GRAPEVINE: Jewish in-laws in the White House no matter what

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Former vice president Joe Biden (Left) and US President Donald Trump (Right) (photo credit: WHITE HOUSE / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Former vice president Joe Biden (Left) and US President Donald Trump (Right)
(photo credit: WHITE HOUSE / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Despite the fade-out of the possibility of a female or Jewish president of the United States, which was a maybe at the beginning of the presidential race, one thing is certain: there will be Jewish in-laws in the White House regardless of whether President Donald Trump or former vice president Joe Biden wins the vote in November. Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, is married to Jared Kushner, and Biden’s son Hunter is married to Melissa Cohen, a South African social activist. The couple, who wed in May 2019, recently became parents of a baby boy.
THE MEDIA and the general public have been brutal in their condemnation of President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman for breaking the rules that they imposed and encouraged on the rest of the population. 
As far as Rivlin is concerned, it wasn’t just a matter of having his daughter Rivi and her family join him on Seder night, when there had been explicit instructions to keep children away from senior citizens. On the day before Rivi and her family moved into the guest accommodations at the President’s Residence, Rivlin went beyond the 100-meter limit. After meeting with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and acting Israel Police c5ommissioner Moti Cohen in the gardens of the presidential compound, where he maintained social distance, Rivlin decided that it was incumbent upon him, as No. 1 citizen, to visit the roadblocks in the capital, which are being jointly manned by IDF soldiers and Israel Police and Border Police officers, to thank them for ensuring public order.
While it is perfectly understandable that the president should feel obligated to do this, and he was careful to wear a mask and maintain social distance, it should nonetheless be borne in mind that the roadblocks are much, much further than 100 meters from the President’s Residence.
IT HAS become patently obvious that people who hold office are permitted to break the rules – especially when it’s for a good cause. Although government discussions during April have been held through telephone conference calls or via Zoom, some ministers have allowed themselves to go beyond the 100-meter limit from their homes, especially when it was for some form of public welfare.
Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Ofir Akunis personally helped to distribute food parcels to the needy on Wednesday of last week, and was particularly concerned that adequate provisions be made for Holocaust survivors.
DESPITE THE fact that there is no love lost between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the State of Israel, diplomatic relations continue, and in fact last Wednesday, a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul brought home a group of 110 Arab-Israeli students. The group had been scheduled to return a week earlier on an Israir flight, but because all Israeli airlines carry armed security personnel, the Turkish authorities would not allow the plane to land, and the flight was canceled.
Thanks to the intervention of Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, the students were able to come to Israel on a Turkish Airlines flight. Tibi subsequently expressed appreciation to Erdogan.
He also tweeted Easter greetings to millions of Christians around the world, noting that Easter carries a message of hope. Tibi added: “May we soon be able to celebrate all religious festivities in a Jerusalem of freedom and peace & void of occupation, discrimination & oppression.”
Turkey has also supplied medical equipment to Israel, including sterile gloves, masks and protective overalls.
ON THE home front, Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, a married microbiologist and mother of three children from Baka al-Gharbiya, who six years ago won the fourth season of the MasterChef Israel contest, has temporarily given low priority to Arab gourmet cuisine. She is too busy these days conducting coronavirus clinical tests in a voluntary capacity, but is looking forward to the day when she can resume the A-sham food festival which she founded in Haifa, and which is a platform for the diverse Arab and Jewish culinary delights of the Levant.
EACH YEAR, on the day prior to the Orthodox Easter known as Holy Saturday, thousands of worshipers flock to Jerusalem’s Old City for the Holy Fire ceremony and pack into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the site where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
The patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Church enter the Edicule, the small chamber protecting what is believed to be Jesus’s tomb, and leave with candles said to be miraculously lit with “Holy Fire,” which is transferred to candles held by pilgrims.
That’s not going to happen this year. The inability of the faithful to congregate was known more than a month ago, but, aware of the importance of the ceremony, the Foreign Ministry, in a circular sent on April 6 to the heads of the Eastern Church, wrote that the Holy Fire ceremony will take place on Saturday, April 18, with the exclusive participation of church heads and without the participation of pilgrims.
However, if the country represented by each church head intended to send an aircraft to transport the holy fire to their home countries, the recipients of the circular were asked to contact Galit Cohen in the ministry’s Protocol Bureau, informing her of the flight path, the aircraft number, the tail number of the aircraft, the call sign, the handling company, the pilots’ names and the names and total number of passengers.
The circular also made it clear that due to quarantine regulations, delegations arriving to receive the Holy Fire will not be able to disembark from the aircraft.
The Holy Fire will be transferred by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to representatives of each embassy at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. It will then be transported by embassy representatives, who will bring the Holy Fire to the aircraft.
All embassy cars carrying the Holy Fire will travel in a motorcade escorted by police to Ben-Gurion Airport. Only cars that are part of the motorcade will be permitted to enter the airport.
ISRAELI DIPLOMATS abroad have been putting themselves at risk while helping stranded Israelis to get home. During the current pandemic, Israel has one of the best repatriation records in the world. Happily, Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff and deputy chief of mission Aharon Sagui have each recovered from coronavirus, and in Spain, the deputy chief of mission at the Israel Embassy, Assaf Moran, and his wife, who also tested positive, were only lightly affected, and both are well on the way to recovery.
IN ITS endeavors to maintain contact with heads of foreign missions, The Ambassadors’ Club of Israel, headed by its founder, retired ambassador Yitzhak Eldan, a former chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry and a former head of its training unit, has interviewed several ambassadors to find out how they are coping, and how their work and their connection with Israelis have been affected by the pandemic.
Eldan believes that in future the larger Israel embassies will require a staff member who is qualified to deal with health issues.
As for the interviews with foreign ambassadors, below are extracts from the responses by Thessalia Salina Shambos, the ambassador of Cyprus, who after five years in Israel will be leaving in the summer, and Anjan Shakya, the ambassador of Nepal, who presented her credentials last year. 
Shambos wrote: “This unprecedented pandemic has certainly changed our working methods as embassies, as it has affected our countries, our communities and our homes. As for everyone else, in Israel, Cyprus and beyond, public health and safety protocols prevail and determine our code of work conduct. As an embassy, we abide religiously by the certainly commendable measures of the Israeli authorities, which I have to note are very similar epidemiologically and timewise, to the ones we are applying in Cyprus with the aim to drastically contain the viral spread.
“As all embassies, our embassy coordinates closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PMO, the NSC and the Ministry of Health, as well as the rest of the Diplomatic Corps, in assuring that we implement a homogeneous approach to the Israeli government’s measures. 
“Obviously, Cyprus, being an EU member state, coordinates very closely and day by day on embassy policy, consular and other, relevant to the pandemic topics with the EU delegation and the other EU partners, in order to ensure a generally unified approach. I can even go as far as saying that, in some respects, intercommunication in the diplomatic community and our outreach with Israeli authorities, as well as with local society stakeholders, have become more immediate, more frequent and more automatic, due to the pandemic. 
“In that context, I observe that this challenge has nourished a novel sense of camaraderie, via interconnecting us and even bringing us closer together in tackling best this common enemy. 
“As regards our everyday work, as an embassy we have very quickly introduced and implemented comprehensive telework practices, while the embassy functions with essential on the ground staff that follows a very strict protocol of social distancing and thorough hygiene, including disinfection protocols. 
“We have also aimed at nourishing our team spirit and our sense of togetherness while supporting each other, something which is vital in times of uncertainty and critical life changes. 
“For me personally this is all the more important knowing that my husband and family are back in Cyprus on this last fifth year of my assignment in beautiful Israel. I dare share that I feel very moved to read letters from my eight-year-old and six-year-old boys, Phaedon and Alexander, inquiring ‘How is Israel doing with fighting the coronavirus?’ and asking their dad, who is himself a doctor of genetics- virology specialist, whether he has found ‘the potion to kill the virus in Cyprus and Israel.’”
Shakya, who is also her country’s ambassador to Cyprus wrote: “We have to take our every step wisely, without bringing panic on ourselves, conveying information to all the Nepalese residing in Israel and Cyprus that the Embassy of Nepal is committed enough to take every possible and necessary step for their welfare.
“An ambassador is the guardian of her/his every citizen. But, I also understand that my responsibility is not limited to a certain genre but to a number of people related to any work, including, of course, the embassy staff. At this moment, everyone needs encouragement, motivation and cooperation.
“The embassy has been corresponding to its receiving countries via emails and phone. Despite coronavirus creating such a situation that stopped our movement, stopped all exchange of visits, conducting meetings, signing memoranda of understandings and agreements and so on, confining our activities within our community via phone calls, email and social media. I am worried that this situation will have a direct impact on our economy. So, we need to plan to manage our economy. In recent days, we are conducting videoconferences, call conferences, webinars with the governments and people of Nepal, Israel and Cyprus (high-level officials from concerned authorities, private sectors, chambers of commerce, Nepali and Israeli communities etc.). It has halted our life and inhibited enhancing our relations, as we cannot meet anyone.
“In the meantime, this is a brilliant idea that the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel has brought via which we can be able to share our notions and thoughts.
“Nepal (at the time of writing a week ago) has reported nine cases of COVID-19, including one local transmission, which has taken the country into stage 2 of the pandemic, in which two cases are recovered and others are in mild condition. But we are worried about the future.
“At the first step, the government of Nepal announced temporary bans on all flights, all long-haul transportation across the country and all nonessential services from March 22 to March 31. The second step taken by the government was to halt incoming passengers from 55 countries, with other passengers having to be quarantined as they arrive in Nepal; postponement of the nationwide secondary education examinations, and a ban on all gatherings of more than 25 people. Further to this was the new announcement regarding a halt to all international arrivals, including Nepalese.
“Nepal is in complete lockdown, extended to April 15. We have canceled all flights, closed borders and restricted internal movement. It has helped us significantly to prevent the rapid spread of this virus. Our Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli urged Nepalese abroad to exercise patience and reach out to Nepali missions in the respective countries. He said, ‘Safeguarding life is the most important human right.’ He announced the creation of a new agency, the Corona Crisis Management Center, to coordinate, oversee and act on a war footing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Quarantine facilities houses for 30,566 people have been built across the country. At present, 9,168 people are in quarantine, while 95 people are undergoing treatment in isolation. The Nepal government coordinated with the Indian government to keep Nepalese returning from India in quarantine. Around 2,147 Nepalese are kept in quarantine on the Indian side, and over 700 Indian nationals are in quarantine in Nepal. Those who are in quarantine at the Nepal-India border will be allowed to return home, once their quarantine ends and they undergo some tests. The government did not allow them to enter Nepal, due to risk of transmission.
“The government had dispatched 1,048 sets of personal protective equipment, 11,819 gowns, 4,345 N-95 masks and [thousands of] surgical masks to all seven provinces; and 75,000 testing kits. More tests are carried out where a majority of cases are located. Nepal has launched a COVID-19 website and mobile app.
“Looking at this crisis, we are lacking medical equipment like PPE, PCR test kits, N-95 masks, infrared thermometers, ventilators, etc. The lower number of cases may also be due to the lack of such testing kits. Some Nepali entrepreneurs are producing materials, but it is not sufficient.
“Central, provincial and local governments and people are working hand in hand to fight this situation. The government of Nepal and the Nepali people are treating foreigners, too, with no discrimination. Our culture is: ‘Guests are like Deities.’
“During the videoconference of all the heads of missions based in Israel with competent Israeli officials, we got the request of the government of Israel to repatriate Israelis, which we have forwarded to the Nepal government, and Nepal is willing to support. Nepal is looking forward to getting support from the government of Israel as we received at the time of earthquake 2015. We still have warm memories of that wonderful support.
“We have formed a volunteering committee (in Israel and Cyprus) that looks after the Nepali people facing problems. I am lucky that I have many Israeli friends here, and they are always ready to help, which makes me so comfortable. They don’t even let me feel that I am not with my family.”
RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS, many of whom happen to be Jewish, and who have several homes in different parts of the world, have been extremely generous in sharing their wealth with general and Jewish causes in their host countries. They support culture, the arts, education, medicine, social welfare, sport and more. Some have even invested in media, and would do a great service if they were to invest in the London Jewish Chronicle and the Canadian Jewish News, both of which closed down within days of each other, as did the London-headquartered Jewish News, which was on the verge of merging with the Jewish Chronicle.
Jewish newspapers are suffering for several reasons.
There has been a falloff in advertising, which is a newspaper’s main source of revenue. There has also been a decline in readership, partially because Jewish newspapers are either too provincial or too Israel-oriented, in addition to which it is very difficult to compete with the glut of Jewish digital publications and blogs which collectively carry an amazing variety of Jewish news.
But there will always be readers who prefer something tactile, especially among Orthodox Jews who want to catch up with the news and well-written commentaries on current events on Saturdays, when they have more time to read than they do on weekdays. But Orthodox Jews cannot use their PCs, laptops, tablets or mobile phones on the Sabbath. They need their Friday Jewish newspaper. Most print publications also have online editions, and as far as the Jewish press goes, this enables Canadian and British expatriates living in Israel and elsewhere in the world to keep their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the old country.
CJN president Elizabeth Wolfe, conscious that the paper has previously suspended publication, and has been miraculously revived, is hoping for another miracle. The Jewish Chronicle in its long history has also suspended publication and has been miraculously revived, so perhaps a couple of Jewish billionaires will come to the rescue and perform another miracle. Both CJN and the JC were sufficiently important to rate considerable coverage in general Canadian and British newspapers, when it was announced that they would cease publication.
Every newspaper has a vested interest in keeping other newspapers alive. As far as The Jerusalem Post is concerned, the penultimate editor of the JC was Jeff Barak, who had previously been editor-in-chief of the Post and now writes a weekly column for the paper. Long before that, the late Geoffrey Paul, who edited the JC from  1977 to 1990, had been a stringer for the Post writing under the pseudonym of David Saul. The late Bernard Joseph was an early editor of the Post’s Jerusalem supplement, In Jerusalem.
FAMED ISRAELI actress and model Gal Gadot, who last week caused a sensation with the release of her interview with Joe Sabia, during which she answered Vogue’s probing 73 questions, has joined the campaign of the National Council of the Child currently featuring on social media. Gadot tells her young fans that they are not alone, and anytime they have a problem of any kind they should contact the National Council of the Child and someone will help them.
The message in Hebrew is loud and clear and particularly aimed at children who have difficulty in understanding the meaning of social distance or staying locked at home. It is very important to explain it to them in a manner that they can comprehend, and it’s equally important for adults in the company of children to understand when those children are suffering any form of distress, especially with the rise of domestic violence.
THE SON of print and electronic media journalist Emily Amrousi-Hollander had his bar mitzvah on a weekday prior to Passover. Amrousi-Hollander spoke about it in advance on the Friday morning radio program she anchors with law professor Yuval Elbashan. Many of her neighbors heard the broadcast, and on the day of the bar mitzvah, her son stood on the lawn outside their building and put on tefillin (phylacteries) for the first time. Suddenly, men with tefillin on their foreheads and wrapped around their arms emerged on their balconies and shouted “Amen” to his prayer. There were also women and children on the balconies. A rabbi wearing a mask and gloves brought a Torah scroll for the boy to read his portion, and at the appropriate time people threw candies from every balcony. There were greetings from all directions, and relatives and close friends were Zoom guests.
Amroussi-Hollander did not know many of those who chose to participate in the bar mitzvah from their balconies, but in their gesture to her son, they became a community almost as close as family.
IN THE comeback series of Zehu Ze! featuring Dovaleh Glickman, Moni Moshonov, Gidi Gov and Avi Kushnir, three of the quartet appeared in a senior citizen skit in drag. It was a little difficult to reconcile the usually deep-voiced Glickman, who played the bearded Shulem in Shtisel, the popular television series about ultra-Orthodox life in Jerusalem, with the high-pitched “woman” with the heavy makeup and the curly mop of hair in Zehu Ze! Yet another testament to his versatility.
ARE ZOOM and street Seders here to stay? For years it has been commonplace during Sukkot to see sukkah tents in the street outside apartment houses and shops. In Beersheba, some families took their Seder into the street with tables at an appropriate distance, and in non-Orthodox neighborhoods throughout the country, many people shared their Seders on Zoom with relatives and friends. It was particularly strange for families living in different time zones, such as Sonia and Daniel Lew, who live in Kfar Saba and originally hail from Australia, which is seven hours ahead. They joined their Australian relatives in a Zoom Seder, so they actually celebrated way ahead of time. Conversely, American immigrants who celebrated with relatives in the US were several hours ahead, depending on where in the US. Technology is completely changing the way we live.