Grapevine: Reclaiming our heritage

Though a special section has been allocated on Mount Herzl for remains of Israeli leaders, three deceased presidents and four deceased prime ministers are buried elsewhere.

Mount Herzl (photo credit: WWW.PIKIWIKI.ORG.IL)
Mount Herzl
(photo credit: WWW.PIKIWIKI.ORG.IL)
■ IT’S A shame that the traveling exhibition of the hidden children who were saved by Greek Christians during the Nazi occupation of Greece, which was shown last week at Beit Hatfutsot, was so short lived, and remained on view for only a few days. Greek Patriarch Theophilos III, who attended the exhibition and heard a lecture about the tragedy that befell the Jewish community of Greece, was very interested in the exhibition. Both Zanet Battinou, the director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, and Greek historian Prof. Odette Varon-Vassar noted that during the Nazi occupation of Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church and the National Liberation Front had called on Greek Christians to help save Jewish compatriots.
Battinou briefly related the stories of several of the children, but the most heartrending, yet heartwarming, was that of Fotini Kamba, who at age 16 discovered that her loving parents were not in fact her biological parents. Her father, who was seriously ill and thought that he might be dying, disclosed to her that her real name was Rachel and that, when she was three years old, a Jewish acquaintance had entrusted her to them. He knew how much they loved children and he wanted to protect her from the Germans. The Germans left Athens, but Rachel’s father did not return to claim her and the Kambas realized that he was dead. Her adoptive father recovered from his illness and took her to her old neighborhood and inquired about her natural parents.
She did not even learn their first names. A few years later she married a Christian but was constantly troubled by questions of her identity. With the support of her husband and parents, she tried to trace her background through the Athens Jewish community, international organizations and in Israel. A relative, who might have been able to help, died before he could tell her anything.
For all that, she decided to reclaim her heritage, studied Judaism and was welcomed to the bosom of the Jewish community. She belongs to several Jewish organizations, has many Jewish friends and the backing of her family.
Battinou was proud to say that 320 Greek citizens have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
■ ALTHOUGH A special section has been allocated on Mount Herzl for the remains of the leaders of the state, three deceased presidents and four deceased prime ministers are buried elsewhere. Chaim Weizmann and Ephraim Katzir are buried in Rehovot. Ezer Weizman is buried in Or Akiva; David Ben-Gurion is buried in Sde Boker, Moshe Sharett in Tel Aviv’s Trumpeldor Cemetery, Menachem Begin on the Mount of Olives and Ariel Sharon on the Sycamore Ranch in the Negev. Chaim Weizmann was born and died in November, and last week, President Reuven Rivlin traveled from Jerusalem to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, where the first president made his home, and chose to spend his eternal rest. Speaking at a memorial service for Weizmann on the 62nd anniversary of his death, Rivlin said he was appalled by attempts to boycott the country’s scientific endeavors and made the point that judgment and punishment on the basis of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation will seriously harm science and society. Rivlin described Weizmann as a groundbreaking scientist and national leader, who was a determined, intelligent and far-sighted statesman.
■ MODI’IN CITY Council members Dr. Orna Magar and Merav Peleg this week hosted a national Women’s Empowerment (Ken LeNashim) conference of women who have executive roles in government offices and who sit on local councils. The conference was under the joint sponsorship of the Authority for the Advancement of Women (AAW) in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Modi’in Municipality. A review of the status of women in the country’s politics was presented by Vered Swed, who heads the AAW, and Michal Yudin, the founder and chair of Ken LeNashim. Among the subjects discussed during the day were the status and influence of women who sit on local councils and democracy in local government. Meital Lehavi, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, and Rachel Azaria, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, discussed how to reduce the cost of living for young families, while representatives of other municipalities talked about promoting and encouraging small businesses, strengthening local communities and early childhood education. In addition, there were roundtable discussions on various issues enabling conference participants to network with each other and to learn for each other’s experiences.