Grapevine: A good, clean fight

Despite religious, racial and regional differences, they were all "ninja turtles" from the Budo for Peace Association.

Youngsters from Beduin villages in the Negev, Muslim and Christian groups from the Galilee and Jewish groups from Jerusalem, Jaffa, Ra'anana and Kiryat Gat, converged on Michmoret Beach last Friday. Despite religious, racial and regional differences, they were all "ninja turtles" from the Budo for Peace Association, which teaches the values of traditional martial arts such as karate and aikido, in order to bring together Jewish and Arab children from all over Israel. Founder of the Association is Australian-born black-belt karate champion Danny Hakim, who represented Australia in five Maccabiah Games. Before making aliya a little over seven years ago, Hakim spent time in Japan studying under Hirokazu Kanazawa, one of the legendary figures of contemporary karate. Hakim competed in numerous karate championships representing both Australia and Japan, and twice won silver medals in world championships. After moving to Israel, he quickly achieved a reputation as a karate coach and led the Israeli team to Durban, South Africa, where it competed in the 8th Shotokan Karate International Championships. Soon after his arrival in Israel, Hakim, who was a regular at Wingate in order to earn his sports leadership certificate, noticed that there were a lot of Israeli-Arab women studying martial arts. This inspired him to found Budo for Peace. Although "budo" is usually translated as martial arts or the way of fighting, Hakim says that as a strictly Japanese concept it means the way of stopping conflict. It encourages values of respect, self-control and harmony, through which he has taught Israeli and Palestinian youngsters to cooperate and become friends. In addition, Hakim is associated with Clean-Up Israel. Founded by fellow Australian Phillip Foxman, who is also one of the founders of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World, he teaches his Budo kids to respect the environment and to help clean it up. And that's exactly what some 150 of them were doing at Michmoret beach on Friday. Also present was David Franklin, the CEO of Sugat, which is the corporate sponsor of Budo for Peace, as well as the sponsor of the Kiryat Gat group. The Australian and Japanese embassies, which were among the supporters of the Michmoret event, were represented by Ambassador James Larsen and cultural attaché Ryuji Iwasaki, respectively. Franklin was so impressed that he said his company would financially support additional groups to be founded. The Budo Youngsters, in addition to cleaning up the beach, also learned about harmony of the ecology at the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue Center. n WHEN THEY were just cold and hungry because their pensions wouldn't stretch to cover heating, food and medicines, not too many people took note of the plight of Israel's senior citizens. Then, when MK Colette Avital took up the cause of those of them who are Holocaust survivors and demanded that banks and other institutions relinquish funds deposited before the war and never claimed, or hand over compensation that was paid out by Germany but never passed on to Holocaust survivors, the public started paying a little more attention to senior citizens. Then, when insensitive and unscrupulous felons began attacking elderly people in stairwells or in their homes and stealing what little they had, the media began to take notice. One recent champion is television and radio host Meni Pe'er, who is now broadcasting regular messages about the elderly. But long before he got on the bandwagon, fellow broadcaster Natan Zahavi, who despite his aggressive and sometimes abrasive style, has always had a soft spot for senior citizens, began campaigning on their behalf, both on his own radio show and on radio commercials. He was doing it again last week during the extremely cold period which hit most of Israel, and one of his listeners happened to be celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld, who has been described by food reviewers as the prince of Israeli haute-cuisine. What Roshfeld does best is cook. So he invited some 70 senior citizens to come to his swanky Herbert Samuel Restaurant overlooking the Tel Aviv beachfront, and presented them with a four-course meal that none of them could afford. Some of them were so poor that they had never been inside a restaurant before, let alone a high-class restaurant. In fact, many of today's soup kitchens have been designed to look as much as possible like regular restaurants so as to preserve the dignity of diners and to save them from humiliation. Roshfeld's guests were served by the chef himself as well as by uniformed waiters and waitresses, who treated the senior citizens as if they were regular patrons - with one minor exception. Aware that many might have digestive problems, or perhaps might not have teeth with which to chew, Roshfeld created a menu that made eating easy for all of them. The first course included a choice of chopped liver or salads, plus bread baked on the premises and natural fruit juices. Chicken soup with noodles was the time honored favorite. The main course was a choice of veal meatballs with zucchini, goulash with potatoes, rice, peas and carrots, accompanied by quality red wine; and dessert was strawberry sorbet with profiteroles, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, finished off with coffee. The occasion was a wonderful outing for the recipients of Roshfeld's benevolence; an example for his fellow restaurateurs to follow; a lesson in good citizenship and tolerance for his staff; and a sense of well-being for Roshfeld himself. Indeed, many restaurants send left-over food to soup kitchens or give it to people who deliver it to needy individuals and families in their homes. But the hands-on experience and the interaction with his guests was altogether different. n MOST OF the radio broadcasters from the northern region paid a solidarity visit to Sderot recently and were accompanied by the most frequent broadcaster in the north, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, who got a thorough briefing from his southern colleague, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal.