Grapevine: The degree of what is offensive

During Barkat’s campaign to run for a second mayoral term, his parlor meetings included Q&A sessions with English-speaking residents of the capital.

DR. RENE KARAT receives the French Legion of Honor from Captain Laurent Sudrat in Haifa. (photo credit: Courtesy)
DR. RENE KARAT receives the French Legion of Honor from Captain Laurent Sudrat in Haifa.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat did not attend Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade on Thursday, citing as an excuse that it would offend the ultra-Orthodox residents of the city (or more accurately, the large ultra-Orthodox representation on the city council). It was a strange excuse in view of the fact that much of the haredi leadership is also offended by the functioning in Jerusalem of the Reform movement and its institutions.
Yet Barkat had no problem in attending the groundbreaking ceremony of the Taube Family Campus at Hebrew Union College last month.
He not only attended, but was one of the speakers and lavish in his praise.
JERUSALEM POST columnist Gil Troy, who made an eloquent plea to Barkat this week to desist from running the light rail through Emek Refaim in the capital’s German Colony, is in a unique position over others who are pleading with the mayor or criticizing him on this particular issue.
During Barkat’s campaign to run for a second mayoral term, his parlor meetings included Q&A sessions with English-speaking residents of the capital.
One session, replete with a generous brunch, was held at Troy’s impressive home, with its delightful garden in the German Colony. From the perspective of most of the participants who voted for Barkat, it’s payback time – we listened to you and gave you our vote, they say. Now listen to us and find a route other than Emek Refaim for the light rail.
■ THE CONFERENCE on Equality in the Eye of the Law hosted this week by President Reuven Rivlin was ostensibly in celebration of the 90th birthday of former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, who has gone through nearly a year of celebrations in the various circles in which he moves. In fact, it was more of a prelude to his 91st birthday, which he will celebrate on August 13. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was there as were all of Shamgar’s successors as presidents of the Supreme Court: Aharon Barak, Dorit Beinisch, Asher Grunis and present incumbent Miriam Naor. Also in attendance were several retired justices who served with Shamgar on the Supreme Court, among them former State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, Gabriel Bach, and Dalia Dorner. Also in attendance were current judges of the Supreme Court Salim Joubran and Daphne Barak-Erez, along with Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit, State Comptroller Yosef Haim Shapira and Knesset legal counsel Eyal Yinon. There were also several professors of law and other prominent figures from academia and Israel’s judiciary. Equality and the law are subjects close to Rivlin’s heart, which he has promoted since his inaugural address in the Knesset two years ago.
Most of the day was taken up with panel discussions on different aspects of equality, but the grand finale was a conversation between Rivlin and television and radio personality Ilana Dayan, a hard-core investigative journalist best known for her television series Uvda (Fact). Neither she nor Rivlin were out of place. Rivlin practiced law before becoming a member of Knesset, and Dayan has a doctorate in law from Yale, and teaches Constitutional Law as a guest lecturer at Tel Aviv University.
The conversation between Dayan and Rivlin was conducted in an interview style, but the usually forceful Dayan, who had a lot of questions she wanted to ask, could barely get a word in with Rivlin evading clear answers to the questions she did manage to ask, and raising his voice over hers when she attempted to ask other questions, thus ignoring his own mantra on the importance of listening to others.
Nonetheless, bearing in mind Rivlin’s constant contention that Israel is both a Jewish and a democratic state, Dayan did manage to ask whether he thought the Supreme Court had the right to nullify Knesset laws that were undemocratic. Rivlin skirted the issue on that one, but when she asked about the Knesset vote on the expulsion of a lawmaker, Rivlin recalled that when he was speaker of the Knesset, some legislators had come to him and said that if a majority of 90 MKs were able to expel a president, why couldn’t they expel an MK? Rivlin’s answer then had been that the president of the state is elected by Knesset members, whereas a Knesset member is elected by the public. If there is someone who supports terrorism, said Rivlin, there are other ways to deal with such a person as specified by law.
There’s also the possibility that the attorney-general can bring that person to trial. The bottom line was that there are sufficient legal means already in place to deal with an unwanted legislator.
■ WHEN FRANCE awards the Legion of Honor, its highest decoration, to people who are not French nationals and do not live in France, the award ceremony is usually conducted in the city or town of residence of the recipient, and the award is presented by the ambassador or the consul-general at the French Embassy or residence, because it must be presented on what is technically French territory.
However in the case of Dr. Rene Karat, a British expatriate now living in Herzliya, it wasn’t the ambassador or the consul general who pinned the ribbon and medal to his lapel, it was Captain Laurent Sudrat of the Landing Helicopter Dock French Battleship Tonnerre. At the D-Day commemoration in 2014, the French government decided to award the Legion of Honor to veterans of the Second World War who had participated in the invasion at Normandy in 1944. Honor is not without bureaucracy, and it was not enough for Karat to be eligible for the award – he had to prove his eligibility.
This entailed forwarding his application to the British Defense Ministry for verification and confirmation, after which the documentation was sent to the French government for processing.
The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly, and it took two years before Karat, his relatives and friends could make their way to Haifa Port for the conferment ceremony. But better late than never. They were feted to a cocktail reception prior to the presentation, after which Captain Sudrat read out the long and very personal citation that included Karat’s parents, his siblings, his late wife, Frances, his late daughter, Andy, and his son, David. It noted that Karat had left his medical studies to enlist in the army, and was reprimanded on his first day for smiling on parade. But his superiors quickly realized that he was officer material, and within a short time he became a gunner officer in the Royal Military Regiment, in which capacity he took part in the D-Day landing on June 6.
Less than two weeks later he had a premonition that something would happen to him, and it did on June 19, when he was shot. No one came near him while the battle raged.
Afterward when his own soldiers where engaged in the mopping up operation, they presumed he was dead and were about to put him in the burial cart when one of them touched him and realized his body was still warm. The medical supervisor of the field hospital decided that this was not the place for Karat to recuperate, and sent him by ship to a hospital in England. It took several months for him to recuperate, after which he was decommissioned, resumed his medical studies and became a dental surgeon, retiring in 1966. He settled in Israel in 1980.
The medal conferred in the presence of the whole crew was more than an honor for Karat, it was the closing of a circle. He was the first member of his French family to be born in London – his parents met and married in France, and his two older siblings were born in Paris, where he too would have been born had his family not migrated to England. To receive the French Legion of Honor was therefore a kind of homecoming.
A name more familiar to readers of The Jerusalem Post and other Jewish publications is that of Berlin-born syndicated columnist, news and feature writer Tom Tugend, 91, whose family migrated to the United States. Still a teenager when he joined the US Army , his infantry regiment was attached to the 1st French Army during the fighting against SS units defending the Colmar Pocket in Alsace, which also entitled Tugend to Legion of Honor status. He subsequently came to Israel to fight as a volunteer in the War of Independence, and later returned to America where he made a name for himself working out of Los Angeles writing for the Jewish and general press – and he’s still a prodigious wordsmith, churning out mountains of copy every week.
■ IT’S A long standing tradition for Dr. David Luchins, chairman of the political science department at Touro College and a longtime supporter of, and adviser to, Democratic candidates running for office, and to Democrats already in office, to come to Israel to speak to American expats about religious and political developments in the old country. A vice president of the Orthodox Union, he always makes a point of lecturing there, but also lectures at Aish HaTorah, a religious outreach institution in the old city that faces the Western Wall. In addition to speaking at the OU on Wednesday (July 27 at 8 p.m.) about “The Future of Modern American Orthodoxy,” he will deliver a series of lectures under the auspices of The Jerusalem Fellowship, beginning on Sunday, when he will speak about “American Elections 2016: What’s Good for the Jews.” The other lectures – on July 26, August 2, August 4, August 9 and August 11 – will cover a variety of subjects including: “Gay Marriage, LGBT Rights, and the Orthodox Community’s Public Policy Response”; “The Future of Modern Orthodoxy”; “Is the Party Over? American Jewish Political Party Faces New Realities”; “Jonathan Pollard, Free at Last?”; and “Stop the Fire – Pre Tisha B’Av Thoughts.” All the talks in the series will be held at 2:15 p.m. at the home of Nechama and Nattie Charles, 3 Hatamid Street, Old City, Jerusalem.