chef. Most recently, he was the owner and chef of vegetarian restaurants in different parts of the country.

He has also served as executive chef in major catering enterprises.

At the Dan Panorama, he will be responsible for operations in all the hotel’s kitchens, dining room, lobby coffee shop, and dining facilities by the pool.