Grapevine: Demonstrator din

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

A SEA of protesters march through Jerusalem last Saturday night.  (photo credit: JOAN FISHER)
A SEA of protesters march through Jerusalem last Saturday night.
(photo credit: JOAN FISHER)
 The big question for residents of Rehavia and Talbiyeh is not why this night is different from all other nights, but whether the Festival of Freedom will herald freedom from the weekly disturbances that have taken place for almost a year, as anti-Netanyahu demonstrators have converged on the Holy City with little or no concern for the discomfort they have been causing to its residents. 
Nonagenarian Joan Fisher, who lives in the Wolfson complex that overlooks the Ben Zvi-Rupin intersection, gazes out of her window at the demonstrators as they march towards France Square, and photographs them. This is how they disrupted traffic last Saturday night. Some of the leaders of the different groups told KAN 11’s Jerusalem District reporter Sulemein Maswadeh that regardless of the election results, they will continue to demonstrate until the Netanyahu family takes permanent leave of the Prime Minister’s Residence.
THE 929 Bible Study Group, whose meetings at the President’s Residence were launched on the second night of Hanukkah in December 2014, held their 34th meeting at the President’s Residence last Sunday night, concluding with the Book of Psalms and a musical program with Ehud Banai, Rona Keinan and the Nigun Yerushalmi Group. The concert was held on the outdoor patio leading to the garden in the presidential complex. Earlier in the evening, the 929 public council, headed by Rabbi Benny Lau, met inside the building.
Kenan is openly gay and has iconic status in Israel’s gay and lesbian community. President Reuven Rivlin has long been a supporter of the LGBT community, defending their right to live in accordance with their sexual orientation.
Jerusalem-born Banai comes from a traditional Jewish family of Persian origin, which has produced a tribe of musical talents. Some of the members of his generation as well as the next, moved away from religion, as did Banai himself, but he returned and many of his compositions or songs that he sings by other composers are based on religious themes.
Rivlin noted the relevance of the Psalms in our times. Over the past few weeks, as the number of ill, hospitalized and on respirators has consistently fallen, he was reminded of the verse from Psalm 116, “For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from crying. 
“The Book of Psalms is unique because in it the people are talking to the Almighty, and not the Almighty talking to the people,” he said. “This is a book written bottom to top. The entire range of human emotions can be found in it: pain and joy, tortured souls and hope, brokenness and thankfulness. The words of man are so strong and poignant that these human words became part of our holy texts. But the Book of Psalms was and still is a book that is all human.”
Continuing with this train of thought, Rivlin said, “In many ways, Psalms is the most present and visible of the books in our daily lives, in synagogues, at the Western Wall, in waiting rooms at doctors’ surgeries or sitting on a bus on the way to work. The words of Psalms accompany us at cemeteries, in moments of remembrance and grief, at times of praise and thanksgiving, on holidays and every day. Even those who are not learned in the contents of Psalms understand its meaning, too. They understand that these are words that open a door through which every person, religious or secular, believer or not, can pray.”
Kenan was also among the attractions this week at Beit Avi Chai, where she appeared in an online meeting with teenagers, speaking to them about journeys of creativity, writing inspiration and the stories behind songs.
ONE OF the benefits of Zoom is that there is no gender or child segregation. This was verified in the invitation sent out by the management of the Hazvi Yisrael congregation in Talbiyeh for the siyum (conclusion) of the Daf Yomi Masechet P’sachim that took place last Monday night. The Daf Yomi is conducted by Rabbi Shimon Hochster, and the concluding passage was preceded by an address by Rabbi Meir Goldvicht, the head of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitchok Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). The invitation stated that the whole congregation was invited – men, women and children. Attendance at Hochster’s classes is a men-only affair. Another benefit of Zoom is that no one has to wear a mask.
Some people, including the president and leaders of the various political parties, remove their masks when making a speech, and then put them on again, when they’ve finished. But even with the mask, a well-projected voice will carry. Rabbi Yosef Ote, the spiritual leader of Hazvi Yisrael, does not remove his mask when delivering his sermon and his voice carries to the last row in the women’s gallery. It just so happens that Ote is also a musician, so he knows something about voice projection. But the men leading the service and reading the Torah also keep their masks on and can be heard quite clearly. Yet in regular conversation, many people have to drop their masks to make themselves understood.
AS IF we have not had enough staying home over the past year, Seder night, immediately following Shabbat this year, means that there will be a three-day holiday. It’s possible that during the intermediate days of Passover, President Rivlin will begin his consultations with the different parties in order to decide on whom to confer the task of forming a government. Although the usual procedure is to assign this task to the leader of the party that gets the most votes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that such a person will be able to form a government. 
In 2009, Tzipi Livni, then head of the now defunct Kadima Party, was tasked with forming a government, but was unable to assemble a coalition, so the second choice was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who did form a government coalition, and has remained prime minister ever since.
If the Knesset member tasked by the president fails to form a government within 28 days, he or she must inform the president, who then has the option of tasking another MK or of informing the Speaker of the Knesset that he does not see the possibility of forming a government. What happens next is a little too complicated to explain here, but there are still additional provisions within the law, before or whether it is decided for a fifth election run in October. By that time, it will no longer be Rivlin’s headache. His term expires in July.