Grapevine: Tel Aviv Torah

News briefs from around Israel.

Israeli author Amos Oz (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli author Amos Oz
(photo credit: REUTERS)
■ PASSERSBY ON Tel Aviv’s Ben-Yehuda Street on Sunday night stopped and stared at the procession that sang and danced as it proceeded in a northward direction till it reached 126 Ben-Yehuda, the address of the North Central Synagogue, that has been in existence for more than 80 years.
Though an old synagogue by Tel Aviv standards, it hosts a largely young, modern-Orthodox congregation of people living in the neighborhood – both native Israelis as well as English- and French-speaking immigrants who come to the synagogue as much to socialize as to pray.
Rabbi Shlomo Chayen, the spiritual leader of the congregation, was born in the United States in 1984, and came to Israel as a two-year-old together with his parents. Because of his youth and his experience in outreach, he relates very well to his young congregants.
He served as the commander of a paratroopers unit in the army, and was among those who created a unit called Yassar, which does work similar to that of ZAKA but goes behind enemy lines to retrieve the bodies and body parts of Israeli soldiers who fell in action.
His own army background serves to make Chayen acutely conscious of soldiers who have fallen in battle, and it was in the memory of the 72 soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge that the parade was held and culminated in the dedication of a new Torah scroll.
Special guests at the event were Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Kulanu MK and former Israel ambassador Michael Oren, who is chairman emeritus of the Lone Soldier Center and 40 years ago was a lone soldier from the US serving in the IDF.
Chayen doesn’t quite fit the image of an Orthodox – albeit modern- Orthodox – rabbi. He has a black belt in the martial arts, sings, plays guitar, plays basketball and is an active volunteer first-responder medic with United Hatzalah.
■ WITHIN THE context of the Let the Words Do For You series, the Holon Mediatheque hosted a special tribute to best-selling author Amos Oz in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first collection of stories, Where the Jackals Howl.
Among the people who came to celebrate with Oz was Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, a longtime close friend of the author whose prolific output has been translated into 42 languages. Peres was the first of a series of speakers who lauded Oz as a great writer. Peres said of him that he knows how to tell the exact truth in his stories, and the fact that his books have been published in so many editions in so many languages is proof of the power of the written word. Oz read excerpts from the book, and there were also performances by musicians Eran Tzur, Yali Sobol and Karni Postel.
■ OVER THE years, several major projects that were planned to be established in Israel fell by the wayside due to disagreements between the prospective donors and the projected recipients.
That’s what happened with the planned $200 million “peace university” that was agreed upon in 2013 between Texas A&M University and thenpresident Peres. The agreement was signed by Peres, Texas governor Rick Perry, and Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp, along with other dignitaries.
However, political figures in Nazareth began interfering with A&M’s academic program to the extent that A&M had no choice but to scrap the project.
Nonetheless, it did not want to scrap its commitment to Israel and announced in mid-December that A&M could not lend its name to a campus over which it had no control, and had therefore scaled back its investment in Israeli education, and instead of establishing a university in Nazareth, it plans to open a $6 million marine research center in collaboration with the University of Haifa.
■ AT HOLOCAUST memorial events in Poland, yellow daffodils, which have six petals, are often worn in place of the yellow Star of David which Jews were forced to wear in the ghettos under Nazi occupation.
In Ra’anana they’ve taken the daffodils a step further with the planting of a daffodil garden in memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered or died of illness and starvation during the Holocaust.
The project originated in Atlanta, Georgia, and was brought to Ra’anana by Rena Kahn, a committee member of Am Yisrael Chai Georgia. Why Ra’anana? Because it happens to be a twin city with Atlanta.
Joining Kahn in the initial planting ceremony last week were Mayor Ze’ev Bielski and city council member Zvi Nadav Rosler. The aim is to plant a total of 1.5 million daffodils.