Grapevine May 6, 2020: Feeding off each other

An Independence Day survey by the Israel Democracy Institute indicated that 77% of Arab citizens feel that they are part of the state, and 93.5% of ultra-Orthodox Jews also feel this way.

Mayor Moshe Lion in a new Independence Day video (photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
Mayor Moshe Lion in a new Independence Day video
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
It’s common knowledge that the New York Times slogan “All the news that’s fit to print” is nothing more than just a slogan, because no newspaper has room for all the news that’s fit to print or sufficient staff to research, report, double-check and copy edit such news. As print media declined and digital media began to flourish, there was more online room for printing more items, but there was still the problem of having sufficient staff to take on the additional work.
The upshot is that news outlets are increasingly reporting each other. Although the same political, economic and health stories with slightly different slants appear in most publications in any one country, there are other stories of global interest and many local stories which are temporarily exclusive until rival media outlets report each other. It’s not just a matter of subscribing to the same news syndicates such as Reuters, AP, JTA, AFP and UPI, but also of reporting what appears in other publications and giving due credit.
Not everyone gives due credit. While plagiarism may be the highest form of flattery, many reporters around the world are angry when something they’ve written for a specific publication is lifted elsewhere but omits the reporter’s byline.
Having said all that, today’s Grapevine column has culled information from several newspapers, each of which will be duly credited.
Haaretz, which is seldom favorably disposed towards right-wing politicians, has compared Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion with being the closest thing to the capital’s iconic Teddy Kollek, even though Kollek was definitely on the Left of the political divide.
In an article by Nir Hasson, readers learn of the rapprochement between Lion and the Arab residents of east Jerusalem. When it was learned that the air force tribute to hospital medical staff would take place on Independence Day, Lion asked that St. Joseph’s Hospital in east Jerusalem be included in the tribute, and the air force acceded to the request, to the delight of the hospital’s director, Jamil Kousa, and his staff.
Moreover, Lion determined that during the lockdown, no one in Jerusalem would be left without food, and organized for soldiers from the Home Front Command to deliver food to Arab neighborhoods. Lion has demonstrated goodwill to Arab residents in other spheres as well.
Admittedly, not all Arabs living in Jerusalem welcome what they perceive as signs of normalization of relations. Some of those who are staunch Palestinian nationalists object to the abating of hostilities. Yet for all that, not only in Jerusalem but elsewhere in the country, there was less hue and cry about Nakba commemorations than in previous years – and not just because COVID-19 guidelines prevented people from congregating in large groups. After all, they could have had Zoom protests in every Arab village.
An Independence Day survey by the Israel Democracy Institute indicated that 77% of Arab citizens feel that they are part of the state, and 93.5% of ultra-Orthodox Jews also feel this way.
Of course, what it all boils down to is mutual trust, cooperation and respect. Former OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Roni Numa, who was one of the leading figures who oversaw food distribution and quarantine measures in Bnei Brak, said that nothing was forced on the residents. Everything was done through dialogue, mutual understanding and mutual agreement. Not only that, but in photographs and videos, soldiers and residents are seen working together to deliver food to people in isolation.
There was a similar degree of cooperation between soldiers and residents of Arab villages. Once they started doing things together, a sense of camaraderie and mutual trust and respect developed, and all the stereotyped preconceptions faded away. It is to be hoped that one of the lessons to be learned from these COVID-19 relationships is the importance of finding common ground so that different population groups can get to know and understand each other better.
This is perhaps best illustrated by a video campaign that’s been doing the rounds of social media for the past two months under the title of Partners in Fate. The most effective of the campaign’s video clips is of a group of masked doctors and nurses in their hospital greens and whites. Each appears individually on screen with part of a running text that reads: “Now they are called heroes and we are all applauding them for working double shifts, for never being home, risking their lives to save ours. And when the masks come off?”
To be honest, other than by their names, not all the doctors and nurses are recognizably Arab. They are working in Ichilov, Tel Hashomer, Beilinson and Hadassah medical centers. Viewers are informed that tens of thousands of Arab-Israelis are partners in fighting the war against the coronavirus, and they are also an inseparable part of the State of Israel.
WHEN TALKING about ridding ourselves of stereotyped bias, Shimon Peres used to say how strange it was that Israeli Jews are suspicious of Arabs in general, yet if they are hospitalized and require surgery, they are grateful when an Arab doctor slashes their stomach open. Arab doctors and nurses working in Israeli hospitals have certainly gone that extra mile in treating coronavirus patients, while working side by side with their Jewish counterparts.
In every society, minorities strive harder, and just as Jews, as minorities in various host countries, produced an extraordinarily high ratio of doctors and lawyers, so Arab society does the same in Israel, and there are often several doctors or lawyers in the same family.
Again, there is a need to quote Haaretz, which published a story by Dina Kraft about the Majadlas family from Baka al-Gharbiya, five of whose members are doctors, beginning with Riad Majadlas, his sons Omar and Amer, his daughter-in-law Nadine and his son-in-law Kadri Mawassy, who are all physicians engaged in fighting coronavirus in several medical facilities, often working 20-hour days.
ILLINOIS GOVERNOR and billionaire philanthropist J.B. Pritzker, who has been targeted with the most abominable and insensitive form of antisemitism, is a member of the Pritzker Group, which inter alia owns the Hyatt hotel chain.
Although the Pritzkers pulled the Hyatt hotels out of Israel several years ago, they are individually and collectively generous donors to Israeli causes, Jewish causes in Chicago and to Holocaust memorial projects. Among the beneficiaries of their generosity are the Treblinka Museum and the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, where the Pritzker Family Photo collection, one of the richest in the world, with more than two million items, will be established.
The photographs, some of which are more than a hundred years old, include scenes from pre-state Israel when the Western Wall was still known as the Wailing Wall and where there was no gender division among those who came to pray there.
MANY ISRAELIS and people stuck in isolation around the world who are not entirely comfortable with Zoom conferences and lectures, and get more stimulation from the diversity that Netflix has to offer, are probably aware that one of the most talked and written about movies is Unorthodox, a four-part series, which numerous viewers – both Jewish and non-Jewish – saw in a single sitting.
Many people loved it for different reasons. Feminists saw the main character, Esty Shapiro, played by the remarkable Shira Haas, as the triumph of a woman striving for self-expression in a closed, male-dominated environment. Jews and non-Jews who have left sectarian backgrounds saw Esty as a universal heroine of freedom. Oversensitive Jews who find seeds of antisemitism in just about anything saw Esty as someone who was ridiculing the lifestyle not only of the Satmar Hassidim, from whose strictures she escaped from New York to Berlin, but also an attack on all ultra-Orthodox communities that isolate themselves from the environment around them in the countries in which they live.
Anyone who has been following the film, and first became aware of Haas when she played in the wildly popular television series Shtisel, which is about an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem, knows that Unorthodox is based on a best-selling book by Deborah Feldman, who did in fact flee from the Satmar community in New York to the secular freedom of Berlin, where her estranged mother was living.
There’s an interesting interview with Feldman on YouTube in which the interviewer is exceedingly curious about Satmar. Without any resentment whatsoever, Feldman explains the historical background of Satmar, and something of the lifestyle of its people today. What is fascinating is to look at her face as she speaks. Although she has left the Satmar community, she has not been able to shake off the Satmar genes. There is something about the facial expressions of the overwhelming majority of ultra-Orthodox men and women that is instantly recognizable, and sets them apart from other people in the street or on the bus, even when they are not wearing the attire generally associated with the ultra-Orthodox. Feldman has that look.
In an interview that she gave recently to Anna Burd of Yediot Aharonot, Feldman revealed that her personal story was somewhat different from that of Esty Shapiro. For one thing, she had already begun to live a secular lifestyle in America before moving to Germany. She was not pregnant when she left. She had an infant son called Itzi, who is now 14 years old.
Four years after her departure from Satmar, her former husband, Eli, also left , and today leads a completely secular lifestyle. The two are on good terms. Eli was supposed to visit Berlin last month, but was prevented from doing so due to the coronavirus.
A lot has changed in New York’s Satmar community since Feldman decided to control her own destiny. The community has become more stringent in its observance of Jewish law and more insular, prompting many other young women to leave. Berlin is full of young Jewish women who were raised in ultra-Orthodox communities and who are now secular, Feldman told Burd. She looks at her former life without rancor, saying simply that it was different from what she wanted for herself and her son.
CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to US Ambassador David Friedman and his wife, Tammy, who have once again become grandparents. Their grandson Shmuel Moshe Hakohen is the son of Jana and Daniel Friedman.
Also deserving of congratulations is singer Sarit Hadad, who gave birth to her daughter, a sister to Noya.
AUSTRIA THIS week commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation by US forces on May 5, 1945, of the Mauthausen concentration camp. The commemoration ceremonies were mostly virtual. Several programs organized by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) will be screened over the coming few days.
Former Austrian ambassador to Israel Martin Weiss, who is now his country’s ambassador in Washington, has not forgotten his farewell commitment to fight against antisemitism, and on the official website of his embassy is a file under the title “Jewish News from Austria,” which features articles from independent sources about Jewish life in Austria.
A virtual conversation last month between Weiss in Washington and American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in New York is also available on the embassy website.
Weiss spoke about Austria’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of strict measures, Austria’s “road map” to reopen the economy, and the close cooperation between Austrian and Israeli government leaders in fighting the pandemic.
Weiss also shared his Israel experiences and answered questions submitted by viewers on Austria’s special relationship with Israel and the Jewish people, its leading role among European nations in the fight against antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and the development of close relations between Austria and Israel in recent years.
VE DAY, marking the 75th anniversary of the unconditional surrender by Germany to the Allied Forces in Europe on May 8, 1945, will be commemorated this coming Friday, but without the originally planned parades and most other events. In Britain the queen will address the nation, as did her father, King George VI, 75 years ago, and the BBC will broadcast a recording of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s victory speech.
In Russia the triumph of the Red Army over fascism is celebrated each year on May 9 with an impressive victory parade in Red Square. This year’s parade was supposed to have been even more impressive, given that it is a milestone year and one of the last opportunities in which to honor veterans of the Red Army who fought in the Second World War. The original plan was for President Vladimir Putin to deliver an address to the nation following the parade inspection led by Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoygu, accompanied by parade commander Oleg Salyukov, who is commander in chief of the ground forces.
In addition, military contingents from 20 other countries – including the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Poland, Israel and Egypt – had been scheduled to join the parade, and several world leaders had also been invited to attend.
But in view of the heavy toll that the coronavirus has taken in Russia, Putin – in response to the health and safety concerns of veterans groups, who asked for the massive military parade to be canceled in order to prevent the public from being further exposed to the virus – decided to postpone it.
Two years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among foreign leaders who were invited to attend the parade.
Many Red Army veterans are among former Soviet immigrants who, on May 9 each year, come from all over Israel to Jerusalem for a special commemorative event at Yad Vashem. It should be remembered that it was the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz. Those veterans who can still get into their uniforms come militarily attired with an array of medals and ribbons. Others come in civilian dress but with all their medals and ribbons on display.
IN ADDITION to the Israel Prize awarded on Independence Day, some municipalities also award worthy citizens prizes on that day, but in Jerusalem the prize known as Yakir Yerushalayim is awarded on Jerusalem Day. If restrictions continue to be eased, the recipients of the prize could possibly receive their awards in the presence of a live audience. It is doubtful, however, that throngs of flag-bearing youngsters will be permitted to converge on the capital as they have done on previous Jerusalem Days.
In Haifa, in addition to the Yakir Haifa awards, they are also honoring 94-year-old Vered Hulda Gurevich, popularly known as the Angel in White – that being the only color that she wears – for what she has done over the years as a voluntary social worker, especially in terms of caring for wounded soldiers and their families in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. She has also supported bereaved families, has been active in the Soldiers Welfare Association and has looked after the children of new immigrants. She already received the Presidential Award for Volunteerism in 1977, followed by the Yakir Haifa award in 1993 and the Israel Prize in 2011. The only way left to honor her was to add her name to something in which Haifa takes pride. Thus, the Rambam Promenade is now known as the Hulda Gurevich Promenade.
SUCCESS OFTEN paves the way for competition. The success of the Voice of Peace broadcasting station from a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean, which was initiated by legendary pilot and peace activist Abie Nathan on May 19, 1973, indirectly led to the establishment of the religious-Zionists station Arutz Sheva, which was founded in October 1988 in Beit El by Ya’acov (Katzele) Katz and Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed.
Had Nathan lived, he would have celebrated his 93rd birthday last week. But unfortunately, after two strokes which negatively impeded his ability to speak, and which also placed him in a wheelchair, his condition continued to deteriorate, and he died in 2008.
Avi Koren, who writes a weekly nostalgia column in The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv, decided to honor Nathan’s memory last Friday. After reviewing Nathan’s colorful career, Koren concluded with the words: “I thought that perhaps we should remember that he was here.”
In the year prior to Nathan’s death, those of his friends and admirers who had not abandoned him after he became ill gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday. The writer of this column was invited to join the celebration. Unfortunately, many of those who attended are no longer with us, but the Grapevine item that was published in May 2007 bears reprinting here, because Nathan is not the only person whom we should remember. The item read as follows:
ALMOST EVERYONE loves a good party, and many of his old friends and acquaintances, especially those who had long ago joined him in his quest for peace and coexistence, turned up on Sunday at the Tel Aviv Haketana sheltered living facility to join veteran peace activist and champion of the downtrodden Abie Nathan in celebrating his 80th birthday.
Once a charismatic and impressive figure, oozing energy, enthusiasm and commitment, Nathan is now a shadow of his former self. A stroke that he suffered nine years ago deprived him of his mobility and severely affected his speech, although he did manage to briefly join in the community singing of some of his favorite songs.
Nathan is best remembered for his Voice of Peace radio station broadcasting 24 hours around the clock from his peace ship sailing “somewhere in the Mediterranean.” But long before launching the peace ship, he attempted a peace flight to Egypt. In fact, he flew to Egypt twice, and the Egyptians understood his intentions better than the Israelis. When it was still forbidden, he met with then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat to talk peace. He still believes that peace is possible, despite all the obstacles.
Not everyone invited to his party could attend. Tel Aviv chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau sent a letter of congratulations, in which he called Nathan “a trailblazer for peace.” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who was abroad, sent a letter telling Nathan that on Friday, May 18, there will be a special unveiling ceremony on Gordon Beach to mark the spot where Nathan sank his peace ship when he could no longer raise sufficient funds to keep it afloat. Oren Barel, who heads the Phonokol production company which has put out a CD featuring the best of the songs broadcast on the Voice of Peace along with Nathan’s mellow voice making announcements, presented Abie with a citation and the first copy of the CD. Vice premier Peres arrived after most of the guests were assembled, and Nathan’s eyes lit up with joy as Peres kissed him and took a seat alongside him. Meretz leader Yossi Beilin also sat nearby, and former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat, who apologized for being late because he’d been on a tour of the Gaza Strip, recalled
the days when Nathan had been a member of the Tel Aviv City Council. Maestro Zubin Mehta, Nathan’s long time friend, who like Abie was born on April 29, albeit a few years later, sent a huge bouquet of flowers, and apologized that he and his wife, Nancy, could not be in Israel at this time.
Other well-known faces in the crowded dining room of Tel Aviv Haketana included those of Yafa Yarkoni, Dan Almagor, Ruth Dayan, Shaul Biber, Abie Nathan’s daughter Sharona, Amnon Zichroni, Yaakov Agmon, Didi Menusi, Zvika Gurevich and Miri Aloni, who serenaded him with “Shir Hashalom” (Song of Peace).
Peres said that Nathan, in his quest for peace, had crossed all boundaries and norms. But he had also made his presence felt in places where others did not always go. “Wherever there was poverty and tragedy in the world – there was Abie,” Peres said. “I don’t know of anyone who has given as much as he has. He has shown us what one person can do.” Then, turning to Nathan, Peres said: “I know that it’s not easy for you, but I’m sure that the dream that you dreamt will be realized regardless of the skeptics.”
Beilin didn’t miss the opportunity to introduce a political note into his remarks and commented on how easy it was for people to glorify war, and how easy it was for them to say that there is no one to talk to on the other side and that peace is unattainable. He pondered on what one could do in the face of this “collective stupidity” by the majority, and comforted himself with the belief that in the final analysis the minority would win. The minority, he said, could be a few people, even just one person, such as Abie Nathan.