Grapevine: Remembering a world that was

Current events from around the country.

AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR Dave Sharma (left) and Josh Frydenberg, Australian minister for environment and energy, at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem where many Jewish Australian and New Zealand soldiers are buried (photo credit: AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY FACEBOOK)
AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR Dave Sharma (left) and Josh Frydenberg, Australian minister for environment and energy, at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem where many Jewish Australian and New Zealand soldiers are buried
someone like actor, singer and teacher Mendy Cahan is around to preserve not only the remnants of Yiddish culture in general but Yiddish songs in particular – in the language in which they were originally written. It is particularly grating during the period leading up to Holocaust Remembrance Day to hear the songs sung in Yiddish in the towns and village of Europe and later in the ghettos played in Hebrew on the radio, and worse still, sung in Hebrew at Yad Vashem. To be true to the memories of the victims of the Holocaust the songs they sang in Yiddish or Ladino should be preserved and passed on to future generations. It is a travesty to sing the Partisans’ Hymn in any language other than Yiddish. Cahan, together with Olga Avigail in a heart-warming candle-lit atmosphere on May 9, at the Yung Yidish Tel Aviv headquarters on the 5th floor of the Central Bus Station, will sing some of the old Yiddish songs that have remained popular favorites, as well as some of those that have been largely forgotten. It should be remembered that May 9 is Europe Day, the day after VE Day that signified the end of the war in Europe, when there were so few people left to sing in Yiddish and the only songs that were suitable were lamentations.
■ WITH THE end of Israel Radio now fast approaching, the powers that be are bringing back veteran broadcasters to remind listeners of what used to be. In the case of Oren Nahari, who was foreign news editor at both Channel One and Israel Radio and now has that title at Walla News, it’s almost as if he never left. He is frequently being brought into the IBA’s radio and television news programs as a commentator, and recently he had a whole radio program to himself in which he reflected on the “what ifs” in history, and how different things might have been with a couple of fewer assassinations or different political alliances. Amikam Rotman, who left the radio some years ago and lives in the Galilee where he and his wife Maya, a professional harpist run a restaurant, came back temporarily to replace Yehoram Gaon on Fridays, because Gaon was busy with other commitments.
Rotman, who has a very relaxed attitude, and a never-ending collection of anecdotes about the Israel that once was, is a joy to listen to, not just because of his style, but because he’s walking history. It’s not merely something that he learned, but something that he lived. Among the many fans, including fellow broadcasters who inundated his Facebook with complimentary remarks was current broadcaster Yoav Krakovsky who wrote: “Dear Amikam, my teacher and guru, I’m so happy that you are once again broadcasting with us. I hope and I pray that it’s going to be permanent. Whether it’s the Israel Broadcasting Corporation or the new news corporation, whoever wants radio, whoever wants public broadcasting needs to have you on board.” Sharon Idan called Rotman “The man and the legend. The teacher of us all.”
■ APROPOS KRAKOVSKY, who interviewed Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel on the day of the Bayit Yehudi primaries and in the course of his questioning, predicted a couple of dire scenarios which might negatively affect Ariel’s political future. Ariel took it in his stride saying: “Don’t eulogize – not with us and not with you” indicating the Israel Broadcasting Authority which the previous evening had been given a short extension on its existence.
“Anything can happen both with us and with you,” said Ariel, reiterating several times that anything can happen. Indeed the whole farce surrounding public broadcasting and the constant delays in saying farewell to the old and hello to the new, is proof that anything can happen.
■ SPEAKING AT the annual Anzac Day ceremony, a day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders who died in combat, at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem last week, Josh Frydenberg, the Australian minister for environment and energy declared what an honor it was for him to be in Jerusalem and on Mount Scopus. He didn’t actually say why, but to people who share his alma mater, the reason was obvious. Frydenberg is a graduate of Mount Scopus Jewish Day School in Melbourne. In speaking of all the Australian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars and other conflicts, Frydenberg said that “they gave up their lives so that we could enjoy ours.”
Frydenberg also spoke of Sir John Monash, whom he called “Australia’s greatest citizen soldier.” Monash, who was Jewish, was the Commander of the 4th Brigade which he led in the Gallipoli campaign, where he lost half his men. Frydenberg, who is also a graduate of the university named after Monash, quoted him as saying: “If you count the sorrow and grief of people at home, one cannot carry on for even an hour.” Anzac day is named for the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fell at Gallipoli, but now embraces all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fell in the line of duty in subsequent wars and conflicts anywhere in the world. Just as Israelis who were not yet men, fought willingly in the War of Independence and were members of the various underground organizations that fought the British before the War of Independence, so young Australians joined in the war effort in this part of the world. Frydenberg cited one such young Australian by the name of Harry Wickham, full name Harold Thomas Wickham, who was 16 years old and lied about his age in order to join the 4th Light Horse Regiment. The recruiting officer was suspicious about Harry’s age, and asked for a birth certificate, but Harry told him that it had been lost in a fire. He said that his parents had also died in the fire and listed his uncle as next of kin.
Harry was one of the Australians who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Beersheba.
His father received a letter from the army informing him of the death of his “nephew.” He wrote back saying that he didn’t have a nephew, and then discovered that the painful news was about his son.
Harry is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Beersheba where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will pay tribute to Harry and his comrades at the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba on October 31.
■ MEANWHILE, AUSTRALIAN expat and martial arts champion Danny Hakim has decided that before the actual centenary more Israelis and visiting Australians should know more about the Battle of Beersheba and the other places in modern-day Israel where Australians fought so long ago. The victory at Beersheba changed the course of history. Without it there would have been no Balfour Declaration, and Allenby would not have been able to overcome the Turkish forces of the Ottoman Empire and march triumphantly into Jerusalem. Hakim, who is founder of Budo for Peace which encourages co-existence through the martial arts, has organized a 100-kilometer bike ride along the trail the Australians and New Zealand horseman took to Beersheba. Proceeds will be dedicated to Kids Kicking Cancer Israel, an organization that teaches children with cancer self control through the martial arts and enables them to deal with their pain; and Shekel, the organization for people with special needs. For information about joining the bike ride
Contact: Nir Zamir, Budo for Peace, +972 (0)544300429
■ FORMER FEATURES editor of The Jerusalem Post and current senior editor of The Jerusalem Report Elliot Jager has written a book that deals to a large extent with the Balfour Declaration. The book will be one of presumably many coming out this year, along with conferences and lectures which will deal various aspects of the World War I in this part of the world. While Jager has dealt mainly with Balfour, who has became a contentious subject of late, Elkan Levy will on May 3, launch a discussion at the Jewish Historical Society on “Allenby in Palestine and All That…”
The venue is Beit Avi Chai, 44 King George Street, Jerusalem, and the event is due to begin at 7.45 p.m. On May 9, Wingate will again be the subject of a lecture, this time by Police Superintendent Shlomi Chetrit who heads the Israel Police Heritage Center. Chetrit will speak in English on Wingate’s night squads at the Hanissi Synagogue on Ussishkin Street Jerusalem at 8 p.m.
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