Grapevine February 22, 2022: Murmers from Malmo

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM RIGHT: Assaf Amdursky, Keren Ann and Matan Lerner, general manager of the Dan Caesarea Resort Hotel.  (photo credit: EVYATAR NISSAN)
FROM RIGHT: Assaf Amdursky, Keren Ann and Matan Lerner, general manager of the Dan Caesarea Resort Hotel.
(photo credit: EVYATAR NISSAN)

In October 2021, Sweden’s then-prime minister Stefan Löfven hosted The Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism – Remember-ReAct, to which he invited heads of state and government, as well as representatives of international organizations and social media platforms.

The program focused on four main themes: Holocaust remembrance; Holocaust education; antisemitism on social media platforms; and combating antisemitism and other forms of racism in all spheres of life.

For some strange reason, in a country like Sweden, where equality and human rights are blended with mothers’ milk, Malmo is a troublesome hotbed of antisemitism. Israelis are not sufficiently aware of Sweden, because countries that capture media headlines are Iran, the US, UK, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, China, Poland, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

To give Israelis a better understanding of the challenges involved in combating antisemitism and all forms of racism in Malmo, Swedish Ambassador Erik Ullenhag is on Wednesday, February 23, hosting a hybrid seminar of Malmo Jews and non-Jews to explain the current situation in Malmo, as it pertains to antisemitism.

Ullenhag will introduce the subject and then moderate a panel discussion with First Deputy Mayor of Malmo Roko Kursar; Mirjam Katzin, coordinator for combating antisemitism; Fredrik Sieradzki, head of the Jewish Information Center of the Malmo Jewish community; Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen, Malmo Jewish community rabbi and project director of Amanah; and Siavosh Derakhti, founder and chairman of Young People Against Antisemitism and Xenophobia.

 MICHAL HERZOG (center), with Google’s Shirley Dloomy (left) and Ruth Porat. (credit: TOMER FOLTYN) MICHAL HERZOG (center), with Google’s Shirley Dloomy (left) and Ruth Porat. (credit: TOMER FOLTYN)

■ A CONFERENCE in tandem with the launching of the Ariel Sharon Chair for National Leadership and Military Thought at Reichman University was held on Sunday, February 13. The event also marked the 20th anniversary of Operation Defensive Shield.

Prof. Uriel Reichman, founding president and chairman of the board of directors of Reichman University, pondered what Ariel (“Arik”) Sharon would say about what has evolved in present-day Israeli society.

“Arik knew how to give respect to government institutions, even in the midst of a dispute,” said Reichman. “Even when he was expressing criticism, he made sure to be cautious and avoid provocations. He knew how to deal prudently with the Israeli-Arab minority; he would act in a smart and decisive way. He would have responded strongly to the riots in the mixed cities, especially when these occurred as an expression of support for Hamas. He would not have put up with the agricultural violence in the North, and would not have allowed the buildup of weapons in Arab cities. He would not have accepted any of this, and I think he would have also reacted decisively to Jewish violence. And finally, he would have welcomed the existing government, which connects between the Left and Right.”

 US AMBASSADOR Tom Nides with Naomi Adler, the new CEO of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.  (credit: LIOR MIZRACHI) US AMBASSADOR Tom Nides with Naomi Adler, the new CEO of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. (credit: LIOR MIZRACHI)

On Friday of last week, some 200 Jews of all stripes, including haredim and people on the Left of the political aisle, gathered at the Sycamore farm in the northern Negev near Sderot, where Sharon and his wife, Lily, are buried, their graves surrounded by the colorful anemones that Lily Sharon loved so much. It was the eighth anniversary of Sharon’s death, and he had been in a coma for some years before that, yet his influence lingers sufficiently to attract a large crowd so many years after he disappeared from public life.

Among those who made the trip south to pay tribute to his memory were Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, MK Yoav Gallant, and former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen. For the first time ever, Sharon’s loyal strategist Reuven Adler was absent. Adler died last month. Sharon’s sons, Omri and Gilad, were present with their families.

Omri, a former MK, said that in complex times, such as the ones in which we live, it’s important to ask questions and cast doubts, but at the same time to take stock of other people’s opinions. “It is important to listen to views that differ from our own, and to know how to live with them so that we can be united as one nation and progress and work together for the benefit of the state, even though we don’t agree on everything,” he said.

“Ariel Sharon was one of those precious few leaders and commanders whose mark is still visible and remembered years after their passing,” said President Isaac Herzog. “Just as nobody could ignore him during his lifetime, so, too after his passing, nobody can ignore his endeavors and contributions, which can be seen in every clod of the soil of our land and in every fiber of our country. The core element of Sharon’s personality, which made him a commander and leader who would be remembered for generations, was undoubtedly the fact that he was a fighter.”

■ AMBASSADORS TO Israel generally enjoy tremendous hospitality. They are frequently invited for meals not only to Jewish homes, but also to Muslim, Christian and Druze homes.

It would be a fairly safe bet to say that ambassadors of the United States receive more such invitations than the majority of their colleagues from other countries. After being hosted last Friday night by Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas, US Ambassador Tom Nides tweeted: “Great night with Mansour Abbas and his family who graciously opened their home to me for dinner. Love this guy!!” The tweet was accompanied by a smiling Nides surrounded by Abbas, his wife and children.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG (left) with Gilad (right) and Omri Sharon. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG (left) with Gilad (right) and Omri Sharon. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Replies to the tweet were many and varied – and came from both Muslims and Jews. Most were very positive. Others were negative, cynical and sarcastic. A few were even insulting. One negative Jewish reply was: “Thanks for confirming who is the PM in Israel.”

On Sunday night, Nides was the guest of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which was meeting in Jerusalem for the 47th time, led by Conference of Presidents chairwoman Dianne Lob, CEO William Daroff, and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.

In the course of a conversation with Daroff, Nides reiterated several times that he believes in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that he is interested in seeing Israel as a strong Jewish and democratic state.

He also had high praise for Israel’s government, saying “this coalition is a beautiful thing.” They don’t agree on everything, he acknowledged, but characterized the coalition as “a beautiful mosaic,” of which Israel and the Jewish people should be proud. “I’m an enormous fan of this government,” he said.

The fifth of five Jews who have served as US ambassadors to Israel, and third of three Jews who served consecutively, Nides said that he is in frequent contact with his predecessor David Friedman. Although they have different political views and are affiliated with different streams of Judaism, they respect and like each other. Nides called Friedman a patriot who cares about America and cares about Israel. As for himself, he said: “I’m a liberal Democrat, a Reform Jew, but I came [to Israel] as a cultural Jew. It’s in my soul.”

■ NIDES FOLLOWED Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the conference agenda. Though oozing sincerity, and familiar with the American Jewish community through his previous role as Diaspora affairs minister and from having lived in the US for several years, Bennett could not command the enthusiasm that in previous years greeted Benjamin Netanyahu when he was prime minister. Much of his conversation with Daroff centered on Iran. Bennett, who was a very successful hi-tech businessman before entering politics, declared: “If I were an investor, Iran is the last place I would invest in. Nobody in his right mind should invest in a country whose No. 1 export is terrorism.”

■ NOT EVERYONE attending the Conference of Presidents is in fact a president. Naomi Adler, the new CEO of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, was there in place of Hadassah president Rhoda Smolow, who was unable to come at this time, but will be in Jerusalem next week for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors conference.

Adler, who is proud of the fact that Hadassah is the second largest employer in Jerusalem after the government, was thrilled to meet members of the Israeli leadership as well as Nides, and managed to get herself photographed with him and with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, whom she introduced before he addressed the conference, and Michaeli.

■ AHEAD OF International Women’s Day, Michal Herzog, the wife of President Herzog, hosted a female empowerment workshop for 20 Jewish and Arab female students at the President’s Residence on Sunday.

The #IAmRemarkable workshop encourages self-promotion and the self-confidence that enables women to speak openly about their achievements. Herzog was joined by Shirley Dloomy, senior counsel at Google, who runs the workshop, and Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer and most senior female executive at Google, who is on a visit to Israel.

As an exercise in self-empowerment, participants in the workshop were invited to explain what makes them “remarkable.” Herzog, who was invited to join in, said: “I am remarkable because I don’t take myself too seriously. A sense of humor is very important in life in general, in relationships, and also in professional life – not to take yourself too seriously. So when you do make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. And everyone makes mistakes.”

Porat, who was also asked to state what makes her remarkable, said: “I am remarkable because I try to bring heart and mind to everything I do. I think it enables you to connect with people while still being analytical and rigorous.”

#IAmRemarkable is a Google initiative to empower women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond. The workshop is designed to help women and girls develop skills of self-promotion to help them advance in their personal and professional lives.

■ ON TUESDAY, March 8, Michal Herzog will participate in a Women of the State event cohosted by Yediot Aharonot, Ynet and LaIsha. The event, which will be moderated by sports journalist and anchorwoman Miri Nevo, will feature Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata; Teachers’ Union secretary-general Yaffa Ben David, chairwoman of the Israel Securities Authority Anat Guetta, former education minister Limor Livnat; Arab-Israeli journalist and anchorwoman Lucy Aharish; executive CEO of the Steinhardt Family Foundation and Deputy Chairwoman of the World Zionist Organization Tova Dorfman; Na’amat chairwoman Hagit Pe’er; social entrepreneur and lecturer Bar Star; and Liana Hazan, who in 2020 survived a murder attempt by her husband, Aran. All these women and many others are a collective example of talent, intelligence, ability, resilience, courage, empathy and the desire to make a difference.

■ CURIOUSLY, THE abovementioned group does not include women in local authorities. Although it cannot be denied that women have cracked the glass ceiling in mayoral elections, they are still very few and far between, and those who are elected seldom serve more than two terms, if that. Notable exceptions are Miriam Feirberg, the first woman mayor of Netanya, who has been in office for almost 24 years and is currently serving her fifth term; and former mayor of Herzliya Yael German, who was in office for 15 years before switching from local to national politics.

■ AMONG WOMEN wishing to make to make a permanent difference, at least when it comes to street naming, is the Israel Women’s Network, which has launched a campaign to have more streets named after women. IWN contends that for every street in Israel that is named for a woman, there are at least 10 streets named for men. As streets are now being named for live people, perhaps IWN should consider that the honoree of its initial street naming endeavor should be Alice Shalvi, the articulate, 95-year-old professor of English, who was the founding chairwoman of IWN, a position she held from 1984 to 2000, but remained heavily involved in women’s rights and social justice.

■ PEOPLE WHO worked with former president Reuven Rivlin in his capacities as minister, speaker of the Knesset and president know that he has a short fuse and that the avuncular persona that he so frequently displayed in public does not quite jive in his relations with staff and service personnel. Everyone has more than one side to their character, and individuals in public office are certainly no exception. It must be particularly tough for those who have been used to people knocking themselves out to please and impress them, to find that this tends to fade away once they are no longer in office.

Rivlin and his significant other, Sarit Tzemach, were scheduled to fly home from Dubai last Thursday. Because of the crisis that El Al is experiencing with the United Arab Emirates' objections to armed security personnel on El Al flights, El Al decided to cancel three of its daily flights and to unite the passengers from those flights in a much larger plane. Rivlin was allocated two seats in business class, but when he discovered that he and Tzemach were not sitting together, he lost his cool and, according to some media reports, was verbally abusive to cabin crew, and went off in a huff to the back of the plane to sit in one of the seats generally reserved for in-flight attendants. This caused somewhat of a headache for his security detail.

■ AFTER A cautionary COVID delay and a rescheduling, Peres Center chairman Chemi Peres is all set to welcome guests Wednesday evening, February 23, for a David D’Or double act. Not everyone is aware that in addition to having a remarkable vocal range, D’Or is also a visual artist whose paintings will be on display – and of course, he seldom makes an appearance without singing.

■ DURING THE peak of the corona crisis, when social gatherings were extremely limited in size and were mostly held outdoors, many entertainers who had been used to mega audiences found themselves in a new environment. In the beginning, they performed via Zoom or some other social media platform, but then people living in large private homes with ample garden space, or in luxury penthouse apartments with access to a rooftop setting, began to invite them to perform live before an intimate audience of not more than 50 people. The distance between the entertainer and the audience was nothing like that of standing on a stage in a concert hall or an amphitheater. There was a closeness that enabled conversation between members of the audience and the entertainer, and many entertainers, in interviews that they gave, said that it was a gratifying experience.

Then hotel chains began cashing in on intimate performances and, as an incentive for weekend domestic tourism, brought in both a celebrity chef and a celebrity singer, and also offered organized tours in the cities or towns in which such hotels were located, running the gamut from the Golan Heights to Eilat.

The Elma Arts Complex and Luxury Hotel in Zichron Ya’acov has, from its very beginning, combined all the features of a luxury hotel with a rich and varied artistic program that includes classical concerts, live performances by popular singers, lectures, art exhibitions and theater plays. Weekend guests have always had the chance to bump into a well-known musician, singer, actor or author in the dining room or at the bar.

Entertainment in hotels is not new in Israel, but more often than not, such entertainment was a part of a festival organized by external sources, or it was a means of giving young singers and musicians an opportunity to perform at minimum financial outlay to the hotel.

Now, it’s the other way around. Most of the entertainers are veterans ranging in age from their fifties to their seventies, though some, like Keren Ann, Idan Raichel, Shiri Maimon and Aviv Geffen are in their forties. Among the more veteran entertainers who have been engaged to sing in hotels are Danny Sanderson, Shalom Hanoch, Yardena Arazi, Boaz Sharabi, Chava Alberstein, Ehud Banai, Assaf Amdursky, Rikki Gal, Arkadi Duchin and Shuli Natan.

The Dan and Fattal hotel chains are among the leaders in the field for in-house entertainment, but hotels all over the country have discovered that guests want more than a pianist playing background music in the lounge.

■ MANY AMERICAN Jews are delighted that Israel has canceled most of the COVID-19 restrictions for foreign visitors. Among them is James Snyder, the former long-term director of the Israel Museum, who is now director of New York-based Jerusalem Foundation Inc., which is the fundraising arm of the Jerusalem Foundation. Snyder comes to Israel several times a year to familiarize himself with projects supported by the Jerusalem Foundation and has just completed a two-week visit.

He plans to be back in May, by which time Prof. Denis Weil, former dean and professor of design at the Institute of Design at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology, will have been fully installed as the new director of the Israel Museum. Weil, whom Snyder knows well, is due to take up his new role on March 1.

Weil is the Israel Museum’s third director since Snyder stepped down after 19 years at the helm, during which time the museum was renovated, and benefited from many new acquisitions and close connections with major museums around the world.

The first person to succeed Snyder was Eran Neuman, who quit less than three months after his appointment to return to the Azrieli School of Architecture at Tel Aviv University. Neuman was succeeded by Prof. Ido Bruno, a faculty member of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

For two years after returning to New York, Snyder held a newly created role of international president of the Israel Museum’s worldwide activities, but after accepting his position with the Jerusalem Foundation, he works for the Israel Museum and museums in other countries on a pro bono basis.

Snyder in 1997 succeeded Martin Weyl, the Dutch child Holocaust survivor whose first foray into art was in Theresienstadt, where at the age of four he drew a visiting Red Cross jeep. Weyl, who had worked as a curator at the museum before his appointment as director, had a close relationship with the museum’s founder, legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.

Snyder, an eloquent and knowledgeable speaker, with extensive managerial experience, also proved to be a first-class fundraiser who brought new supporters into the museum.

Asked what he found more rewarding – his museum work or working for the Jerusalem Foundation, Snyder said that after 44 years as a salaried museum employee, his soul is in art, which is why he continues his pro bono activity, but he was excited, he said, to come upon the young Jerusalem visionaries working in cultural and community projects, particularly people like Matan Israeli, the artistic director of Muslala which operates out of the Clal building, which used to be Jerusalem’s ugliest white elephant, but which has been transformed into a hub for NGOs. Israeli, together with other artists, has created a platform for urban sustainability on the roof of the Clal building.

Snyder is also excited by the fact that the Jerusalem Foundation Community and Culture Innovation Fund, which was launched in the US in 2020, and which in 2021 awarded a total $1.25 million in grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 to 45 community initiatives in Jerusalem, has been doubled this year, with indications that it will continue to grow. Haredi and Arab initiatives are also among the grant recipients.

■ ALTHOUGH THE Border Police has many heroic deeds to its credit, there are also deeds that are anything but praiseworthy, such as physically preventing journalists from doing their job. Two recent examples are cited by the Foreign Press Association in Israel.

On the afternoon of Friday, February 18, Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Jaafar Ashtiyeh was hit by a hard rubber bullet fired by Israeli Border Police in Beita, in the West Bank.

Jaafar was covering a demonstration of 400-500 Palestinian participants against the Evyatar outpost. Jaafar was clearly distant from the protesters and around 50 meters away from the Border Police officers when he was shot. He was wearing a flak jacket with “Press” identification on it and a helmet. When he had the feeling he might be shot at, he protected his face with his right forearm and kept his camera on his left hand.

The last photograph taken by Jaafar suggests that he was deliberately targeted by the Border Police. Jaafar was doing nothing to interfere with the work of police when he was shot. He suffered severe bruising on the right forearm, and his condition could have been much worse if he had not taken the reflex action to protect his face.

This incident was the latest in a string of unprovoked attacks in recent years by Border Police officers on journalists working for international media and after recent serious incidents involving Associated Press photographer Mahmoud Illean and AFP’s Ahmed Gharabli.

Following these incidents, the association had a positive dialogue with the Prime Minister’s Office about the protection of the press but has so far not been informed of any investigation or action taken by the Border Police to curb this violence against the press.

In condemning this violence, the association urges Israeli authorities to take a hard look at the training and lack of professionalism that enables some members of the Border Police to go negatively beyond the line of duty.

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