DURING WORLD War II, Vera Lynn, the sweetheart of the British fighting forces was the singer who most kept up the morale of British troops with what was then her signature song “We'll Meet Again.” Now at age 103, she's singing it once more, this time not for the military troops and doctors and nurses in the battlefields, but for the doctors, nurses and patients caught up in COVID-19. In a fund-raising duet in a charity single she joins Welsh mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins in support of Britain's National Health Service. All proceeds from the record are targeted at NHS charities along with NHS staff and volunteers, "The words ‘We'll Meet Again,’” said Lynn, “should speak to the hope we all have during these troubling times.” Relating to the lyrics, Jenkins said "’We'll Meet Again’ takes us back to the time of World War II. The sentiment feels appropriate and meaningful today, and relevant to the current crisis."
WHILE RECALLING Britain during World War II, it would behoove us not to overlook Winston Churchill whose wonderful quotes before, during and after the war still resonate and some are definitely relevant today.
A few examples:
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
"It is no use saying ‘we are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
"Politics is more dangerous than war, for in war, you are only killed once."
“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope.”
“You have enemies? Good. It means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
“In finance, everything that is agreeable is unsound and everything that is sound is disagreeable.”
“Do not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.”
ALTHOUGH Holocaust Martyr's and Heroes Remembrance Day will be commemorated differently this year, there are many opportunities to hear testimonies from survivors. There are numerous interviews with survivors – some no longer living – on various social media platforms such as those of Yad Vashem, the World Jewish Congress, the Spielberg Archives, the US Holocaust Museum, UNESCO and many others. Googling Holocaust, Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen or the names of other camps will give you access to some very poignant stories as well as to documentaries that were actually made during the war or immediately afterwards.
Sadly, the WJC materials include the final testimony of Rachmil (Ralph) Hakman who died in March after having joined WJC President Ronald Lauder and the WJC delegation in Poland on January 27 for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Another Auschwitz survivor who lives in Jerusalem appears on several websites, gave testimony at the UN in January 2016, and in January of this year, told her story to Prince Charles, who was extremely interested in hearing first-hand what a 10-year-old child had endured. In fact, he spent nearly half an hour with her, which is much more time than royals usually give to any individual.
Marta Wise, nee Weiss, was born in Bratislava which was then in Czechoslovakia. She is one of nine siblings born into a fairly affluent, Orthodox family. After being sent by their parents to Hungary, where they posed as Catholics, she and her older sister Eva were betrayed and arrested and eventually taken to Auschwitz where they underwent experiments by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele.
With the exception of a younger sister Judith, who died in Auschwitz, the Weiss family was reunited after the war, but later lost Kuti, one of the older siblings, who drowned before the family relocated to Melbourne, Australia. Both Marta Wise and her sister Eva Slonim lectured extensively about the Holocaust and their own personal experiences. Both are included in the collections of Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Museum and the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Center in Melbourne. Each has been extensively interviewed by the general Australian media. Other than Israel and the United States, at it's peak, when most survivors were still young, Melbourne had one of the largest Holocaust survivor communities in the world. Some had relatives in Australia, but others chose to get as far away from Europe as they could, and collectively, they built a vibrant Jewish community.
Marta Wise and her husband Harold, came on aliyah in 1998.
Since then she has participated in Holocaust memorial ceremonies in different parts of the world, including in Poland. Wise has a photograph with other child survivors including her sister, who were liberated from Auschwitz by soldiers from the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
The photograph that was taken by Soviet army photographer Alexander Vorontsov, is of 13 children in the striped-pajama-like uniforms of the camp. Some have been identified or were identified by others.
On the 60th anniversary of their liberation, six of the children in the photo who were then living in Israel, as well as Eva Slonim, went to Poland to participate in a special commemorative ceremony. They included Tomy Shacham (formerly Schwarz), Erika Dohan (nee Winter), Marta Wise, Shmuel Schelech, (formerly Robert Schlesinger) Gabriel Neuman and Bracha Katz, formerly Berta Weinhaber.)
Gabriel Neumann traced his fellow survivors and organized the trip to Poland.
RESIDENTS OF retirement homes are not the only ones who have been neglected by health authorities. So have people with special needs and residents of Arab villages, particularly unrecognized Beduin villages, whose residents are treated like second class citizens. Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer and deputy Director General of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, says that it is untenable that Arab citizens do not receive proper attention, and to a large extent are not tested. They are as vulnerable as anyone else, and can be carriers like anyone else, so it is essential to test them all as soon as possible.
AS FOR people with special needs, especially those who don't understand isolation and the reason they are separated from their families, some kind of special provision must be made for them to prevent them from regressing. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who has a daughter who is autistic, says that it is urgent to find humane solutions for people with special needs, who are living in hostels away from their families, who are unable to visit them.
IN ONE of his nightly addresses to the nation last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confessed that he would miss celebrating Mimouna this year, as in the past he enjoyed going with his wife to sample the moufletas. Among the homes that the Netanyahus visit each year on the night of Mimouna is that of the Partuk family in Pardes Hannah, who this year celebrated alone instead of having a festive open house.
FOR PRESIDENT Reuven Rivlin it's even tougher. Not only did he miss out on the Mimouna, but he's also going to miss out on the Iftar dinner hosted annually at the President's residence for Muslim judges, mayors, business people and diplomats.
After being on the receiving end of more criticism after Seder night than he has received throughout the whole of his presidency, Rivlin debated with himself as to whether he should send a message to the Israeli public in advance of the last day of Passover, and decided to acknowledge that the public had been correct in taking him to task, because he had made the wrong decision without any justification.He added that that this time he was doing things differently, but did not spell out how differently. The Hebrew version of the tweet was unsigned. The English version was signed The Rivlins, leaving room for those who read it to wonder if members of his family were again keeping him company.
The Iftar dinners which are evening meals and signify the breaking of the fast during Ramadan, were introduced at the President's Residence in 2002 by then President Moshe Katsav, and attended by Arab Mayors and other Moslem dignitaries. Katsav had a very close relationship with the Arab leadership and when Kamal Mansour, his advisor on minorities suggested that it would be a nice gesture if the president were to host an Iftar dinner, Katsav needed no convincing. The fourth annual Iftar dinner that he hosted was attended by Nasser Yoiussef who was then the Interior Minister of the Palestinian Authority.Among the other guests were diplomats representing Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Morocco. Since then, ambassadors of Moslem countries have attended every Iftar dinner hosted by the President of Israel.
Katsav held the dinners in the main reception hall, but under Shimon Peres the guest list expanded to include Arab business executives, and had to be held in the grounds outside, and under Rivlin guests have also included Jewish business executives of major companies with a large Arab employee population.
Ramadan begins on April 23 and concludes on May 23. If it was difficult for Jews to stay away from their families during the Passover week, imagine what it will be like for Moslems during Ramadan.
FORMER KNESSET member Uriel Lynn, who is currently president of the Federation of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce, is one of the signatories to a petition signed by Ron Tomer, President of the Israel Manufacturers Association, and former MK Avshalom Vilan, who is currently Secretary General of the Israel Farmers Federation calling for an immediate return to work of at least 50% of the people who are on leave without pay. Together with several business people, they maintain that return to work is crucial for the economy.
Lynn also refers to the flaw in Netanyahu's request that the public support the economy by purchasing products Made in Israel. Lynn points out that the government itself is sabotaging such a measure by imposing 17% VAT on Israeli products, whereas purchases via the Internet of products from abroad are exempt from tax for items up to the value of $75. It is only natural that buyers should take advantage of this instead of buying equivalent and sometimes superior Israeli products. Lynn wants the government to give equal opportunity to Israeli products.
Farmers who are currently without help in harvesting, sorting and packing their produce, are angry that Israel is importing fruit and vegetables from Turkey when there is ample produce in Israel, hampered by a ban on employing people who can make it available to the public.
LEADING ECONOMIST, and former MK, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg says that it is imperative for the government to set up a coronavirus cabinet along similar lines to the defense cabinet, comprising representatives of all aspects of community needs. Because the government has largely neglected community services in recent years, says Trajtenberg, the current situation is chaotic. Nobody knows who has authority and who does not, and what regulations are, in fact, law and which are not.