The band is back just in time for Purim

Netanyahu announces new housing, Friedman plays guitar, Rita is set to deliver a preformance and a Jerusalem Chabad is going strong

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador David Friedman touring the West Bank settlement of Ariel on February 24, 2020 (photo credit: COURTSEY OF ARIEL SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador David Friedman touring the West Bank settlement of Ariel on February 24, 2020
In addition to his other attributes, US Ambassador David Friedman is good for a hoedown. Accompanying a tweet that he sent last week was a video of Friedman as the guitar player in a band. The text of the tweet read: “The band is back together again in Jerusalem! A great honor tonight to join Gov Huckabee and some great musicians to entertain an incredible group of US visitors to Israel.” Former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas former governor Mike Huckabee is a great friend of Israel’s and also of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he joined in a campaign rally for English speakers. Huckabee is the father of former White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, who he first brought to Israel when she was 11 years old and took her to Yad Vashem.
■ EVEN THOUGH it may have been little more than election campaign spin, the announcement last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that 1,000 housing units will be built in Beit Safafa was welcome news for the Arab community, which has been denied construction permits in its neighborhoods. Residential expansion just didn’t go hand in hand with family expansion. Although 1,000 units sounds like a lot, it’s really just a drop in the bucket in relation to Arab needs, but still the longest journey always starts with the first step. Netanyahu also announced the construction of 2,200 additional residential units in Har Homa to accommodate approximately 12,000 residents. It just so happens that public transport from Har Homa goes directly to Mahaneh Yehuda market, which virtually guarantees a major increase in shoppers for Shabbat on Thursdays and Fridays if Netanyahu’s announcement becomes reality. As it is, the market is so crowded on those days that one can hardly move. Vendors will doubtless be delighted by the additional customers, but for bona shoppers trying to make their way through the hordes, it will be a nightmare.
■ LESS THAN a week after Purim, on March 16, popular singer Rita will be appearing at Beit Avi Chai with a nostalgic performance of songs from her 1988 album Yemei Hatom (Days of Innocence). Rita will be celebrating her 57th birthday on March 24, so the audience may surprise her by singing “Happy Birthday.” Rita was born in Iran, a country that has particular significance for Israelis and Jews around the world at this time of the year, not only because it poses a nuclear threat, but because in ancient times, when it was known as Persia, Queen Esther saved the Jewish community of that country from annihilation, in memory of which we celebrate Purim. This year, Purim in Jerusalem falls three days after International Women’s Day, which is on Sunday, March 8. It will be interesting to see if any synagogues dedicate a service or kiddush to female congregants that Shabbat.
■ CHABAD OF Abu Tor is one of 25 Chabad centers in Jerusalem, although the overall number of Chabad institutions, including Chabad centers is much higher. Generally speaking, Chabad activities in most of these centers are conducted in much the same way, but not all Chabad directors are sufficiently fortunate to receive sufficient donations to enable Chabad to own the premises in which they operate. Rabbi Roei and Rabbanit Mushkie Uliel represent a case in point. The owner of the building in which they conducted Chabad activities in Abu Tor has decided to tear it down and to build a new modern multi-story structure on the site. This means that the Uliels have to find alternate premises fairly close by, but there is not much available for rent or sale in that area. But miracles do happen, as their colleagues Rabbi Yisroel and Rabbanit Shoshi Goldberg, co-directors of Chabad of Rehavia, can testify. Just when they had given up hope of finding a suitable place in which to launch a center, space became available in the Rehavia Windmill. When that space became too small, the Goldbergs were fortunate in benefiting from the goodwill of the boards of management of neighboring synagogues in which to hold their services and various functions. But they wanted a place of their own. A former iconic bookstore that had gone through a couple of identity changes became available for sale. The address was perfect as far as the Goldbergs were concerned, but they didn’t have the money with which to buy it. Then, all of a sudden, there was a donor who was appreciative of the good work the Goldbergs are doing in creating a community and giving people a feeling of belonging. Similar fortune could also befall the Uliels, and the future Chabad Center in Abu Tor might come under Chabad ownership instead of being rented.