Grapevine November 6, 2021: Missed the bus?

The general idea is to make Tel Aviv a more sparkling city than it is already. That means a lot of architectural sacrifices so as to make way for new, modern construction on the site.

 THE TEL AVIV Central Bus Station. (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
THE TEL AVIV Central Bus Station.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Nonresidents of Tel Aviv, who haven’t traversed the once-familiar streets of the “city that never sleeps” in more than a year, will be surprised by the many changes. The volume of construction, with property developers of tall towers competing with each other in height in an ambition to reach the sky, whole streets of apartment blocks revamped and many streets blocked off as construction equipment digs deep into the earth to ensure firm foundations for new high-rise residential, office and commercial projects that continue to change the face of the city. Yet for all that, Tel Aviv shows far greater respect for old, historic buildings than does Jerusalem. Rather than gut them or tear them down as is too often the case in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv spruces them up and restores them to their original grandeur.

The general idea is to make Tel Aviv a more sparkling city than it is already. That means a lot of architectural sacrifices so as to make way for new, modern construction on the site. One of the largest projects of this kind is the South Tel Aviv Central Bus Terminal, which is about to disappear and with it not only numerous commercial outlets with an incredible variety of affordable merchandise but also Little Manila. It is like a home away from home for Filipino caregivers and other members of the Filipino community; African cultural and culinary outlets; and the shtetl library-cum-museum lovingly cared for by Mendy Cahan, founder of Yung Yidish, who for several months has been looking for a new home for the atmospheric, old-world treasure that he and his team so carefully created. An ideal place both culturally and geographically would be a section of the large lobby in the Habimah Theater. The location is relatively easy for people from out of town to get to. It could complement Habimah by having a mini Yiddish cabaret during intermission and a lot of people might prefer a schnapps, a piece of herring, a pickled cucumber, or a plate of cholent to the fare that is served in the Habimah food outlets. But it’s doubtful that Habimah would agree.

Yung Yidish has played an extraordinary role in Jewish outreach. Many immigrants from the former Soviet Union are interested in reclaiming their Jewish heritage but not necessarily on a religious level. They have enjoyed the opportunity to browse through Yiddish literature, learning Yiddish songs and embracing a culture that refuses to die no matter how many obituaries to which it has been subjected.

Cahan, who is himself a singer and storyteller with an engaging personality, has helped to make that happen. In addition, the Yiddish books and periodicals which he has amassed over the years are, in some cases, worthy of being placed in the ethnic section of a museum.

Putting aside for the moment the hundreds of people who will temporarily or permanently lose their livelihoods and the people who may suffer emotionally and psychologically with the disappearance of their cultural and social anchors, where is there consideration for the tens of thousands of passengers who pass through the Central Bus Terminal on a daily basis?

The old Central Bus Terminal, which is within easy walking distance of what is known as the New Central Bus Terminal, continued to function until the present terminal went into operation. While there is talk of finding new locations for the many buses to and from destinations throughout the country, there is no suitable alternative at this moment in time for the South Tel Aviv Central Bus Terminal, from where it is relatively easy to take connecting buses to almost anywhere in Tel Aviv and to other parts of Israel. What is on the verge of happening now is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

■ TWO YEARS ago, Neal Imperial, who is a former ambassador of the Philippines in Israel, hosted the premiere screening at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv of Quezon’s Game an excellent docu-feature that tells the story of how then-President Manuel Quezon, in defiance of the Nazi presence in the Philippines, opened the gates of his country to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Some of those Jews eventually made their way to Israel. For many years, diplomatic representatives of the Philippines waged a long struggle with Yad Vashem to have Quezon recognized as Righteous among the Nations or to be recognized in some other way by Yad Vashem for what he did at great personal risk. Their endeavors eventually succeeded. In the interim, Rishon Lezion signed a sister city agreement with Quezon City, as a result of which Macairog S. Alberto, the current ambassador of the Philippines, joined forces with Rishon Lezion Mayor Raz Kinstlich to show the film again – but this time in Rishon Lezion. The screening was attended by Rafael Harpaz, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific, and Margot Pins Kestenbaum, who to some degree owes her life to Quezon, and is a regular guest at bilateral events hosted by the Philippines Embassy.


■ FORMER COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER and former MK Ayoub Kara, who served in the 15th, 16th, 18th and 20th Knessets, was called on from time to time as a minister in the government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu to represent the government at national day receptions hosted by the ambassadors of foreign countries. To his credit, he is not afraid of delivering speeches in English and will be doing so in Florida on Wednesday, November 17, and Thursday, November 18, when – as the guest of CAMERA – he will address the question: Is Israel an apartheid state? It should be remembered that Kara is a Druze and not a Jew. Yet for all that he is, in quite a few respects, a far greater Zionist than many Jews and one of the most loyal of Likudniks. He was also tremendously loyal to Benjamin Netanyahu, who often treated him in an off-hand manner.

The Wednesday event will be at the Marriott Hotel in West Palm Beach, and the Thursday event at the Bocaire Country Club in Boca Raton.

■ IN AN item about the commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba that appeared in last Wednesday’s Grapevine, there was mention of Ambassador Thomas Goldberger, a former Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy. But the capacity in which he was at the event was as the “Director-General’s Representative” in Israel for the Multinational Force and Observers, whose officers of Australian and New Zealand contingents always participate in Battle of Beersheba commemorations as well as at ANZAC Day memorial services.

Goldberger and his wife Eden have been back in Israel since January 2020 but since so many people kept a low profile over the past two years, not everyone whom he had met as DCM was aware of his presence. He heads a team of some twenty people who are headquartered in Bnei Brak and provides support to MFO soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. After Goldberger completed his previous posting in Israel as DCM, he went to Baghdad and then to Cairo for five years before leaving the State Department and joining the MFO.

Eden Goldberger was able to link up again with old friends who are resident in Israel and she currently serves as President of the Israel branch of the International Women’s Club.

■ WHILE ISRAEL’S strange coalition has been able to avoid becoming unglued, despite vastly varied ideologies, recommendations by government ministers of talented and experienced people to head the boards of directors of major state-owned enterprises have been rebuffed. First, it was Amir Peretz, who despite having been a successful mayor of Sderot, head of the Histadrut Federation of Labor, former defense minister and chairman of the Labor Party, was rejected for the chairmanship of Israel Aerospace Industries on the grounds that he had insufficient managerial experience.

Emi Palmor, a former director-general of the Justice Ministry, who has spent almost half of her lifetime as a civil servant and who has headed numerous initiatives, reforms, committees and tribunals, was nominated to chair the Israel Electric Corporation and was likewise rejected on the grounds that she did not have the appropriate managerial qualifications.

Peretz had been supported by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palmor by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Energy Minister Karen Elharar. The question is whether Peretz and Palmor were scapegoats for someone who has it in for certain members of the present regime.