Grapevine April 17, 2022: And you shall tell it to your children

The revenge of every Holocaust survivor, who was once a target for extermination, is to produce a family and live to see not only children but grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 SHANI BEN DAVID receives her captain’s insignia from ZIM President and CEO Eli Glickman and her mother, Mali Elimelech. (photo credit: ITAI RAPAPORT)
SHANI BEN DAVID receives her captain’s insignia from ZIM President and CEO Eli Glickman and her mother, Mali Elimelech.
(photo credit: ITAI RAPAPORT)

One of the most constant figures at the March of the Living since its inception in 1988, has been former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who was a child Holocaust survivor and who for some years now, has been chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. 

Lau, who will turn 85 in June, will be among those participating in the post-pandemic March of the Living on Thursday, April 28. His father was murdered in Treblinka and his mother in Ravensbruk. Together with his older brother Naphtali, Lau was sent to a slave labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, and later to Buchenwald from where he was liberated by American forces. 

Lau’s has been one of the most frequent voices heard in telling the grim tale of the Holocaust. Just as Jews are commanded on Passover to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt to their children to be passed on from generation to generation, so the story of the Holocaust and the rising of the Jewish people from the ashes of destruction to the rebuilding of the Jewish homeland and the establishment of the modern State of Israel – which now has the largest Jewish population in the world – must be told again and again. 

The revenge of every Holocaust survivor, who was once a target for extermination, is to produce a family and live to see not only children, but grandchildren and great grandchildren. In Lau’s case, he fathered eight children, one of who is currently Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. Moreover, the elder Lau has somewhere in the range of a hundred grandchildren and great grandchildren who are part of a rabbinic dynasty that goes back for more than ten generations.

■ FOOD IS one of the subjects preoccupying not only Jews at Passover, but many nations of the world, whose scientists are researching food sustainability. Food security has become a subject of global concern, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has put a severe blight on food imports and exports including raw materials.

 MEN AND WOMEN participate in a Passover Seder. Men and women came to study with Nechama Leibowitz and waited to hear her words. (credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90) MEN AND WOMEN participate in a Passover Seder. Men and women came to study with Nechama Leibowitz and waited to hear her words. (credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

In Israel, there is now the added obligation to ensure that Ukrainian refugees and immigrants are provided with food on a daily basis, and that it be good, nutritional fare. Both the government and many NGOs are involved in this project.

At Ness Harim, in the Judean foothills, Israel Magen Fund co-founder David Rose delivered an entire Passover food supply to Zhytomyr Chief Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm for 200 women, children and staff from the local orphanage. 

“Like your forefathers, you left home with just a few belongings to start a new life in Eretz Yisrael. Our donors, including Vaad Hatzala of Agudath Israel of America, immediately answered the call to help these wonderful children truly savor the taste of freedom in this, their first Pesach in Israel,” Rose said.

The food trucks delivered tons of matza, meat, chicken, fish, wine, fruit and vegetables, and the donations also covered the cost of kashering the kitchens. The chief rabbi thanked the Israel Magen Fund donors for their generosity, which will enable the orphans to enjoy a happy and kosher Passover.

Wilhelm also thanked the fund for arranging a BBQ event for the children last week, overlooking the Western Wall from the Netiv Aryeh Yeshiva rooftop. In addition to enjoying the event per se, the youngsters were presented with backpacks, toys, clothes and gift cards donated by Agudath Yisrael of America.

Israel Magen Fund, which has sent medical and humanitarian aid to help Ukrainian Jews fleeing the war from Lviv, Kyiv and Warsaw, also supports Israel’s medical and security sectors through transparent, direct giving.

■ THE INVITATION to the Iftar dinner hosted by President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal was for 7 p.m., but at 6.30, the patio leading to the main hall in the President’s Residence was already crowded with people. They had come even though there was no pre-dinner reception, because during Ramadan, Moslems fast in the daylight hours. 

The breaking of the fast is on a date, which is sweet and juicy. By 7 p.m., everyone was seated, and there was a date on every plate, though no one could eat until the announcement to do so was made by Sheikh Jamal Obara, who could not do so until the Herzogs joined their guests at around 7:15. The meal as a whole was outstandingly good, with stuffed chicken and beef prepared in a date sauce that gave the meat a special flavor. 

But more than that, Herzog, during his nine months in office, has repeatedly called for people to be polite to each other and to engage in civilized behavior. That also includes listening to the other person’s point of view and acknowledging the good in others.

On the latter score, the president publicly thanked the members of his staff who had been responsible for arranging the various details of the dinner. He did not do so collectively, but mentioned them by name. To most of his guests, those names may not have meant anything, but to the people concerned, it meant a lot. It’s always a balm to the ego to be appreciated.

■ AMONG THE white elephants of Jerusalem is the Bell Center in King George Street, near the Jaffa Road intersection. For many years the site of the center lay barren because there were too many owners who could not agree among themselves what to do with it. Eventually, it was purchased by the famous Reichman family who built the Bell Center which became operational thirty years ago. They also built the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria. 

The basement floor of the Bell Center held shops and a restaurant. The ground and first floors were also used for commercial purposes, and the upper floors for dental and medical clinics as well as offices. In the beginning, because it was new, the various enterprises did quite well, but over time, fewer people frequented the shops, and only the clinics continued to function as usual. But it was off-putting for anyone who entered to see how many shops had closed and had not attracted new tenants. 

Some years ago, the center was purchased by the late Moshe Indig, who invested a lot of time, money and effort in it – but to no avail. The Indig family recently sold the Bell Center to the Karta Company which is owned by Amichai Neiman, and which comprises a group of private real estate investors and entrepreneurs. Karta intends to invest millions of shekels in totally revamping and upgrading the building. 

Due to the construction of new hotels in the immediate vicinity, Karta is confident that once the center has been modernized and becomes home to new shops, it will attract a lot of business from locals and tourists alike. This is one of several properties in the heart of the capital that are owned by Karta in addition to various projects throughout its suburbia.

■ PUPILS OF the Rambam School in Paris, while on a trip to Israel, paid tribute to their late and much loved principal Nissim Azogui, who was a fatal victim of coronavirus during its first wave, and is buried in Jerusalem. The students, who regretted that they had not been able to say their last goodbyes to him because the funeral had been limited to a small number of people, made a point of visiting his grave. Following the funeral in Paris, Azogui’s family arranged for him to be buried in Jerusalem. 

Two months before the pandemic, Azogui had taken a group of students on an emotional journey to the Nazi death camps in Poland, and while in Warsaw visited the bunker of Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. There, together with his students, Azogui sang the “Song of the Partisans” which has been adopted as an anthem at Holocaust remembrance events. They sang the song in Yiddish and then “We are Here” in Hebrew, as testimony to the fact that no matter how many attempts there have been throughout history to exterminate the Jewish People, we are still here.

The students also visited Adulam Park where Azogui’s name is inscribed in perpetuity – and, in a special memorial ceremony, again sang the “Song of the Partisans,” recited psalms and shared memories of their beloved principal. “It was his dream to bring us to Israel,” said Ilan Lisha, one of student participants. “We planned to continue to Israel soon after Poland, but our plans were delayed by the coronavirus – and then he died, and was unable to come with us.” Eitan Sabag, another student added: “But he taught us to love Israel, and so we are here.”

The students arrived within the framework of a program called Eighth Graders in Blue and White. In addition to various holy sites, they also visited universities and colleges, because the program is designed to encourage them to come to Israel for higher education after they graduate from high school.

■ IN MARCH of last year, Pope Francis sent warm greetings to then president Reuven Rivlin during a flight over Israel while traveling to Iraq. Rivlin subsequently sent Easter greetings to the pope. The two had met in November 2018 when Rivlin visited the Vatican. In May 2014, the pope visited Israel and met with president Shimon Peres shortly before the conclusion of the latter’s term of office. Now, if he follows through with his stated intention to come to Jerusalem to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, he will in all probability meet with President Herzog while in the Holy Land, which will make him the only pope to have met with three consecutive presidents of Israel.

■ WOMEN ARE increasingly penetrating what used to be a man’s world. Even though women have served and are still serving in the Merchant Marine, none had reached the rank of ship’s captain – until last week. The first female captain is 39-year-old Shani Ben-David, who last week, in a traditional ceremony held at ZIM headquarters in Haifa, was officially given her promotion and new appointment by company president & CEO Eli Glickman.

A resident of Shlomi, Ben-David, who joined the publicly held international cargo shipping company as a cadet in 2009, is an alumna of the Israeli Nautical College in Acre. She served in the Israeli navy and is a graduate of the Marine Institute, also in Acre. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Haifa.

After qualifying as a shipmaster in 2021, and serving for a specified period, she received the green light for her promotion to captain from a committee headed by COO David Arbel.

At the beginning of May, she is scheduled to take command of ZIM’s Shekou container ship.

Glickman is proud of the fact ZIM supports gender equality and inclusion, and that Ben-David has set an example for other women to follow.