If you want change – vote!

In 27 of the Israeli municipalities, the election of mayor is a foregone conclusion because there are no contenders against the incumbent mayor.

THE TIE-LESS Chinese and Israeli delegations at dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
THE TIE-LESS Chinese and Israeli delegations at dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
In a democracy, the most commonly accepted means of influencing change is to vote for candidates most likely to effect change. Next week, residents in 251 municipalities in Israel will go to the polls to elect mayors and members of municipal and regional councils. According to the Interior Ministry, a record number of people – in excess of six million – have voting rights.
In 27 of the municipalities, the election of mayor is a foregone conclusion because there are no contenders against the incumbent mayor. In some other municipalities where there has been a strong mayor, who only a few months ago looked to be all set for another term, as for instance in the case of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who has been the kingpin of the first Hebrew city for the past 20 years, the situation is now uncertain.
Huldai is by no means the longest-serving mayor in Israel. That title belongs to former MK Shlomo Buhbut, who has been mayor of Ma’alot-Tarshiha since 1976 and, if he succeeds in once again winning the election, will have a double cause for celebration in that he will mark his 76th birthday a week later. But there is also opposition to Buhbut, whose success or failure, like that of every other candidate, depends on electoral turnout.
In Jerusalem, which is one of the more crucial municipalities, none of the candidates have been mayor before, though most, with the notable exception of Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, have served on the city council; and Moshe Lion, who has also headed the Jerusalem Development Authority, along with other candidates is prepared to remain on the city council if not elected mayor. Elkin is the exception and says he’ll go back to the Knesset and to the cabinet.
As for the city council, one of the candidates is Ramadan Dabash, a Jerusalem-born Arab who is not interested in politics per se, but wants to get a fairer deal for the Arab community in east Jerusalem. He has been under threat for “normalizing” relations, but refuses to be deterred.
In Ashdod one of the candidates for the city council is Fentahun Assefa-Dawit, an Ethiopian Israeli who learned Hebrew in his native Gondar, and who found a way to escape from Ethiopia when he was due for army service in 1986. The path to Israel was closed, but it was possible for him to get to Montreal, where he learned French and began studies in mechanical engineering at Concordia University. In 1994, he came to Israel and continued his studies at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering. After several years of working in hi-tech, Assefa-Dawit realized that his true vocation is in community service, switched professions so that he could help fellow Israeli Ethiopians integrate into Israeli society and into good jobs in the workforce.
He worked for several years in various senior management positions in the Jewish Agency, including the management of two immigrant absorption centers. He later worked with Partnership 2000, after which he was sent as a United Israel Appeal emissary to Sydney. For the past five years, he has been executive director of Tebeka, the Ethiopian-Israeli legal advocacy organization.
■ WHETHER SOONER or later, there will definitely be Knesset elections in 2019, and if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not charged with any of the alleged crimes for which he has been investigated, he will in all likelihood serve another term as prime minister. But one never knows. In 1996, Shimon Peres went to bed believing that his party had won the election, and woke the next morning to discover that not he but Netanyahu was the incoming prime minister. Though it is highly unlikely for the tables to be turned against Netanyahu, in an election, anything can happen.
■ ANYONE WHO Googles the list of previous Israeli governments will see that different prime ministers have created ministries of convenience to appease coalition partners or disgruntled members of their own camps. For instance, there was a need in 2009 to find a ministerial position for longtime Likud MK Michael Eitan, and a new ministry – that of Improvement of Government Services – was created for him. Actually, if such a ministry had already existed, Eitan was the perfect person to whom it should have been assigned. He had chaired or been a member of numerous Knesset committees and was well informed of all the workings of the Knesset. During the four years that he served as minister of his special ministry, he did do a lot to improve government services, but he failed to keep his Knesset seat in the next election, and his ministry went down the drain. Over the years there were other ministries that no longer exist.
What is sorely needed is a minister for the implementation of legislation. There are so many laws that are passed but generally ignored. Among the more obvious examples are traffic laws. If there are insufficient funds with which to train professionals to apprehend jaywalkers and people who ride bicycles, motor bikes, scooters et al. while talking on their cellphones and not wearing helmets, then the government should utilize senior members of youth organizations as volunteer police with the authority to arrest and fine offenders. It would be a great lesson in community responsibility and the rule of law for young people, and would reduce traffic accidents and road deaths. But there are plenty of other laws that are not implemented, and there’s no one to ensure that they are.
If the mandate given to the present administration runs full term, we will have an election in a year’s time. Otherwise, we will have it earlier, but not before January 2019. The public should really start thinking about what is wanted from the next government.
■ WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT is not a new phenomenon. It just took on greater impetus with suffragette movements, and then women in different parts of the world continued the march toward gender equality and freedom, each of which is a vital component of empowerment.
In the world of philanthropy, most of the money was held and donated by men. Some had their wives’ names included on the plaques of projects they had funded, but very few women had their own money.
Things started to change in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1972, at a convention in Florida, the International Women’s Division of United Israel Appeal, in wanting to recognize women who had given substantial donations of their own money to the organization, gave them large, gold Lion of Judah pendants as a symbol of courage, strength and commitment.
From an elite group of women, the numbers swelled to many thousands in all the countries in which United Israel Appeal is active, including Israel. The minimum amount that any Israeli member of the Lion of Judah is expected to give per annum is NIS 6,000, which can be paid at the rate of NIS 500 per month. An Israeli branch of Lion of Judah has existed for more than 25 years, but most of the members live on the Coastal Plain. The number of Jerusalem members was increasing, so it was decided to put out feelers to see if there was interest in creating a Jerusalem branch.
The introductory meeting was held last week at the elegant but inviting and comfortable home of Yehudit Sidikman, who has been a member for several years. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Sidikman was the founder in 2003 of El Halev, an Israeli nonprofit organization that teaches martial arts to enable women and girls to protect themselves against violence and to feel personally safe in the knowledge that they have been empowered. Sidikman told the story of a Hebrew University student who went out with a young man who wanted to make a move on her. She said she wasn’t interested, so he stopped but started again a little while later. She again said she wasn’t interested and he withdrew once more. The third time he was a little more aggressive and learned the hard way that when a girl says no, she means no.
Also present was a young woman called Racheli, who is a leader in Alma, a pre-military leadership academy for women which is supported by the Lion of Judah. Racheli, who is a graduate of the course, said that many of the young women who come are lacking in self-esteem when they arrive, but are self-assured and confident by the time they enter the army.
In addition candid descriptions of what it means to be born into a philanthropic family foundation were given by Ruth Cummings and her daughter Amy Sharvit, who have somewhat different perspectives because Cummings grew up in North America, where she frequently met other family members who are responsible for the foundation, whereas Sharvit grew up in Jerusalem and is more comfortable in a Sabra environment.
The Israel branch of the Lion of Judah has a membership of around 150. Current chairwoman Sigal Bar-On explained that the group is split between English-speaking immigrants and native Israelis, but the truth is that most of the immigrant members are fluent in Hebrew, and most of the nonimmigrants are fluent in English.
On October 28, the English-speaking sector of Lion of Judah will host Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov’s documentary film Operation Wedding, which is the story of the failed attempt in June 1970 by a group of 16 Jews who planned to hijack a plane out of the Soviet Union and fly it to Israel. Among them were the filmmaker’s parents, Eduard Kuznetsov and Sylva Zalmanson. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was eventually commuted. She was sentenced to 10 years. Both were released in a prisoner exchange deal. She had served four years of her sentence, he had served nine.
Prior to the screening at ZOA House in Tel Aviv at 5:30 p.m., the Lions will be addressed by former Canadian justice minister and international human rights activist Irwin Cotler, who was heavily involved with the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s.
■ ANYONE WHO follows the prime minister’s activities on Facebook will have seen that when he and his wife receive important guests at his official residence, they are formally attired. Sara Netanyahu wore a becoming black cocktail dress in which she welcomed China’s Vice President Wang Qishan and his delegation on Monday night, but the prime minister doffed his tie. The reason: the less than formal attire of the guest of honor, who came tie-less, as did all the members of his delegation. Possibly because he had been informed of Israel’s very casual attitude to formality, Wang chose not to wear a business suit, but Netanyahu stayed in his. The men in the Israeli delegation who sat opposite their Chinese counterparts at dinner likewise doffed their ties.
In welcoming Wang, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “The fact that the vice president of China came to Israel at my invitation for the Prime Minister’s Innovation Conference is a tremendous compliment to Israel and a reflection of the growing ties between China and Israel.”
The Israeli guests who were present included Economy Minister Eli Cohen, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, National Security Council director Meir Ben-Shabbat, Prime Minister’s Office acting director-general and head of the Prime Minister’s staff Yoav Horowitz, National Economic Council chairman Avi Simhon and Ambassador to China Zvi Heifetz.
The Chinese delegation accompanying Wang included Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng, Vice Minister of Commerce Qian Keming and Chinese Ambassador Zhan Yongxin. All in all, 13 Chinese ministries are represented in Wang’s delegation.
The Chinese vice president will join Netanyahu today at the Foreign Ministry in co-chairing the fourth meeting of the Israel-China Innovation Conference, which will take place in a G2G format. Eight joint agreements are due to be signed at the conference. These agreements are in science and technology, life sciences, innovation, digital health and agriculture. The prime minister and the Chinese vice president will sign the conference’s new multiyear plan. The innovation conference, which convenes annually, alternatively meets in Jerusalem and Beijing and is instrumental in advancing bilateral cooperation between government officials, joint projects involving the private sector, joint research in science and industry, and grants scholarships for Israeli and Chinese students.
Getting back to attire, a quick click on the Internet produces several photographs of Wang in a business suit and tie. Perhaps he feels more at home in Israel or simply, out of Chinese politeness, adopted the “when in Rome” philosophy of doing what he thought the Israelis do.
■ WANG IS one of several foreign dignitaries who are currently in Israel. Among the others are US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble, Chief Minister of the Punjab Amarinder Singh and Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi. Due to arrive next week is Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
■ IT’S NOW definite that former Australian ambassador Dave Sharma lost out on his first attempt to get into the political arena. Sharma, who lives in Sydney, inherited the Wentworth seat of ousted former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who visited Israel a year ago to participate in the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Beersheba, a victory attained by Australian and New Zealand cavalry. After being forced out of office, Turnbull announced that he was retiring from politics, and declined all requests to support Sharma’s election campaign. A little over two weeks ago, it seemed that the popular Sharma would have a comfortable win, but then he made the cardinal error of advocating that the Australian Embassy follow America’s example and move to Jerusalem. This caused a lot of controversy in Australia, and even though Wentworth has a strong Jewish population, Sharma lost out in last Saturday’s elections to Kerry Phelps, a convert to Judaism who is married to a Jew.
Before the results were made public Ron Weiser, a former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, while in transit on his way to Israel, sent out emails in which he surmised that the announcement by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that he would consider moving the embassy to Jerusalem would have the unintentional consequences of harming Sharma’s chances. When the results came in on Saturday night, it looked as if Phelps had a comfortable win, but the gap was narrowed by preelection and postal votes which had not yet been counted on Saturday night.
For a brief a period it seemed as if there might be a turnaround in the end result, but in the final analysis, Phelps remained victorious. Sharma said that his experience in entering the political fray had been a little bruising but rewarding, and if the Liberal Party considered him good enough to run again, he would do so, because he is committed to the ethos of public service. He also quipped that he was glad that he had kept his daytime job.
Sharma is chairman of the board of directors of Shekel Brainweigh, an Israeli technology company. In January 2018, Sharma also began working for Kelly+Partners Chartered Accountants, leading its government relations, incentives & innovation team.
Since returning to Australia a little over 15 months ago, Sharma’s large status photograph on his Twitter account depicted a scene from his farewell party at the Peres Center in Jaffa. As the elections grew closer, he changed the photo to one of himself with the prime minister, who according to Australian political pundits will not be in office for much longer.
■ FIVE NEW ambassadors from four continents will present credentials to President Reuven Rivlin this coming Thursday. They are Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam of Cameroon, Mario Adolfo Bucaro Flores of Guatemala, Susanne Wasum-Rainer of Germany, Levente Benko of Hungary and Koichi Aiboshi of Japan. On Monday of this week Wasum-Rainer hosted a German unity anniversary celebration, and tomorrow, following his presentation ceremony, Benko will go to Tel Aviv to host his country’s national day reception, after which he will launch the Hungarian festival of food, music and culture at the Tahana.
■ EVERY DEVOTEE of Shlomo Carlebach, the singing rabbi, knows that the anniversary of Carlebach’s death is commemorated in the same week as that of Yitzhak Rabin. The difference is that Rabin’s commemoration is always a sad, somber affair because he was assassinated, whereas Carlebach’s commemoration is a continuation of his legacy – of his love of learning and teaching, storytelling and music.
On Wednesday, October 24, there will be a gathering in Mevo Modi’im, the moshav that he founded with some of his followers. The evening will include stories, music and short films. For those who can’t make it, there will be another 24th anniversary commemoration hosted by the Shlomo Carlebach Foundation and Shir L’Shlomo on Thursday, October 25, at 7:30 p.m. at Yad Harav Nissim Hall on Jabotinsky Street, Jerusalem, opposite the Van Leer Institute, with singer-guitarist Yehuda Katz and other friends and followers of Carlebach. Katz went on tour with Carlebach and sang with him in different cities of the world. The evening of music, friendship and nostalgia is in the nature of a kumzitz in the Carlebach spirit. Admission is free of charge.
■ AMONG THE more positive developments of the present era is recognition of the fact that many people with disabilities of one kind or another have more capabilities than disabilities and should not be rejected from employment because of a physical or mental problem. Among the people who strongly believed in giving opportunities to members of minority communities and to people with special needs was the late Dov Lautman, an extremely successful businessman, community leader and philanthropist, who was convinced that integration at all levels would make for a better society. He proved that in his own giant business enterprise Delta Galil Industries. Even after he was stricken with ALS, he continued to promote the concept of equal opportunity, and before his death in 2013 he was awarded the Israel Prize.
Following his death, the Lautman family established a foundation in his name to foster entrepreneurship and innovation for and by people with special needs.
The Hilton Tel Aviv hotel has been named the 2018 recipient of the Lautman Foundation Business Diversity Award, which is awarded annually to business enterprises that immensely enrich the lives of special needs members of Israeli society. The award was presented at a meaningful ceremony in the Hilton Tel Aviv’s grand ballroom by Noam Lautman, the chairman of the foundation.
Rather than accept the award on behalf of the hotel, general manager Ronnie Fortis thought that it was more appropriate for people who had earned it by proving what they could do to be the ones who received it. Kitchen employee Maor Nagar and Ben Davis Tzuriel, who represented the special needs team engaged in various tasks throughout the hotel, were chosen to accept the award from Lautman.
Partners of the project with the Lautman Foundation are Maala, the nonprofit CSR standards-setting organization in Israel, and the Israeli Forum for Employment Diversity.
■ ALWAYS A riveting speaker who occasionally drops gems of information, former Mossad director and former head of the National Security Council Efraim Halevy will, on Wednesday, October 24, be the guest speaker at a discussion co-sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, EcoPeace Middle East and the Tel Aviv Salon. The topic is “The Crossroads of the Middle East” and the venue is the Brown Hotel, 25 Kalischer Street, Tel Aviv. Networking will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the lecture and discussion at 7:15 p.m.
One of the peculiar things about Israel is that while Mossad leaders are in office, it is almost impossible to pry any information or opinion from them,but once they are out of office, it’s a joy to listen to them.
In the wake of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Jerusalem Press Club initiated a competition among Israeli high school students, challenging them to criticize – through cartoons – people, institutions and phenomena, while not alienating certain communities. The results were impressive and generated a lot of positive comment.
Emboldened by the success of the three Israeli competitions, the JPC is now taking the competition to the global scene. Participating in this competition will give teenagers all over the world the opportunity to make their voices heard and uphold freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The competition, with world-renowned cartoonists as jury, will result in an exhibition in Jerusalem, displaying the 25 best cartoons. The Jerusalem exhibition will open on January 6, 2019, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The international winners of the first three prizes will be invited to the event, as guests of JPC.
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