Grapevine: Campaigning in many tongues

Election campaigns are being conducted in numerous languages.

Uri Ariel
ELECTION CAMPAIGNS are being conducted not just in Hebrew, but in a number of other languages – primarily Russian, English, French and Amharic.
The Jerusalem Post will be hosting several panel evenings, with English speakers representing various parties in different parts of the country – including of course Jerusalem, the seat of the Knesset – as will several other enterprises that cater to English speakers.
In Ra’anana, the home turf of Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, ESRA and IBCA have joined forces to host such an evening at Yad Lebanim on Ahuza Street on Wednesday, February 18. The union between the English-Speaking Residents Association and the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association hardly comes as a surprise – considering that Brenda Katten, current chairwoman of ESRA, is a former chair of IBCA and continues to sit on its board.
Bennett will not be among the speakers at this particular pre-election evening; those speaking include Rabbi Dov Lipman, Yesh Atid; Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin of Labor-Hatnua; Ze’ev Schwartz of Bayit Yehudi; and a Likud candidate yet to be determined. Moderator will be Leah Zinder, former longtime anchor of IBA’s English- language news.
■ ON THE subject of the election, Dimona Mayor Benny Biton – who is a Likudnik – has suggested to residents of the southern development town that whoever doesn’t vote Likud should vote for Bayit Yehudi.
Biton made the remark last week at the inauguration of a bypass road that will relieve the inner city of traffic congestion. But perhaps more importantly, at a meeting that he and Housing Minister Uri Ariel had prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where they discussed the anticipated population influx that will change the face of Dimona, Biton credited Ariel with being architect of the Dimona of the future.
The bypass road overlooks the beginnings of the Hashahar ecological neighborhood, which according to a plan mapped out by Ariel, will have 3,200 residential units that will house young couples, civilians working for the IDF and members of the police force stationed in the South. Biton attributed Dimona’s demographic boost to Ariel, who in turn said that a housing minister cannot work without the cooperation of mayors across the country. He lauded Biton as a mayor with broad vision who is capable of seeing the whole picture.
■ EUROPE, WITH its geographic proximities and overlapping cultures, occasionally has a ring-in from one country to another. Thus, a concert of music by Czech composers at the Felicja Blumental Center in Tel Aviv last Saturday night included the Israeli premiere of “A Dialogue for Flute and Harpsichord” by Croatian composer Boris Papandopulo. Two of the three performers at the concert were also Croatian; they were flutist Ana Domancic and violinist Evgenia Epshtein, who appeared with Israeli harpsichord player Marina Minkin.
Croatian Ambassador Pjer Simunovic was of course as pleased as punch to have more of his country’s culture exposed in Israel.
■ THOUGH LEYVIK House in the heart of Tel Aviv is a Yiddish-oriented venue, Hebrew and Russian are also spoken there. At a meeting at Leyvick House last week, Hebrew rather than Yiddish held sway, and the subject under discussion was which of the current crop of Knesset candidates has the best Hebrew – meaning the most accurate and extensive command of the language. And guess what: The person voted to have the best Hebrew was Zuhair Bahloul, No. 17 on the Zionist Camp list. Closer examination would also reveal that Esawi Frej of Meretz – along with Aiman Ouda, Masud Gnaim, Jamal Zahalka and Ahmed Tibi, who head the United Arab List – all speak much more sophisticated Hebrew than some of their Jewish colleagues and rivals.
■ THE TERRORIST attack on the office of irreverent satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, which caused so many journalists, cartoonists and politicians around the world to question the limits of freedom of speech, was also cause for discussion in Israel – where several journalists and cartoonists had friends and colleagues among the victims.
The French Embassy and the French Cultural Institute last week hosted a bilingual dialogue on the subject of freedom of speech, moderated by Jerusalem-based journalist, lecturer and actor Emmanuel Halperin, in which local journalists, cartoonists and correspondents for French publications debated the subject. Halperin, the nephew of Menachem Begin, was born in Uzbekistan, grew up in France and moved to Israel in 1962 when he was 19.
The event in the coffee shop of the French Institute on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard was naturally under the heading of “Je suis Charlie,” and the invitation featured the cover of the magazine published after the attack. Steimatzky bookstores canceled the over-the-counter sale of the magazine in Israel, and announced it would only be available via Internet purchase; attempts have been made to prevent such sales as well.