Grapevine: Heavy heart

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Natan Sharansky (photo credit: Courtesy)
Natan Sharansky
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Today, September 11, is a sad date in American history, and around the world the question is being asked of many people: “Where were you on 9/11?
Many Jerusalemites were on public transportation. This was still in the pre-mobile phone era. While cellphones already existed, they were too great a luxury for universal use. Thus, every hour on the hour, conversations in buses would die down as the driver turned up the volume on the radio so that passengers could hear the news. In the bus on which I was traveling, there was initially disbelief, then horror. It was easy to tell which of the passengers were from America: they burst into tears.
I was on my way to cover an event at the Museum on the Seam, and wondered whether it would be canceled in sympathy with the tragedy. That in itself would be newsworthy, so I continued my journey. The event wasn’t canceled, nor did the guest of honor bow out.
Then-US ambassador Daniel Kurtzer delivered a somber speech in which he referred to the catastrophe, but said there was not yet sufficient information available for him to say anything coherent about what had happened. Realizing that he could not be of any help to people in New York, he simply went about his job with a heavy heart.
■ SEVERAL JERUSALEM hotels are already operating on a regular basis, and will be hosting guests on Rosh Hashanah. Despite the economic hardships which have been exacerbated by coronavirus restrictions, and complaints by most hotel operators that business is slow and in some cases nonexistent, Tamir Kobrin, the general manager of the King David Hotel, says the hotel is doing great and is very busy. Bookings for August turned out to be much better than anticipated, and are quite healthy for Rosh Hashanah as well. Guests will dine on traditional Rosh Hashanah fare, and for those who are interested, the hotel will also provide religious services.
■ LIKE MOST synagogues, Hazvi Yisrael – whose congregants live mostly in Rehavia, Talbiyeh, the German Colony, Baka, Katamon and Abu Tor – is uncertain to what extent it can hold High Holy Day services. Final decisions for all synagogues rest with the Health Ministry. However, in the case of Hazvi Yisrael, the synagogue is providing shofar blowers for people who are unable to attend a service in which there is a minyan (prayer quorum). Anyone living in the area who needs to have someone come and blow shofar for them should contact the congregation’s chairman, Avraham Samson, at [email protected]
Fortunately, because the first day of Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbat, shofar blowing will take place only on Sunday, which means the shofar blowers will have less work.
Meanwhile, Hazvi Yisrael this week launched a three-part lecture series on Faith and Uncertainty by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, as part of its ongoing series of lectures on social media. Admirers of Lord Sacks who may have missed out can catch up via his YouTube channel, which has a wide range of his lectures, including this particular series.
■ ALMOST EVERY organization and institution, in order to maintain contact with its supporters, is making greater use than ever before of social media platforms such as Zoom, Facebook and various websites. In fact, some organizations have actually increased their number of events. Getting speakers and/or musicians together on a social media outlet is often easier than bringing them together in the flesh. But it’s probably harder for organizations such as Beit Avi Chai which, prior to COVID-19, had a variety of programs nearly every night of the week.
The challenge is to continue and even surpass the pace on social media.
Among several events coming up next week is a discussion between the most renowned of former Prisoners of Zion, Natan Sharansky, and Jerusalem Post columnist Gil Troy. Sharansky who formed a political party, was a member of Knesset and government minister, then subsequently a long-time chairman of the Jewish Agency. He is currently chairman of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism, and has co-authored a book with Troy under the title Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, which will have its Israel launch online. The discussion to be held at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15, will be moderated by Steve Linde, editor in chief of The Jerusalem Report. Registration details available online at
■ SHARANSKY, WHOSE many honors include the US Congressional Medal of Honor and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, will be the featured speaker this year at the annual Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel memorial event for North Americans who fell in service to the State of Israel. Contrary to what has happened in previous years, there will be no meeting at the AACI memorial site. The memorial event will be virtual, to be held online on Sunday, October 25, at 5 p.m. Anyone wishing to participate should register online at in order to receive a Zoom invitation. Added to the list of fallen this year is Captain Tamar Ariel, an Israel Air Force navigator whose name will be engraved on the memorial plaque.