Grapevine: A Malka who’s hardly a queen

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN is welcomed by students of Melbourne’s Mount Scopus Memorial College last week.  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN is welcomed by students of Melbourne’s Mount Scopus Memorial College last week.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
When he visited Israel last year, Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter met with Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Justice Minister Amir Ohana. Porter made it clear that Australia was unhappy about the foot-dragging in the extradition request for former school principal Malka Leifer, who is wanted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of her students, of whom three are sisters.
The 75 cases of abuse took place between 2003 and 2008. On his return to Australia, Porter said in media interviews that he had been assured the Leifer case would be properly handled by Israeli authorities.
But time has proved that this was not so.
High-ranking Australian officials who come to Israel keep bringing it up, and when high-ranking Israeli officials visit Australia, the issue is also raised. This happened last week with President Reuven Rivlin, who gave the usual assurances but could not really guarantee that there would be progress.
Leifer’s defense team claims she is mentally unfit to stand trial, but police, media and private investigations indicate that she has led a normal life, other than allegations made in June 2018 that there were other victims of her abuse in Israel.
The three sisters, Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer have come to Israel separately and together for hearings of the case that has attracted world-wide attention and has caused international embarrassment to Israel. This is especially so as Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and prominent Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman are believed to have interfered with the proceedings.
To make matters worse on an unrelated issue, Australia is very upset that Israel has included Australia in the quarantine warnings it has issued to travelers. Representatives have complained about this to Rivlin, who telephoned Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Litzman to convey Australia’s concerns following his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The two issues threaten the fabric of Israel’s otherwise excellent diplomatic relations with Australia.
In a previous era, especially in religious Jewish circles, Jews did not give up other Jews to non-Jewish authorities. But times have changed, and criminals are criminals regardless of their religious affiliations or virtues, though it was recently revealed that religious pedophiles have fled America to Israel under the Law of Return. Israel cannot allow itself to be a haven for criminals who purport to be religiously observant – especially those who abuse children sexually or in any other way.
■ THERE HAS been much publicity over the possibility that coronavirus fears may have a negative effect on the March 2 elections, with people preferring to stay home rather than risk becoming inadvertent victims. In addition to the campaign advertisements on radio and television, there has been a commercial by the Central Elections Committee in which young people representing the country’s demographic mosaic tell their parents that they must vote “because you have no right to give up your right. Do you want someone else to decide my future?”
The first part of this commercial is catchy, but all our futures are decided by whichever government is formed, regardless of which party we vote for. The government decides on taxes, minimum wage, mandatory national service and much more
Not everyone needs to be persuaded to go and vote. Haaretz last Thursday ran a series of interviews conducted by Ofer Aderet with people ages 88 to 105, who have voted in every election since 1949. Polish-born Rusza Lev, who came to Tel Aviv in 1934, despite her advanced age of 105, is totally au fait with current politics, and will vote Likud, writes Aderet. What worries her most is the Iranian threat, and in the spirit of the best means of defense is offense, she suggests that perhaps Israel should strike first.
Another triple-digit voter is 100-year-old former MK Tamar Eshel of Jerusalem who will vote Labor-Gesher-Meretz. Eshel is a great admirer of David Ben-Gurion and knew him personally. Eshel is the only one of the seven people interviewed who will not be voting Likud.
Lev voted for Ben-Gurion in the first elections, but never again, because she didn’t like him, and to this day cannot forgive him for not allowing Chaim Weizmann to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Hannah Bilu, 98 of Tel Aviv, recalls being at a rally at which the speaker was Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Her home was a hiding place for equipment for Irgun fighters, and her husband was a member of the Irgun resistance forces against the British.
Moshe Bodek, 90, who lives in Haifa, was head of a Betar group while still living in Poland. He says that his adherence to the Right is genetic because his father was also involved in right-wing politics.
It’s wonderful to see that people of this age continue to be passionate about what is happening in Israel, and who are determined to vote, no matter what.
■ ANOTHER TRIPLE-digit personality who will presumably not vote for any right-wing party is Ruth Dayan, who has many Palestinian friends and acquaintances, including journalist Raymonda Tawil, who was the mother-in-law of Yasser Arafat. Dayan will celebrate her 103rd birthday on March 7.
■ A SLIGHTLY younger senior citizen, journalist and Israel Prize laureate Yaakov Ahimeir, 81, who retired after more than half a century with public broadcasting, just before KAN, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, took up residence in its permanent Jerusalem headquarters. Ahimeir was honored last week at the annual Jerusalem Conference hosted by the Besheva Group of newspapers, which conferred the Jerusalem Prize on him.
In a pre-conference supplement, Ahimeir wrote that while he was honored to receive the Jerusalem Prize, he was more appreciative of the citation which stated that he had been fair. The role of a professional journalist is to report the facts fairly without injecting personal bias, wrote Ahimeir. He regretted that, in general, this is not the case today, and that there is a blurring of the lines between reporting and opinionating.
■ ANOTHER RECIPIENT of the Jerusalem Prize was World Zionist Organization deputy and acting chairman Yaakov Hagoel, in recognition of his efforts in fighting antisemitism world-wide. He heads the Combating Antisemitism Task Force of the Jewish Agency as well as the World Zionist Organization.
■ ELECTION RESULTS will be announced slightly later than usual this time around due to the double-checking resulting from the special polling stations set up for people in quarantine. Members of the public who don’t want to sit around and wait for the final outcome have a number of cultural options. One is the opening at the Israel Museum on March 3 of a new exhibition, Seated in Seclusion – Bratslav Hassidim and Contemporary Design, curated by Eran Lederman and Sharon Weiser-Ferguson.
In addition to what’s on view, there will be a musical performance by Shuli Rand, a Breslov Hassid who makes his living as a singer and actor. He is best known to the English-speaking world for his 2005 film Ushpizin, in which he starred and for which he also wrote the screenplay. It is a beautiful love story about an impoverished, childless, newly religious couple in Jerusalem’s Breslov community as they prepare for Sukkot and are visited by two convicts from the husband’s past. Rand was born into a religious Zionist family and was educated at Or Etzion Yeshiva. Following his army service, he enrolled at the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio and gradually abandoned Orthodox practice.
He had a kosher epiphany in 1996, and returned to Orthodoxy, but on a more stringent level than that of his family, and became a Breslov Hassid. By that time he was married, and his wife, Michal, who co-stars in Ushpizin, joined him in his observant lifestyle. He was hesitant about making the film, but his religious mentor, Rabbi Shalom Arush, gave his approval on condition that there was nothing in the film which would compromise his religious values. Although hassidim are rarely seen at the cinema, the premiere of Ushpizim was attended by quite a number of Breslov Hassidim.
■ RETIRED GENERALS are dominating not only the political scene but also the literary scene. On the day following the launch of a book by former defense minister, chief of staff and current member of the Blue and White “cockpit” Moshe Ya’alon at which Amos Yadlin, a retired Air Force general , head of Military Intelligence and the current director of the Institute for National Security Studies was one of the speakers, another retired general, Amos Gilad, participated in a book launch based on conversations that he had with senior Yediot Aharonot journalist Shimon Shiffer, who wrote the book. The event was attended by several former high-ranking IDF officers including former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.
As for Yadlin, not only does he have new books to read, but also a new mini-penthouse in which to live, on Tel Aviv’s Tchernichovsky Street. The price of the four-room apartment was NIS 6.5 million, which for Tel Aviv, is almost in the realm of a bargain.
[email protected]