Perhaps there’s something in the drinking water in Jerusalem that prompts an 86-year-old retired Supreme Court justice to take up a new venture.
Jerusalem resident Dalia Dorner, who after retiring from the bench in 2004, two years later became the president of the Israel Press Council, a position that she held for a little over 14 years. In 2014, Dorner ran unsuccessfully in the race for president of Israel. This week, she met with fellow Jerusalemite Reuven Rivlin who won that race, and who officially launched Dorner’s new venture – the Israeli Press Institute. Rivlin, who is a lawyer by profession, said: “The role of the institute will be, first and foremost, to redefine the blurred borders between political propaganda, marketing content and serious journalism.” He also noted that the institute will “remind us all that the media, defined as the watchdog of democracy, is a uniquely important part of the democratic apparatus whose task it is to criticize and investigate, without fear or favor, and to whom the principle of separation of powers must also apply.”
Commenting that in recent years there has been a crisis of confidence between the public and the press, Rivlin said: “Journalistic ethics are not a recommendation, but rather a decisive issue of conscience and professionalism.” He also spoke of “the need to clarify what is the role of the state and what is its area of responsibility when distinguishing between factual reporting and fake news, between legitimate expressions and dangerous incitement.”
Dorner responded: “In recent years, we have seen the deterioration of public trust in the media. This trend is very dangerous for democracy, whose strength relies largely on a strong and trustworthy press and on public consensus regarding the crucial value of the freedom of the press. I have met many young people in recent years, and many of them receive most of their information from social media networks. I came to the conclusions that in order to restore public confidence in the press, and particularly among young people, we must work on media literacy, which is not currently taught in the formal education system. I worked to create the Israeli Press Institute primarily to fill that gap.”
Golan Yochpaz, who will serve as director of the institute, said: “With all those who wish to blur the importance to the Israeli public of a strong, free investigative press in Israel, we will try to make it clear just how critical it is on a day-to-day level, and how continued damage to it will erode our democratic resilience. We will try to reinforce the importance of journalists standing up for their freedom of action in their newsrooms, particularly at this difficult time for Israeli journalism.”
If Dorner had succeeded in her bid for the presidency of the state, she would have been the first woman to hold that office, though not the first woman to occupy it. Jerusalem-born Dalia Itzik, who as the first and so far only woman speaker of the Knesset, was acting president for several months after Moshe Katsav took leave of the office when he was charged with rape. The date for final nominations in the current race for the presidency has not yet been reached, and the name of another female Jerusalemite, Israel Prize laureate Miriam Peretz, has been bandied about by some of her admirers, though Peretz herself has not yet said the last word on the subject.
Rivlin’s seven-year term expires in mid-July.
■ ASPAKLARIA, THE Jerusalem-based Jewish Theater is experiencing a changing of the guard. Director Rabbi Hagai Lober who founded the theater ensemble 21 years ago, primarily for religious audiences who felt uncomfortable with some secular productions, has announced that he is handing over the directorship of the theater to Izhar Florsheim. Lober will remain with the theater as its artistic director. Hundreds of actors from across the demographic spectrum appeared in Lober’s productions over the years. Aspaklaria has a large following and both Lober and Florsheim are convinced that it has bigger and better things ahead once the curtain opens up again.
■ THE RELIGIOUS publication Hashavua reports that Rabbi Haim Miller, a former member of the Jerusalem City Council who today heads The Movement for Jerusalem and Its Residents and chairs a charitable health organization which translates as “And the Healer will Heal,” has written to the ministries of Health and Finance as well as to the state comptroller and the attorney general, demanding to know who gave the order for the final closure of Bikur Cholim Hospital which stands at the corner of Strauss and Haneviim streets in close proximity to several haredi neighborhoods.
Bikur Cholim, which was established in the mid-19th century, fell on hard times and was on the verge of bankruptcy and about to close early in the 21st century, when it was rescued by Russian business tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak, who later sold it to a real estate development company. Due to its importance, it was subsequently taken over as a downtown extension of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, but with severe limitations.
Today the stately building features “For Rent” signs, and Miller, conscious of the pressures confronting Hadassah Medical Center as well as Shaare Zedek, sees the closure of Bikur Cholim as a travesty, especially for the haredi community which it served so well for so many years.
Miller wants it to be restored as a fully functional hospital