Grapevine August 30, 2023: He knew her well

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM LEFT: Howard Zeimer, president, Caulfield Hebrew Congregation; Ambassador Amir Maimon; and Doron Eldar, partner in SIBF. (photo credit: SIBF)
FROM LEFT: Howard Zeimer, president, Caulfield Hebrew Congregation; Ambassador Amir Maimon; and Doron Eldar, partner in SIBF.
(photo credit: SIBF)

Advancing age is no longer a deterrent to career promotion or to demand as an entertainer or public speaker. Prof. Meron Medzini, an emeritus professor of Japanese history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s department of Asian studies, will celebrate his 91st birthday on September 2. But on August 31, which falls on Thursday of this week, he will be in Los Angeles for the screening of Golda at the Jewish Film Festival.

Medzini, whose mother was a childhood friend of Golda Meir, had a close relationship with Israel’s only woman prime minister, from the time he was a little boy until the time of her death in December 1978.

In 1973-74, Medzini served as Golda’s spokesman, and as director of the Government Press Office during the Yom Kippur War. His book Golda Meir – A Political Biography, published in 2017, won the Prime Minister’s Prize. Medzini is frequently invited to give talks on Meir, and Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival organizers invited him to do so yet again. There will also be a Q and A session.

The academy award-winning director of Golda, Guy Nattiv, in an interview with Israel Hayom, speaks of his relationship with actress Helen Mirren, who, despite being a star, is devoid of ego, very straightforward, and always willing to learn. When he made certain suggestions about how her role as Golda should be interpreted, her response was: “You’re the Israeli; I’m not.”

All the Israelis celebrating their birthdays

■ ALSO CELEBRATING his 91st birthday in September is former television anchorman and documentary filmmaker Haim Yavin, who was known as Mr. Television. Yavin was born on September 10. He is one of many celebrities and dignitaries born in September. Others include: former government minister Ya’acov Litzman and hi-tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, 2/9; Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch Rotem, 3/9; professor of law, author, and former government minister Amnon Rubinstein, 5/9; composer, conductor, and pianist Gil Shohat, 7/9; former president Reuven Rivlin, 9/9; former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, 10/9; rabbi famous for reaching out to youth at risk Yitzhak David Grossman, 15/9; singer and radio host Kobi Oz, 17/9; Attorney-General Gali Baharav Miara and television personality Lucy Aharish, 18/9; businessman and philanthropist Leonid Nevzlin and Energy Minister Israel Katz, 21/9; singer, musician, and composer Ariel Zilber, who will celebrate his 80th birthday, and former education, culture and sport minister Limor Livnat share a September 22 birthday with President Isaac Herzog, whose late father, president Chaim Herzog, was also born in September, but on 17/9; Holocaust history expert Prof. Dina Porat, 24/9; author Eli Amir, 26/9; television and radio broadcaster Ayala Hasson, 28/9; actress Riki Blich, 29/9; and Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations Gilad Erdan and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, 30/9.

 SENIOR ISRAEL DISCOUNT BANK employees at Krembo Wings camp. (credit: Israel Discount Bank )
SENIOR ISRAEL DISCOUNT BANK employees at Krembo Wings camp. (credit: Israel Discount Bank )

It seems that September was a good month for the famous to come into the world. There are also many famous people now deceased who were born in September, among them Elie Wiesel, Leonard Cohen, Chaim Topol and Uri Avnery.

Direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai

■ DIRECT FLIGHTS between Tel Aviv and Mumbai are due to begin at the end of October. In tandem with the opening of the new route, visitors to Mumbai will be able to explore local Jewish history by taking a tour on the newly inaugurated Jewish Route.

The project was officially launched last week at the Chabad Center in Mumbai. The center, which is also known as Nariman House, is a magnet for Jews seeking kosher meals, looking for fellow Jews, or desiring information about things Jewish.

The Jewish Route is a joint project of the Israel Consulate and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation in India to promote and preserve the Jewish heritage of the region. The curated route includes 26 Jewish heritage sites across various cities of Maharashtra. Twelve of these sites are in Mumbai.

Among those present at the Jewish Route inauguration ceremony were German Minister for Culture and Media Claudia Roth and members of the Israel Consulate. The 26 sites include synagogues, libraries, cemeteries, and schools. According to Kobbi Shoshani, Israel’s consul-general for Midwest India, the aim of the project is to attract both Israeli and Indian tourists, in addition to preserving the heritage of the Jewish community.

Shoshani revealed that the Israel Consulate hopes to develop similar routes elsewhere in India, in regions such as Kochi, West Bengal, New Delhi, and even Ahmedabad.

He noted that Jews have been living in India for 2,000 years without any fear of persecution. When he came to India for the first time in 1992, to see the Jewish heritage of Mumbai, it found a place in his heart, he said. “Indians and Israelis as well as Jews from all over the world, must come to Mumbai to experience the same,” he emphasized.

Chabad House in Mumbai made international headlines in November 2008, after being partially destroyed in a terrorist attack in which six people were murdered. Among the victims were Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivki, who were the founding directors of Chabad House, which they had purchased five years previously. Their infant son, Moshe, was saved by Sandra Samuel, an Indian woman employed at Chabad House.

Following restoration of the building, it reopened its doors in 2014 to serve as a memorial for the victims and as a center of Jewish education and outreach. Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky and his wife, Chaya, moved to Mumbai to continue the work that was started by the Holtzbergs.

Another terrorist attack against Chabad House was averted in July of this year. Security around the house is tight and on a 24/7 basis. Since the averted attack, security measures have become even more stringent.

During the launch ceremony, Roth laid a wreath at the monument, and said that it was ideal to have a route that shows what it is to be Jewish in India. “As a German, I would like to remember the 5,000 Jews who escaped the Shoah and moved to India.”

A time of argument in a time of reconciliation

■ IN JEWISH tradition, the Hebrew calendar month of Elul is a month of reconciliation, a month of personal stocktaking and owning up to one’s transgressions in a spirit of true remorse. Unfortunately, we see little of this in Israel’s political arena, where opponents to judicial reform cause great inconvenience to the general public by closing off major traffic arteries with their demonstrations. They also cause inconvenience and strife to the neighbors of public figures who are government ministers or open supporters of judicial reform. Now, on Thursday, Elul 21, which coincides with September 7, the key supporters of judicial reform are staging what they call a Freedom Rally opposite the Supreme Court. The rally will be held under the slogan of “They won’t steal our votes.”

Primarily under attack, will be Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, who is due to retire in October, and Baharav Miara, whose removal from office several ministers – most notably David Amsalem – have called for.

Is this really a time when Jews should be attacking other Jews? For that matter, is there any time when Jews should attack other Jews? On Yom Kippur, we will remember our fallen soldiers. We will mourn their loss regardless of their political affiliations, their degree of religious observance, or the color of their skin. If we can overlook these differences in death, why not in life?

It's Uman time

■ IT’S THAT time of year again when tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world are preparing to leave for Uman in Ukraine to celebrate Rosh Hashanah near the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, who founded the Breslover Hassidic sect. Not everyone who goes is religious, and not all those who are religious are Breslaver Hassidim. But it is a happening like no other of Jewish togetherness. Men leave their wives and daughters, but sometimes take their sons with them.

During the COVID pandemic, the Ukrainian authorities did not want a Jewish influx to Uman, and tried to close all ports of entry, but many travelers found devious means of getting into Ukraine, and the Uman happening went ahead as usual. What will transpire this year, remains to be seen.

Ukraine is very unhappy about the manner in which its refugees have been treated in Israel with regard to health insurance, employment, and the period in which they are permitted to remain in the country, and the Ukrainian authorities are likely to clamp down on anyone wanting to enter their country in the immediate weeks ahead. A hint of this has already been given by Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk.

Yair Netanyahu has nothing on Itamar Ben-Gvir

■ FOR A long time it was thought that the venomous posts on social media by Yair Netanyahu, the elder of the prime minister’s two sons, would eventually put an end to Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career. But it seems that Yair is small potatoes compared to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a serial breaker of rules who doesn’t give a fig for being politically correct, and whose racist attitude is a blight on the government of which he is a member. If Netanyahu keeps defending Ben-Gvir, the day will come when the Likud stops defending or supporting Netanyahu.

Apropos Ben-Gvir, the demonstration near his home by left-wing organizations last Friday led to yet another show of police brutality. Two arrests were reported, one of a slightly built man who was barely shoulder high to the six police who dragged him out of the crowd for apparently no reason. Video footage showed his futile resistance, with the result that one of the police held him down in a choke hold. Imagine the repercussions had he died.

Honoring Michael Biton

■ FORMER YEROHAM mayor, National Unity MK Michael Biton, who in February of this year was appointed as chairman of the Knesset Special Committee for Strengthening and Developing the Negev and the Galilee, will on September 6 be awarded the Badge of National Resilience. The honor is conferred annually by the Community Stress Prevention Center located in Kiryat Shmona, and headed by its founding president, Prof. Mooli Lahad, a psychologist specializing in psycho-trauma and psychodrama. Lahad is known for his creative methods in treating stress.

For the past 45 years, Lahad has quietly worked for the advancement of post-trauma research and mental resilience, and has put what he has learned at the disposal of crisis centers around the world. CSPC’s groundbreaking research and transformative treatment methods have played an instrumental role in helping people to change their lives.

Biton is being recognized for his exceptional contributions toward fortifying Israel’s national resilience and particularly for preventing the closure of northern border resilience centers due to their lack of budgets.

A birth to celebrate

■ THE BIRTH of a baby is always an emotional moment – certainly for the parents and sometimes for the doula, the midwife or the obstetrician.

In the case of Talia Bazak, who gave birth to a healthy boy at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, it was emotional for her and for her obstetrician for more than the usual reasons.

Before she married Assaf Bazak, she was Talia Borochov. At age two, Talia was diagnosed with leukemia. She was treated at Hadassah by a team of pediatric cancer specialists. Together, the patient and medical staff won the battle.

When she was nine, the cancer returned in a more aggressive form, and it was thought that only a bone marrow transplant could save her life. A nationwide call for donors went out, and a young medical intern by the name of Doron Kabiri was put in charge of compiling a registry of would-be donors. He himself was among the first of the many who registered. But no suitable donor was found.

In the final analysis, Talia responded well to chemotherapy, and she recovered and was able to lead a normal life.

Fourteen years passed. In the interim, the young intern had become a highly respected obstetrician with experience and expertise in high-risk pregnancies. Talia had grown up, married, moved to Modi’in, and conceived not long afterward. Unfortunately, she experienced a stillbirth.

With her second pregnancy, she was afraid that something would again be amiss, so she and her husband began looking for a good obstetrician. The person most frequently and most highly recommended was Dr. Kabiri.

In asking about Talia’s medical history, Kabiri learned about her previous pregnancy, her fears of complications during her then current pregnancy, and of course the two cancer bouts when she was a child.

When she mentioned that in 2008, there had been a nationwide search for a bone marrow donor on her behalf, something clicked in Kabiri’s brain. He had worked very hard to try to find a donor for her, and his efforts had been recognized and he was awarded a citation.

Was the young woman who had visited his clinic that same little girl? He raced home to check the text on the citation, and sure enough his intuition had not been misplaced. He did not tell Talia, but she became his special patient.

Talia’s mother, Yifat, says that in Dr. Kabiri, Talia found a father figure who listened patiently to her anxieties, who calmed her, and who was available at all hours of the day and night. “He was her guardian angel,” said the baby’s grandmother.

After Talia had given birth, and everything turned out to be alright, Kabiri visited her in the recovery room, and told her that he had also been with her all the way back when she had leukemia.

She and Assaf were amazed at the crazy coincidence. They had come looking for someone whom they could trust. As soon as they met him, they knew that Talia would be in good hands. It had never occurred to them that she had been in those good hands before. But after learning that he had been there for her when she was a child, they understood why he had been so attentive to her needs.

“I’m so pleased that I was able to help her realize her dreams,” said Dr. Kabir.

The Standards Institute is moving to Jerusalem

■ SUPPOSEDLY IN line with a government resolution that all government offices should be headquartered in the capital, the Standards Institute, at the request of Economy Minister Nir Barkat, is moving to Jerusalem.

As the immediate past mayor of the city, and the only Jewish mayor to have been born there, it is hardly surprising that Barkat used all the influence at his disposal to get the Standards Institute to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Melbourne, Australia: One of the most pro-Israel Jewish communities in the world

■ OF ALL the Jewish communities in the world with a pro-Zionist orientation, one of the most ardent supporters of Israel is the Jewish community of Melbourne, Australia.

That may explain why so many Israeli dignitaries and celebrities, as well as those from elsewhere around the globe, flock to Melbourne, for any number of reasons, and are invariably given a warm welcome.

Melbourne Jewry supports Israel by giving to numerous organizations and institutions, all of which have branches of members and friends in Melbourne. Among them are WIZO, UIA, JNF, HU, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Hadassah, Sheba, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and some half dozen Zionist youth groups.

There are also impressive Australian investments in Israel by companies affiliated with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. So it’s small wonder that when Israeli venture capitalists are looking for new companies and new investors, one of the places on their itineraries is Melbourne. The Southern Israel Bridging Fund, which actually has a Melbourne office headed by Doron Eldar, who is a partner in SIBF, hosted an investor conference, cocktail reception, and concert in celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary of independence.

It was one of more than a dozen 75th anniversary events held in Melbourne, some, like this one, with the participation of Israel Ambassador Amir Maimon.

More than 100 investors participated in the conference. Among them were representatives of the financial arms of some of the most powerful Jewish families in Australia, said Eldar, adding that SIBF has so far raised $200 million and made joint investments of approximately $450m., with some investments coming from Australian investors.

Among the companies in which SIBF has invested in Australia are Dotz Nano, which is traded on the ASX with a value of about $100m., and Electriq Global, which has raised about $20m. in the Australian market in recent years.

A gathering of philanthropists: What Israel was missing

■ THE ONE important event that Israel could have had but did not have to mark its 75th anniversary was a gathering of philanthropists, and the heirs of those no longer living, who contributed so significantly to the development of the state. Read the inscriptions on the plaques in hospitals, universities, museums, zoos, synagogues, yeshivot, schools, theaters and more, and if you didn’t know it before, you would realize that none of these institutions would be a reality without the support of Diaspora Jewry. The best-known donors are various members of the Rothschild family, including those who are not Jewish, and those who are barely Jewish. Like an umbilical cord, they are eternally linked to Israel through the navel.

Lord Jacob Rothschild was in Israel in April 2016 for the laying of the cornerstone for the National Library, which will be officially opened in October. The Rothschild Foundation is among the principal donors to the library, as is the Gottesman Fund. Unfortunately, Sandy Gottesman, the head of his family foundation, who was also in Israel for the laying of the cornerstone, and to look at the progress of the Jerusalem Aquarium, which the Gottesman Fund funded, did not live to see the completion of the library building. He died in September last year.

But there are tens of thousands of people throughout the Jewish world who have given generously to Israel, and to whom Israel owes a huge thank-you. Without them, and what they helped to build, Israel would be academically, medically, economically, scientifically, and culturally bankrupt, and the wondrous achievements that Israel has to its credit might never have come about.

It’s still not too late. An international gathering of philanthropists could be invited to kick off the start of Israel’s fourth quarter, which will culminate in a century of independence.

Settle your debts, or else

■ YOU CAN avoid fiscal obligations for just so long, but eventually, if you don’t find an amicable way in which to settle your debts, you’ll wind up in court.

That’s what happened to real estate investor Adi Keizman, who some 20 years ago was among the first Israelis to discover the real estate potential of Berlin. At one stage, his portfolio contained more than 3,000 properties.

Due to his success, Keizman found it relatively easy to persuade other Israelis to join him, or to at least purchase one or more of the housing units that he owned, and to make an income from rentals.

He did not practice the same charm on tenants, and reportedly used unsavory tactics to get them to leave so that he could raise the rents.

Before departing from Israel with his family to live in Berlin, Keizman also had a highly publicized fiscal disagreement with his father-in-law. Keizman is married to former supermodel Esti Ginzburg.

A couple of years back, the couple and their children relocated to Los Angeles, but he continued to do business in Berlin. Keizman was previously married to Ofra Strauss, with whom he has a daughter.

Keizman repeatedly ignored requests from Israeli investors who believed they had been cheated and wanted their money back.

Two such investors were Muly Litvak and Anat Levin. After many fruitless attempts to retrieve their money, they took their case to the Supreme Court and won. The court this week ordered Keizman to pay Litvak and Levin NIS 6m. Keizman wanted to appeal, but the court denied his application, saying that he had nothing new to offer that would change the court’s ruling.

When banks do good

■ GENERALLY SPEAKING, many people do not have a particularly good opinion of banks, first and foremost because they charge high interest for mortgages and loans and pay low interest on fixed deposit accounts. Another gripe in recent years is the waning of human contact. In personal money matters, people don’t want to do all their business via computer. They want to be able to see and talk to a bank clerk. Some banks have realized this and are restoring human services that had been replaced by technology. Aside from that, banks are not quite as heartless as they seem, and most banks fund various charitable projects as a service to the community.

Discount Bank, for instance, saved the summer camps of Krembo Wings, whose members include young people with and without disabilities. It’s a movement for social change and mutual acceptance. There was simply not enough finance to keep the camps going this year, until Discount Bank came to the rescue with a large-scale financial donation.

After that, employees of the bank took an additional step to support Krembo Wings. Dozens of employees from across Israel traveled to Midreshet Hagolan in the Hispin forest to spend a day at the camp. They heard a lecture from the organization’s CEO, Talia Harel Bejerano, and then participated in activities and games with the campers. At the end of the day, the employees gave each camper a summer bag and wished them success with the opening of the upcoming school year.

The day’s activities proved the importance of human interaction to both campers and donors.