Grapevine April 27, 2022: A Mimouna synonym

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 GREEK HOLOCAUST survivor Ines Nissim with President Isaac Herzog (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
GREEK HOLOCAUST survivor Ines Nissim with President Isaac Herzog
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

One of the most apt synonyms for Mimouna is kibbutz galuyot (the ingathering of the exiles). That’s certainly what it looked like at the home of Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and her husband, Adam, where so many people kept coming and going that it looked like Grand Central Station in New York. There were Jews and non-Jews, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, religious and secular, native Israelis and new and veteran immigrants from many parts of the world.

It was quite amazing how many demographic strands Hassan-Nahoum had woven together. Wearing a Moroccan caftan in a shade of pale apricot, Hassan-Nahoum managed to attend to each and every one of her guests, who came from so many different strata of society.

There was Lithuanian Ambassador Lina Antanaviciene, former MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, British-born sociologist and anthropologist Shalva Weil, controversial Israeli-born author, journalist, playwright and theater director Tuvia Tenenbom, Australian-born international relations manager of the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens Rachael Risby Raz, who is a mine of information about who’s who in Jerusalem, Canadian-born social activist Linda Epstein, Jerusalem Report editor-in-chief Steve Linde, who was born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa, and just too many others to mention.

Hassan-Nahoum herself was born in London to a Moroccan mother, but raised in Gibraltar, and her husband is of Iraqi-Indian background.

Given that Mimouna symbolizes bringing together in peace, harmony and goodwill as much human diversity as possible, few would argue the fact that the deputy mayor achieved that goal.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Druze spiritual leader Mowafaq Tarif (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Druze spiritual leader Mowafaq Tarif (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

■ IN ADDITION to Passover, Ramadan and Easter, there was also the Druze festival of Ziyarat al-Nabi Shu’ayb, which, roughly translated, means the day of pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prophet Shu’ayb, who is identified by both Muslims and Druze as the biblical Jethro, who was the father-in-law of Moses, to whom he gave so much wise counsel.

It is not merely a Druze festival but a national festival, during which political and religious leaders of the nation make their way to a village near Tiberias to honor the prophet in his final resting place. Just as it is customary to wish Jews Chag Sameach, Muslims Ramadan Kareem, and Christians Happy Easter, it is also customary to wish Druze Ziyara Makboula (May your pilgrimage be accepted). This greeting is so important that it was conveyed by Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli on Monday as one of the first things she said when meeting with the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem.

Among those who visited the Tomb of Jethro on Monday were President Isaac Herzog, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej, Minister in the Finance Ministry Hamad Amar, Deputy Minister for Regulatory Matters in the Prime Minister’s Office Abir Kara, MK Mansour Abbas, Greek Catholic Archeparch Youssef Matta, the ambassadors of Russia, Italy and Kosovo, and, needless to say, Druze community dignitaries.

Herzog said that he had come to salute the Druze community for its great contribution to the state and to the society of Israel. He praised the Druze nobility and spirit of devotion, emphasizing that for many years, the Druze community has been not only a full partner in the defense and building of the land, but also a bridge to Israel’s neighbors in the Arab world.

“This is a happy and exciting moment in the context of the past month, in which Israel has experienced terrorist attacks and painful events that claimed the lives of innocents,” said Druze spiritual leader Mowafaq Tarif. “This is an opportunity to give strength to the security forces, who are working on this around the clock. This is a mission in which members of the Druze community also bear the burden with their heads held high and their backs straight.”

Given the nature of the occasion, it also confirmed the centuries-long bond between the Druze community and the Children of Israel.

■ IN THE evening of that day, Gantz hosted an iftar dinner at which guests included ambassadors and diplomatic staff of neighboring countries with which Israel has peace agreements.

Among those present were US chargé d’affaires Jonathan Shrier, Moroccan Ambassador Abderrahim Bayoud, UAE Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja, UAE deputy chief of mission Khalifa Al Suwaidi, Bahrain deputy head of mission Abdulkarim Alanansari and Counselor at the Embassy of Egypt Walid Talaat Sayed Ahmed Mahdy. Also in attendance were MKs Ruth Wasserman Lande and Ofir Akunis, who lead the Knesset Abraham Accords Caucus.

In his welcome address, Gantz said that the Abraham Accords and the ties that have developed over the past year have benefited the region tremendously, and that the relations between Israel and Egypt and Jordan serve as beacons of stability.

He also spoke of the Iranian threat, which affects all the countries in the region, stating: “We all have an interest to maintain regional peace and stability, particularly in the face of Iranian aggression, which is a global and regional threat first and foremost, and only then it is a threat to the State of Israel. Iran sponsors terror around the world, and the possibility of a nuclear Iran threatens us all.”

■ MARCH, APRIL, May, appear to be the season for remembrance. In addition to all the religious festivals and holy days, there is also ANZAC Day, which commemorates the unfortunate dawn landing in Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, by Australian and New Zealand forces, who were quickly vanquished by the Turks. Since then, the Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in subsequent wars are also commemorated on that date.

Australian and New Zealand ambassadors around the world hold ANZAC Day services, and in countries such as Israel, where ANZAC soldiers are buried in Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries, such services are held at one of the cemeteries.

On Monday of this week, Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths decided to give a more authentic twist to ANZAC Day by having a dawn service, whereas in previous years, the ceremony had taken place at 10 a.m. Cautioned that few people would be in attendance at dawn, Griffiths was pleasantly surprised to see not only an impressive contingent of diplomats and representatives of various organizations, but also tourists at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem. All in all, there were some 100 people in attendance, and among the wreath-layers were diplomats from Turkey, Canada, the United States and India, who all had to leave their beds at an ungodly hour in order to get there on time from Herzliya and Tel Aviv.

Griffiths said later that he was glad that he had not changed his mind, because dawn is a beautiful time of day, and it added to the atmosphere of the occasion. Griffiths told the story of a World War II Australian soldier, one of five brothers, who had enlisted at the age of 16, and had persuaded his mother to sign permission for him to serve by promising her that he would make her proud. He kept that promise by serving in Egypt and North Africa, at one stage alongside Moshe Dayan. Later, he also fought against the Japanese. But what may have prompted Griffiths to tell the story of Robert Nichols is that he happened to be the grandfather of Jacob Robert Nichols, who currently serves as first secretary at the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Griffiths also paid tribute to the 63 dedicated Australian and New Zealand soldiers currently serving with the Multinational Force and Observers and noted that this year the MFO marks 40 years of activity in the region. “Their mission was to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty,” he said, adding: “They are an example of working for the greater good and for peace as a legacy of war.”

■ IN NOVEMBER this year, we will mark the 75th anniversary of the UN resolution on the partition of Palestine, which culminated six months later in the proclamation of Israel’s Independence. In all that time, the shadow of the Holocaust has hung heavily over the nation, and continues to do so, even as Holocaust survivors fade from our midst.

For Herzog, this is a particularly Holocaust-loaded week. On Monday, he hosted a Zikaron Basalon gathering at his official residence, where Greek Holocaust survivor Ines Nissim told of how she and her sister had been saved by a schoolteacher from the cruel fate that awaited most of Greek Jewry.

On Wednesday evening, Herzog will speak at the official opening ceremony at Yad Vashem of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and will return Thursday to participate with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, Bundestag President Barbel Bas, members of Knesset and other dignitaries for a wreath-laying ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance. He will then proceed to the Knesset to participate in the ceremony of Unto Every Person there is a Name, at which he will read out names of people murdered in the Holocaust. In the evening he will travel to Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot for the concluding ceremony, and will speak of the importance of preserving Holocaust heritage.

■ IN RECENT years, one of the most effective ways of preserving that heritage and bringing the stories of survivors to the attention of post-Holocaust generations has been Zikaron Basalon, in which Holocaust survivors share their stories in the hope that they will be repeated, in the same way that the story of the exodus from Egypt is repeated at the Seder table.

Even non-Jews host Zikaron Basalon events. Japanese Ambassador Mizushima Koichi this week invited people to his residence in Herzliya Pituah to listen to Krakow-born Berl Schur, who owes his survival to Deputy Consul of Japan in Kaunas Chiune Sugihara, who is credited with having saved more than 2,000 Jews by issuing them transit visas.

In 1940, Schur and his family received such visas and were able to leave Lithuania just ahead of the German invasion. They lived in Japan for several months, then migrated to New Zealand, where Schur completed his university studies. He later went Israel via to Switzerland. He met Hannah, a native of Denmark, whom he married. Business-wise, he established a leading air-conditioning consultancy firm, based on professional experience he’d gained in Switzerland. Schur and his wife reside in Modi’in. They have four children and 11 grandchildren – all living in Israel.

■ AT THE Enav Cultural Center in Tel Aviv on Thursday, at 6:30 p.m., Richard Lowy will tell the story of Kalman and Leopold, twin brothers who were selected by an SS officer at roll call one morning to work as servant boys in the SS guard shack just outside the Birkenau Hospital Camp, beside Crematorium IV and Kanada.

Spending 6.5 months inside the guard shack, these two boys witnessed the Sonderkommando uprising, the Gypsy Camp liquidation, selections and so much more.

Separated at some stage, each thought that the other might have died, until October 31, 2001, when Kalman Bar-On was watching the documentary Leo’s Journey, in which he happened to see a photograph of Leo as a young man. Calling his wife and yelling excitedly, Kalman exclaimed: “It’s my Lippa!!!” He had been searching for his Lippa for 56 years. Lippa helped save Kalman from beatings and kept him sane in the guard shack. The two were reunited in 2002 to tell their story. Now, it is being told by Leopold’s son Richard Lowy.

■ FOR MANY years, Yad Vashem, which honors non-Jews who saved Jews as Righteous Among the Nations, declined to publicly acknowledge the heroism of Jews who saved other Jews. This was a matter of extreme frustration for relatives and friends of such heroes, who could not understand why Jews who risked life and limb on behalf of other Jews did not merit the same kind of recognition as non-Jews who had done likewise.

The Jewish heroes were not entirely ignored. Several belonged to kibbutzim that had been established by Holocaust survivors, ghetto fighters and concentration camp rebels. The residents of such kibbutzim made sure to honor their heroes, but it wasn’t quite the same as being honored by Yad Vashem, which, though it has changed its policy, is still sparing in its recognition of Jewish heroes.

Two organizations that make a point of honoring Jewish heroes and telling their stories are the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, which for the 19th consecutive year will, on Thursday, April 28, hold a joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza at 10 a.m. Israel time. The event will be streamed in Hebrew on the World Center Facebook page and in English on the B’nai B’rith International Facebook page.

The B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest is the largest joint B’nai B’rith and KKL-JNF project, memorializing the victims of the Holocaust with six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem Hills near Moshav Kessalon. At the pinnacle stands the “Scroll of Fire,” created by renowned sculptor Nathan Rapoport, who created the Warsaw Ghetto monuments in Warsaw and Jerusalem. It invokes the decimation of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel.

Speakers at the ceremony will include: Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director, Education and Community Division, KKL-JNF; Dr. Haim V. Katz, chairman, B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem; Brig.-Gen. Kobi Karni, commander, Border Guard Combat Training Center; Hans Docter, ambassador of the Netherlands to Israel.

During the ceremony, the “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be conferred on 13 rescuers who operated in France, Holland, Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and Denmark. The citation – a joint initiative of BBWC and Jews Rescuing Jews – has, since its inception in 2011, been awarded to more than 600 heroes who engaged in rescue activities in Europe and North Africa.

Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered fellow Jews throughout Europe have yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance. Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others. Some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism, Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that Jews survived the Holocaust, or assisted them in escaping to safe havens, and in doing so foiled the Nazi goal of total genocide against the Jews.

The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to these narratives as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.

Honorees this year are: Anna van Dam-Drukker, a Dutch convert to Judaism and a student of medicine, who on the advice of her rabbi obtained a falsified baptism certificate and was registered as a Christian so that she could assist other persecuted Jews.

Hubert Pollack operated with Capt. Francis “Frank” Foley — a British intelligence officer stationed in Berlin — and with Wilfred Israel, his supervisor at the “Hilfsverein” (Relief Organization of German Jews) in Berlin, to rescue Jews. He cultivated relationships with Gestapo officers, bribing them with the money he received from Israel, while Foley provided the exit visas from Germany.

Sacha Maidenberg operated from early 1942 to rescue Jews Working with the Les Eclaireurs Israelites, the clandestine arm of the Jewish Scouts in France, and under the Zionist Youth Movement. Sacha, together with her future husband, Maurice Maidenberg, transferred the first child convoy out of Morzine in France to Switzerland.

Maurice Maidenberg initiated a plan to transfer convoys of children from France to Switzerland by foot over the Alps. Maurice and Sacha returned to France and also falsified documents.

Marc Jarblum promoted resistance activities and prevented Jews from being arrested. Thanks to his status and influence, he managed to direct funds from the Joint to the rescue of Jews in France. He was under surveillance of the Gestapo and was smuggled to Switzerland by the Resistance, and continued to operate.

Chaviva Raick and Raphael Reisz, together with other British Army paratroopers from Mandatory Palestine, provided food, clothing, medical treatment and shelter to Jews living in the liberated territory of Slovakia and made contact with other members of Jewish youth movements fighting in partisan units. They established a network of safe houses, from Poland to Slovakia, to smuggle prisoners and pilots of the Allied Forces. Raick and Reisz, along with 200 other Jews, were shot and buried in a mass grave in Kremnica, Slovakia, on November 20, 1944.

Zelda Treger-Nissanilevich was a member of the United Partisans Organization. She conveyed groups of Jews escaping from a work camp in Estonia to the Rudnicka woods in Lithuania. She also transferred medications to the partisans.

Zvi Hirsch escaped from the Stowbtsy Ghetto in Belarus to the forest and joined a partisans brigade. He participated in the smuggling of some 200 Jews from Schvernazza Camp – among them women and children – to the partisans in Naliboki forest.

Jakub Reisz smuggled Jewish refugees from Slovakia to Budapest in 1941. One of those smuggled was captured and, as a result, Reisz was arrested. He was transferred between camps until he arrived at Auschwitz. After the liberation he went back to Budapest, made aliyah and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Ga’aton.

Dr. Herta Graz served as a physician escorting the Kindertransport from Prague to England. She came back to Prague to escort a second group, after Czechoslovakia had been occupied by Nazi Germany in September 1939. When World War II broke out, she was forced to stay in England and volunteered as a nurse in a hospital for women and girls in London that was damaged in the Blitz. She participated in the rescue of mothers and babies.

Elhanan Yitzhaki was a 23-year-old youth counselor in the Youth Aliyah organization. He led a group of young Jews from Denmark to Mandatory Palestine via Russia, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, while risking his life.

Simon Bouli and Shatta Simon were married in Paris in 1933. Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Bouli rescued children and young Jews, transporting them to the Jewish Scouts (Les Eclaireurs Israelites) house in Moissac , where he was in charge. The house also provided refuge to young Jews escaping forced labor and the Gestapo. When it was revealed that the Gestapo was about to raid the house, Bouli evacuated them, with the help of Shatta and Gilbert Lessage (who has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations), to the Tarn district and to Spain, and from there to Israel. He exposed himself to danger when he could have lived in safety using false documents.

Shatta managed to obtain the cooperation of Moissac municipality secretary Manuel Darrac and his assistant Alice Pelous, who were also recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. They provided stamps used to falsify documents for children. After the war Shatta located the hidden children.

■ THE UNIVERSITY of Haifa and the Bahrain-based King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a partnership that will promote tolerance and coexistence in the Middle East, marking the third MOU that the Israeli university has reached with institutions in the Arab world following the landmark Abraham Accords.

Under the new agreement, University of Haifa and the King Hamad Global Center will operate special development programs to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs as well as educational programs to cultivate leadership among younger generations.

“Tolerance and pluralism are the qualities that characterize the campus of University of Haifa, and we are proud and excited about this historic cooperation with Bahrain for the benefit of all the people in the region,” said University of Haifa President Prof. Ron Robin.

Given Prof. Robin’s past experience as vice provost at New York University, where he was responsible for establishing an international campus in Abu Dhabi, University of Haifa has been well positioned to build off the momentum of the Abraham Accords through forging new academic partnerships in Arab states.

Previously, the university signed two MOUs in the UAE — with Zayed University, in which the institutions will share information and conduct joint projects across a variety of disciplines, including marine sciences, education and natural-resources management; as well as between the Soraya and Younes Nazarian Library and the UAE’s National Archives and Library, in which the libraries will collaborate on research and cultural activities as well as sharing resources and exchanging ideas.

At the same time, University of Haifa’s own student body is more than 32% Arab, far exceeding the Arab population share of Israel as a whole.

“Israel in general and Haifa in particular have so many common values with our center and with Bahrain — especially diversity and pluralism,” said Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, chairman of the Board of Trustees of King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence. “Together, we will work to improve our shared destiny, not only for Bahrainis and Israelis but for the entire Middle East.”