Grapevine: No longer alone

■ AN IMMIGRANT from America who is serving as a lone combat soldier in the Israeli Navy was without a place to come home to for nearly a year. He stayed in various places whenever he had weekend leave, but he had no permanent address. He finally has a place to call home in the recently opened Habayit Shel Benji (Benji’s Home) in Ra’anana. The home for lone soldiers was established by the Benji Hillman Foundation in memory of London-born Maj. Benji Hillman, who was killed in action in the Second Lebanon War. It is large enough to accommodate 48 lone combat soldiers and will not limit its facilities to soldiers who have come from abroad to serve in the IDF but will also take in Israeli soldiers from economically deprived backgrounds so that they can have the same benefits as other soldiers, and will not be a financial burden on their families when they are on leave. All soldiers staying at Habayit Shel Benji will have their own private rooms and will have all the comforts of home, including meals, laundry, computers and space for leisure time activities.
The Benji Hillman Foundation raised more than $3 million to build the home, which continues Benji Hillman’s legacy of caring for the soldiers under his command, particularly those without a home to return to during weekends and furloughs.
Educational and vocational guidance is also available for all lone soldiers, including those who are not residents of the home. The annual sponsored walk to raise funds for maintaining the home will take place in Ra’anana on April 26.
Benji Hillman’s cousin Saul Rurka, who is the director of the foundation, while grateful to all those who contributed to the construction of the home, says that the hard work of maintaining it is now the foundation’s major challenge.
Estimated annual running costs are in the range of $400,000.
■ INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S Day was celebrated on different days by various women’s groups and organizations. Na’amat, which 25 years ago initiated an annual scroll of women’s rights, possibly inspired by the fact that International Women’s Day usually falls close to Purim when Jews traditionally read the scroll of Esther, which reminds the Jewish world of what it owes to the courage of a Jewish woman, amends the scroll every year. Although it would appear that women have made astonishing progress in Israel over the past 25 years, especially in law, banking, hi-tech, science and communications, things are not quite as rosy as they seem.
Last Thursday, Na’amat Israel president Galia Wolloch, in an address at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv to a large crowd of women that included past and present MKs – most notably social activist Stav Shaffir, who is the youngest legislator – lamented that there were very few amendments in the scroll this year.
“We were unable to secure any additional rights,” she said. The most glaring examples of inequality, she said, are that women still do not earn the same as men for doing the same job and women are not treated equally in matters of marriage and divorce.
■ ON FRIDAY, reality show celebrity Lihi Griner, Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar and culinary expert Michal Ansky, who is one of the adjudicators on the television program MasterChef, participated in a health campaign at the farmers’ market at the Tel Aviv Port to create greater awareness that one in nine women is a potential breast-cancer patient. They handed out long-stemmed pink roses to visitors to the market.
The One in Nine campaign is generally highlighted by pink ribbons and promotional visuals. Friday’s effort was no exception. The regular market vendors decorated their stalls with pink adornments. The fact that these three women and others from completely different fields and lifestyles came together to spell out the message was yet another warning that breast cancer is indiscriminate and can strike at anyone of any age and of any background.
■ IT’S BEEN done before in many parts of the world, but popular singer Pablo Rosenberg wanted to see how much money he could make as a street singer, as distinct from the multi-digit figures he earns on stage. So last week he positioned himself close to Tel Aviv’s central railway station and began singing. And what has happened to other famous performers who’ve done the same thing, happened to him. The same public that is willing to pay top dollar to hear them in a concert hall or an amphitheater all but ignores them when they perform in the street. After singing for two hours, Rosenberg barely made NIS 50.
Though most people rushed past him, there were passersby who stopped to listen and some even told him that he reminded them of Pablo Rosenberg – but no one realized that he was the genuine article.
It’s not his first time as a street singer. When he was in his mid-teens, the Argentine-born Rosenberg tried his luck in the street, but at that time he wasn’t as polished a performer as he is now, so he earned even less.