Grapevine February 23, 2020: Racism rears its head again

DIPLOMATS ATTEND the agricultural exhibition at AICAT in the Arava.  (photo credit: SHAVIT COMMUNICATIONS)
DIPLOMATS ATTEND the agricultural exhibition at AICAT in the Arava.
After convening at the President’s Residence at the beginning of the month to sign a pact, Israelis Against Racism, which is headed by former commander in chief of the Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Eliezer Shkedi, took its mission to Muni Expo 2020 in Tel Aviv last week. The pact, to fight against racism, was signed by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Rishon Lezion Mayor Raz Kinstlich, Hadera Mayor Zvika Gendelman and Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon, who pledged zero tolerance for racism in their cities. But Shkedi, and others who deplore racism of any kind, wanted more mayors to sign, and there was no better place in which to find most of Israel’s mayors in the one location than at Muni Expo, the largest gathering of local government in Israel.
While Muni Expo was still in progress, Haaretz disclosed that 12-year-old halachically Jewish boy Yoel Tagen, who was abandoned by his Jewish mother who now lives in the United States and has been cared for by his non-Jewish Ethiopian father in Israel, must choose between staying here or accompanying his father back to Ethiopia. The father, who had applied for permanent residence in Israel, was informed by the Population and Immigration Authority that he must leave the country by the end of the month. On the one hand, Yoel does not want to leave Israel, which is the only country he has ever known, and he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his friends. On the other, he doesn’t want to be separated from his father. There is also the danger that if he goes to Ethiopia and lives in a non-Jewish environment that he will eventually marry a non-Jewish woman, and his progeny will be lost to the Jewish People. Surely this is a case in which Israelis Against Racism and the Chief Rabbinate should step in. The matter has already been taken up by other media outlets, but there is very little time left in which to ensure that Yoel’s father is permitted to remain in Israel.
■ RELATIVES IN many families don’t see eye to eye politically. There are and have been examples of this in the Knesset. Beit She’an Mayor Jackie Levy is a former Likud MK, whereas his sister Orly Levy-Abecassis is the leader of Gesher, which joined forces with Labor. Brothers Danny and Ehud Yatom, who served in the 16th Knesset, were members of different parties. Danny was a Labor MK and Ehud a Likud MK.
Last Sunday, White House adviser Stephen Miller married Katie Waldman, press secretary for US Vice President Mike Pence. Both the bride and groom are Jewish, and the rabbi who officiated at the wedding ceremony at the Trump International Hotel in Washington was Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, senior adviser to US Ambassador David Friedman. US President Donald Trump attended the wedding and stayed for two hours.
Miller's maternal uncle David Glosser, a retired neuropsychologist, was not invited after he publicly criticized his nephew who is credited with introducing the administration's hard-line immigration policies. Instead, Glosser made a donation to an on-line spoof wedding gift register that lists various charitable organizations that help asylum seekers and advocate for refugees.
Glosser’s donation was directed to HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society founded in 1881 to provide humanitarian aid to Jewish refugees escaping Russian pogroms, which today includes non-Jewish refugees in its mission.
Glosser wrote that he chose HIAS because it had helped to rescue his family from Czarist oppression. Had his refugee forebears not been rescued and brought to the US, he noted, they would have been murdered by the racial madness of Nazism, as were 74 other family members.
He urged that refugees be protected and strangers welcomed, because it was such people who had built America.
■ ONE OF the key perks in being a diplomat is that one gets to see so much of the countries to which one is posted – often more than most locals. If you took a random survey of passersby in just about any street in Israel and asked them to tell you what AICAT (Arava International Center for Agricultural Training) is, most would just shrug their shoulders. But diplomats from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim stationed in Israel are familiar with AICAT because they go there to see how the students from their countries are progressing.
AICAT, founded in 1994, promotes “Agriculture without Borders” and “Learning by Doing.” In other words, theory is instantly put into practice. Programs range from diplomas to MSc. Students also tour the country and are encouraged to play sports. Enrollment is 1,200 each year, and some students come from countries which do not have diplomatic ties with Israel. AICAT’s 20,000 graduates are unofficial ambassadors for Israel when they return to their home countries.
Students from Cambodia, Cape Verde, East Timor, Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal, Gambia, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam were visited last week by a group of diplomats including three  first-time visitors: Ambassadors Carlos Morales of Colombia; Waruna Wilpatha of Sri Lanka; and Anjan Shakya of Nepal. The diplomats were greeted by Gil Haskel, the head of MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and Dr. Eyal Bloom, head of the Central Arava Regional Council.
■ SAFED-BORN chanteuse Esther Ofarim, today 78, has been a fixture in Israel’s music scene for several generations, notwithstanding that she has been living abroad for half her life. Ofarim, who returns home at least once a year to perform here, moved to Germany in the 1970s and married her second husband there. They moved temporarily to America where he underwent a course of study and where their son David was born, and then back to Germany where Ofarim is still considered to be a star, not only as a singer, but also as an actress. Ofarim will give a performance at the Holon Music Festival on April 15. She has not contracted for other performances in Israel.
The Holon Music Festival will also celebrate the 80th anniversary of the city’s founding, and the 60th anniversary of the launch of Ofarim’s career.
Although the world supposedly belongs to the young, several not-so-young singers in addition to Ofarim continue to attract huge audiences. Among the not-so-young performers are: David Broza, 64; Shalom Hanoch, 73; Yardena Arazi, 68; Yehuda Poliker, 69; Ilanit, 72; Shlomo Artzi, 70; Gali Atari, 66; Israel Gurion, 84; Chava Alberstein,73; Danny Sanderson, 69; Sarele Sharon 72; Shlomo Bar, 76; Daklon, 75; and Shulamit Livnat, 90, who long before her daughter, former education minister Limor Livnat, became embroiled in politics, was actively identified with Etzel and later with political parties headed by Menachem Begin. Livnat, whose voice remains clear, believes that she would have reached greater heights career-wise had she not persistently sung Jabotinsky’s Two Banks has the Jordan (Shtei Gadot LeYarden), which is the anthem of the Betar right-wing Zionist youth movement. By the way, the singers mentioned above are not the only ones who are not so young and still going strong.
On the subject of Israeli singers and musicians in general, anyone looking for Idan Raichel, 42, over the coming week, will find him in Australia, where President Reuven Rivlin is launching United Israel Appeal campaigns in Melbourne and Sydney. Raichel is also ‘down under’ for the UIA campaigns, but he is staying on longer and will also appear at the UIA campaign launch in Perth where the speaker will be former foreign minister and justice minister Tzipi Livni. The UIA or Keren Hayesod as it’s called in Israel, is celebrating its centenary.
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