Grapevine: Enemies within the tribe

Israelis and Palestinians find it easier to be friends and to cooperate on joint ventures when not in the region

Chef David Biton (right) with Haim Spiegel, Dan Hotels’ food and beverage manager. (photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
Chef David Biton (right) with Haim Spiegel, Dan Hotels’ food and beverage manager.
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
Watching the video of the multitudes of Satmar Hassidim dancing in joy at the arrival in Israel of the rabidly anti-Zionist Satmar Rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum, one could not help but think about how many unwilling, able-bodied men the army could use while Israel is constantly under threat. After all, the saving of life supersedes almost every Torah commandment. But the rabbi, who has come to distribute millions of dollars, exhorts his followers not to vote in Israeli elections and not to serve in the army. If Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman is considered to be anti-haredi (ultra-Orthodox), his attitude is mild compared to that of one of his party members MK Yulia Malinovsky, who tweeted, “Have we completely lost our minds? Closing off roads because an anti-Zionist Rebbe is visiting? He is opposed to the very existence of the State of Israel. I don’t know how we even let him into the country?”
Public transport and other traffic in Jerusalem was disrupted on Tuesday by a massive rally held by Teitelbaum.
It would have been more considerate on his part to hold the rally in Teddy Stadium instead of causing discomfort to thousands of people who have nothing to do with Satmar.
■ ALMOST EVERY world traveler, including those who eat only kosher, vegetarian or vegan, has heard of the Michelin Guide. Not all are familiar with Michelin’s major rival, Gault & Millau, a French global publication whose gourmands operate in 25 countries grading restaurants and their chefs on taste, texture, presentation, innovation, crockery, flatware, and glassware, attention to the most minute details, professionalism of service – and much more. The gourmands remain as anonymous as possible in order to avoid getting special treatment. They want to judge the restaurant and the chef, as would any diner who walked in without having previously made a reservation. Tel Aviv may have a reputation for being the most cosmopolitan city in Israel – and it certainly has its share of celebrity chefs, but Jerusalem scored top marks for the best chef and the best restaurant.
During a 14-month period, 12 gourmands visited restaurants around Israel, photographed everything they saw, and wrote down their impressions. The scores ranged from 10-20, and the restaurants and chefs with the four highest scores entered the 2020 edition of Gault & Millau.
The No. 1 chef in Israel at the present time is David Biton, the executive chef at the King David Hotel, and the hotel’s elegant La Regence restaurant was one of three restaurants that scored 16 of the 20 possible points. Biton said that it was a great honor not only for himself and the hotel, but also for kosher cuisine, which poses far greater challenges when competing with non-kosher culinary masterpieces.
■ IT’S THAT time of year again, when Chabad emissaries from around the world will converge in New York, and will get together this morning, Friday for their annual convention, one of the major features of which is to congregate at the grave of the last of the Lubavitcher rebbes, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and to pray there for the well-being of the Jewish people at large, for the communities that each represents, and for individuals who have asked that they or their loved ones be remembered in prayers at the rebbe’s graveside. Another highlight of the conference will be the banquet that will be attended on Sunday, by some 5,000 male Chabadniks and supporters of Chabad institutions and will be live streamed from New Jersey’s Expo Center. Among the scheduled speakers at convention sessions will be: Rabbi Shimon Freundlich of Beijing, China; Rabbi Moshe Kahn of Melbourne, Australia; Rabbi Mendel Kalmon of London, England; Rabbi Moshe Lazar of Milan, Italy; Rabbi Berel Levertov of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal of Berlin, Germany, plus many others. Teichtal will speak about the revival of Jewish life in Germany.
■ ISRAELIS AND Palestinians find it easier to be friends and to cooperate on joint ventures when not in the region. Proof of that was seen on Thursday of this week in Milan at the official opening of Casa Comune, a small apartment in a tension-ridden area which will host two university students who are studying at the nearby Politecnico di Milano. The area is largely populated by migrants from different countries who have brought with them different cultures and traditions, and who are not always tolerant of each other. In the hope of overcoming this intolerance, Casa Comune was designed by a diverse team of architects whose members are Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian. They include Mahmoud Ashmawi, a Palestinian architect who was raised by Palestinian refugees in Syria; Tal Qaddura, who was raised in Jordan by Palestinian refugee parents; Munir Halil, who lives in Riyad, and David Noah, an Israeli architect and civil engineer, who lives in Tel Aviv. They’ve been getting along well and have not allowed politics to mar their harmonious relationship. Stones from Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been incorporated into the construction, and olive trees have been planted to represent a mutual desire for peace. The project was conceived by Italian entrepreneur Luca Poggiaroni.
■ IT’S DIFFICULT to turn a blind eye to the glut of hotel construction in Israel. Whereas in the not-so-distant past, any glitch in the security situation had an instant negative effect on incoming tourism, these days with terrorism lurking in almost every country in the world, people realize that if they are destined to die or to be seriously injured at the hands of a terrorist, it could just as easily happen in their home countries as any other place previously designated as a danger zone. Tourism to Israel is definitely on the rise and real estate developers are converting post office buildings, banks, department stores, factory plants and retirement homes into boutique hotels or are building them from scratch.
Larger hotels are being built or managed or both by international hotel chains. But a hotel is more than mere accommodation, and as more hotels open up, competition will increase accordingly, and hotels will have to come up with new gimmicks and policies to attract a clientele. Some of these changes will be discussed on Wednesday, November 27, at the Tel Aviv Expo Center, where people in the hotel business including managers, and chefs will get together to exchange views on the culinary face-lift of the hotel industry. Speakers who will be sharing experiences and ideas will include Haim Spiegel of the Dan chain; Yossi Navi of the Carlton Hotel, Tel Aviv; Yoram Nitzan of the David Intercontinental Hotel, Tel Aviv; Barak Aharoni of the Norman hotel in Tel Aviv; Miri Sternberg of the King David Hotel, Jerusalem; Gilad Livnat of the Imperial Cocktail Bar; and Franco Vella of the Sheraton Hotel, Tel Aviv .
But it’s more than food. It’s the atmosphere and the environment, not only from the perspective of aesthetics, but also of health. So there will be architects, interior decorators, health experts and wine experts, and even a legal expert who will also address participants.
■ THOUGH BUSY this week in trying to save the nation from a third election, President Reuven Rivlin had other issues on his agenda, including a visit to the Israel Electric Corporation and the Rabin power station at Hadera.
Coincidentally, this month also marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival in the land of Israel of Pinhas Rutenberg, who was the man to whom history credits the generation of electricity in this country. It took him two years to receive a concession from the British Mandate authorities, but after that, he built a series of power stations, including at Naharayim, which this month was returned to Jordan.
An engineer by profession, Rutenberg was also a political activist. He had been politically active in Russia, and he was also politically active in the Land of Israel. What was interesting was that his political activity was not party-oriented, and he was therefore accepted by politicians of differing ideologies.
In fact, as president of the Vad Leumi, (the Jewish National Council), he worked toward finding ways of coexistence between Arabs and Jews, and to heal rifts between right-wing and left-wing groups. He died in January 1942 after suffering a long illness.
His greatest frustration was that he had been unable to create unity between different sectors of the population. The situation has not changed. The first mission that Rivlin set for himself as president was to unify what he called the four tribes. He has made some progress in that direction, but not nearly enough to satisfy him.
Shortly before his death, Rutenberg wrote, “The splitting of our people into sects, ethnic groups and political parties has always worked against us. This war between brothers has led us into trouble, and if we won’t stop, it will destroy us... Whether we like it or not, we are in the same boat – let’s understand each other and be brothers in creation, operation and building.”
His words continue to ring true today, but most of our politicians and their sycophants chose to ignore them.