GRAPEVINE: Boxes of blessings

An Israeli celebration of Passover.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (photo credit: BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY)
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
ALTHOUGH PASSOVER begins tonight, a Purim gift created by more than 800 children who participated in programs held at Beit Avi Chai during Purim deserves a mention. The youngsters worked to create small, colorful boxes of blessings that included words such as “happiness,” “laughter,” “light” and “blessing.” The boxes were all placed in a frame and taken to Hadassah-University Medical Center where Prof. Eitan Kerem, head of Hadassah’s Department of Pediatrics joined Dr. David Rozenson, executive director of Beit Avi Chai, on the third floor of Hadassah Ein Kerem’s Children’s Hospital for the unveiling of the framed “Boxes of Blessings,” Beit Avi Chai’s permanent and symbolic gift to child patients and intended as a prayer with hope for their full and speedy recoveries. Also present was Edna Pinchover, director of Hadassah’s Experimental School for Children.
Rozenson also distributed additional boxes and small gifts to the young patients.
ON MONDAY, April 2, a video is to be released featuring 14 choirs from around the Jewish world, from Lvov to Toronto, Rome to Melbourne, Jerusalem to San Diego, Toronto to Cape Town and places elsewhere singing as “One Voice,” a new version of “Oseh Shalom” in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary. The multiple choirs singing simultaneously in different venues created an aura of Jewish unity, in that this short prayer for peace is sung throughout the Jewish world – albeit not always simultaneously.
A similar initiative was launched in 2008 for Israel’s 60th anniversary by businesswoman, social activist and former television personality Galia Albin with what she called “Live Hatikva.” Albin persuaded 50,000 people in seven foreign countries in addition to 38 Israeli towns and cities to simultaneously sing “Hatikva,” which is not only Israel’s national anthem, but the national anthem of the Jewish people.
Other than “Hatikva,” “Oseh Shalom” is arguably one of the most popular songs of both soloists and choirs. In 2008, Britain’s Shabbaton Choir, at the request of former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom Lord Sacks, performed Oseh Shalom as the finale to a double CD called Home of Hope. A video of the choir performing Oseh Shalom that includes Lord Sacks explaining its importance can be seen on YouTube. Presumably, 10 years from now, there will be another choral rendition, and perhaps then, the choir(s) will sing every known tune to “Oseh Shalom” to make it even more inclusive than it already is.
THE BUREAUCRATIC and humanitarian crises surrounding the Diplomat Hotel, which is the future site of the US Embassy when it moves to Jerusalem, is just another example of Israel’s civilian incompetence. In matters of security, Israel usually does an admirable job, but on matters of social welfare, authorization of permits, and completion of construction projects, there is almost always an inexcusable delay.
When the US embassy purchased the Diplomat Hotel in 2014, there was a hue and cry over the fate of the elderly, mostly Russian immigrants who live there. At the time, the embassy announced that it would not evacuate anyone for another two years. It was not known then that Donald Trump would become president, would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and make good on the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by Congress in 1995. Nonetheless, the Americans wanted use of the building or alternatively to tear it down and build on the land. The original intention was to move the embassy by 1999, but a succession of US presidents signed waivers delaying the move.
The Immigration and Integration Ministry had four years in which to find or build alternative accommodation for the 450 elderly immigrants who want to stay together and not be scattered in different parts of the city. This was not done. In addition, the permit for the hotel to be converted from an immigrant absorption center to an embassy should have been issued by the relevant authorities in Jerusalem immediately after the Trump announcement, but here again there was inexcusable foot-dragging.
Meanwhile Yediot Yerushalayim, quoting the Central Bureau of Statistics, reported last week that there are in excess of 15,000 apartments in Jerusalem that are used as holiday homes and remain unoccupied for most of the year or are abandoned premises. Doubling rates and taxes on unoccupied apartments has obviously been ineffective.