Grapevine: Women waging peace

Members of the NGO Women Wage Peace stand near the Knesset in the capital last month (photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
Members of the NGO Women Wage Peace stand near the Knesset in the capital last month
(photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
■ FOR YEARS, women have been arguing that if they were given as great a role in peace negotiations as male negotiators – because women on both sides of the fence have similar concerns about the future of their children – we would have seen better results.
Women Wage Peace, a movement that is mushrooming across Israel, will host an all-day international congress at the Smolarz Auditorium on the campus of Tel Aviv University on November 27.
Speakers will include Gaza-born Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who was the first Palestinian physician permitted to work in an Israeli hospital; Swanee Hart, former US ambassador to Austria; Dr. Maram Mesawa; Dr. Yoav Kapshuk, an expert on conflict resolution; French Ambassador Helene Le Gal; Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons, who will also be a panelist at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on November 21; Cyprus Ambassador Thessalia Salina Shambos, who will also speak at the conference; Finland Ambassador Elizabeth Rehn; Irish Ambassador Allison Kelly; Emanuele Giaufret, the head of the delegation of the European Union; MK Merav Michaeli; and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, whose mother, Geulah Cohen, was once a political firebrand.
Together the group intends to remove barriers to Middle East peace. Organizers say that the powerful longing for peace crosses political divides, but there are still barriers in the way and the challenge is to find a means of dismantling them.
A few days ago, in preparation for the congress, a 24-hour hackathon was held at Herzliya Studios with the participation of 50 young men and women plus experts in different aspects of conflict resolution.
After the cat-calls that he received at the Rabin memorial gathering, Hanegbi is to be commended for having the courage to once more walk into the lion’s den, but it’s fair to anticipate that he’ll get a much better reception on the TAU campus than what was accorded to him in Rabin Square.
By the way, the ambassadors listed above are not the only female envoys currently serving in Israel, proving that diplomacy is no longer a purely male bailiwick.
■ THE SMOLARZ Auditorium is a very popular venue in Tel Aviv, partially because the TAU campus is so accessible.
Even before Women Wage Peace, it will be occupied this afternoon and evening, Sunday, November 18, for the David Azrieli Memorial Awards for student projects in architecture.
David Azrieli designed and developed the first of Israel’s shopping malls, and the basic design of his trio of round, square and triangular malls in the heart of Tel Aviv is incorporated into the logo of the Azrieli Foundation. Azrieli was a keen and generous supporter of Tel Aviv University, and his name graces TAU’s School of Architecture.
Guest speaker at the awards event will be James von Klempere, president of KPF (Kohn, Pedersen Fox Associates), a New York-headquartered architecture firm that provides interior programing and master-planning services. He will talk about buildings and their makers and will present five case studies.
■ QUIZZES FREQUENTLY provoke interest. It’s a kind of an ego thing where we pat ourselves on the back if we know the answer on a game show – more so when the contestant doesn’t know the correct answer. Thus, people who know their Bible will be very keen to listen in to the Champion of Champions Quiz Show that is being sponsored by the Education Ministry under the slogan of “Tribes of Israel together.”
Competing in the event will be all past Bible Quiz champions who are still living. The Bible Quiz was inaugurated 60 years ago and its finals are a permanent feature of Israel Independence Day celebrations.
The Champion of Champions Quiz will take place at the Jerusalem Convention Center on the fourth night of Hanukka, December 6, in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose wife, Sara’s family, and his younger son Avner are all Bible buffs.
Also present will be Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuab.
■ ONE OF the key missions of the International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) is to ensure that every Israeli army unit is in possession of a Torah scroll. Sometimes it’s even possible to organize the construction of a synagogue.
That’s what happened with regard to the Telem base located just outside Hebron. The joyous singing and dancing of the soldiers who were celebrating the inauguration of the synagogue could be heard for miles around. The synagogue was donated by the Leo V. Berger Fund through its president, Harvey Schwartz.
But this was not like any other synagogue dedication ceremony. In the midst of the festivities, the soldiers who had been dancing with the Torah scrolls suddenly disappeared. No one knew where they were and the donors were somewhat bewildered, to put it mildly.
The visitors had not heard the alarm that had been sounded – mainly because they didn’t expect it and their ears were not tuned in to it.
There had been an attempted stabbing at the Cave of the Patriarchs, and the soldiers were the first to respond to the emergency situation.
The visitors were stunned. Only a short time earlier, they had been privy to a drill for just such an emergency, and all of a sudden the emergency was there and the soldiers were ready to deal with it.
The Telem base soldiers, who are on call 24/7, have to ensure the safety and security of all the neighboring communities. They also have to safeguard major roads so that travel can be safe and accessible to all. Whenever there is a terrorist-related incident, they are the first on the scene.
The disruption was brief and the dedication ceremony continued with ribbon cutting and the unveiling of a plaque. The mincha service was conducted in the new synagogue.
Schwartz lives in Israel, so he is in a position to scout out the land and to decide where the needs are greatest. Having recognized the fact that although they can just as easily pray in a field, soldiers need a permanent physical structure in which to pray, Schwartz has already attended the dedication of two army synagogues donated by the Leo V. Berger Fund, which has also donated numerous Torah scrolls. One of the synagogues is used by an undercover anti-terror unit.
The funding for the synagogues and Torah scrolls, and the purchases of phylacteries and mezuzot for army bases is made possible through the IYIM Warrior Torah project. Many of the Torah scrolls are purchased outside Israel and brought to their rightful homes on army, navy and air force bases.
The Torah scrolls that were donated to the Telem synagogue came from Boston, Massachusetts and Melbourne, Australia and were dedicated by families who wanted to contribute to Israel’s spiritual strength. Each of the Telem soldiers was given a set of phylacteries as well.
■ INDEPENDENCE OF a cultural institution is a costly affair, as Raphie Etgar, the director and curator of the Museum on the Seam – which specializes in exhibiting contemporary art from all over the Middle East and beyond – can vouch.
It’s doubtful that even if he cared to apply to the Culture and Sport Ministry, its minister, Miri Regev, would give him the time of day. He’s far too liberal for her.
On more than one occasion, the Museum on the Seam has been in danger of closing but has been rescued at the last minute by people who appreciate what Etgar is doing.
All things considered, he is aptly named; Etgar means challenge in Hebrew.
For those who may wonder about the name of the museum itself, it is located almost directly opposite what used to be the Mandelbaum Gate, which was used by those people who had the right to cross from Israel into Jordan or to come to Israel via Jordan. Even though Jerusalem is today territorially united, it isn’t demographically united, and the Museum on the Seam, stands where the seam used to be; where still exists – in a sense. A lot of Etgar’s financial problems have dissipated since the establishment of Friends of the Museum on the Seam.
Etgar is always ready to give visitors a personally conducted tour of the art on display.