In July of this year, the four Herzog siblings, Yoel, Michael, Isaac and Ronit, were together in joyful celebration when their father, Isaac Herzog, was inaugurated as the 11th president of the State of Israel. They came together again this week for a more somber reunion and a greater sharing of memories, before, during and after the funeral of their mother Aura Herzog, who died at the beginning of the week. There were many private memories, but publicly they hailed her as one of Israel’s pioneers of environmental awareness.
Aura Herzog cared about the environment not only from an ecological perspective, but also an aesthetic one. In that respect, one of the most appropriate tributes to her was the wreath-laying ceremony toward the conclusion of the service on Mount Herzl. Her grave was totally covered and surrounded by floral tributes. One such tribute was from her grandchildren on behalf the family and at the close of the service the Herzog family each placed stones on the grave, in accordance with Jewish tradition. President Herzog commented that no matter how old someone is when they die, parting from them is painful and difficult. Michael Herzog, who is Israel’s ambassador to the United States, commented that his mother not only founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel, but in her persona she represented the beautiful Israel.
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau said that Aura Herzog was a truly noble woman. Her courage, wisdom, initiatives, lack of pretense and great love for her family were expressed in nearly all the eulogies, especially those by her grandson Noam Herzog and granddaughter Maya Bronsky. Among those attending the funeral were former president Reuven Rivlin, who came to pay his respects when the casket lay in state at the President’s Residence earlier in the day, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Galit, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel, deputy chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaron Shavit, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and many other dignitaries.
Among the numerous condolence messages that President Herzog received from Israel and abroad was one that arrived on White House letterhead from President Joe Biden, who beneath the formal typed text had simply signed his name as Joe and written a P.S. in his handwriting stating, “Your mother was a woman whom I admired greatly. To this day, I feel honored that I met her!”
Among other world leaders who sent condolence messages were Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, King Felipe VI of Spain, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Singaporean President Halimah Yacob, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and many others, some of whom telephoned the president and personally expressed deep understanding of what it means to lose a mother.
■ IF HE were still alive, today – January 14 – would be the 97th birthday of the singer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, whose music still resonates in synagogues from the most ultra-Orthodox to the most liberal-Reform.
Some had initially been inspired by him in 1966, when he sang at the Berkeley Folk Festival. He invited people to join him on Shabbat and soon afterwards there were regular Shabbat meetings at the home of Eliyah and Miriam Sukkot, who lived some 40 km. north of San Francisco. Afterwards, Carlebach opened the House of Love and Prayer. Eliyah Sukkot is among a group of veteran Carlebach fans and friends who will be getting together live on Zoom this Sunday, January 16 to share memories and to sing Carlebach melodies. Some knew him from the days of the House of Love and Prayer and others, such as Eliyah Sukkot, knew him even longer. Among the people who will be appearing on the Facebook get-together with Sukkot are Neila Carlebach, Aryae Coopersmith, Eliezer Garner, Yehudit Goldfarb, Reuven Goldfarb, Dina Solomon, Ben Zion Solomon, Lyn Reichman, Joe Schonwald, Lilian Ritchie, Joshua Ritchie, Nossen Schaffer, Yankele Shemesh, Rachel Trugman, Yisroel Finman and Ilana Friedman. The get-together takes place from 7:30 p.m., 1 Shomron Street, Jerusalem. For more details, visit: www.facebook.com/yeshivatsimchatshlomo/
■ ANYONE WHO delves into the writings of Gol Kalev, knows him to be a Theodor Herzl acolyte. This week, more in jest than anything else, he compared himself to Herzl in that they each had to make adjustments to launch plans due to changing situations. Herzl had initially not thought to bring his ideas to the masses, but rather to the Jewish elite, who rejected them. Moreover, he had not planned to hold the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, but in Munich, Germany. However, he met with such fierce opposition in Munich that he moved to Basel. Otherwise, says Kalev, instead of repeating Herzl’s memorable declaration, “In Basel I founded the Jewish State”, we would be quoting him as saying, “In Munich I founded the Jewish State.”
Not quite on the same scale, Kalev had planned to launch his book Judaism 3.0 last Wednesday night, but after another COVID-19 scare, he decided to turn the event into a pre-launch with fewer people present and to have the official launch at a later date. Nonetheless, despite having been notified of the change and new date, a lot of people showed up at the former Shaare Zedek building where the event was held, and purchased books that were duly signed by the author. Given the turnout, Kalev felt compelled to make a speech about Herzl’s transformative effect on world Jewry. Though not a political movement in Kalev’s perception, Zionism is a nationalist movement, which became augmented as religion dissipated.
As he sees it, the trend today is that Zionism used to be a secular lighthouse for Jews, but is now going the other way and is being increasingly embraced by ultra-Orthodox Jews, who were negatively disposed to Zionism for a long time because they saw it as a means of undermining Jewish values. But life moves in cycles, and the ultra-Orthodox Jews, while still vocally anti-Zionist, are proving their Zionism all the time. One just has to fly from the US to Israel, said Kalev. There are always plenty of ultra-Orthodox Jews on the plane because Israel is central to their lives. This in itself is transformative because for a long time there were some ultra-Orthodox Jews who felt for religious reasons they were not holding on the appropriate level of holiness to live in Israel. That is certainly not the case today and the ultra-Orthodox, who were once a minority in relation to the secular majority, are on their way to becoming the majority in Israel. Kalev points out that in various surveys 80% of Israel’s population have characterized themselves as either ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox or traditional, whereas the founders of the State, who for the most part came from religiously observant backgrounds, rejected religion and had secular lifestyles. Today, people raised in secular families are seeking spiritual meaning in their lives. Kalev argues that Zionism is the transformation of Judaism, embodying all its best values. Whether Jews love Zionism or hate Zionism they cannot escape it because, in one way or another, it is integral to their lives. It reminds assimilated anti-Zionists of their Judaism, says Kalev, citing social media posts critical of Israeli policies, which often begin with the words “As a Jew, I am ashamed.”
■ AS PART of Doctor’s Day, which was celebrated this week in Israel, Assuta Medical Centers were awarded a new specially-minted coin-of-appreciation to its medical staff across the country by the Bank of Israel, against the backdrop of a spike in COVID-19-related events.
On January 11, doctors at all of its medical centers around the country were surprised to be greeted with the gift of the coin, which has an engraving that honors the work of the medical staff.
“Today we stop for a moment and say thank you to the Assuta doctors for placing the patient at the center, for the compassion and tolerance, for the collegiality, values and dedication,” said Assuta CEO Gidi Leshetz. “Thanks to the daily investment of all of you, Assuta is at the forefront of advanced medicine in Israel.”
■ TRANSPORTATION MINISTER Merav Michaeli is gradually meeting heads of diplomatic missions in Israel to discuss how they can work with Israel more closely on transportation and road safety issues. At a meeting on Wednesday with British Ambassador Neil Wigan, Michaeli said that there is much to discuss in Israel and across the region to connect people with green, smart, safe transport. “Improving people’s ability to get from A to B also allows them to get to where they – and we all – want in life.