Grapevine January 26, 2022: Champion for justice

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 MIRIAM NAOR in January 2015, when receiving her appointment as president of the Supreme Court from then-president of the state Reuven Rivlin.  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
MIRIAM NAOR in January 2015, when receiving her appointment as president of the Supreme Court from then-president of the state Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

It is particularly sad for every family when a loved one dies, but more so in the families of public figures who have dedicated their lives for the benefit of society, and whose absence will be felt not only by their nearest and dearest, but also much further afield.

In the case of former Supreme Court president Miriam Naor, a native daughter of Jerusalem who, unlike some of her predecessors, did not leave the capital after her retirement from office, but kept working in Jerusalem on various legal matters, it was doubly sad because her city was about to confer on her its highest honor.

Every year, on Jerusalem Day, 12 worthy Jerusalemites aged 70 or more receive the title of “Yakir Yerushalayim” – a worthy of Jerusalem or an honored citizen of Jerusalem, or some might translate it as beloved by Jerusalem. Now this honor will be awarded posthumously and given to her husband, Arye, and their two sons.

Courtroom friends and colleagues of Naor spoke of her with great affection and admiration, dwelling on her integrity, her commitment to law and justice and her sense of mission, first as a lawyer and later as a judge rising through the ranks to the highest pinnacle, who never forgot what she learned from her mentor, the celebrated late Supreme Court president Moshe Landau, whom she frequently quoted.

■ ON MONDAY the annual strategic assessment of the Institute for National Security Studies was presented to President Isaac Herzog by INSS Executive Director Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg.

 PROF. MANUEL TRAJTENBERG presents the annual INSS assessment to President Isaac Herzog. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO) PROF. MANUEL TRAJTENBERG presents the annual INSS assessment to President Isaac Herzog. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

It was the first time that Trajtenberg – who last year succeeded Amos Yadlin, who had served in the role for 10 years – was presenting the report, and he was assisted by former chief of Military Intelligence Analysis Brig.-Gen (ret.) Dror Shalom, Deputy INSS Director Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Udi Dekel, former deputy head of IDF Military Intelligence Dr. Meir Elran, former national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and senior researcher Shira Efron.

Also present were Sir Frank Lowy, the 91-year-old chairman of the INSS Board of Directors, and several researchers. As always, the assessment identified Iran as the main cause for concern, but among other issues also dealt with the increasing polarization in Israeli society.

Herzog emphasized that the threat of a nuclear Iran induces the whole region to join forces with Israel’s friends and allies, not just for Israel’s sake but for that of all the residents of the Middle East. “This is a matter of regional interest of the first order,” he said, underscoring that Israel’s national security is firmly linked with its national resilience and ability to overcome the deeply diverse opinions among different sectors of the population without the compromise of beliefs, whether political or otherwise.

The ability to work together as one nation regardless of differences is possibly the most important step in defending Israel’s security and stability, said Herzog.

As in previous assessments, the INSS survey made the point that there is a crucial need for a long-range strategic concept in relation to national priorities, which Israel has been consistently lacking.

An in-depth discussion on this issue will take place at the upcoming INSS conference in Tel Aviv on February 1 and 2.

■ IT’S BEEN a busy week for Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who have each been participating in several Holocaust-related discussions in advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On the actual date, Thursday, January 27, Dayan will participate in Yad Vashem’s Annual Symposium for the Diplomatic Corps.

Joining the foreign diplomats at this event will be Herzog, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Zambian Ambassador and dean of the diplomatic corps Martin Mwanambale. Yad Vashem senior historian Dr. David Silberklang will deliver a lecture on “Holocaust Memory in Challenging Times,” and Michael Tal, the director of Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Department, will present several items in Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Collection which will eventually be housed in the new David and Fela Shapell Family Collections Center currently under construction.

The foreign diplomats will also hear the testimony of renowned author Henry Foner, who was sent on a Kindertransport to England, where he saved all the letters and postcards sent to him by his father and other relatives and friends, many of whom did not survive, but who are commemorated in his book Postcards to a Little Boy – a moving anthology that presents the illustrated postcards and letters sent to the young refugee.

■ APROPOS YAD Vashem, at its weekly meeting last Sunday, the cabinet approved the proposal of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Social Equality Minister Merav Cohen to increase the state’s participation in Yad Vashem’s 2022 budget with an allocation of NIS 29 million which will be shared by the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the Foreign, Defense, Finance, Education, Public Security, Interior, Economy, Social Affairs, Social Equality, Diaspora Affairs, Tourism, Energy, Religious Services, Intelligence, Culture and Sport, and Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage ministries.

“We as the government share the obligation to make certain that Yad Vashem continues to preserve the memory of the Holocaust in this country and the world,” said Bennett.

“Pursuant to this, today we will approve the directing of additional resources to the fight against BDS. Contemporary antisemitism comes in many guises. Today, this energy of Jew-hatred is frequently directed at the state of the Jews. Our obligation as the State of Israel is to expose it, even when it is disguised, and fight it.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lapid, who said: “Remembering the Holocaust is our moral imperative as a nation. From my point of view, it is also a personal imperative as the son of a child from the Budapest Ghetto. Our role as the government is to see to it that Holocaust research and the preservation of memory will continue among us. The government decision to provide a budget to Yad Vashem is part of the last will and testament of the six million and mainly a message to the survivors, to the families and to the entire world: The State of Israel will not forget and will do everything in its power to preserve the memory.”

Cohen added: “Yad Vashem is an organization of national significance for the State of Israel. It does not have to be an organization that pursues funds from donors. We have a responsibility as a nation to utilize it in order to deepen research into – and the remembrance of – the Holocaust. The goal of this first decision on the cabinet table today is to – inter alia – provide for documenting the stories of the survivors’ heroism before they die. We do not have many years left, and we need to take advantage of the time at our disposal for the survivors and for the coming generations.”

■ THROUGHOUT THE second half of January, documentaries and feature films about the Holocaust have been shown on television and in cinemas in Israel and elsewhere in the world, especially in places where there are large Jewish populations.

One of the opening scenes in the documentary film Recognition, which was screened on Sunday at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, is of a classroom full of teenagers who are there to listen to a Holocaust-related lecture. The lecturer asks how many know about non-Jews who rescued Jews, and every hand shot up. Then he asks how many know about Jews who rescued Jews – and no hands were raised.

For a long time, organizations that dealt with Holocaust survivors were interested in hearing only the stories of the victims and of non-Jews who risked their lives to save them, but they were not interested in Jewish rescuers, unless they were dead heroes such as Mordechai Anielewicz, who was more resistance fighters than rescuers.

Today, it is possible, when surfing the Internet, to detect a certain interest in Jewish rescuers, but not nearly enough information. It was this dearth of information and the resultant lack of recognition for Jews who risked their lives to save other Jews that inspired Avraham Huli, after attending a Holocaust memorial event in 2016, to set up a website dedicated to Jewish rescuers. So far, of the responses that he’s had, he’s been able to verify stories that pay tribute to some 40 rescuers.

Once he had more than a handful of names, the next step was to make a film. He contacted Jerusalem-based B’nai B’rith World Center, which, because of its own policy of honoring Jewish rescuers, immediately agreed to help. Film director Shosh Ben Hamo, who specializes in Jewish-themed documentaries, came on board as director and narrator, as did cameraman Dima Zozulua.

Huli, who is of Greek background, was particularly interested in Greek Jewish heroes because so many Greek Jews were deported to Auschwitz, and so many people don’t know that there were Jews in Greece, or that they shared the fate of Jews from across Europe.

Internationally respected Holocaust historian Prof. Gideon Greif, who is an expert on Auschwitz, was brought in as a consultant, but in fact became the star of the film. Ben Hamo does a lot of the narrating in the typical style of radio and television announcers. But Greif offered explanations wherever they went, and it was obvious that he was talking to someone off camera, and therefore his tone was more conversational, and made whatever he said seem more interesting as though he were directly engaged with the audience.

It is important to understand the risks taken by Jewish and non-Jewish rescuers in creating or providing false papers, hiding places, food, clothing, money and transport. It was chilling to hear the son of a Hungarian Jewish rescuer who recalled that after his father came to Israel and addressed a group of people to him he recounted his wartime experiences, someone in the audience said: “What’s the big deal? All you did was forge some papers.”

The rescuer’s son said that his father froze in his chair, and during the 40 years that were left of his life never again spoke of the Holocaust.

■ AFTER THE Second World War, many Holocaust survivors and European Jewish soldiers returned to where they had lived before the war. Some were killed in pogroms after returning home. Others found that no one from their families had survived and that their homes were occupied by strangers. Some lived in hope that there were still surviving relatives who had moved away. Of those who found that nothing was left of their former lives, relatively few remained in the countries of their birth. Some came to Israel. Others migrated to the United States, Canada, South America, Britain, Australia or other faraway countries.

Most never lost hope of finding a blood relative or childhood friend. For those who came to Israel, as well as for those living abroad, the Jewish Agency operated a special section for people from all over the world who were searching for missing relatives and was a willing conduit for many family reunions. There was also a radio program to which people searching for missing relatives submitted their details and listened eagerly for news of someone who might also be looking for them.

Long after this radio service ceased to operate, Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet broadcaster Yaron Enosh revitalized it for a brief period and actually succeeded so many years after the war in reuniting families.

Today, family reunions are effected through social media platforms and genealogical organizations. To step back into the past when searches were not as sophisticated as they are today, but possibly more emotionally moving, the Jerusalem-headquartered Zionist Archives will, on Wednesday, January 26, host a Zoom meeting in which it will focus on the unique activities of the department engaged in searching for missing relatives. Registration is free of charge. https://bit.ly/3IsleQX

■ IN THE court case involving two former prime ministers, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu, the former has stated on more than one occasion that members of the latter’s family suffer from mental health problems, in response to which Olmert is being sued by the Netanyahu family.

It will be interesting to see, as the case progresses, whether Olmert’s lawyers will summon Doron Neuberger to testify. Neuberger was Sara Netanyahu’s first husband. They were married for seven years before they were divorced. When all the anti-Sara gossip began to surface in the media, Neuberger wrote a tell-all book about their relationship, but Sara Netanyahu’s legal representatives went to court and succeeded in preventing its publication and distribution. However, after such a long period, it is doubtful whether her current lawyers could prevent him from testifying if called to do so.

■ FORMER LONGTIME Jewish Agency liaison to the foreign media Michael Jankelowitz is back in harness and has been hired by the spokesman’s unit of the World Zionist Organization to serve as a consultant and spokesman to the international media. Some media personnel never realized that Jankelowitz had long ago left the employ of the agency, because from time to time they received press releases from him and did not really distinguish between the agency, the WZO or the Herzl Center. In point of fact, Jankelowitz never removed his finger from the Zionist pie.

■ WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26 is Australia Day. Unlike other ambassadors who hold events to celebrate their national days, the Australian ambassadors do not host an Australia Day reception unless there is a visiting Australian prime minister or foreign minister in Israel at the time. But Australian diplomats attend Australia Day functions that are organized by Australian expats living in Israel.

One such event has been organized by Australians who regularly frequent Kerem House on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv. The festivities, which begin at 7.30 p.m., will include Australian beer and an Australian-style barbecue.

Australia Day marks the landing at Sydney Cove in 1788 by the First Fleet. Since then Australia has come a long way from being a British convict settlement. People wishing to attend and purchase tickets should contact https://www.keremhouse.com/events-1/australia-day-2022

Kerem House is one of several facilities in Tel Aviv that create a sense of community for young people – both locals and immigrants – aged around 20 to 30, though no one asks for a birth certificate. It is a community-led cultural space in the heart of Tel Aviv, organized by young people who wish to create a vibrant Jewish community, for themselves and for their peers. Since its establishment in June 2019, Kerem House has fed and hosted more than 5,000 Israelis, immigrants and visitors, including at more than 300 Shabbat dinners, holiday meals and a variety of communal events and activities.

Led by three partners and directed by Jason Kipp and a robust steering committee, Kerem House provides the space, support and networks for activities that help young Tel Avivians to feel comfortably at home in the city that never stops.

The Kerem House mission is to lower barriers of entry around event creation, to be a home for communal and Jewish activity in Tel Aviv, to weave networks, to support what is new and creative, and to maximize successes. Its programming and events engage participants through arts, culture, and Jewish experiences.

Many people’s first engagement with Kerem House is through Shabbat dinner, at one of its regular pluralistic traditional Shabbat experiences. These dinners answer a need within the religious community while also engaging those who are not religiously observant. In addition to hosting events at its own premises, Kerem House also hosts events at other Tel Aviv venues.

■ IT’S HARD to tell, in the Likud’s leadership successor race, how much of what is written and broadcast is true, and how much is fake news. Several former Likudniks who are now key figures in other parties deny any contact with the Likud since exiting the party, although there has been considerable publicity about getting them to return in the event that elections will be held for a new leader.

By the same token, candidates for future leadership are trying to downplay media reports about things that they have allegedly said or done in recent weeks.

Veteran Likudnik and former minister Tzachi Hanegbi, whose name has also been tossed into the successor ring, in an interview with Shalom Kittal on Reshet Bet, denied doing anything in the foreseeable future about running for the Likud leadership, and said that Likudniks are loyal to their leaders, which is why the party has lasted so long, whereas other parties have fallen by the wayside. Examples of parties that no longer exist are Mapai, Mapam, National Religious Party, Gahal, Herut, Kadima, Tehiya, Ratz, Hatnua, The Third Way, Yahad, Black Panthers and Kach.

■ THE ROMANCE between actress Alona Saár and Internet celebrity Melech Zilberschlag appears to be getting increasingly serious, if the photos that each is posting on social media can be taken as evidence.

She is the daughter of Gideon Sa’ar from his first marriage. When she came under considerable criticism in social media during the two-year period that she was romantically involved with Arab actor Amir Khoury, her father more or less told people to mind their own business.

Although her father defended her at the time, in all probability he prefers her current beau, given that he posted a family photo on social media in which he is alongside Zilberschlag, and wrote with it “nahat” – the Hebrew word for satisfaction. It seems to be fashionable in the entertainment industry for secular women and religiously observant men to allow love to triumph over their differences. One example is that of recently married Tzofit Grant and singer and actor Shuli Rand.

Zilberschlag is the son of haredi journalist and publicist Dudi Zilberschlag and his wife, Rivka, who raised him as a Vizhnitz hassid.

■ RESIDENTS OF Israel who are in regular social media contact with relatives and friends in other countries occasionally receive videos of Israeli television programs which they themselves have not seen and, in some cases, of which they were never aware.

On the one hand, this is extremely encouraging because it means that Diaspora Jews, especially those who understand Hebrew, are interested in watching Israeli television and seeing Israeli movies. On the other hand, it’s somewhat disquieting to learn that people in the Diaspora have a head start on Israeli entertainment.

Who’s responsible? ChaiFlicks, a relatively new American-headquartered streaming service dedicated to Jewish and Israeli entertainment.

Describing itself as a Jewish Netflix, ChaiFlicks has more than 150 acclaimed movies, TV series, documentaries, short films and theater selections, including multiple award-winning and classic films, and is available on every major streaming device. Founded by Neil Friedman and Heidi Bogin Oshin of Menemsha Films, and Bill Weiner, formerly of New Regency Productions, it is billed as a one-stop shop for Jewish entertainment.

The inspiration for founding ChaiFlicks was in response to the decision by Netlix to create more of its own original content and purchase fewer titles from distributors.

Although Friedman sold two movies to Netflix in the past, the company declined to purchase 1945, a Hungarian drama about the Holocaust which brought in $1m. at the box office .

Realizing that they couldn’t run their company by relying on others to make their acquisitions, the ChaiFlicks trio decided to become the masters of their own business destinies and to pinpoint productions of Jewish interest.

■ WHEN JEWISH sporting adults win a championship at home or abroad, there is a big splash about them in the Israeli media. But when juniors do the same, they are all but ignored unless they beat some internationally known adult chess master.

Well, for the record, Lipaz Ashta, an 11-year-old sixth grader at the Netiv Meir school in Ma’alot-Tarshiha, won a karate competition in Poland last week which gave the title of European champion, and has also won the Israeli championship for her age group.

Lipaz is one of hundreds of children living in 36 peripheral communities who have been guided by Open Futures, a Jewish Agency subsidiary, which was established in 2006, and which works toward giving children in these communities equal educational opportunities and help in developing their skills and talents through its Future Developers Association.

Hila Yosepov, a trustee of the association, has been guiding Lipaz for four years and has been a tower of support in encouraging her self-empowerment in her educational environment. Lipaz says that part of her victories as a karate champion belong to Yosepov, who, like other Future Developers, works with the families of the youngsters and not just the youngsters themselves.

Many of the children who are mentored and assisted by Future Developers can be considered in the category of youth at risk and, without the involvement of the association, would be in danger of going astray instead of growing up as responsible and productive citizens.

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