Grapevine August 21, 2022: An embarrassing guest

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM LEFT: co-producer Dan Joyce, director Celeste Geer and co-producer Gal Greenspan of ‘The Endangered Generation?’ which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival (photo credit: Melbourne International Film Festival)
FROM LEFT: co-producer Dan Joyce, director Celeste Geer and co-producer Gal Greenspan of ‘The Endangered Generation?’ which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival
(photo credit: Melbourne International Film Festival)

The widely criticized remarks in Germany by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, inadvertently helped to promote the book In the Path of Abraham, by former White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, who is currently in Israel on a family visit.

He is also re-connecting with some of the people he met while he was an official representative of the United States administration.

Among those who added their comments to the general condemnation of the Holocaust-related statements by Abbas, Greenblatt tweeted, “For those surprised by President Abbas’s disgusting comments in front of the chancellor of Germany, don’t be. Read these two pages from my book In the Path of Abraham to understand more about Abbas.” The two pages are featured in the tweet.

In another tweet, Greenblatt, commenting on the return of ambassadors and consuls general to Turkey and Israel, recalled that he and his wife had a three-week honeymoon in Turkey, in 1996, and wrote that it was amazing.

It would be great to see the relationship between the two countries flourish again, he wrote, and expressed the hope that the relationship gets back to where it once was and way beyond.

On another level, it appears that former US ambassador David Friedman is not the only member of the team of former US president Donald Trump, who is a keen supporter of United Hatzalah.

Greenblatt, who together with Friedman and Jared Kushner, was one of the key architects of the Abraham Accords, visited United Hatzalah headquarters in Jerusalem with his wife Naomi and their children for the purpose of donating and dedicating an emergency medical service (EMS) ambucycle (motorcycle used by United Hatzalah’s volunteers).

After a brief tour of the organization’s headquarters and international dispatch center, the former envoy and his family stepped outside the building to unveil the brand-new vehicle, which will be paired with one of the organization’s most active first responders, who will use it to rush out to save lives.

During the ceremony, Greenblatt said, “It was an honor for my wife, children and me to donate an ambucycle to United Hatzalah, which is an outstanding organization.

This donation was in memory of my parents, Vera and Max Greenblatt. Thank you to Eli Beer and all the amazing volunteers who save lives each and every day. May God bless you and keep you safe, and may you continue to save lives and positively impact the families whose lives you touch.”

Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah was abroad on a fundraising mission when the dedication ceremony took place, and expressed apologies to the Greenblatts for his absence, adding: “This is a true partnership of lifesaving.

Our volunteers can only help people in need of emergency medical care because of the donors who partner with us in our mission. Without them, our volunteers wouldn’t be able to respond to medical emergencies as quickly as they do, nor would they have the equipment to treat people with. Without donors, friends and true partners, like the Greenblatt family, our work simply wouldn’t be possible.”

Munich Massacre

■ FOR THE first time since the 1972 Munich Massacre, in which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were murdered by members of the Black September terrorist organization, a moment’s silence was held at the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.

This despite the fact that the families of the victims had consistently asked the International Olympic Committee to honor their dead loved ones and had been refused.

It wasn’t just the families who made the request, there were international campaigns with the result that in 2016, when the Olympics were held in Brazil, a memorial ceremony attended by Israeli and Brazilian officials was held two days before the official opening of the games. The moment of silence at the Tokyo Games was also in memory of the many victims of COVID-19.

Inasmuch as the families finally had a positive response to their request, they have been far less fortunate in getting an adequate apology from Germany for the mishandling of security precautions during the Munich Olympics and for trying to cover up the lacuna.

The German authorities have also failed to meet the compensation requests made by the families and have offered a mere symbolic sum of money.

If the matter is not settled prior to next month’s 50th-anniversary commemoration in Munich, the families will boycott the event. Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor will do likewise, as will President Isaac Herzog, who was scheduled to attend.

Herzog, together with German President Frank Walter Steinmeier and various others from Israel and Germany have been working to resolve the issue, but so far, to no avail.

It stands like a permanent blot on diplomatic relations between the two countries, even though Germany has already given so much to Israel in remorse for the Holocaust and has paid out billions in restitution to Holocaust survivors.

The easiest solution would be to check records to see which Holocaust survivors have died since the start of restitution payments and to work out how much would have been paid to them in total if they were still alive.

It would in all probability come to a lot more than the sum which is being requested by the families of the Munich Massacre victims. Why not take a payment that would have gone to each deceased Holocaust survivor and offer the sum total to the families of the athletes murdered in Munich? From their perspective, it would probably not even be a compromise.

When German Ambassador Steffen Seibert presented his credentials to Herzog last fortnight, they discussed the matter and Seibert, a sports fan who was born in Munich and was 12 years old in 1972, said that he and his father had been watching the games on television.

Following the terrorist attack, his father had been absolutely disgusted that the games were continuing. In his opinion, they should have stopped.

Two days after meeting Herzog, Seibert held a press conference at which he also shared his views on the situation. Last week, he tweeted, “What President Abbas said in Berlin about ‘50 Holocausts’ is wrong and unacceptable. Germany will never stand for any attempt to deny the singular dimension of the crimes of the Holocaust.”

Gil Greenspan

■ ON A much happier note, Gil Greenspan, an award-winning producer and director, and a graduate of Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, was in Australia for the premier of his new feature documentary The Endangered Generation?, which was shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Greenspan, co-managing director at Sweetshop & Green, said that the company’s primary focus has always been to tell vitally important and culturally diverse stories that will shift people’s perspectives and then share these stories with as many people around the world as possible. The Endangered Generation? Produced in collaboration with Monash University, is all this and more.

In voicing pride in supporting the documentary, Monash University president and vice-chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC said: “Monash University is proud to support this documentary, which brings together people from around the world to educate and inspire action. We recognize that the grand challenges of the age – climate change, geopolitical security and thriving communities – extend across nations.”

The university is named for Australian World War One military commander General Sir John Monash, who was acknowledged as Australia’s most outstanding military and civilian leader.

Born to German Jewish parents, he was an innovative engineer before the war and the first general manager of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. He was also the founding president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and New Zealand, as well as of various other organizations and institutions.

In 2009, Gal Greenspan and his partner Roi Kurland established Green Productions, Tel Aviv, and engaged in co-productions with European companies.

In 2019 Greenspan expanded his activities through a new venture, Sweetshop & Green, with Sharlene George of the Sweetshop, a new breed of production company based in Australia and New Zealand. He is on a frequent commute between Israel and Australia.

The Queen's confidante

■ MOST DIGNITARIES, when signing the guest book at the President’s Residence, sit down at a table that once belonged to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who was a close confidante of Queen Victoria.

The table was gifted to the President’s Residence by brothers David and Jonathan Herman following the death in 1987 of their Polish-born mother Rachel, who had met their British-born father Guy Reuven Herman in the Polish resort village of Krinica shortly before the Second World War.

The couple moved to England and settled in London. They were both particularly fond of antiques and set up a small antique shop. Among their purchases was a beautiful mother of pearl inlaid papier-mache table that was part of a sale of Disraeli’s estate.

When they came to live in Tel Aviv in 1969, they brought the table with them, and it graced their apartment. Guy Reuven Herman died in 1976, and as previously mentioned, his wife died in 1987.

The Herman brothers were not about to argue among themselves as to who should keep the table and decided that, in view of its excellent craftsmanship and its original owner, it belonged at the President’s Residence.

The incumbent at the time was Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog, the father of Israel’s current president, who invited David Herman to come and meet with him on September 18 and sit with him at the table.

Curiously, the date is one day after the birthday of the president’s late father, who was born on September 17, 1918, and just a few days ahead of the president’s own birthday on September 22, when he will celebrate his 62nd birthday. His immediate predecessor Reuven Rivlin was also born in September. Rivlin was born on September 9, 1939, but prefers to celebrate on the Hebrew calendar date.