Grapevine: Tough to be politically correct

A round-up of news from around Israel.

CHAIM DOVID GOLDMAN, a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT. (photo credit: Courtesy)
CHAIM DOVID GOLDMAN, a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ IT’S NOT going to be easy for President Reuven Rivlin to be politically correct when Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has a reputation for initiating human rights abuses and whose manner of speech is far from politically correct, visits Israel in May. Duterte, who has been conducting an aggressively cruel anti-drug campaign, actually had the audacity to compare himself to Hitler on Facebook and Twitter.
As a result of his campaign, thousands of suspected drug dealers have been arrested, and at least tree thousand killed. Comparing Hitler’s murder of 6 million Jews with what he is doing or what he would like to do, Duterte stated that there are 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines and he would be happy to slaughter them.
Realizing that he had triggered disgust and outrage among Jewish communities around the world, he apologized to his country’s Jews by going to a synagogue to explain what he meant.
■ ON WEDNESDAY night of last week, a near miraculous item appeared on the Channel 1 evening news – a complaint that the nascent Israel Broadcasting Corporation, to be launched on May 15, has not included English-language programming in its lineup.
Aside from members of the largely depleted IBA English News, such as Efrat Batat and Arieh O’Sullivan, who emphasized the importance of English-language broadcasts for diplomats, visiting academics and other English speakers, a plug for English was also put in by Yigal Palmor, a former spokesman for the Foreign Ministry and currently spokesman for the Jewish Agency, and by Liat Collins, a Jerusalem Post columnist and editor of the paper’s international edition. Also featured was a Jerusalem Post editorial that was critical of the fact that the IBC will be neglecting English as a language of communication.
Why was the item miraculous? Because in the days when the IBA was not genuinely under threat, the people in the Hebrew news department were extremely resentful of those in the English news department. They were reluctant to share footage with them, and they were unhappy about the time slots given to the English news.
Although former IBA director-general Yosef Barel, who launched the IBA English News, was a fairly unpopular boss, he certainly understood the importance of English as a vehicle of communication, and he initially chose to broadcast the English-language news in primetime. The program was moved around in the line-up until eventually it ended up being broadcast in the late afternoon, when a lot of working people were unable to watch. The new solidarity among IBA employees, whose future has been dangling on the rope of uncertainty for three years, has finally given the IBA English News the respect it deserves.
■ ENERGY MINISTER Yuval Steinitz will host a special summit at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv on Monday with the ministers of energy from Cyprus, Greece and Italy, Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, George Stathakis and Carlo Calenda, respectively, as well as with Miguel Arias Canete, the European commissioner for climate action and energy.
Participants will discuss the Israeli initiative for an underwater natural- gas pipeline that will be presented for the first time. The pipeline is expected to be the longest in the world, and Steinitz says the potential is huge.
■ OTHER THAN the future of public broadcasting, the possibility that the US Embassy might finally be moved to Jerusalem, the latest developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and attempts to find a solution that will be approved by both sides, news reports over the past month or two have focused on the carelessness of bus drivers; abuse of the elderly; the lack of sensitivity for the disabled and people with special needs; the ongoing discrimination against Ethiopians and North Africans with non-Israeli names; and physical violence against women, especially nurses. In many cases, the authorities have been unable to do much to prevent such incidents, and it is often left to volunteer organizations to intervene.
A case in point is the recent horrific story about an elderly woman who was reaching into the baggage compartment of a bus to retrieve her belongings. Before she could remove them, the electronic door of the compartment began to close – the bus driver was apparently unaware that the woman was still there. The door closed on her chest and pinned her to the floor of the luggage area. The driver still didn’t notice and drove off as the victim’s legs flailed wildly outside. Shocked bystanders began screaming at the driver to attract his attention and get him to pull over. People ahead ran on the road and banged loudly on the side of the bus. After driving more than 30 meters, the driver at last noticed the commotion, came to a halt and opened the luggage compartment door.
Fortunately, Chaim Dovid Goldman, a United Hatzalah volunteer emergency medical technician, was riding his ambucycle nearby when he received the urgent call for help. Despite standstill traffic, he was able to quickly navigate the busy streets and arrived at the location within just over a minute.
Goldman found the woman collapsed on the street, surrounded by shocked bystanders. He jumped off his ambucycle, grabbed his medical kit and quickly took the victim’s vitals. The door had crushed her ribs, making her breathing extremely difficult. The experienced EMT quickly administered high-flow oxygen from his medical kit. A few minutes later, her condition improved and she began to breathe with greater ease.
Goldman monitored her vitals and calmed her as they waited nearly 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Working together with the ambulance crew, Goldman helped the woman onto a stretcher as passersby commended him for helping the victim so quickly.
Without a paramedic on an ambucycle, the woman’s condition might have deteriorated beyond recovery if she had to wait those crucial minutes before the arrival of the ambulance.
■ MUCH AS we would like to believe that Israel has the most moral army in the world, there are always a few rotten apples in the barrel who spoil that image, just as there are corrupt people in the police force who mar that old lesson once taught to children: The policeman is your friend. Where we see some of the unfortunate examples of the more negative side of the army is in the Palestinian refugee camps, where people are woken from their sleep in the pre-dawn hours and their homes are turned into a shambles. While security needs are usually in the forefront of such actions, there are times when they are conducted against innocent people and contribute to the hatred that Palestinian children feel toward Israeli soldiers. The raid in Jenin on the home of Rania Wasfi is a case in point.
Wasfi is program coordinator at the Freedom Theater, founded in 2006 by the late Juliano Mer- Khamis. Mer-Khamis was an actor and director, the son of a Jewish mother who had fought in the Palmah and an Arab-Christian father who was a leading figure in the Communist Party. Mer-Khamis served as paratrooper in the IDF, but also opposed what he considered to be the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In other words, he had a foot in both camps. He established the Freedom Theater as a form of cultural resistance against the occupation, and was assassinated in 2011.
Wasfi’s home was searched one night last week at 3 a.m. by Israeli forces. Together with her husband and two small children, she watched a group of soldiers going through the house and disturbing its belongings. They did the same to the homes of her neighbors. The Wasfis opened the door before the soldiers broke it down, and told their children, who had woken in the interim, not to worry, saying the soldiers would only talk to the parents for a short time.\ When the family heard the soldiers coming inside, the eldest son, Waseem, hid under the blankets.
He was shaking and very frightened.
The soldiers assembled the whole family in the living room and asked to see their identification cards. The children were very cold, and Wasfi’s husband asked if the family could go to the bedroom to wait. The soldiers agreed.
Wasfi’s youngest son, Hamoudi, was on her lap; behind him, she used her phone to post a message on Facebook that the army was in her house. The soldiers saw the phone and took it from her.
The troops stayed for about 45 minutes, turning the house upside down: mattresses, sheets, clothing, even the saucepans in the kitchen were removed from the shelves, and the refrigerator was searched.
Nothing was left intact. When they were leaving, the soldiers apologized for having disturbed the family. Wasfi asked: “What about the mess you made?” They told her an apology was all she would get.
They left the door open and two soldiers were posted outside. They returned to ask again for Wasfi’s husband’s ID card. She was afraid that they would take him with them. But finally the soldiers were satisfied and left. She was unable to sleep afterwards, so she organized the house, washed the carpets, cleaned the sheets and put everything back in its place. Her children slept for about an hour and were afraid to step outside in case the soldiers were waiting.
There are, of course, stories about soldiers who are careful to clean up the mess and even give the householders some money by way of compensation. But that doesn’t happen too often, and the raids on Palestinian homes are a frequent occurrence. While inspections must continue to ensure that terrorists are eradicated, there must be a more civilized way of doing it.
Even though most terrorists in the areas inhabited by Jews and Arabs are Palestinians, not all Palestinians are terrorists.
■ CONSIDERING THAT Kibbutz Lavi was founded in 1949 by the British branch of Bnei Akiva, one would think that a reunion of British Bnei Akiva members would take place at the kibbutz hotel. But no, organizers Hannah Newman Ido and Ammi Shor have opted for a venue farther north. The venue for the May 27 reunion is the Guest House in Acre. The reunion is being held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and is not strictly limited to Brits. Group leaders and Bnei Akiva emissaries who are not British, but who were sent to Britain to work with Bnei Akiva, as well as non-British spouses of former members of British Bnei Akiva will be welcome. In fact, three former members of Australian Bnei Akiva have already signed up. Johnny Oberman, who was a Bnei Akiva leader in Melbourne and is a veteran member of Lavi, was a very popular Bnei Akiva emissary in Britain, and sisters Debbi Sinclair and Rebecca Goldberg (nee Prawer), who are also from Melbourne and married to Brits, have likewise registered.
Anyone else with British Bnei Akiva connections, if born between 1948 and 1958, should call Ido at (050) 615-3217 or Shor at (050) 551-1615.