Grapevine August 5, 2022: Rabbi of the Western Wall hosts Reform Jew

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PREISIDENT RATU WILIAME M. KATONIVERE of Fiji being led into the President’s Residence by President Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)
PREISIDENT RATU WILIAME M. KATONIVERE of Fiji being led into the President’s Residence by President Isaac Herzog.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

Although he has condemned the violence and desecration perpetrated by ultra-Orthodox hooligans against Women of the Wall and worshipers in the egalitarian section by the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall makes no secret of his general disapproval of Conservative and Reform Jews and the movements to which they adhere.

But some Reform Jews are more kosher than others, and not just because they were born to a Jewish mother who was not a convert brought into Judaism by a Conservative or Reform Rabbi.

If someone who’s the ambassador of the United States also happens to be a Reform Jew, Rabinovitch will not only shake his hand, but will invite him to his table. That’s how US Ambassador Tom Nides broke bread with Rabinovitch and his family. It was not a first-time meeting. Approximately eight months ago Nides and his son participated in a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Western Wall, and no one objected to their presence.

Attacking worshipers of any kind anywhere is a sacrilege not to be condoned. It would be interesting to know whether in the course of dinner conversation, the subject of the egalitarian section had been raised. The self appointed officers in God’s army have ruined many a Bar and Bat Mitzvah service – often of youngsters who specially came from abroad with their families for this important rite of passage in their lives.

“The verbal and occasional physical violence that erupts among those coming to pray at the Western Wall, stemming from various extremist groups, desecrates God’s name, and creates chasms between people, and harms the holiness of the site that unites the Jewish nation and world Jewry,” Rabinovitch has said.

“The verbal and occasional physical violence that erupts among those coming to pray at the Western Wall, stemming from various extremist groups, desecrates God’s name, and creates chasms between people, and harms the holiness of the site that unites the Jewish nation and world Jewry.”

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz

Merav Michaeli elected as Labor leader, July, 18, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)Merav Michaeli elected as Labor leader, July, 18, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Labor Party party

■ WHOEVER MAKES it to a realistic position on the Labor Party list next week will be celebrating with party head and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli on Tuesday evening, August 9 at 7 p.m. at the Green House on the campus of Tel Aviv University, 24 George Wise Street. Labor Party members, whether active or passive, have been inundated with messages on every social media platform with candidates pledging what they intend to do or boasting about what they have already done. Gil Beilin, the son of former justice minister Yossi Beilin, missed out on a previous bid even though he was relatively high on the list – but not quite high enough. Before presenting his biography and his political interests and ambitions, he wrote: “I want to wish everyone that we end up with a strong list so that we cam bring back (former) Labor voters and recruit a young, new community in order to succeed in the general elections.”

Netanyahu: The longest and oldest in the Knesset

■ THE DECISION by Benny Begin to quit politics and not to stand for reelection, leaves opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu as the oldest of the legislators in the next Knesset – at least at its onset. Netanyahu will celebrate his 73rd birthday on October 21. Although Likud is well ahead of other parties in the polls, there is no guarantee that Netanyahu will be able to form a coalition that will give him the minimum 61 seats required to form a government. In the event that he does not return to power, there is no guarantee that he will remain in the Knesset – and that will almost but not quite mark the end of an era. There are still people in the Knesset who have been there since the 1990s.

Knesset legacy

■ AS IT is, Netanyahu has been in office longer than Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, but the record for the longest period of service by a legislator does not belong to Netanyahu. Both Ben-Gurion and his protégé Shimon Peres left the Knesset at age 83, but Ben Gurion served for less time. Ben-Gurion served for 223 days, while Peres served for 315 days. While the offspring of prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon did follow them into the Knesset, none achieved the high office of their fathers. Of former ministers, very few of their sons and daughters who became legislators, were also ministers.

Among the few exceptions were Orly Levy Abecassis, the daughter of David Levy; and Omer Bar Lev, the son of Haim Bar Lev. There were also offspring of MKs, who outdid their parents and became ministers. Among them were Moshe Dayan, the son of MK Shmuel Dayan, Ehud Olmert, the son of MK Mordechai Olmert, Tzachi Hanegbi, the son of MK Geula Cohen; and Meir Porush, the son of MK and Deputy Minister Menachem Porush. Incidentally, the Dayans are the only triple generation family to serve in the Knesset. After Shmuel and Moshe, there was Yael. There were also other relatives, and in Yael’s case, her daughter is married to the son of the late education and environment minister Yossi Sarid. There were many other two-generation families, as well as siblings and cousins.

Tisha Be'av, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich

■ IN ISRAEL Tisha Be’Av has become somewhat of a social occasion with panel discussions, lectures and screenings of films and videos that highlight the evils of incitement, lack of respect for the other and baseless hatred. Some two months ago, the controversial head of Otzma Yehudit, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was invited to participate in a pluralistic panel discussion at which all parties would be represented and could put their cards on the table. In recent days, he was contacted by the organizers and told that he had been disinvited. The initial excuse was that there were simply too many participants. If that was the case, Ben-Gvir argued, why had he been singled out for exclusion and not someone else. He was subsequently told that some of the other participants had refused to sit together with Ben-Gvir. Somehow doubting this, he contacted them for verification, and was assured that none of them, with the exception of former Education Minister Shai Piron, minded sharing a table with him. Ben-Gvir said as much in an interview on KAN Reshet Bet radio. Piron, who heard the broadcast called in to correct the impression, and said that on thinking about the debate, he realized that it would result in argument and animosity, which was not what Tisha Be’Av is about. He had, therefore, decided to withdraw his own participation. Ben-Gvir had been the subject of controversy, long before he entered the Knesset. Political pundits are now forecasting that he and Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich will settle their differences. Two of the key points of disagreement are the slots offered to Otzma Yehudit candidates; and ideology versus broad representation. Ben-Gvir said on radio that he wants realistic positions for his people on the election list, and he wants representation for all segments of the (Jewish) population, especially those from outlying development towns. Smotrich is much more inclined towards ideology. He’s also playing a Bennett in that the polls indicate that Otzma Yehudit will gain more votes than the Religious Zionists, but Smotrich wants his party to be in the lead if the merger goes through.

Herzog meets his counterpart from Fiji

■ PRESIDENT OF Fiji Ratu Wiliame M. Katonivere who visited Israel this week, is no stranger to the Middle East. Before entering politics, he had a distinguished career with the Royal Fiji Military Forces and served two tours in the Middle East with the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon. He completed his service with the rank of Lt.-Col. On Wednesday, he called on President Isaac Herzog and the two held a working meeting in which they agreed to strengthen the relationship between their two countries, with an emphasis on the potential use of Israeli environmental technologies and Israeli experience in the field of food security. Herzog’s father visited Fiji in 1986 and Herzog noted that former president Reuven Rivlin, visited Fiji for the Pacific Islands summit two years ago. Herzog thanked his guest for Fiji’s solid support for Israel in international forums and for its major contributions toward peacekeeping missions in the Middle East, who Katonivere was scheduled to meet during his visit. “We have huge respect for your sons coming to serve in our region,” said Herzog.

The two presidents also discussed the environmental challenges that Fiji is grappling with, including rising sea levels, reduced rainfall and cyclones,

Al-Qaeda leader's death and funds for Prince Charles

■ NOT FOR the first time, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, has courted controversy, and in the process has defied advancing age. Pelosi, 82, and a mother of four, who has served as a congresswoman from California since 1987, and who next year will celebrate her 60th wedding anniversary, arrived in Taiwan straight-backed, wearing a rose-pink pants suit and looking ready for action. Back home, slightly younger US President Joe Biden, who will turn 80 on November 20, proved, yet again, that he is not the “sleepy Joe” characterized during the presidential elections by former president Donald Trump. He was fully alert when delivering the announcement about the elimination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Future political historians will find it interesting that the notorious Osama Bin Laden was killed on former president Barak Obama’s watch and Zawahiri on Biden’s.

Meanwhile in Britain, the Royal Family was once again embarrassed when it was published by several British media outlets this week that in 2013, Prince Charles had accepted a $1.2 million donation for the Prince of Wales Charity Fund from the half brothers of Osama Bin Laden – Bakr bin Laden and Shafiq bin Laden, neither of who is known to be linked to terrorist activities. Osama Bin Laden was disowned by his family as far back as 1994, so there should have been no dispute over whether the donation could be accepted. However, members of the Bin Laden family and their associates continue to be haunted by Osama’s ghost.

Malka Leifer delayed

■ FRAUGHT WITH delays over a number of years, the Malka Leifer case which was supposed to go to trial in Australia this week, has once again been delayed, with the new date listed as August 22. Leifer was extradited to Melbourne, Australia, some 18 months ago to stand trial on 74 charges of sexual abuse. The 55-year-old former school principal of the Adass Israel school for religious girls, fled to Israel to avoid prosecution, and has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.

Years of efforts by Australian political and law enforcement officials to have her extradited, finally bore fruit. Although the trial itself was delayed, the pre-trial arguments were not.

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