Jerusalem Grapevine: Feeling 50 on a bad day

Walter Bingham (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Walter Bingham
• INTREPID AND ever curious Arutz Sheva journalist Walter Bingham celebrated his 93rd birthday last Saturday with Chabad of Rehavia. Bingham led the prayers, and afterwards the dancing in the basement of the Great Synagogue, where Chabad services are held each Shabbat and holy days.
Later he was feted around the corner at Chabad of Rehavia headquarters by director Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg. Many of Bingham’s friends came to celebrate with him, one from as far away as Safed.
On a recent Friday night, Bingham attended a Shabbat dinner in Nahalat Shiva that was disrupted by the sounds of a scuffle in the street below, accompanied by a woman’s screams. It soon became apparent that the woman was being beaten by a bully of a man.
None of the males at table were willing to play Sir Galahad, other than Bingham – who went downstairs, pulled back his jacket to reveal the gun that he wears and suggested to the man in the most polite tones that it would be in his best interests to leave the young lady alone and to move on. The man eyed the gun, realized that Bingham meant business and moved away.
Bingham, who is one of the world’s oldest field journalists and who covers events with the zest of someone half his age broadcasting his Walter’s World on Arutz Sheva, said at the Chabad kiddush: “On a good day I feel 40. On a bad day, I feel 50.”
Speaking of his boyhood in his native Karlsruhe, Germany, after Hitler came to power, Bingham said that he went to a regular school because there was no Jewish school in his area. The boy sitting next to him used to copy test answers from Bingham’s book. The boy received high marks and Bingham always failed because it was unacceptable to let a Jewish boy outshine the Aryan boys in the class.
Likewise, when the teacher asked questions and he put up his hand to answer, he was always ignored for much the same reason.
When non-Jewish boys beat him up and he showed his bruises to the teacher, he was told it was nothing. He was fortunate to be able to leave Germany on a Kindertransport in 1939, and as soon as he was old enough joined the British Army and participated in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
This week he is being feted by Rabbi Eliyahu Kanterman and his wife, Chana, who are the co-directors of Chabad of Talbiyeh, and whose guest he has been on many a Shabbat. So many people are enamored with Bingham that there is real competition to have him at a Shabbat table, where he regales his hosts and other guests with fascinating stories from his extensive repertoire.
• AT THE HAZVI Yisrael Congregation last Saturday, congregants Arielle and Claude Richard were receiving multiple congratulations on the birth of two grandsons. One had been born just a little over a week earlier to Joelle and Haim Bettach, and the other, Ouriel, the son of Sylvie and Jean Bisseliches, was celebrating his bar mitzva. The congregation, which is largely made up of native English speakers, was outnumbered on this occasion by French speakers.
Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, the spiritual leader of the congregation, said that Ouriel had created some sort of a record by reading not only his Torah portion (which was very long), but also the haftara, and the special haftara recited at the beginning of a new month.
He also concluded the morning prayers and led the congregation in the Musaf prayer. By the way, he also recited the longer version of the Shabbat morning blessing over the wine at the kiddush after the service. With several other grandsons from their five children, the Richards will again bring a French atmosphere into the congregation quite a few times in the future.
• IF ANYONE was looking for Mayor Nir Barkat in Jerusalem last Friday, they couldn’t find him. The reason: He was in Eilat at the Likudyada, held in bad taste on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The way things stand at the moment, it would seem that this government, like its predecessors, will not run its full four-year term, and Barkat will be forced sooner rather than later to decide whether he wants to remain a big fish in a small pond or become a small fish in a bigger pond.