Grapevine: The capital of Israel – Tel Aviv?

One would think that The Wall Street Journal would be aware of the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s seat of government.

2014 Tel Aviv Night Run.  (photo credit: GUY YEHIELI)
2014 Tel Aviv Night Run.
(photo credit: GUY YEHIELI)
One would think that The Wall Street Journal would be aware of the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s seat of government. The European edition of the prestigious publication, reporting on the upcoming visit to Israel, Ramallah and Gaza on November 7 and 8 by newly installed European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, notes that “Mogherini’s trip comes at yet another awkward juncture in Europe’s relations with Tel Aviv.”
Such a deliberate mistake would not have been made in the American edition where former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post Bret Stephens holds sway as the Global View columnist and deputy editorial page editor, and is more than aware of the location of Israel’s capital and seat of government.
According to the report Mogherini wants the EU to play a larger role in Middle East peace talks and has said repeatedly she wants the EU to be a “player” as well as a “payer” in the Middle East peace process.
■ CONSIDERING THAT earlier in the week, he’s been on speaking engagements in the United States where inter alia he appeared before more than a thousand supporters of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago; and before that did an onstage interview with journalist Bob Woodruff at Colgate University, former president Shimon Peres was in fine form on Saturday night when he delivered the opening address at the Rabin memorial rally in Tel Aviv. In making the case for peace, the nonagenarian Peres referred to existing treaties between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan and made the point that a cold peace is infinitely preferable to a hot war.
■ NOW THAT the much vaunted Polin Museum of the history of the Jews in Poland has been officially opened, Polish representatives around the world will be talking about it, to encourage public interest and to boost tourism to their country.
Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz, who attended the opening ceremony last week, will be sharing some of his impressions on November 6 at the Einav Cultural Center in Tel Aviv at a gala evening in which participants will include Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Prof. Marian Turski, Auschwitz survivor and chairman of the Polin Museum Council, whose moving address made such a profound impact at the opening ceremony. Prior to a panel discussion on “Not forgetting a thousand years of history” to be moderated by Prof.
Hanoch Guttfreund with the participation of Prof. Anita Shapira, composer Ella Milch-Sheriff, Dr. Dan Almagor and Prof.
David Assaf, invitees to the event will hear the premiere performance of Milch-Sheriff’s “Conversation with Stone.” The overall moderator for the evening will be Israel Radio’s Arye Golan, who was also in Warsaw for the opening of the museum, and who freely admits that he feels very much at home in the land of his birth.
■ AMONG THE many guests at the opening of the Polin Museum was Jonny Daniel, the founder and chairman of From the Depths, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Holocaust memory, the cleaning up of Jewish cemeteries and the rescue of Jewish tombstones. For many years after the Second World War, Poles raided Jewish cemeteries and pillaged tombstones, which they used for paving and the strengthening of building foundations.
Daniels has set himself the task of rescuing such tombstones and restoring them to the cemeteries from which they were stolen, or if those cemeteries no longer exist, he tries to locate descendants of the deceased in order to give them the tombstone.
British-born Daniels, who is Israeli, spends much of his time in Poland these days. During the museum ceremony, he noticed that television cameras were frequently being trained in his direction. He felt uncomfortable until he realized that he was sitting next to famed film director Roman Polanski, and subsequently took a selfie of the two of them. Polanski was later detained by police with regard to an American extradition request. In 1977, Polanski, then 43, had unlawful sex with 13-year-old Selma Geimer. He pleaded guilty to the charge against him, but fled to Europe before he could be sentenced.
In 2009, he was arrested in Switzerland on a US fugitive warrant, but the Swiss did not follow through on a US extradition request. In 1997, Geimer publicly declared that she had no desire to see him punished and asked for the case to be dismissed.
Poland, like Switzerland is unlikely to extradite him. Polanski is the son of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, but considers himself Jewish.
Daniels has signed several Jewish cemetery and tombstone restoration agreements with various municipalities across Poland, including Dobryzn Nad Wisla , Skulsk, Bakaarzewo, Raczki, Sosnowiec, Lipno & Jeleniewo. His projects have been publicized in the Polish media and have fueled the interest and compassion of Polish non-Jews, many of whom contact him with stories about Jewish tombstones in their cities. In Rozprza, the fire chief saw a story about Daniels in the Polish press, contacted him and said that the local Jewish cemetery had been destroyed, but that there might be tombstones beneath the surface of the ground. One was dug up and three more were found. Further efforts to find more tombstones will be made in coming weeks. In addition to the tombstone project, From the Depths has signed an historic agreement in which it will help the Warsaw Zoo administration to document the incredible story of former director Jan Żabiński and his wife, Atonina, who together saved more than 300 Jews during the Holocaust. In addition Daniels and his organization will be working with the Zoo to document the thousands of fragments of tombstones used in rebuilding the Zoo and where possible will return the fragments to their rightful location, the Jewish cemetery of Bródno.
■ AMONG THE people on the plane that took President Reuven Rivlin to Poland were Samuel Willenberg, believed to be the last survivor of the Treblinka Revolt, and his wife, Ada Willenberg, who is a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. Willenberg, who is an artist, was able to make an important contribution to the documenting of Holocaust history, by drawing up the equivalent of an architect’s plan of Treblinka. The Willenbergs have lost count of the many times they have been back to Poland as part of official delegations, to receive honors from the Polish government and to take youth groups to Treblinka.
What pains them is that there is no official information center in Treblinka and they hope to raise funds to build one.
Their daughter Orit Willenberg-Giladi, an architect who has designed 17 Israeli embassies around the world, has given her services gratis to the design of an education- cum-information center in Treblinka, but funds for its construction have not yet been raised. The plan for the information center was announced last year at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Treblinka Revolt, and the cornerstone was laid. Prof. Pawel Spiewak, the director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw is spear-heading the fund raising campaign.
Some 870,000 people, most of them Jews, were murdered in Treblinka.
■ OTHER THAN the Willenbergs, and former Israel Ambassador to Poland Szewach Weiss, one of the regulars on presidential, prime ministerial and other official and non-official visits to Poland is Auschwitz survivor and veteran Yediot Aharonot journalist Noah Klieger, 88, who is much more informative than most professional spokespersons in briefing fellow journalists, which he does with great generosity of spirit. Sent to the Auschwitz Monowitz rubber factory at age 16, he worked alongside Primo Levi, and was forced by the Nazis to join the Auschwitz boxing team, in which Jews fought each other for the amusement of their German captors. Liberated in April 1945 by the Red Army, the Strasbourg-born Klieger went to Paris and joined Aliya Bet, the precursor of the Mossad.
He was active in smuggling illegal immigrants into British Mandate Palestine, and arrived there himself soon after the establishment of the state. He has been the Israel correspondent for the French Sports daily L’Equipe since 1953.
The paper’s editors nominated him for the French Legion of Honor, which he received in January 2012 – one of many awards conferred on him over the years. Klieger writes on Holocaust related issues and on sport for Yediot Aharonot and covered the trials of Nazi war criminals in Belgium, France and Germany, as well as the trials of Adolf Eichmann and John Demjanjuk in Israel.
He has been traveling to Poland frequently since 1959, and expects to make his 150th trip on January 8, 2015. “I can be a tour guide of Poland,” he quips. In fact, he almost is, as any journalist who has traveled in his company can vouch. Before his next trip to Poland, Klieger is due to return to his native Strasbourg where on November 19, he will be made an honorary citizen.
■ MOMENTARILY DISRUPTING a meeting a with a delegation from the European Parliament, President Rivlin on Thursday made a statement to the media in which he deplored the escalation of violence in Jerusalem, particularly the assassination attempt on Yehuda Glick. The delegation from the European Parliament headed by Victor Bostinaru of Romania who is with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the EP, included EP members from Italy, Croatia, Germany and Spain. Essentially, they came to tell Rivlin that they are not part of the problem, and are keen to be part of the solution in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Though aware that Rivlin is not in favor of a two-state solution, they were willing to listen to his explanation. They were particularly concerned about Gaza-related issues and asked that Israel should reflect on what it does or does not do, and desist from creating unnecessary frustration. It was also pointed out by the Spanish member of the delegation that the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the recent altercation with Gaza, was a major blow for Israel and her supporters.
Bostinaru, readily admitted that there are some radical groups in the EP whose attitudes were shaped by lack of information and lack of co-operation, and because of such people, it was essential to pave the way to prevent unnecessary damage before it takes place, he said. “But for this,” he stressed, “we need the cooperation of our Israeli colleagues.”
Rivlin who had participated in Knesset delegations to the European Council and the European Parliament in Brussels, Paris and Stockholm emphasized that Europe is very important to Israel, “not for the imposition of peace but in promoting direct negotiations to bring about an end to the conflict.”
Bostinaru responded that the European Parliament wants to help the peace process and can play a role in cooperating with Israel, with the Palestinians and with the United States.
Rivlin’s mantra with regard to the Palestinians was, is and will be: “We have to live together whether we have a one-state, two-state or federation solution.”
Explaining his opposition to the twostate solution, Rivlin said that such a solution exists with Lebanon, yet Israel is constantly under the threat of Hezbollah.
“If we have two sovereignties in Jerusalem, we will have problems every day,” he predicted, adding that there would be increased dangers from extremists on both sides.
■ THIS WEEK Rivlin again raised the issue of Yehuda Glick from the stage of the Begin Heritage Center, and once again wished Glick a full and speedy recovery.
Glick had been shot when emerging from the Begin Center following a conference on the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. The fact that the assassination attempt on Glick had made outside the Begin Center was evidence of the escalation of violence and proof of the price that Israel pays for a united Jerusalem, said Rivlin, adding that it was intended to instill fear in the streets and neighborhoods of the capital.
Rivlin was at the Begin Center on Sunday night to pay homage to the memory of Eliyahu Lankin who had been a member of the high command of the Irgun Tzva’i Leumi, the national paramilitary organization that remained active following the Declaration of Independence. The event was held to mark the 20th anniversary year of Lankin’s passing and the 100th anniversary of his birth. Lankin had been the commander of the ill-fated Altalena, the ship carrying 940 people, mostly Holocaust survivors plus members of the Irgun. He had been appointed by Menachem Begin to be the leader of the Irgun in Europe and was headquartered in Paris. The Irgun, which was headed by Begin, did not recognize the authority of Israel’s provisional government led by David Ben-Gurion, who had ordered the cessation of independently acquired arms. Heavily equipped with arms and ammunition, much of which had been donated by the French government, the Altalena sailed into Israeli waters in June 1948 and was shelled by Palmah forces, ironically led by Yitzhak Rabin on Ben-Gurion’s orders. Even people who had jumped ship were shot at as they struggled in the sea to avoid the bullets.
On Saturday night, thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to mark the 19th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, and this weekend, Rivlin will be the keynote speaker at another gathering commemorating Rabin.
Yet back in 1948, he was so aghast at the shooting of Jews by other Jews, that all he could think of was bringing the perpetrators to justice. Indeed the desire for justice was so strong in him, that it inspired him to study law. When already a qualified lawyer, he came to Lankin, who was himself a highly respected lawyer in Jerusalem, and talked to him about starting legal proceedings. Lankin was in a much more conciliatory frame of mind than Rivlin and told him to leave history alone. Nonetheless, although it was not mentioned by Rivlin or other speakers, namely Benny Begin and Lankin’s daughter Linor.
In 2011, the Defense Ministry published an announcement acknowledging that the sinking of the Altalena in Tel Aviv and the killing of Irgun members was murder. Rivlin, who like all of Lankin’s family and friends knew him not as Eliahu but as Eliyushka, for 15 years shared a law office with him and Lankin’s wife, Doris, at 9 Ben Yehuda Street before the area became a pedestrian mall. Lankin’s daughter Linor recalled that she used to visit the office when she was a child and the secretary would sometimes tell her to stay away from Rubi’s room because Betar had lost the football match the previous day. Doris Lankin, in addition to being a lawyer, was a prolific author and journalist and for many years served as The Jerusalem Post’s law reporter and analyst.
Generally speaking, when the president delivers an address at a function, he leaves soon afterwards, but Rivlin stayed till the end feeling perfectly at home amongst his own people and schmoozing with Benny Begin, who is a personal friend and a neighbor in the apartment block in which Rivlin has his private home. Rivlin was escorted into the auditorium by Yehoshua Matza, who had brought him into the Knesset just over quarter of a century ago.
Thus there were four former Likud Ministers sitting alongside each other at the Begin Center: Moshe Arens, Benny Begin, Reuven Rivlin and Yehoshua Matza. As is customary, Herzl Makov, the director-general of the Begin Center asked everyone to remain in their seats until the president had exited the hall. The problem was that the garrulous Rivlin showed no sign of leaving and was busy chewing the fat with old friends and colleagues, which caused Makov to declare: “The president has left.
Rubi is still here.”
LIKE MANY Russian Jews at the time, Lankin found sanctuary in Harbin, where he met Bella Wagman, with whom he entered into a fictitious marriage so that he could bring her to the Land of Israel, where he subsequently gave her a religious divorce and she married another Betari and Irgun activist Mordechai Olmert who had also fled from Russia to Harbin. One of their sons, Ehud, later became prime minister of Israel. An avid sports fan, Ehud Olmert did not attend the Lankin memorial, but was instead at the new Jerusalem Arena watching a basketball match in which Hapoel Jerusalem thrashed Maccabi Tel Aviv. Outwardly, he seemed unperturbed that his former, long-time personal assistant Shula Zaken would be testifying against him in court the following day.
■ AMONG THE Jewish organizations formed in the United States due to overt and covert forms of discrimination against Jews was Alpha Epsilon Pi, a college fraternity founded at New York University in 1913 by Charles C. Moskowitz and 10 other Jewish men: David K. Schafer, Isador M. Glazer, Herman L. Kraus, Arthur E.
Leopold, Benjamin M. Meyer, Arthur M.
Lipkint, Charles J. Pintel, Maurice Plager, Hyman Shulman, and Emil J. Lustgarten.
Moskowitz had been one of the exceptions to the rule, or possibly a token Jew who had been invited to join another fraternity, but when he asked whether his close Jewish friends could also join, the response was negative. AEPi has since become a global Jewish fraternity dedicated to helping Jewish men to get the best possible college and fraternity experience through the strengthening of ties to the Jewish community, developing leadership and encouraging Jewish students to maintain Jewish values and ethics. In America, it serves as a link between high school and career. Today, just over a century after its establishment, AEPi has more than 166 chapters across the US, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Israel, and has initiated more than 102,000 members.
Though primarily a Jewish fraternity, it does not discriminate against non-Jews and is willing to accept anyone who espouses its purpose and values.
The Israel branch of AEPi this week held an honorary initiation ceremony in Tel Aviv for MK Rabbi Dov Lipman who holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University but who never participated in fraternity life on campus. Lipman said it was a great honor for him to be considered a brother among thousands of fellow Jews who are proud members of AEPi. “The fraternity’s focus on creating leaders for the Jewish community is precisely what we should be teaching our college age youth” he said, adding that he encourages Jewish college students around the world to seek entry into this special fraternity.
■ CLOSE TO 400 people braved the rain last Friday to attend the annual anniversary service of the Battle of Beersheba. Comprising mainly resident and visiting Australians with a few New Zealanders, participants included representatives of the Australian, British, Indian, German and Turkish embassies along with Honorary Consul for New Zealand Gad Propper, the Society for the Heritage of World War One, the Jewish National Fund, the Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries, Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Association for the Commemoration of Yishuv Volunteers in the British Army, the Australian department of Veteran Affairs, the Australian Defense Forces, the Beersheba Municipality, the Australia-headquartered Pratt Foundation, the Association of Australian Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, and its British counterpart, members of the Australian and New Zealand contingents of Multi National Force of Observers (MFO) and United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), Danny Lamm, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australian Zionist Youth Council and members of Australian Zionist Youth Movements Betar, Bnei Akiva, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Hineni and Netzer who are completing a year of service in Israel. This was arguably, the largest attendance to date, which would account for the loudest and proudest rendition of the Australian national anthem Advance Australia Fair. Rabbi Raymond Apple, the former chief rabbi to the Australian Defense Forces noted that Beersheba was where Jews and Judaism began. Prof. Haim Marantz, an Australian born-and-raised professor of philosophy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev remarked in private conversation that it was most appropriate to have the ceremony on the eve of the reading of the Torah passage of Lech-Lecha, which was emblematic of the Zionist vision.
■ THIS SUNDAY, November 9, it’s the turn of British Ambassador Matthew Gould to host a Remembrance Day ceremony – albeit not in Beerbesheba but in Ramle. This year’s ceremony will primarily honor war veterans who fought in the British Armed Forces in World War Two in addition to commemorating the centenary of World War One. More than 30,000 Jews in Mandate Palestine volunteered to fight with the British Forces. Ben-Gurion encouraged them to support the British as if there was no White Paper, and to oppose the White Paper as if there was no war. The British White Paper of 1939 restricted Jewish migration to what was then Palestine to only 15,000 per year, even while Jews in their multitudes were being murdered in Europe. This year’s Armistice Day ceremony coincides with the anniversary of Krisallnacht, which was the prelude to the brutality of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
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