Grapevine January 2, 2022: A lesson in geography?

THERE’S A big difference between being a tourist and actually moving to another country. Many of the things that amuse us as tourists.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with the latest volume of the Talmudic Encyclopedia presented to him by Prof. Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, head of Yad HaRav Herzog. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with the latest volume of the Talmudic Encyclopedia presented to him by Prof. Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, head of Yad HaRav Herzog.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

■ WHAT APPEARS to be an anti-Israel message on the part of Australian telecommunications company Optimus to clients landing at Ben-Gurion Airport may be based on ignorance rather than politics. The message to clients who use their smartphones when traveling abroad is “Hi there, welcome to Palestine. Just letting you know as you’ve activated your device while overseas, higher charges may apply.” Apparently no-one told them that Ben-Gurion Airport is located in Israel. While the estimated Palestinian population in Australia is still fewer in number than the Jewish population, the Palestinians do wield a lot of clout – so who knows what’s behind the message?

■ NOT EVERYONE is aware that David D’Or, the singer with the amazing vocal range, is also a visual artist, some of whose works will be on display at the  Peres Center for Peace and Innovation at a Peres Circle event on Thursday, January 6, from 6 p.m. as the start off the new year. The event, organized by Peres Circle founder and executive director Yona Bartal will also include a performance by D’Or, and a discussion about his art(s).

Bartal wears more than one hat, and on the following morning, Friday January 7, in her capacity as president of the Commercial and Industrial Club she will be at the Tel Aviv Hilton, to introduce members to a riveting lecturer, Dr. Roey Tzezana, a researcher at the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, and author of Rulers of the Future.

Tzezana, an internationally renowned and controversial intellectual and a futures studies researcher, was the academic manager of the program for Futures Studies at Lahav Executive Education at Tel Aviv University’s Recanati Business School. He has given courses about futures studies and the future at the Hebrew University and the Technion. He also founded and directed the Simpolitix project for political forecasting.

Tzezana says he is living the future as co-founder of TeleBuddy: a start-up that helps people to connect via telepresence robots throughout the world. By using the avatar bodies, Tzezana is capable of teaching, lecturing and living in three continents at the same time, and he wishes to give everyone a chance to do the same. He talks widely about the future of work, using his robots to demonstrate how automation can leverage people’s skills on the one hand, while promoting inequality on the other.

Tzezana’s first book, A Guide to the Future, has become a best seller and brought the Israeli public’s attention to the way technologies will impact society in the future. His second book, Rulers of the Future: Money, Power, Technology and Hope, came out this year and focuses on the governance systems of the future and how power will be divided between governments, industries and the public. One of the most enticing ideas in the book was the creation of a new variety of organizations called “cloud nations.” Tzezana is working on founding the Jewish Cloud Nation, which will provide services, representation and power to the Jewish people worldwide.

■ THERE’S A big difference between being a tourist and actually moving to another country. Many of the things that amuse us as tourists, or petty annoyances which we take in stride because we are on vacation, become big headaches when we actually return to that country as immigrants or permanent residents. We then become aware of the bureaucracy that we have to overcome, the high cost of certain services and commodities, and the sad fact that not everyone speaks or understands English. For senior citizens who migrate to Israel in the twilight of their lives, all this is a confusing nightmare. If they have close relatives in the country, they will often help to ease the absorption process. But for those older immigrants who come alone, it is essential to provide a service that enables them to know that they have someone on whom they can rely.

A GROUP OF French tourists and their guide in Jerusalem’s Old City this week. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)A GROUP OF French tourists and their guide in Jerusalem’s Old City this week. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Knowing this, the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel is in the process of setting up a Buddy system whereby volunteers of all ages, will become buddies to senior immigrants, going with them to places where they have to sign documents; and to medical appointments in order to understand and translate what the physician is saying to the patient.

Working together with Yad L’Olim, AACI has initiated a buddy system to help senior English speaking immigrants who have recently arrived in Israel. The idea is to help them meet the challenges of settling in and adapting to the Israeli lifestyle. These older immigrants will be paired with caring and experienced Anglo volunteers of their own generation, who live in or near the same neighborhood and are willing to give personal and practical advice.

AACI is now looking for volunteers in Jerusalem and surrounding areas where the program will be piloted. AACI will lead the program while Yad L’Olim will act as a government relations affiliate, assisting with legislative and policy issues. To volunteer and receive further information, contact Jeff Rothenberg, AACI vice president of absorption at [email protected]

■ NO-ONE CAN accuse President Isaac Herzog of playing religious favorites. In October he went to the Muslim village of Kafr Kassem to join in a memorial service for Arab men, women and children, who unaware that a curfew had been imposed, were killed in the early years of the state by, Israeli forces. On Wednesday of last week, Herzog hosted religious and lay leaders of the various Christian denominations in the Holy Land, and on Thursday, he hosted numerous rabbis and supporters of Torah learning at a reception marking the 75th anniversary of the Talmudic Encyclopedia which is published by Yad HaRav Herzog, in tribute to the president’s grandfather, after whom he is named. 

Curiously, the presenter at the event was a woman, religious journalist Sarah Beck, whose on-stage presence was somewhat surprising in a hall in which the two chief rabbis sat in the front row, and the overwhelming majority of men wore black kippot. The Talmudic Encyclopedia, which is published in Jerusalem, is older than the state and was the brainchild of Rabbi Meir Bar Ilan, who, aware of the destruction of Jewish life and lives during the Holocaust, believed that it was the urgent mission of rabbis in the Land of Israel to salvage whatever halachic material on the Talmud they could find. In 1942, he recruited a group of eminent Rabbis, and soon after

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook who was chief rabbi under the British Mandate authorities, came on board, as did many other prominent scholars and arbiters of Jewish Law.

Herzog, who was the first of several speakers, said that the Talmud should not be treated as some archaeological work, but as a vibrant part of our lives. The Talmud more than anything else symbolizes the collective wisdom, the legacy and the eternity of the Jewish people, he said.

The Talmudic Encyclopedia has an honored place, not only in the Library of the President, he said, but is something that has accompanied him all his life as the grandson of the first chief rabbi of the State of Israel.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef noted that the Talmud is studied over and over again and whoever studies Talmud learns something of value that stays with them forever. Constant rereading of verses prompts new questions and new answers. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau spoke of how the Talmud has been handed down from generation to generation from the time that Moses received the Law in Sinai. The role of the encyclopedia is to be accurate and to present different opinions so that those who study it are exposed to the totality of the Torah. Supreme Court Judge Noam Solberg said that he receives inspiration from the Talmud in matters pertaining to Jewish Law which is sometimes in conflict with civil law.

He is happy when he finds concurrence, but in making judicial decisions, he has sometimes been more influenced by Jewish Law than civil Law. Jewish Law has made a valuable contribution to civil law, he said.

IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim gave a dissertation on the halachic rulings with regard to the recovery and burial of body parts of soldiers missing in action, including soldiers who were on the enemy side.

Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, who heads Yad HaRav Herzog, and who has made more publishing progress than any of his predecessors, is a professor of medicine. He spoke of Jewish Law with regard to artificial insemination, and whether an embryo can be considered human before the first forty days of the gestation period in the womb. He also said that it is halachicly permissible to remove cells from an aborted embryo and to transplant them into people suffering from certain illnesses such as Parkinson’s and diabetes.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, he presented Herzog with the most recent volume of the Talmudic encyclopedia, which came off the press the previous day.