A prick of conscience

Throughout the years, Hanegbi has actually amassed a very good record for attending both sorrowful and happy events to which he was invited.

TAIWANESE PARLIAMENTARIANS Yi-Ming Chen, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and his deputy Yu-Ren Hsu at Yad Vashem. (photo credit: Courtesy)
TAIWANESE PARLIAMENTARIANS Yi-Ming Chen, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and his deputy Yu-Ren Hsu at Yad Vashem.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
From time to time there are complaints by families of fallen soldiers that no one representing the government attended the funeral or the memorial service that was held for a soldier who paid the supreme sacrifice in service to the security of the state.
When Simha Goldin, the father of fallen soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed in Gaza in 2014 while fighting in Operation Protective Edge and whose body has never been recovered, revealed the family’s hurt and anguish that no government minister had responded to their invitation to attend a memorial service for Hadar, the complaint went viral and struck at the consciences of ministers Tzachi Hanegbi, Ayelet Shaked and deputy minister Eli Ben-Dahan.
Throughout the years, Hanegbi has actually amassed a very good record for attending both sorrowful and happy events to which he was invited, realizing when he was still a very young politician how meaningful this was to the families concerned.
■ AS FOR Ben-Dahan, one can’t help wondering whether his response would have been as positive if the fallen soldier was a non-Jew. Ben-Dahan, who is deputy defense minister, appeared this week on a radio program hosted by Israel Radio’s military reporter Carmela Menashe, who asked him why soldiers involved in volunteer activities for the community had been barred from continuing to work with infants of refugees and illegal immigrants in south Tel Aviv. Throughout the day, the infants are confined to overcrowded crèches with minimal facilities, and the soldiers used to take them for a walk in the park, play with them and bring some happiness and laughter into their lives.
Ben-Dahan began to rant, his voice rising to a crescendo as he screamed, that there are plenty of Jewish children at risk who need the attention of volunteers, and he saw no reason for Israeli soldiers to give of their time to illegal infiltrators who are not refugees and who could be deported at any time. “No one asked them to come here,” he raved. “They heard that conditions were good in Israel, and they came to find jobs and make money.”
Ben-Dahan’s voice continued to rise as Menashe attempted to interject and to tell him that soldiers volunteer in homes for senior citizens, help Jewish children at risk and can be found in almost every sphere of volunteer activities. Moreover, she insisted whenever she could get a word in, the infants who are five years and under, and who in several cases were born in Israel, could not be held to blame for anything done by their parents. They were indeed refugees, and they were innocent and no less deserving of the milk of human kindness than a Jewish child.
Ben-Dahan refused to be swayed, even when Menashe pointed out the Torah injunction to be kind to the stranger in your midst. He took no notice of that, nor of the fact that the interview was conducted during the last nine days leading up to Tisha Be’av.
On the following day, at an appointments ceremony for new judges, President Reuven Rivlin pronounced the children of infiltrators to be guiltless and praised the efforts of soldiers who wanted to benefit them.
■ APROPOS ISRAEL Radio, according to a report in TheMarker, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in his office on Monday with a delegation of Channel 1 and Reshet Bet reporters and stated that he regretted the establishment of a new public broadcasting enterprise. In his capacity as communications minister, Netanyahu is meeting with various media groups and is gaining a better understanding of problems and possibilities.
At the meeting on Monday, in an attempt to justify some kind of control over public broadcasting, Netanyahu reportedly posed the theoretical question: “What if all the staff of a public broadcasting enterprise were members of Breaking the Silence?” When former communications minister Gilad Erdan pushed through the new public broadcasting law in 2014, Netanyahu initially supported the idea, but didn’t give it his full attention, because his focus was on the war in Gaza. Now that he’s had time to think about it and to consider all the objections, he is much less enthusiastic about it than he was previously.
Meanwhile, coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) is going ahead with his plan to propose a bill to annul the existing public broadcasting law and to leave the Israel Broadcasting Authority in place.
When members of the Channel 1-Reshet Bet delegation asked Netanyahu whether this means that Kan, the new public broadcasting enterprise, will not become a reality, he opted not to reply.
At a recent meeting of the Israel Press Council, there was serious discussion as to whether it is possible to guarantee that the new public broadcasting enterprise that is scheduled to replace the IBA next year will be free of political interference. Someone at the meeting suggested building an iron wall between public and commercial broadcasting outlets, but even if such a thing were possible, it would not prevent political pressure.
■ IT DIDN’T exactly make headline news, even though it was the first time that Israel had won a medal in the European Lacrosse Championship, which is held every four years. But lacrosse, which was introduced to Israel in recent years, is not exactly a popular or well-known game in Israel, aside from which the time frame coincided in part with the Olympic Games. On the other hand, considering that Israel’s performance in Rio during the first few days of the Olympics was hardly cause for excitement, the lacrosse victory in Budapest was indeed a redeeming feature for Israeli sports.
Out of 24 competing national teams, Israel came in second after England and ahead of Finland, which came in third. In the gold medal game against England, Israel lost by only one point, which is praiseworthy in itself.
The Israeli team comprised Kyle Bergman, Joshua Bernstein, Caleb Brodie, Matthew Cherry, Aaron Feinberg, Eric Fischer, Christopher Friedman, Max Gradinger, Jesse Hartman, Ian Kadish, Eric Kansky, Jacob Kane, Andrew Landsman, Daniel Leventhal, Seth Mahler, Noah Miller, Jacob Milner, Zachary Ornstein, Jonathan Rathauser, Alex Siegel, Jacob Silberlicht and Glen Tobin, who collectively brought glory to the state, and as a result may drum up more support for the game. At the previous European Championship contest, in Amsterdam in 2012, Israel came in eighth, so to reach second place was really a tremendous achievement.
The Israel Lacrosse team has a rule against playing on Shabbat, even at the risk of having to forfeit games in international competition.
Two of the Israeli players – Cherry and Gradinger – have been selected for the all-Europe lacrosse team.
■ WHEN HE checked into the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem this week, President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo did not expect to find a fellow countryman. There was nothing in the physical appearance of Ilan Gal, the hotel’s deputy director of guest relations, to suggest that he was originally from Togo. In actual fact, he was the first Israeli baby born Togo, when his father, Daniel Gal, an Israeli diplomat, served there in 1966. As it happened, the current president’s father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, became president in 1967 while the Gal family was still in Togo. Ilan Gal has not been back to the land of his birth, but he would love to visit, and he was very excited at the prospect of being able to meet President Gnassingbé. “It’s like closing a circle,” he said.
Togo was one of 29 African states that severed diplomatic ties with Israel in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which the Egyptians refer to as the October War. Following the1978 Camp David Accords, some African states gradually resumed diplomatic relations. Togo did so in 1987. The King of Togo, King Francois A. Ayi, visited Israel in May of this year, claiming that his people are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel and asking that Israel officially recognize them as such. It will be interesting to see whether a similar request is made by Gnassingbé during his visit.
Meanwhile, on his first day in Israel, Gnassingbé asked to visit the Ziv Medical Center in Safed to see for himself the medical care that is being given to Syrian patients who have been wounded in Syria’s civil war. Gnassingbé and his entourage were briefed by Ziv’s director, Col. (res.) Dr.
Salman Zarka, and were deeply impressed with what they saw and heard. They also toured the northern border in order to gain an understanding of the geographic proximity between Israel and her enemies.
In addition to meetings with Rivlin and Netanyahu, Gnassingbé’s itinerary includes meetings with senior representatives of Israel’s hi-tech and cyber industries.
Accompanying Gnassingbé are Victoire Tomegah-Dogbe Dussey, chief of staff and state house minister; Cina Lawson, minister of posts and digital Economy; Col. Damehame Yark, minister of security and civil protection; Robert Dussey, minister of foreign affairs; Col. Ouro Koura Agadazi, minister of agriculture; Kokouvi Fleatsonadui Agbetomey, minister of public service; Prof. Moustafa Mijiyawa, minister of justice; Dèdèriwè Abli-Bidamon, minister of mines and energy; and Kwami Tedji, director of protocol.
■ CONTROVERSIAL AUSTRALIAN singer Sia is due to check into the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv, Wednesday for a four-night stay, and will make her debut appearance in Israel on Thursday night at Hayarkon Park. Sia will be arriving in Israel on a private plane in which other passengers will include three personal body guards. Additional Israeli bodyguards will accompany her during her time in Israel.
The 190-square-meter royal suite has been reserved for her at the hotel, with amenities including a living room facing the sea, a large bedroom leading to a private terrace overlooking the sea, an extra-large bathroom with a jacuzzi bath, an espresso machine, DVD and a fax. One thing the suite does not contain, in accordance with Sia’s request, is alcoholic beverages, which were removed in advance of her arrival. The singer’s hectic and colorful background includes a drinking problem, which she has overcome. She asked for bottles of water and cut fruit, primarily mango, peach and pineapple. She also asked for the installation of a steamer that should operate nonstop for the whole period of her stay. Sia is a vegan, so the hotel chefs will have to be especially creative if she happens to order a late night snack.
■ MALICIOUS VERBAL exchanges, incitement and violence are nothing new in Israel. They are not reserved for the soccer field or for demonstrations which for one reason or another get out of hand, but are also let loose in the Knesset, in lecture halls and even in court rooms.
Sixteen years ago, in the face of unsavory social discourse at the time, the Sderot Conference together with the Sapir Academic College took the initiative of introducing Tisha Be’av discussion groups in which people of diverse backgrounds and ideologies would join in discussion circles designed to promote mutual understanding and tolerance of the other.
Similar groups will be meeting this year in different parts of the country under the rubric of The Center and the Periphery – Then and Now. According to Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, the head of the Sderot Conference, there were never such extreme tensions between the Center and the periphery as there are today. This is all the more reason for the discussion groups to convene for the 17th consecutive year, he says.
Among the participants are artist and leftwing activist Yair Garbuz, former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, Zionist Union MK Prof.
Yossi Yonah, Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, Zionist Union MK Michal Biran, former education minister Shai Piron, former environmental minister Avi Gabbay, Construction Ministry CEO Eshel Armoni, journalists Benny Ziffer, Ben-Dror Yemini, Merav Betito, Anat Saragusti, Shahar Blau, Shahar Ilan, Sophia Ron-Moriah, broadcaster Dr.
Avshalom Kor, social activist Daphne Leif, Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar, Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Orna Barbivai, former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria director Pinchas Wallerstein, dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and former Meretz MK Prof. Naomi Chazan, former Meretz MK Mossi Raz, retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, Kulanu MK Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton, author Yochi Brandes, ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi Zahav, bereaved mothers Bat-Galim Shaer and Miriam Peretz, former basketball star Doron Sheffer, former Yesh Atid MK Yifat Kariv, former National Religious Party MK Shaul Yahalom, University of Haifa sociologist Prof. Sammy Smooha, Rabbi Sefi Sherman, who has been active in building bridges between secular and religious Jews, TEVA Pharmaceuticals board member Einat Barzilai, telecommunications coordinator Ofra Lax, teacher, actor and theatrical producer Shivi Froman, Kvutzat Yavne spiritual leader Rabbi Ilai Ofran, Zionist educator Avi Rath, Yeshivot Bnei Akiva director of education Rabbi Yona Goodman, author Mira Magen, Dayan, Sapir Academic College president Omri Yadlin, and Sapir Academic College chairman of the executive board Gilad Sher.
All meetings will begin between 9 p.m.
and 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 13. Venues include Baka Community Center, 3 Issasschar Street, Jerusalem; Uri Zvi Greenberg Heritage Center, 34 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem; Reizel Cultural Center Kfar Saba, 12 Geula Street; Kochav Yair Cultural Center on Hadekalim Boulevard; Lod Cultural Center, 2 Kaplan Street; Swiss Havayot Center, 52 Sireni Street, Rehovot; Netanya Cultural Center, 4 Raziel Street; Modi’in Cultural Center, 49 Emek Dotan Street; Eshkol Payis Ariel, 28 Efrata Street; Magid Community Center Tel Aviv, 63 Nordau Boulevard; Yad Hatisha Community Center Herzliya, 14 Revivim Street; Eshkolot School, 1 Hamora Street, Givat Ada, near Binyamina; Ramot Shikma Community Center, 32 Shalem Street, Ramat Gan; Ramle Community Center, 7 Weizmann Street; and the Hisraya Center, 100 Palmah Street, Safed.
■ FOLLOWING THEIR meeting earlier in the week with Netanyahu, the group of ambassadors to the UN who were brought to Israel by Permanent Representative to the UN Danny Danon, under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee, did not expect to come into contact with Netanyahu again. But toward the tail end of their comprehensive visit, while having dinner in Savyon at the home of Ran Rahav, honorary consul of the Marshall Islands, and his wife, Hila, they were surprised by a telephone call from Netanyahu, who was happy that they had a chance to engage in the Israel experience rather than rely on media reports for their information.
The ambassadors – Amatlain Kabua of the Marshall Islands, Laura Flores of Panama, Vladimir Lupan of Moldova, Milan Milanovic of Serbia, Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea, Caleb Otto of Palau, Earle Courtenay Rattray of Jamaica, Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay, Virachai Plasai of Thailand, Milos Vukasinovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lewis Brown of Liberia and Tuvako Manongi of Tanzania – got to see quite a lot of Israel, traveling from the North to the South and observing what is being done at the Ziv Medical Center for Syrian victims of the civil war, in the north of country, and learning of the traumas experienced by people living near the Gaza Strip in the south of the country. While in the North they were given a military briefing at the border. In the center of the country, they visited the site of the recent terrorist attack at Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.
In addition to their meeting with the prime minister, they also had an informative meeting with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
■ ACCORDING TO Channel 1’s Uri Levy, the incident in which the Lebanese Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro refused to allow the Israeli team to travel on the same bus was blown out of all proportion. It’s not the first time that Israel has been snubbed at the Olympic Games, and it’s probably not the last time either. Regardless of the noble principles of the Olympics, players from countries hostile to Israel all have to go home and can’t afford even a hint of tolerance or friendliness – at least not in public.
Israeli team leaders know this, and are not really surprised by incidents of this nature.
■ ESRA, THE English-Speaking Residents Association, which does so much to help members of the Ethiopian community, especially those living in Netanya, to develop their potential and integrate fully into mainstream Israel while simultaneously retaining their heritage and traditions, is launching a multigenerational women’s choir that will be conducted by Eva de Mayo, who worked closely with Shlomo Gronich and the Sheba Choir, which likewise comprises members of Israel’s Ethiopian community.
Part of the reason for the ESRA Ethiopian choir is to help preserve Ethiopian musical heritage. There is a gap between Ethiopian parents who grew up in Ethiopia and their children, who either came at a very young age to Israel or who were born in Israel and are slowly losing their heritage.
It is hoped that the choir will be ready to perform by January 3, when ESRA will have its gala concert with Achinoam Nini at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center. Nini previously sang for ESRA at a sellout concert in 2010. Proceeds from the concert go to ESRA’s Give a Child a Future project, which has been running for the past eight years and entails offering carefully selected university students rent-free housing in exchange for mentoring the youngsters on their block.
Currently, 34 of the 38 students mentoring 160 youngsters are themselves of Ethiopian origin and have all served in the IDF.
Some of them are graduates of ESRA’s Right Track program geared to teens at risk. They are now giving to others the chance that was given to them.
■ ALTHOUGH TAIWAN is no slouch when it comes to start-ups, two Taiwanese parliamentarians – Yi-Ming Chen, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and his deputy Yu-Ren Hsu, who led a delegation of medical and start-up experts to Israel last week – believe that young Taiwanese hi-tech people can learn something from Israel when it comes to start-ups.
In a comprehensive tour of the country, the Taiwanese delegation visited the Old City of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, the Israel Museum, Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and the Golan Heights.
They also met personally with Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry Ada Yonath and with various medical and start-up personalities.
Yi-Ming Chen also lectured on the development of medications for liver cancer at the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, and discussed cooperation between Israeli and Taiwanese cancer researchers, while Yu-Ren Hsu visited WeWork, Startup Grind and other start-up enterprises.
■ AFTER EIGHT years of litigation between the National Library of Israel and the daughters of Esther Hoffe, who was the secretary and later caregiver to writer and journalist Max Brod, who was the close friend of Franz Kafka and executor of his estate, the library finally won the right to be the repository of Kafka’s works.
When Brod fled from Prague to Tel Aviv following the Nazi invasion of his country, he filled a suitcase with Kafka’s manuscripts, many of which had not yet been published. Some of them were later published and others remain unknown to the world. Before his death, Kafka asked Brod to burn all his writings, but Brod saved them instead, using as an argument that Kafka knew him well enough to be aware that Brod would not carry out his instructions.
If he had genuinely wanted to destroy his work, he would have chosen another executor.
Hoffe had been named as the heir to Brod’s estate, and her daughters, who inherited it from their mother, said that the Kafka manuscripts therefore belonged to them. They also announced that they wanted to sell the Kafka manuscripts to the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach, Germany. But on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the manuscripts should go to the National Library.
“This is a very festive day for every person of culture in Israel and the world,” said National Library chairman David Blumberg.
In handing down its ruling, the court asked the National Library to make the contents of the manuscripts accessible to the general public. The National Library is engaged in a project of digitizing all its documents so that they can be accessed by anyone with a computer.
■ EVEN THOUGH it has become a cliché, it happens to be true that one person can make a difference. A case in point is Many Waks, who blew the lid on the Pandora’s box of sexual abuse of children in Jewish religious schools, which led to a commission on child abuse in Australia in general and snowballed to other parts of the world, where Waks is much in demand as a speaker.
It’s not just that people want to know what to look for and what questions to ask when their children’s personalities change, but when Waks tells his own story it helps adults who were abused as children to come forward and tell their stories, which enables them to relate better to their families and friends and also creates an alert in the schools that they attended, in case current students may also be suffering abuse.