Grapevine August 14, 2022: The Anglo angle

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 LIKUD LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at the Likud primary last week.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
LIKUD LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at the Likud primary last week.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Native English-speakers often complain that Anglos don’t get sufficient attention in Israel, despite their contributions in many fields. Some so-called “Israeli Anglos” (which in this sense includes Americans, and not only natives of Commonwealth countries), are claimed both by the countries of their birth as well as the countries in which they were raised. Among them are Golda Meir, Abba Eban, Gershon Agron – founding editor of The Jerusalem Post and later mayor of Jerusalem – Harry Hurwitz and Alice Shalvi. Eban, who was born in South Africa and raised in England, was a native English speaker, and is claimed by both as well as Israel. Others include Dov Yosef, brothers Chaim and Yaakov Herzog, Avraham and Zina Harman, Harold “Smoky Simon,” Yehuda Avner, Avraham Avi-hai, Daniel Taub, Mark Regev, Dore Gold, Michael Oren, Jeremy Issacharoff and Ron Dermer. There are of course many more in other fields. The reason the subject is being raised at all right now is because of the film The Camera of Doctor Morris, which was initially screened at the 2022 Docaviv festival, and is being shown again on Wednesday August 17 at 5 p.m. as part of the Docu.Text Festival at the National Library in Jerusalem, which is running from August 14-18 inclusive.

British-born Dr. Reginald Morris, or Reggie as he was known to family and friends, was the founder of the Yoseftal hospital in Eilat, but he was much more than that. In his school days, he already exhibited signs of leadership and multiple talents. He was the head boy at Manchester Central Grammar School, and an excellent rugby player. He later studied medicine.

During the Second World War, he joined the RAF and was sent as a medical officer to Burma (now Myanmar), where he was frequently under fire. He sometimes parachuted behind Japanese lines to treat and rescue injured aircrew, and was subsequently mentioned in dispatches. After the war, he remained for some years in the Far East, serving as chief medical officer for Thailand.

After returning to England, he married Birmingham-born Fay Ellis in 1957, and the young couple decided to spend a honeymoon year seeing as much as they could of the world. They set off in a station wagon and arrived in Israel in August 1958, in time to attend the World Jewish Medical Conference.

In the course of their travels around Israel, they reached Eilat, which was then a small desert town with minimal amenities. But they fell in love with it, and decided to make their home there.

 THE ISRAEL Chamber Opera Orchestra with conductor Vag Papian. (credit: MARK ZHALKOVSKY) THE ISRAEL Chamber Opera Orchestra with conductor Vag Papian. (credit: MARK ZHALKOVSKY)

Inasmuch as they became part and parcel of Israel, they remained essentially British.

Writing about them in January 2011, Jerusalem Post restaurant reviewer Gloria Deutsch, who then wrote on other subjects, wrote: “The last time I wrote about Fay and Reggie Morris of Eilat, they were just off to England for Fay to receive her MBE from Queen Elizabeth.

“That was in June 1995, and I ended that article with these words: ‘As long as Fay and Reginald Morris are there, there’s one corner of that torrid port that is forever England.’

“I didn’t realize just how much until I visited the house they have lived in since 1966, complete with chintz covers, a lawn that would be the joy of anyone living in England’s green and pleasant land, and a portrait of Her Majesty taking pride of place on the living-room wall.”

Gloria Deutsch

Fay Morris was for many years the honorary British consul in Eilat.

Reggie Morris was responsible for bringing public health services to Eilat in addition to founding and developing the hospital. He insisted on planting a British-style lawn at the hospital and flew the Union Jack from the flagstaff. He also continued to dress in formal British style.

Deeply committed to his profession, he also became the physician of the Bedouin community following the Six Day War. Some of his Bedouin patients would travel vast distances to be examined by him.

In addition to being a medical practitioner, Morris was also an avid amateur photographer who constantly filmed his family – births, deaths, marriages, sporting events – anything and everything in which his family was involved. He was also a gifted electronics engineer.

But what the Morris family was best known for was their pet crocodile, Clarence, which Reggie Morris had brought back in his luggage on a trip to Aswan. Over time, Clarence had grown to be three meters long and resided in the Morris garden.

When he died in February, 2012 at the age of 95, Dr. Morris left hundreds of spools of film. Fay and their three children didn’t bother with the films for several years, but then some family members found them and made them available to film directors Itamar Alcalay and Meital Zvieli, who together with the Morris family created an extraordinary documentary about a family that grew up with a desert town and a desert town that grew with a British family.

Opera lovers

■ ELSEWHERE IN Jerusalem, some opera lovers feel that they are suffering discrimination. The reason: They happen to be Orthodox Jews who love attending the excellent Opera Live transmission at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, where they can enjoy “Opera Live” from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. When performances are on Saturday during the summer months, transmission starts too early for Sabbath-observers to get there in time.

Louis Garb, who happens to be one of the religiously observant Jews who has missed out on Saturday night performances, has repeatedly contacted the Cinematheque management to ask if there was a possibility of postponing the screening by 30 or 40 minutes.

But so far the Cinematheque has not demonstrated any flexibility, although many years have passed since the weekly haredi (ultra-Orthodox) demonstrations against the Cinematheque for screening films on Shabbat. When it initially had its screenings at Beit Agron, before moving to its permanent home, hundreds of haredim would gather in the street outside during Friday night screenings, and scream loud enough to be heard indoors. Now, it’s a live and let live situation.

But it seems that some secularists can be more stubborn and aggressive than haredim. Not only does it refuse to accommodate the needs of its religious patrons, but it also publishes a notice to the effect that the operas will begin on the specified time; doors will close 15 minutes before the event begins. Entrance will not be allowed after the start of the broadcast.

It also notes that the Met operas are screened live via satellite, and the Cinematheque is not responsible for any disruptions that may occur during the transmission. In addition, assigned seats are held only to a certain date. If the Cinematheque was willing to take its Orthodox patrons into account, it would allot them two aisle seats in every row, so that if they arrive at the last minute or even during transmission, they will not disturb anybody.

According to Garb, when he asked for a delay in transmission, he was informed that the transmission is in real-time and that there is therefore no way to postpone it.

When he pointed out that on one occasion they had postponed transmission by a whole week due to heavy snowfall; and that in London for instance, there is a broadcast on Sunday, this did not sway the Cinematheque management.

Still determined to try to effect change, Garb wrote to the Metropolitan Opera in New York and received a reply in which they advised that “ultimately the local distributor decides whether to show the broadcasts live or under delay. The best thing is to reach out to your local distributor and suggest showing the broadcast at times that better accommodate the local audience.”

When Garb again wrote to the Cinematheque and pointed out that there is a world of difference between their original false contention that the Met “insists” on broadcasts in real time, when in fact they merely “suggest” this timing, he received an amended reply stating that they see real significance in having the showing as a direct broadcast, “which intensifies the experience.” This is surely nonsense, contends Garb, who says: “The experience is seeing the broadcast, enjoying wonderful music and singing, and has nothing to do with something as abstract as this notion of ‘real time.’”

He also believes that institutions supported by the Culture Ministry and the local municipality should show sufficient flexibility so as to enable people of all backgrounds to enjoy events without any form of obvious or hidden discrimination.

“The religious community also pays city taxes and income tax which go into the coffers of these bodies and therefore support the Cinematheque,” he notes.

There was no reply from the letter on the subject that he sent to the Jerusalem Municipality, even though the overwhelming majority of members of the city council are Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox.

Benjamin Netanyahu

■ EVER SINCE the start of his trial, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has seldom been seen with a smile on his face. He is either scowling or frowning or simply looking serious. But on the day of the Likud primary, the old “King Bibi” was back in his former image, smiling most of the day and literally radiating cheer.

In the Labor Party, MK Gilad Kariv, who did well in the Labor primary on Tuesday, intends to personally express his thanks to supporters on Monday, August 22, at a festive event that will be attended by Labor leader Merav Michaeli. The venue: Beit Daniel, which is also the site of the main Reform synagogue in Tel Aviv. Kariv, a Reform rabbi, had a couple of failed attempts to become a legislator, before finally making it high enough on the list and doing well enough to make the No. 3 spot in the gender equality list after Michaeli and Naama Lazimi.

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