Grapevine: Discovering the secret

Movers and shakers, how Israeli people shape the places of this country.

David Grossman 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
David Grossman 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
It has long been a practice at Beit Avi Chai to convey the messages of the most tragic chapters in Jewish history via the performing arts – cinema, television and stage. In advance of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Beit Avi Chai will host a new and unique theater performance based on the David Grossman novel See Under: Love. Though Grossman is not the son of Holocaust survivors, there were many survivors in the neighborhood in which he grew up. As a boy, he heard screams in the night from people reliving their experiences in their nightmares. Some spoke of the horrors they endured, but most did not, except among other Holocaust survivors, and such conversations ended abruptly if a child entered the room. Yet the children heard vaguely about the Nazi beast and about what had happened over there.
It was almost always “over there” – no mention of a specific place.   These vague references played on the imaginations of children, and in some ways were more frightening than conveying memories of actual atrocities. Grossman wove together personal stories in his book and these have been adapted for the stage. The main character, Momik, a child of Holocaust survivors, tries to discover the secret that his parents are hiding from him. The play runs from April 29 through May 3.
■ SOMETIMES ONE gets the impression that English is a more common language in Jerusalem than Hebrew. Stand in line for tickets at the Jerusalem Theater, Smadar, Yes Planet or Cinema City, and the language you’re most likely to hear is English. If you happen to be at the National Library in the early afternoon of April 29, you will also hear English when Paula Fredrikson – professor emerita of scripture at Boston University, and since 2009, distinguished visiting professor of comparative religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – speaks on “Jerusalem and Rome: A Tale of Two Cities.”
■ MEDIA REPORTS about urban renewal in the capital are causing great distress to people whose apartments are built on church land, much of which belongs or belonged to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Apartment owners who purchased their homes in good faith were given to understand that Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund had long-term renewable leases with the church, and that there was really nothing to worry about. But worry began to set in following reports that some of the land had been sold to private investors, at least one of whom reportedly gave assurances that no one would be turfed out of their apartment. Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III also said there was nothing to worry about.
When it was suggested to him that he host a meeting of all the people whose apartments were on Greek-owned land, he said he would think about it – but so far he hasn’t done anything about it. Irene Grossman, a representative of the Citizens Property Rights Group, organized a meeting with representatives of the KKL-JNF, and was told there is no crisis in Jerusalem because KKL-JNF had rights that allowed for the extension of leases for at least another 50 years. The present agreement expires in 2051, and remains in force until that time regardless of who the owners of the land may be.
However, KKL-JNF does not have any obligation to deal with the sale of land and will not deal with the new owners, because it does not know exactly who is backing them and refuses to wade into the unknown. Nonetheless, KKL-JNF wants to help home owners and is considering two possible options. One is to lease the land for an additional 50 years. The other is to take up a proposal by former Kulanu MK and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Rachel Azaria to nationalize the land. This could take time due to involvement of the Justice and Finance ministries, the Jerusalem municipality and other bodies.
■ NATIVE NEW Yorker and Mahaneh Yehuda resident Maureen Kushner, whose Hebrew name is Miriam, has been inspired since her youth by the biblical Miriam. As an adult, with the help of her rabbi, she tried to figure out the route of Miriam’s journey out of Egypt and across the desert, and decided to follow it herself, starting out in Goshen, which is now called Ziklag. Each year on the anniversary of Miriam’s death – the 10th day of the Hebrew month Nissan – Kushner takes a boatload of women to Tiberias to honor the memory of Miriam and her well. She takes exactly 126 women to correspond with Miriam’s age at the time of her death – and did so again this week.