Grapevine: Giving Pollard a voice

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 Jonathan Pollard attends the funeral of his wife Esther in Jerusalem. Esther died of COVID complications at the age of 68, January 31, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Jonathan Pollard attends the funeral of his wife Esther in Jerusalem. Esther died of COVID complications at the age of 68, January 31, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

SOME 30 years ago, singer and actor Shuli Rand portrayed Jonathan Pollard on stage at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. On Sunday of this week, the two met for the first time inside the Yeshurun synagogue in Jerusalem where Chabad of Rechavia was commemorating the 28th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rand was the star attraction and Pollard was in the audience. By playing Pollard, Rand had given him a voice beyond the prison cell to which he had been confined. The two men embraced to the enthusiastic applause of all present. 

Pollard said, “There was a time when I was just a name – a faceless, formless name. Years ago, Shuli gave me a voice, gave me a reality, for the people of Israel. By doing that, he acted as God’s emissary. So on behalf of my wife, Esther, may she rest in peace, and of myself, I want to give him a well-deserved blessing.”

“There was a time when I was just a name – a faceless, formless name. Years ago, Shuli gave me a voice, gave me a reality, for the people of Israel. By doing that, he acted as God’s emissary. So on behalf of my wife, Esther, may she rest in peace, and of myself, I want to give him a well-deserved blessing.”

Jonathan Pollard

Employing a verse from the Psalms, Pollard blessed Rand with the words: “May the Lord bless you from Zion and see the goodness of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you see your children’s children, and may peace be upon Israel.”

Rabbi Arie Hasit

■ BY NOW, the shameful story that Rabbi Arie Hasit published on Facebook and on Blog about the disruption of a bar mitzvah ceremony in the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, is known not only in Israel but around the world. It was picked up by several traditional media outlets and should be a lesson to the Orthodox rabbinate that something is amiss in the way they educate their youth. 

Even when one doesn’t approve of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, either stay away from them or respect their right to be different. There are also many differences in Orthodoxy and, sadly, there has been vitriol and physical abuse between different Orthodox sects. This is surely not the way to express one’s love for one’s religion.

 A haredi boy protests at the Egalitarian prayer section of the Western Wall by blowing a whistle and disrupting prayer. (credit: MASORTI MOVEMENT) A haredi boy protests at the Egalitarian prayer section of the Western Wall by blowing a whistle and disrupting prayer. (credit: MASORTI MOVEMENT)
 

But what happened here was worse than making noise and shouting insults. It also involved the tearing of Conservative prayer books, and one yeshiva boy was photographed blowing his nose in a torn page, which in all probability carried the name of God. This was really an acute violation of religious practice. What these Orthodox youth did in tearing Conservative prayer books was to defile the name of God. Had such an act been perpetrated by non-Jews, there would have been loud cries of antisemitism.

Before moving to Israel from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Hasit’s big claim to fame was that he had been Mark Zuckerberg’s roommate at Harvard and was the fourth person to use Facebook after Zuckerberg and co-founders Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz.

He might be a multimillionaire today had he stuck with Zuckerberg, but he has no regrets about choosing to be a rabbi, and according to Facebook, he has 126,463 followers, which indicates that the Conservative Movement is still in good shape.

Knesset Museum

■ THE KNESSET Museum, which had been scheduled to open on Tu Bishvat 2021, was nowhere near ready on that date. Long before that, director Moshe Fuksman-Shaal, in response to a question about the delay, said that it was discovered that all the plumbing in the building was faulty and had to be replaced. Fair enough, but why has it taken so long? 

From the outside, the building on King George Avenue, which originally housed the Knesset, is still in a state of shocking neglect. Even so, the museum-to-be still attracts the attention of passersby. In a clever move to highlight both the past and the future of the structure, the museum team has placed a wrap around the exterior, with prints of photographs of events that took place at the old Knesset, including swearing-in ceremonies of presidents of the state, visits by high-ranking foreign officials, meetings of the plenum and more. 

The building, commissioned by the Froumine family still famous to this day for their biscuits, was initially intended as a residential and commercial complex, with a bank occupying a large expanse on the ground floor. There was no more suitable building for the Knesset when it moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although its founding meeting had been held in Jerusalem on Tu Bishvat, in February 1949. For want of a more suitable location, it convened in the National Institutions, the main wing of which is the Jewish Agency, which was the headquarters of the provisional government during the period of the British Mandate. 

The second meeting on March 8 was held in Tel Aviv, and future meetings continued till almost the end of the year. But in December, following a UN resolution to internationalize Jerusalem, the Knesset returned to the Jewish Agency building in the capital and remained there for two and half months.

Froumine House was only a few minutes’ walk from the Jewish Agency and on the same street. The Knesset remained there for 16 and a half years before moving to its permanent home on Givat Ram in August 1966.

In the early years of the millennium, the state sold the building to property developer Ilan Rejwan, who wanted to tear it down to build a high-rise tower. The Society for the Preservation of Historic Sites lobbied the Knesset to prevent Rejwan from going through with his plan, and the state offered to buy back the site. Rejwan was amenable, but the municipality was most unhappy after having given his project the green light.

Construction of the museum began in January 2016. The wrap, with different photographic prints, gets changed every few months, not only to arouse and maintain interest, but also because it is subjected to vandalism and graffiti. Construction was resumed this week, and it is estimated that it will take about two years for the project to be completed. Among those eager to see that happen is outgoing Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, who grew up near the building, which figures prominently in his childhood memories.

Yehuda Amichai

■ ISRAEL’S PRIZE-winning premier poet Yehuda Amichai, who died in 2000, wrote many poems about Jerusalem. He was totally enamored with the city, and often traversed its many highways and byways. Not long after his death, there was a decision to establish a neighborhood bearing his name. The area chosen was just before the entrance to Emek Refaim Street within sight of Yemin Moshe where he had lived, and adjacent to the Liberty Bell Park, where he had frequently taken his children to play.

A sign went up announcing that this was to be the Yehuda Amichai neighborhood. But no progress was made. The land was not cleared of trees and bushes, and over the years it seemed to  his wife Chana and his children that there would be no reminder of Yehuda Amichai in Jerusalem. But then someone made Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion aware that it was a travesty to ignore someone of the caliber of Amichai, especially as he had written so extensively about Jerusalem.

Lion understood this, and decided that a Yehuda Amichai Square is preferable to nothing at all. It was inaugurated last month, quite close to the projected neighborhood. With all the construction that is going on in Jerusalem, it may finally come to fruition, much sooner than anyone anticipates.

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