Grapevine January 9, 2022: Questioning legitimacy

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 MOBILION MANAGING PARTNER Avi Feldman. (photo credit: Courtesy Mobilion)
MOBILION MANAGING PARTNER Avi Feldman.
(photo credit: Courtesy Mobilion)

There has been a lot of criticism both in the traditional media and in social media of public figures, who instead of setting an example to the public, are violating the rules and guidelines of the government. Among the more recent examples is that of Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, who in a video that went viral, was seen dancing unmasked at a crowded New Year’s Eve party.

Aside from his governmental position, Roll is married to popular singer Harel Skaat. The couple have two children born in 2018 and 2021. Apparently it never occurred to Roll while cavorting at the party that he was risking the health of two young infants.

In the classic 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust in which Greer Garson stars as Edna Gladney, who opened an orphanage in her home for children born out of wedlock and who won a battle in Texas to prevent such children from going through life with the word “illegitimate” attached to all their identity documents, in a famous quote from the film, she declares: “There are no illegitimate children – just illegitimate parents.”

Israel has a lot of illegitimate parents, though not necessarily in the sense of conceiving children out of wedlock. They are parents who are wheeling baby carriages, or accompanied by toddlers, crossing the road on a red light while speaking on a cell phone. They are also parents who risk infecting their children by mingling without a mask in crowded venues among people who may not have all been vaccinated, and who may be carriers of the virus.

When social workers come across children who have been subjected to domestic abuse, they often remove such children from their families. The two examples above, can also be characterized as a form of domestic abuse. Such people have no right to be parents, but it will probably be a long time – if at all – before this is recognized by the nation’s legislators.

■ IT MAY not be quite as old as the London Jewish Chronicle, which was founded in 1841, but there was a long period in which the New York-based Forverts, which was founded in 1897, was the most widely read Jewish newspaper in the world. Conceived by a group of socialist immigrants from Eastern Europe, it functioned as a Yiddish publication until 1990, when Seth Lipsky introduced an English-language edition. In 2019 print editions in both languages were discontinued, and the two publications went digital, a factor that bothered some readers, but which on the other hand allowed each more leeway, in particular the ability to update in real time. Yiddish editor Rukhl Schaechter sends out a newsletter to subscribers on Wednesdays and Sundays, in which she includes Yiddish proverbs as the Quote of the Week. The current one is very appropriate for the time in which we live. “Az der mentsch is gezunt hot er a sach dayges. Az ar iz krank hot er ein dayge.”

“When a person is healthy, he has many worries. When he is sick, he has only one.”

■ FOR LOVERS of Yiddish lullabies, an online YIVO Institute course presented in English by Yiddish instructor and folksinger Paula Teitelbaum will reveal the diversity and wealth of Yiddish lullabies, including folk songs and works created by well-known poets. The course, which begins on January 11, will place a special emphasis on the lives of the women who sang the songs. Teitelbaum will help the students learn the proper pronunciation and align the texts with the rhythm of natural Yiddish speech. Full details and information about registration are available on the YIVO website.

■ IN OTHER news from New York, Fern Penn, who was the proprietor of Rosebud, a fashion, accessory giftware and music concept store in Soho that sold only Made in Israel merchandise, had to close when rentals in the Big Apple skyrocketed to the extent that it was no longer profitable for her to run her business. But in closing shop, she did not give up on promoting Israeli fashion, and started a new venture of bringing groups of 10-15 women to Israel on an eight-day tour in which they met leading designers of clothing, jewelry and accessories, visited major tourist sites as well as some off the beaten track, and sampled a considerable variety of Israeli cuisine.

These tours came to a stop with the outbreak of the pandemic. Undaunted, Penn switched from fashion to food, and while it was still possible, took groups of Jews and non-Jews to Crown Heights to learn about Jewish food traditions and to taste the offerings of Jews from different national backgrounds. Crown Heights is well populated by ultra-Orthodox communities, and when it became known that large numbers of people in these communities were not vaccinated, the food tours stopped.

But now that Israel is opening up again to foreign tourism with a renewed open-skies policy, Penn is planning to revitalize her fashion tours and has one planned for the last week in June. In the past, she made all the arrangements herself, but with the frequent changes taking place in Israel, she did not want the headache and frustrations of cancellations in the event that new variants of the virus might interfere with her plans. So she teamed up with Via Sabra, an Israeli company that organizes tours from A to Z.

Although founded by a man, all of Via Sabra’s employees are women with the exception of the accountant. It seems that women have a gift for organizing tours, marketing and public relations, because many of the companies that are in one way or another involved in the tourism, hospitality and production enterprises have staffs that are dominated by women.

■ ON THE local scene, the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel, which is entering its second decade, tries to introduce its members to as broad an experience of the Israeli cultural, artistic, environmental, security, economic and scientific landscape as possible, and toward that end, teams up with various organizations and institutions. ACI founder and President Yitzhak Eldan is a former chief of state protocol, in which capacity he dealt not only with ambassadors but with various organizations and institutions and made many important connections that stand him in great stead in his present role.

Among those connections was the Jewish National Fund, which, among its numerous activities, maintains the Grove of Nations, where visiting heads of state and ambassadors plant a sapling in honor of their respective countries. These saplings eventually grow into sturdy trees and symbolize the close relationship between the countries of the people who planted them, and the State of Israel.

Aside from that, Eldan likes to bring ambassadors and other diplomats to Jerusalem as often as possible. An upcoming tour on February 9 celebrates the conclusion of the 10th anniversary of the ACI as well as the 120th anniversary of the Jewish National Fund.

The tour will start at the KKL-JNF headquarters in Jerusalem where participants will enter the building that was the headquarters of the government in the making before the establishment of the state, and will meet with KKL-JNF Chairman Avraham Duvdevani as well as various senior officials of the organization including its chief scientist, Doron Markel, who will discuss what the JNF is doing in the fight against climate change.

From there, they will go to the Grove of Nations where Andy Michelson, who heads the JNF’s ceremonies department, will explain the significance of the site and will take them on tour to see trees that were planted by the present and past heads of state and government of their various countries. Next stop will be at the Satal site where they will meet Gidi Bashan, the manager of the Jerusalem forest region of the JNF, then on to the Eshtaol nursery for a planting ceremony, before they return to Herzliya Pituah.

■ THE INSTITUTE for National Security Studies (INSS) will present its view on Israel’s future at its 15th Annual International Conference, “Strategic Assessment for Israel: A Time for Critical Decisions,” on February 1 and 2. The conference will include panel discussions and speeches by leading public figures, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi. There will also be a special simulation. Due to public health restrictions in light of the pandemic, the conference will be held only as a virtual event. It will be broadcast live on the INSS website and social media. Registration is free and all those who register will receive conference information and updates directly to their email accounts. Contact details for INSS are [email protected] or [email protected]

■ THERE IS a common misconception that hi-tech and other big business ventures in Nazareth and other predominantly Arab cities and towns are relatively new, and were started only recently by hi-tech companies, which had for a long time been reluctant to employ Arab techies due to fears related to Israel’s security. But the truth is that major Arab companies have been around for a long time.

 ALA AFIFI, head of the Afifi Group. (credit: AFIFI GROUP) ALA AFIFI, head of the Afifi Group. (credit: AFIFI GROUP)

One such company, the Afifi Group from Nazareth, began as a family business in 1927, and eventually became a corporation of more than 20 companies with approximately 2,500 employees worldwide, including Israel. Its main divisions are transportation and logistics; tourism and hospitality; garages, real estate and start-up investments in the fields of mobility and autonomous vehicles. The Afifi Group recently entered into partnership with Mobilion Ventures for the implementation of smart solutions in fleet management, thereby helping Israeli technologists in this sphere. The goal is to help young companies to reach the market faster and to grow quickly. Mobilion Ventures is currently one of the leading venture capital funds in Israel in the field of smart transportation, and invests in start-ups at an early stage. The new partnership aims to offer and implement ground-breaking technologies in the automotive world.

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