Notwithstanding its proximity to the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which was still hosting the Jerusalem Film Festival last week, the auditorium at the Begin Heritage Center was more than seven-eighths full with people who had come to see an abridged version of the documentary film Whose Land?, produced and directed by Hugh Kitson and narrated by Colonel Richard Kemp.
Using historical and legal evidence, the film examines the claims by both Jews and Palestinians to the land of Israel. Some of the people featured in the film were in the audience, as were Arye Itamar, a child Holocaust survivor, who at the age of eight was on board the Exodus, which in July,1947, was surrounded by British destroyers as it entered Palestine’s territorial waters near the Haifa coast; and Zahavit Blumenfeld, one of many children born to Holocaust survivors whom the British had sent to internment camps in Cyprus.
The people on the Exodus were sent back to Europe. France refused to take them, so they eventually were sent to internment camps in the British zone in Hamburg, Germany. It was the last place in the world where they wanted to be.
The film was originally shown on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. This time it was shown on the100th anniversary of the implementation by the British of the Mandate that had been given to them by the League of Nations.
The Balfour Declaration, which states that His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People, differs slightly but meaningfully from what was stated in a letter written by King George V, in which he referred to a state for the Jewish people. Kemp has a copy of the letter.
Both Kemp and Kitson speaking before and after the screening were highly critical of the British abrogation of its mission to help in the creation of a Jewish state. That was not all they criticized.
Kitson, in praising Kemp as the narrator of the film, said that he was as good as any BBC presenter, with the major difference that Kemp tells the truth.
Conceding that there had been a lot of Britain-bashing throughout the evening, Kemp said that even though the British had violated their mandate to help create a Jewish nation and had backed the illegal Arab invasion in 1948, with ramifications that still resonate, if Britain had fulfilled its mandate, “we would have a different situation than we do today.” Nonetheless, he emphasized, no other country had done as much to bring about a Jewish state. Kitson concurred, saying “without the British mandate, the State of Israel would not exist, but in the end, it became the State of Israel in spite of it, not because of it.”
Highly appreciative of the ongoing support for Israel by both Kitson and Kemp, Arye Itamar presented each with an Exodus 75th anniversary medal.
■ HIS GENERAL enthusiasm and easy-going manner have earned a lot of kudos for US Ambassador Tom Nides, who was also honored by the Ruderman Family Foundation for the work that he did in relation to the visit to Israel this month by US President Joe Biden.
It’s a great honor for Israel when the head of any country pays an official visit, but never more so than when it’s a president of the United States, with which Israel has a long and abiding history, and a close alliance.
The setting for the event was Jerusalem’s Toro Restaurant, which only a few days earlier had been the venue for a party hosted by the Government Press Office for all the journalists covering the Biden visit. The location, in what was the first Jewish residential area outside the old city, has a magnificent view and is part of a multi-purpose complex.
Among those who came to express their thanks and good wishes to Nides were members of Knesset from several parties, who took time out from campaigning in the midst of an election season, plus a number of other well known personalities.
In addition to Shira Ruderman, executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, other notable figures in attendance included Diaspora Affairs Minister Dr. Nachman Shai, Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Idan Roll, Co-Chairpersons of the Knesset Caucus for US-Israel Relations MK Ruth Wasserman Lande and MK Tzachi Hanegbi, MK Amir Ohana, MK Shirley Pinto, MK Michal Rozin, MK Eitan Ginzburg, MK Alon Tal and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, executive director at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
In assessing the success of the Biden visit, Nides repeated the frequently quoted POTUS contention: “You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist.”
Nides also discussed how the two countries serve as allies to one another regardless of political differences and noted that Biden’s visit to Israel, despite the country being in the midst of a change in government, was proof of such. Moreover, the event spotlighted how American Jewry plays a significant role in ensuring Israel’s national security, and that it is a relationship that needs to be nurtured both in the private and public sector.
Those attending also heard about the array of initiatives by the Ruderman Family Foundation to reinforce that special relationship. The evening was part of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s multifaceted efforts to solidify Israel’s relationship with American Jewry, which has been a priority for the organization for more than two decades.
■ REGARDLESS OF the extent to which some things change, there are things that remain the same while embracing change. Poetry, for instance, changes in theme and style, but verse remains under the rubric of poetry, and poets still abound. Moreover, audiences at public poetry readings are quite large, which means that poetry still has a vast following.
This month, Voices Israel launched the 33rd annual Reuben Rose International Poetry Competition, in memory of Voices founder, Reuben Rose. His vision was to promote poetry writing in English in Israel but, in fact, the work of Voices Israel has spread far beyond its borders.
This year’s competition will be judged by the distinguished award-winning poet Yehoshua November, who teaches writing at Rutgers University and Touro College, together with last year`s prize-winners, Reuven Goldfarb of Safed and Yiskah Rosenfeld of California.
The prizes are somewhat low, but the honor counts more than the money. The first prize is $500 (NIS 1,700), the second prize is $150 (NIS 512) and third prize is $50 (NIS 171). In addition, the judges will award 10 honorable mentions. The winning poems will be published in the 2023 Voices Anthology.
Original poems on any topic may be submitted. The closing date for submissions is October 4, 2022.
For full details regarding submissions, visit: www.voicesisrael.com. For further questions, email: [email protected].
Orthodox Jewish athletes
■ NO MATTER how good you are, it isn’t easy to be a champion athlete if you are an Orthodox Jew. Champion US ping pong player Estee Ackerman, who has been playing the game since she was seven years old has been disqualified from several championship matches, including vying for the Olympic Games, because she refuses to play on Shabbat or on other Jewish holy days. But recently, she was disqualified, not because of the day in the week on which a match was held but because of her attire, which was in line with the way Orthodox females dress in New York.
The story originally ran in Jew in the City and was picked up by other media outlets. Jew in the City was founded in 2007 by Allison Josephs to counter the negative stereotype images of religious Jews in the media, and publishes articles on a range of social media platforms. Some of the stories are funny. Some are tragic and other illustrate the diversity of antisemitism.
In the article about her latest disqualification, readers are informed that Ackerman, 20, who was scheduled to play in the women’s doubles US National Championship in Fort Worth, Texas, was harassed by her potential partner’s mother.
The article does not state whether the partner was Jewish, but judging by the nature of the harassment, one suspects that she is. Jewish antisemitism is the worst kind.
Many secular Jews are embarrassed by Orthodox Jews, whose appearance and habits are so different from their own. Instead of looking for a common denominator, they go to extraordinary lengths to humiliate Orthodox Jews.
In this case, the mother of Ackerman’s potential partner, told Ackerman that she didn’t look professional in the way she dressed, adding that what she was wearing was ugly, disgusting and embarrassing. Worse still, the woman forced her daughter to default the match. That meant that Ackerman couldn’t play and was denied a possible victory.
Already inured to disappointments of this kind, Ackerman has no intention of quitting the game, especially because she is the only female Orthodox Jewish player to be as highly ranked as she is.
When Ackerman was 7 and her brother Akiva was 10, they spent a lot of time looking at the computer screen. This bothered their father, who looked for an alternative outlet that the family could enjoy and came up with a ping pong table, which was set up in the basement of their home. Without it, Ackerman might never have discovered her aptitude for the game and her ability to be a champion.