Grapevine: Rivlin & Oz

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

CULTURAL ICON Amos Oz. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
CULTURAL ICON Amos Oz.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
One of the best ways to perpetuate the beliefs of a deceased cultural icon is to establish grants and scholarships in that person’s memory. That’s what happened this week when the Jerusalem Foundation and the Spinoza Center at the Van Leer Institute joined forces to announce the establishment of the Amos Oz grant in humanitarian studies to be awarded annually.
Oz, who died on December 28, 2018, was one of Israel’s most prolific writers, whose books were published in numerous languages. He was also an internationally known peace activist whose big dream was to have the Israel Embassy to Palestine located on one side of a Jerusalem main street, and the Palestinian Embassy to Israel on the opposite side of the same street, and that the two ambassadors would regularly cross the road to have coffee with each other.
The launch, broadcast simultaneously on the Jerusalem Foundation’s Facebook page and the Van Leer Foundation’s Facebook and website, on the Gregorian calendar second anniversary of Oz’s death, was recorded and can now be viewed by people who did not know in advance about the original broadcast, or who for other reasons were not able to see it in real time.
Speakers at the event, in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, were Oz’s daughter Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger and well-known Jerusalem-based writer Eli Amir.
Rivlin and Oz, both born in Jerusalem in the same year, with a four months’ difference in their ages, knew each other as children, went to the same school, and continued their friendship as adults despite their political differences. Oz grew up in the Kerem Avraham neighborhood, Rivlin in Rehavia.
Although Rehavia, originally built as a garden neighborhood, has not changed much in character over the years, Kerem Avraham definitely has. Originally purchased by British consul James Finn in 1852, it was a barren plot of land outside the walls of the Old City. The bulk of the Jewish population at the time was exceedingly poor, and Finn used his purchase as a place in which to teach them agriculture and other useful trades so that they could become self-supporting. The first houses were built there in 1855, and Finn hired Jews to build them.
Today, Kerem Avraham is overpopulated, and is largely an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. The Kerem Avraham of his youth was featured in some of Oz’s writings.
Although Rivlin is a multigenerational Jerusalemite, his family never forgot that their ancestors came to the Holy Land from Lithuania. Oz’s father also came from Lithuania. Rivlin’s father was a well-known academic. Oz’s father had academic aspirations which were never quite realized, but he came close, by working as a librarian at the National Library, which in those days was actually the Hebrew University library.
When eulogizing Oz two years ago, Rivlin spoke warmly of their school days, and of how when they were adolescents and he was sick with the flu, Oz had come to see him and talked for hours about his worldview. Rivlin was speaking more as a close, lifelong friend than as president of Israel.
Oz has also been memorialized in the cardiology unit of the new inpatients tower at the Rabin Medical Center. The naming of the unit in his name was announced this week at a gala Zoom event hosted by the Friends of the Rabin Center.
■ THERE’S AN old Jewish joke about two beggars talking about what they would do if they were rich. One said: “If I were Rothschild, I’d be richer than Rothschild, because I’d do a little begging on the side.” The moral of the story is that it never hurts to have more than one outlet for income, especially during a crisis period, such as the one that Israel is currently experiencing.
One of the best-known caterers in Jerusalem, Naomi Goldberg, whose Shabbat meals grace many tables in the capital on Friday nights and at Saturday luncheons, also runs a travel business in which she takes people on a literal cook’s tour to enchanting destinations in different parts of the world.
Goldberg and her husband, Eric, migrated from England in 1987. A trained chef and business manager, she started out in Israel cooking in her tiny kitchen in the immigrant absorption center. Though limited in ingredients and space, she still managed to turn out delicacies that were eagerly snapped up by fellow immigrants. Over time her business mushroomed, and many regular clients sought to get the recipes for some of her best-loved dishes.
She went beyond that and started organizing kosher tours to destinations where internationally renowned chefs would share some of the secrets of their kitchens. And, of course, all the participants got to eat kosher gourmet along the way.
While Dubai is currently the prime destination for Israeli vacationers and businesspeople, not everyone wants to go to Dubai, and the next Naomi kosher tours, providing there’s no lockdown, will be in February, with a choice of South Africa, Rwanda and Morocco, the first being February 1-11, the second February 12-23, and the third March 1-11.
There’s just one catch. The tours are available only to people with antibodies. In other words, if you haven’t been checked for coronavirus, and can’t produce a recent test result to the effect that you have antibodies, or preferably that you’ve been vaccinated, you can’t go.
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