Grapevine January 21, 2022: Herzog weighs in on Meron tragedy

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 TEDDY KOLLEK in 1955. (photo credit: HANS PINN/GPO)
TEDDY KOLLEK in 1955.
(photo credit: HANS PINN/GPO)

On his first day back at work following the week of mourning for his mother, Aura, President Isaac Herzog met this week with representatives of the families of the 45 youths and adults killed in the Lag Ba’omer stampede on Mount Meron last April.

The group was accompanied by MK Efrat Rayten, who has been consoling and counseling the families and who intends to propose a bill that will make it law to compensate all victims of national disasters and calamities, as well as families who tragically lose loved ones as a result of those calamities.

Among the representatives who met with Herzog at his official residence were Shai Tzarfati, who lost his father Rabbi Moshe Tzarfati, Boaz Strakovsky who lost his son Elhanan, Yeshayahu Fogel who lost his son Yedida, Sigal Chevroni who lost her son Rabbi Yonoson Chevroni and Merav Tzadik who lost her husband Ariel. They shared the pain of loss that time has not healed, and spoke of the many challenges they face since their bereavements.

Herzog promised to help in any way possible, while Rayten said that she would continue to devote her energies to helping the families who lost their nearest and dearest and would keep trying to push through her compensation bill.

■ THOUGH MORE meaningful to Americans than to Israelis, Martin Luther King Day, which this year coincided with Tu Bishvat and the birthday of the Knesset, was marked by Israeli peace activists, led by the Israeli Peace Forum, founded in 2005 as an umbrella organization by the late Ron Pundak who was the architect of the Oslo Accords. IPF is currently headed by Eli Safran.

The day’s events, which were held on Zoom, consisted of three panel discussions: Voices from the Knesset; Education for Peace – the Dream and the Reality; and Honoring Life and Human Rights. Also included were video clips featuring political leaders, peace activists, academics, poets and rabbis.

 A PERSON passes by a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, DC, last January. (credit: REUTERS/BRANDON BELL) A PERSON passes by a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, DC, last January. (credit: REUTERS/BRANDON BELL)

Among the participants were Minister of Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej; Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan; Labor MK Emilie Moatti; Jerusalem City Councilwoman Dr. Laura Wharton; former Labor MK Zouheir Bahloul, Meretz MK Gaby Lasky; attorney Itay Mack; Hebrew Union College Prof. of Talmud Ruchama Raz; Tel Aviv University Prof. Emeritus of Eastern Studies Yaacov Raz; Rabbi Oded Mazor; Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights Avi Dabush; Rabbi Leah Shakdiel; founder of ALLMEP USA Avi Meyerstein; former ambassador Alon Liel, Social Workers for Peace and Social Welfare Baruch Shalev and many more. Remarks in support of the dream and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. were delivered by Dr. Ziad Darwish of the PLO Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society.

■ BEITAR JERUSALEM soccer fans were ecstatic when they learned that club owner Moshe Hogeg, who has been trying for several months to find a buyer, had reached the stage of the signing of a memorandum of understanding with French multimillionaire Stephane Melloul who spends much of his time in Dubai where he has extensive business interests. Some of the more savvy fans were more cautious in their reactions saying that they hoped that this agreement would have more substance to it than that made with Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, in December 2020, but canceled soon after because it was discovered that his business practices were somewhat dicey. There was also the problem that Beitar fans are notoriously racist and after years of fighting any inclusion of Arabs or Muslims to the team, were not about to accept an Arab part-owner.

One would have thought that the lesson of due diligence had been learned – but no. After all the euphoria surrounding the projected sale to Melloul, it was discovered that he too, was financially and legally problematic.

Beitar has a mountain of debts which any prospective buyer is expected to take upon himself. Melloul had said that he would – but apparently that was all hot air.

Hogeg is now said to be negotiating with potential British and American buyers – but there’s an old Yiddish saying men laygt zech nisht mit a gezuntn koop in a krankn bet (one with a healthy head doesn’t lie down in a sick bed), so the big question is why would anyone in his right mind want to buy Beitar – and if no one does sign on the dotted line in the final analysis, will Beitar become history?

Since the eve of the millennium, Beitar has had several owners.

In October, 1999 Beitar was sold to Yaakov Ben Gur, who after a fight with Eli Ohana, left soon afterwards, The new owner was Gad Zeevi, who after getting into a spot of legal trouble, declared Beitar bankrupt, and it was left to the court to approve any potential new buyers, The court gave the nod to Meir Penijel and brothers Meir and Shaul Levi. After four years, Penijel foiund himself in financial straits and decided he’d had enough. The next owner, Arcadi Gaydamak, got into legal trouble and in June 2012 announced that he wanted to quit. It took a while to find a buyer but in June 2013, the team was purchased by Eli Tabib, who had a lot of problems with players and fans and sold out to owner Hogeg in August 2018. Hogeg’s romance with the team lasted for around two-and-a-half years. Anyone who looks at the ownership record and the millions of dollars that have been sunk into the team over the past two decades will surely think twice.

■ TO CELEBRATE France’s assumption on January 1 of the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, French ambassador Eric Danon, accompanied by head of the EU Delegation in Israel Dimiter Tzantchev, hosted an online reception this week with the participation of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the ambassadors of European countries.

France in May 1949 was one of 10 founding countries of the Council of Europe which now has 47 member states representing more than 800 million Europeans. The Council was established with considerable input by then-French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman. Eminent French jurist and Nobel Prize laureate René Cassin played a significant role in writing the European Convention on Human Rights and coauthored the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. He was the first president of the European Court of Human Rights. Cassin was born into a Sephardi Jewish family, as was Danon who had warm words for Slovenia, which held the rotating presidency during the last six months of 2021. Danon also had high praise for the strong cooperation that the incoming holders of the presidency – the Czech Republic and Sweden – have with France, and voiced appreciation for Europe’s stand on antisemitism.

Outlining his country’s three major goals during its presidency, Danon listed greater control over their borders by member states with the aim of ensuring environmental, regional and national stability; confronting the challenges of economic growth in the face of changes brought about in a digital era; and influencing a more humane Europe, which pays more attention to its citizens, takes pride in its values and is adamant about creating a better future for the next generation. Danon also spoke of a partnership between Israel and Europe in battling COVID-19, fighting terrorism, sharing scientific knowledge and defending democracy. The presidency will not be entirely smooth running, because France goes to elections during the presidential term, with the first round scheduled for April 19 and the second for April 24.

■ LEGENDARY JERUSALEM Mayor Teddy Kollek will be memorialized yet again through a Jewish Rescuers’ Citation to be presented in his memory by the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust. BBWC has for several years now, honored Jews who saved Jews. The citation will be presented this coming Sunday, January 23 at 6.30 p.m. at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in recognition of Kollek’s heroic efforts to rescue fellow Jews in Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria.

In the spring of 1939, Kollek left England for German-occupied Czechoslovakia to undertake a complex and dangerous mission to allow Jews to transfer assets to Great Britain. From Czechoslovakia, Kollek, carrying a great many certificates for Austrian Jews, continued to Vienna for a meeting with Adolf Eichmann, who at the time was head of Jewish Affairs at the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst – SD). The meeting took place in April 1939 at SD headquarter in Villa Rothschild, which had been nationalized by the Nazis. Taking considerable personal risk at so dangerous a time, Kollek succeeded in convincing Eichmann to apply to Austrian Jews the same regulations that allowed Jews to still leave Germany with entry permits from foreign countries. In doing so, he saved many lives.

The citation will be presented in conjunction with the premiere screening of the film Recognition, directed by Shoshi Ben Hamo and produced and initiated by Avraham Huli. The film tells the exceptional story of rescue of Jews by fellow Jews who endangered their lives to do so during the Holocaust. The rescuers operated in cities, villages, ghettos, and camps and employed resourcefulness, tenacity and courage, risking their lives to save others. Some paid with their lives and those of their families. The film was shot in Israel, France, Poland, Greece, Holland and Hungary, beginning in 2016.

Speakers at the event will be Osnat Kollek, the daughter of Teddy and Tamar Kollek; Arie Barnea, chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust; BBWC Director Alan Schneider; Huli and the film’s historical adviser Prof. Gideon Greif.

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