Grapevine November 21, 2021: A chance to slow the pace

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG congratulates new military judges  (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG congratulates new military judges
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Although he has a number of meetings lined up during his three-day visit to London this week, President Isaac Herzog will nonetheless be able to take something of a respite from his pace of work in Israel. Herzog is one of the busiest presidents in memory, attending several events in different parts of the country in the one day, in addition to the many meetings that he has with political, legal, academic, diplomatic, military, security, economic, environmental, scientific and other officials and personalities. In London, he may also have a chance to meet with relatives living there and with past and present members of the Labour Party with whom he was closely connected in the days when he headed the Labor Party.

■ IT’S NOT only COVID-19 that has put a damper on international travel and visits to Israel by people from abroad who have had to watch family life-cycle events on Skype, Zoom or Facebook because they are unable to attend in person. Even after travel restrictions were relaxed, Israeli bureaucracy got in the way of family reunions. Case in point is that of Miriam Shaviv, a former literary editor of The Jerusalem Post, who lives in London. 

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Shaviv draws attention to the fact that an archaic Israeli law prevents her from visiting Israel with her children. Why? Because she is an Israeli citizen, but her children are not. But under Israeli law, Israel requires citizens to enter the country on Israeli passports. There are other countries that do the same with regard to their citizens, Shaviv concedes, but “Israel is one of just a handful of countries that automatically treats children born overseas to Israeli parents as citizens too.

“Without Israeli passports, young Yoni, Noa, Liam and Olivia can’t visit Saba and Savta in the old country – even though they were born in London or New York, and may be fully vaccinated. The problem is, Israel is making it exceptionally hard to register these children at the local consulates. In the past you simply had to present a birth certificate. Now, as the JC has reported, you must prove a biological connection to your child by sending in your hospital discharge papers. If you can’t provide this, you may need pregnancy scans (for a child who may be 10 or 20 years old) or a DNA test. It’s a gross invasion of privacy.”

But as angry as Shaviv is over the need to supply proof of a biological relationship she is even more outraged that she is being forced to register her children as Israeli citizens. “It’s grotesque and unethical,” she writes. “People should not be forced to turn children born in the UK into Israeli citizens. Most of these children have no Israeli identity and speak no Hebrew. They may not even be Jewish.

 Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“Being an Israeli citizen has legal implications. Many parents would prefer their British and American offspring to make this choice themselves as adults rather than to have it foisted on them at birth.”

There’s also another related issue to which Shaviv refers and that is that “a heartbreaking Facebook group is full of desperate angry posts from people whose spouse or ex will not allow them to register their kids.”

It makes no difference which government is in power, Israel always manages to preserve part of its Chelm identity. Only this time it’s not funny.

■ IN THE realm of liturgical singing, few cantors in Israel are more popular than Simon Cohen and Shai Abramson. Of course anyone who can sing well, can sing in any genre, and both of them did, It seemed that Cohen is the more versatile of the two when it comes to vocal acrobatics, though each has an amazing vocal range and held the audience at the Henry Crown Hall in the Jerusalem Theatre in thrall when they competed while singing a duet to see how long each could hold a high note.

The two starred in the annual concert held by Emunah Jerusalem, which each year designates the proceeds to one of its projects. This year’s proceeds went to the Emunah Sarah Ronson Crisis and Intervention Center in Sderot for the purpose of providing art therapy for traumatized children in the area.

Cohen and Abramson sang in Hebrew, English and Yiddish, adding Broadway, popular Israeli songs, opera and folk songs to their presentation, though it has to be said that with due respect to Raymond Goldstein, who is truly a magnificent musical arranger, he should have left Sinatra’s “My Way” alone. Even with his wonderful voice, Abramson could not do it justice in its new arrangement.

An Arik Einstein medley, re-arranged by conductor Ofir Sobol, who is a great showman and also sings, was also somehow disrespectful to a deceased icon, and should have been left in its original format.

But the rest of the concert was truly outstanding, and obviously pleased the capacity audience, which applauded enthusiastically, and even rose to give the singers, solo violinist Nitzan Temerlies, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Halelu Choir conducted by Shalom Kinori a standing ovation.

Compères for the evening were Richard Shavei-Tzion in English and Ido Tauber in Hebrew.

It may be remembered that Shavei-Tzion, for a quarter of a century, conducted the Ramatayim Choir, which he founded, and which he disbanded earlier this year.

But he obviously is unable to divorce himself from musical performances.

The concert was titled “Jerusalem Harmony” and the chemistry between all concerned not only lived up to the title in its musical sense, but also in its literary sense. Several people in the audience were celebrating birthdays, including a couple of nonagenarians whom Shavei-Tzion congratulated, but also made special mention of the oldest member of the audience, Ursula Lowenstein, 99, who has been to every one of the Emunah concerts.

■ EVERY YEAR, the International Young Israel Movement hosts an annual bat/bar mitzvah for the deaf and hearing impaired.

In the pre-coronavirus years, the ceremony was held live in a synagogue. This year the ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on November 22, and will be live streamed on Zoom and Facebook. The guest of honor will be deaf MK Shirley Pinto, who is living proof that being deaf need not be an impediment to progress in one’s career or public service.

Celebrants from all over Israel will gather together online as they recite the blessings for the Torah, partake in a seudat mitzvah and learn about their Jewish heritage. This is also a unique opportunity to meet peers from all over the country, share a common experience, and create friendships that can possibly last a lifetime. The event will be live-streamed on Zoom and on the movement’s Facebook page: facebook.com/iyimisrael

■ IT MAY surprise some people to know that Benjamin Netanyahu is not among the top five prime ministers worldwide who were in office for the longest period of time.

As the bill that Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has been pushing to restrict a lawmaker under a criminal indictment from becoming prime minister progresses the Israel Democracy Institute has released a list of long-serving prime ministers and chancellors, which indicates that Netanyahu is in 11th place. But he is not the only long-serving Jewish head of government. He comes after Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky, who was in office for 13.1 years, compared to Netanyahu’s 12.2.

■ WHOEVER HARMS the civil or military courts is as if they harmed the beating heart of the state, Herzog said last week at the swearing-in ceremony of four new military judges. The ceremony was conducted at the President’s Residence in the presence of the President of the Military Court of Appeals Maj.-Gen. Doron Piles, IDF Chief Prosecutor Maj.-Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi and the families of the newly appointed judges.

All military judges are officers in the IDF. According to Piles, they require the same qualifications and qualities of character as judges in the civil courts – a sound knowledge of the law, wisdom, understanding, fairness, a well-developed sense of justice and a love of humanity.

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