Grapevine: The language of prayer

Meridor speaks at Great Synagogue; Yossi Alfi shares childhood stories of immigrants with poet Agi Mishol; Arieh Wisman appears on Channel 10.

  • NATIVE JERUSALEMITE Dan Meridor, who serves as minister forintelligence and atomic energy, was the guest speaker on Saturday nightat the Great Synagogue. At the conclusion of his address, he waspresented with an honorary membership of the congregation. Meridor hadcelebrated his bar mitzva at the nearby Hanassi Synagogue when it wasstill a hut and not the building that it is today. When he was a boy,he said, hardly anyone in the Hanassi congregation spoke English.Nowadays the sermons delivered by Rabbi Berel Wein are all in English.As for his audience on Saturday night, Meridor expressed the hope thatthe day would come when either he or someone else would address thesame people in Hebrew – and they would all understand what was said.
  • FOR SEVERAL years now, Yossi Alfi has been conducting the annualstorytellers’ festival at the Givatayim Theater. This week, he came toJerusalem to share childhood stories of immigrant children with poetAgi Mishol. Each was three years old on arrival in the nascent state.Alfi came from Iraq and grew up in Petah Tikva. Mishol, who was born inTransylvania, grew up in Gedera. Even though both are thoroughlyIsraeli, they are still products of the immigrant experience. Among thememories they shared at Beit Avi Chai this week was how this experienceimpacted on who they are today.
  • IN BYGONE times when royalty reigned all over Europe, it wascustomary for artisans to be court jewelers, court carpetmakers, courtcarpenters, etc. If the late Leo Wisman had been born 150 yearsearlier, the master craftsman trained in Germany would have probablybeen a court carpenter. Certainly the caches that he built to hide theHagana’s secret arsenal from the British were so perfectly made thatthey were completely undetectable.
After the War of Independence, Wismancontinued to service Hagana personnel, who by then had becomelegitimate and were government ministers, members of Knesset andprominent figures in public life. Wisman’s sons Nahum and Ariehcontinued the furniture business that their father built up inJerusalem and also purchased the Shomrat Hazorea furnituremanufacturing plant.

It was in his capacity as CEO of Shomrat Hazorea that Arieh Wisman was invited to be a panelist on Channel 10’s The Professionals.In talking about the background of the family firm, he noted that hisfather had furnished the offices of government ministries, the famoushut of president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the residence of prime minister DavidBen-Gurion, the residence of foreign minister Moshe Sharett, and thefirst cabinet table for David Ben-Gurion.

When Yitzhak Rabin became primeminister the second time around, he wanted a new table and called onthe Wismans to supply it. They were summoned again when the table hadto be expanded to accommodate Ariel Sharon’s government. At that timethey still had some of the original wood and used it accordingly. Butwhen the table had to be expanded a second time for the Netanyahugovernment, they had no choice but to use a different grain of wood,which for professionals of their background was a very painful andsoul-searching decision. However, they learned to live with it bycovering the offending grain with black leather, giving the table asomewhat different look.