Grapevine August 31, 2022: The season for anniversaries

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 REENA PUSHKARNA conducts an ongoing celebration of India’s 75th anniversary of independence. (photo credit: REENA PUSHKARNA)
REENA PUSHKARNA conducts an ongoing celebration of India’s 75th anniversary of independence.
(photo credit: REENA PUSHKARNA)

The end of summer appears to be the season for anniversaries. This year, India is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its independence and the 30th anniversary of its full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Following events at the Indian Embassy and a gala reception at the Dan Tel Aviv Hotel attended by President Isaac Herzog and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Indian-born restaurateur Reena Pushkarna held an open-air celebration outside one of her restaurants, choosing to do so at the one bordering Dizengoff Square, where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.

She put out flags of both countries alongside tables laden with refreshing Indian beverages, which proved to be greatly appreciated by passersby who were sweltering from the heat of the day.

■ WHILE ISRAELIS have been given a daily dose of lack of progress in negotiations between the teachers’ union and the Finance Ministry, thereby increasingly fostering doubts as to whether the school year will begin on September 1, that particular date will have a different connotation for Polish-born Holocaust survivors and for Poland in general.

That was the date in 1939 of the German invasion of Poland, which was the beginning of the Second World War, in which so many millions of lives were needlessly lost and so much destruction was wrought.

 THEODOR HERZL. (credit: Ephraim Noshe Lilien) THEODOR HERZL. (credit: Ephraim Noshe Lilien)

In the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) education system, the school year begins according to the Hebrew calendar, on Elul 1, rather than September 1, and last Sunday, thousands of white-shirted boys returned to schools, where they were warmly greeted by headmasters and teachers, while little girls in long dark skirts and pale blue blouses and little white-shirted boys underwent a similar experience on their first day in kindergarten.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, accompanied by ministry Director-General Dalit Stauber, was enthusiastically greeted and embraced by Beit Shemesh Mayor Aliza Bloch when she visited Torat Shalom Talmud Torah, a haredi boys’ school, last Sunday. It was somewhat unusual for the students of such a school to have three women in the classroom. Shasha-Biton made no concessions to the ultra-Orthodox environment. Contrary to the local dress code, she wore pants.

■ ON SEPTEMBER 5, ahead of the gala bicentenary reception that he will be hosting at Hangar 11, Brazil’s Ambassador Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas will speak in English to members and friends of the Tel Aviv International Salon about relations between Brazil and Israel, and will also discuss some of his country’s history.

Prior to becoming a diplomat, the ambassador had a long and distinguished military career, serving in a variety of important roles.

Here, too, the event will be at Hangar 11 at Tel Aviv Port. The event begins at 7 p.m. Entry is free of charge, and the added attraction is a Bossa nova performance.

Actually, Brazil will dominate Hangar 11 for most of the week, beginning September 3 and continuing to September 9 inclusive, with lectures, cooking demonstrations, music, dancing, furniture, fashion and food exhibitions, games and more, under the heading of Casa Brasil, a mega promotional event, which the embassy is running together with ApexBrasil, the Brazilian Trade and Promotional Agency.

 CHAIM HERZOG. (credit: NATI HARNIK) CHAIM HERZOG. (credit: NATI HARNIK)

In addition, on Wednesday, September 7, the festivities will move temporarily to Jerusalem for a bicentenary concert by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra at the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theater.

Ambassadors

■ VIETNAMESE AMBASSADOR Ly Duc Trung has also chosen a somewhat unconventional venue to celebrate the 77th anniversary of Vietnam’s independence, and will be welcoming guests at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

■ JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Mizushima Koichi thought it appropriate to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his country’s bilateral relations with Israel in Israel’s capital, and is therefore holding a reception in Jerusalem.

■ AT THE end of October every year, the Australian Embassy, in conjunction with the Beersheba Municipality, conducts an event that takes place in three locations to commemorate the victory by Australian and New Zealand cavalry troops against the forces of the Ottoman Empire, thereby winning what is known as the Battle of Beersheba. This victory was instrumental in facilitating the Balfour Declaration. The three venues are the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, the Turkish Memorial Monument and the Park of the Australian Soldier.

But in September Australian Embassy staff head in the other direction to Samakh Railway Station, near Tiberias, for an annual memorial ceremony at what is believed to be the site of the last major cavalry battle in the Middle East. In both Beersheba and the Galilee, the victors were members of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade. The railway station has been turned into a small museum, library and research center, which commemorate the heroism of the Australian soldiers.

The project is a joint enterprise of Kinneret College, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, the Culture and Sport Ministry, the Council for the Conservation of Heritage Sites, Israel Railways, the Rashi Foundation, and the Jordan Valley Regional Council. The museum evolved from the initiative of nearby Kinneret College, which has a monument dedicated to the Australian soldiers in the grounds of its campus overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and which organizes the annual memorial ceremony.

The Battle of Samakh was fought on September 25, 1918. The Australians fought the German and Turkish garrison, causing many casualties. There were also Australians among those who fell in battle.

This year’s memorial ceremony will take place on Wednesday, September 21, at 5:30 p.m., with the participation of Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern, Jordan Valley Regional Council head Idan Greenbaum, Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths, Kinneret College president Prof. Shimon Gepstein, Australian Defense Attaché Group Captain Louise des Jardins (who in the Queen’s Birthday Honors in June was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross), defense attachés representing other countries, and representatives of the Foreign Ministry. Participation is by invitation only. Australian expats who are interested in attending should contact Ziv Ofer at 050-565-6291.

■ SEPTEMBER 21 is also the date for the state memorial event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. The memorial ceremony will take place at the monument to the athletes in Tel Aviv, with the participation of the families of the athletes, President Herzog and other Israeli dignitaries, as well as Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee and a former German Olympic gold medalist. It will be Bach’s first visit to Israel in more than a decade. Bach was responsible for initiating a minute’s silence for the murdered Israeli athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.

Next week, the 50th anniversary of the Games and their eternal mark of Cain for Germany will be marked in Munich. Though warned in advance of a possible terrorist attack, German security at the 1972 Games was very lax in its precautions.

The present German government had hoped that the families of the victims of the Munich Massacre would attend the memorial ceremony next week, but have been unable to reach a compensation agreement with them, though there is an indication that the Germans are willing to increase the sum that was previously offered. There could still be a last-minute change whereby the relatives of David Berger, Ze’ev Friedman, Yosef Gutfreund, Moshe Weinberg, Yosef Romano, Mark Slavin, Eliezer Halfin,, Yaakov Springer, Andre Spitzer, Amitzur Shapira and Kehat Shorr will travel to Munich, but the way things look at present, that is extremely doubtful.

 ISAAC HERZOG. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO) ISAAC HERZOG. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Israel Gay Youth

■ ISRAEL GAY Youth, known by its IGY acronym, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s difficult to know how many young people who were living in a state of desperation bordering on suicide have been saved, steered toward self-confidence and empowered as individuals and through a sense of community because they were able to meet their peers and receive guidance through IGY.

Among the people in the audience at its 20th anniversary gala last Saturday night were Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his wife, Lihi. Lapid was the first Israeli prime minister to attend an IGY event, which was also a tribute to Dana International, who, at age 13, 40 years ago, came out as a transgender and, by carving an international career for herself as a singer and Eurovision winner, became an inspiring figure to other young LGBT people. Former president Reuven Rivlin welcomed IGY delegations to the President’s Residence.

In his address to the audience last Saturday night, Lapid said that every person has the basic right to be a parent and raise a family. He questioned why he was the first Israeli prime minister to openly support the gay community, and stated that he had come out of a sense of respect for the belief of equality for all. After speaking out against racists and homophobes, Lapid pledged that the government would continue to stand up against any display of violence or hatred toward the LGBT community. “No one has a mandate over your body, and certainly not over your feelings,” he said.

Aside from the many anniversaries in August-September, it appears that September is a month for celebrating the birthdays of many well-known Israeli personalities: Shalom Hanoch on September 1, Guy Rolnik, the editor of TheMarker, the financial supplement of Haaretz, as well as that of former health minister Ya’acov Litzman, on September 2, Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch Rotem on September 3, former government minister and holder of several portfolios Amnon Rubinstein and Economy Minister Orna Barbivay on September 5, Rivlin, who shares a September 9 birth date with Mr. Television Haim Yavin, who is turning 90, followed on September 10 by actor Chaim Topol, who shares a birth date with former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, investigative journalist Raviv Drucker celebrates on September 11, music man Idan Raichel has a birthday on September 12, singer Roni Dalumi on September 15, singer, musician and radio talk show host Kobi Oz on September 17, television personality Lucy Aharish on September 18, singer Sarit Hadad on September 20, philanthropist Leonid Nevzlin and Likud MK and former minister Israel Katz on September 21, singer, musician and songwriter Ariel Zilber, former education, culture and sport minister Limor Livnat and Herzog were all born on September 22, actress and supermodel Galit Gutman on September 23, Holocaust researcher Prof. Dina Porat on September 24, novelist Eli Amir on September 26, and former prime minister Ehud Olmert along with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on September 30.

Privacy of a celebrity

■ YOU NEVER know who you’re going to meet in an Israeli hotel. Stephanie Reifkind Kahn was having breakfast in the Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem and thoroughly enjoying her meal. Then she looked up and saw, sitting across from her at another table, Fauda star Lior Raz. Because she was enjoying her breakfast, she decided to let him enjoy his. Not a word passed between them.

Such respect for the privacy of a celebrity is rare. Entertainers who have gigs in the capital often stay overnight or frequent restaurants in the Mahaneh Yehuda area, where enterprises such as Hatzot stay open till the last customer is ready to leave. The entertainers usually arrive with their managers, agents, backup teams and accompanists, so it pays for the restaurants to stay open way beyond the witching hour, but they can’t control other customers who surround the celebs, taking selfies of themselves with them and posting them on social media accounts, as though they were longtime buddies. It’s not only an Israeli disease – it’s universal.

■ THE FIRON UGGC law group, which provides legal services to international companies that are doing business in the Middle East and Africa, has organized what it claims is the first Morocco-Israel Conference to take place in Israel.

The September 5 event, at the convention center of the Israel Stock Exchange, is in partnership with the Bank of Africa, Casablanca Finance City, the Manufacturers Association, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, the Israel Export Institute and PwC.

There are several lawyers from both Morocco and Israel among the featured speakers, and there is also Abderrahim Bayoud, head of the Liaison Office of the Kingdom of Morocco in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli media generally refers to Bayoud as ambassador, and he is invited by fellow diplomats to numerous diplomatic events to which heads of diplomatic missions are on the guest list, in addition to which he is held in high esteem by Israel’s Moroccan community. But the fact remains that he is not the ambassador of Morocco, while in October last year, David Govrin, who had previously been Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Morocco, was elevated to the role of ambassador, a position not new to him, as he had previously been ambassador to Egypt.

As it is almost two years since diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco were renewed, and as Israel has a sitting ambassador in Rabat, it is surely time for Bayoud to be an ambassador in name and not just in deed.

■ LONG BEFORE he went to Switzerland this week, it was known that President Herzog would emulate both Theodor Herzl and his own father, Israel’s sixth president, in leaning over the balcony of the Hotel Le Trois Rois in Basel. The senior Herzog did a better job of copying the Herzlian pose, but was clean-shaven, thereby not quite capturing the drama of the Herzlian look.

The current president does have a beard, but it cannot compare with the rich hirsute growth that emanated from Herzl’s face. Still, one couldn’t very well stay in the room that Herzl occupied and not be photographed on the balcony. One day, one of Herzog’s three sons may also pose on that balcony.

■ IT WOULD seem that despite the negative publicity that he has received of late, and the renewed efforts to prevent him from returning to power, Netanyahu still has the power of persuasion, as evidenced by his having convinced Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionist Party, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads Otzma Yehudit, to run together in the national elections, after the two had reached a stalemate in their negotiations and had opted to run separately.

A slot has been left on their list for a representative from Noam, and in the religious-Zionist press a full-page advertisement contained a petition signed by 75 rabbis calling for support for Noam.

■ DEATH IS sad at any time, regardless of whether the deceased is young or old. But what makes death even sadder is when a person who was once a much sought-after personality fades into obscurity. In a sense that’s what happened to Freda Keet, whose authoritative voice, with its perfect enunciation, was for many years that of the Voice of Israel.

Born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), she came to Israel as a young woman more than half a century ago and worked in the English-language division of Kol Yisrael radio as an anchorwoman, investigative reporter and war correspondent.

Because she spoke so well and so convincingly, from time to time during her broadcasting career she was either sent or invited to address Jewish and non-Jewish audiences abroad.

Through her appearances in different countries, she developed an enormous following, partially because she had also trained as an actress, and the full-throated drama in her voice as she told of Israel’s challenges, and of the heroism and determination with which so many had been overcome, held audiences enthralled.

Her passion for Israel and the Jewish people was such that she eventually left broadcasting and began to devote herself fully to promoting the interests of Israel and the Jewish people. Mostly, she traveled to the United States and Canada, but also to England and South Africa.

Her cousin Saville Katz, with whom she was very close, says that they often met up in London, Johannesburg, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, where at her speaking engagements she was frequently introduced as “the Barbara Walters of Israel.”

Sara Manobla, who for close to 40 years headed the English programs department of Kol Yisrael, in a tribute to Keet, wrote that she and Freda had worked together for many years “when she was the irreplaceable announcer and indispensable member of Kol Yisrael’s English Department. Imperturbable in front of the microphone, she would read anything and everything that was put before her with total confidence and conviction. For English-speakers worldwide, she was indeed the Voice of Israel – a very special person.”

Keet lived in Jerusalem for 44 years, but after spending so much time abroad, when she finally decided to retire, she found that Jerusalem was too tame for her, and left a little over a decade ago.

She eventually settled in the Beth Protea retirement home in Herzliya. By that time, she was troubled by health issues, and although Beth Protea has many occupational therapy programs as well as activities designed to keep the mind alert and curious, she was not overly inclined to join in, though she made a point of going to lectures, and was always immaculately coiffed and groomed. But she had lost something of the spark in her personality – possibly because in that particular environment, she had no need to sparkle.

She is survived by her sister Mimi, who lives in Israel, her brother Lionel, who lives in England, and extended family around the globe.

■ IN A rare get-together, three editors-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post will join in a panel discussion at the paper’s Annual New York Conference on September 12. Current Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz will be joined by Bret Stephens, who is now a senior columnist for The New York Times, and David Makovsky, who is a Distinguished Fellow of the Washington Institute. They may agree on some things, but they will not agree on everything, which will make for a very interesting discussion.

Aside from several senior Post editorial staff, other media representatives at the conference will include Laura Cornfeld, the director of Jerusalem-based Media Central, Eric Gertler, executive chairman and CEO of US News & World Report, and Joel Rosenberg, editor-in-chief of All Israel News and All Arab News.

Among American reporters who will be covering the conference, there will be several former employees of he Post who, during the years they spent in Israel, were members of the editorial staff and wrote on a vast array of subjects.

■ THE DATE, falling during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, may be deliberate, designed to cause the husbands and boyfriends of physically, psychologically and emotionally abused women to take stock of themselves and to turn over a new leaf. On the other hand, it may have been the only mutually suitable date for American-Israeli actress and activist Naomi Ackerman and the powers that be at Kehilat Kol Haneshama in Jerusalem.

Ackerman will perform a one-woman show, “Flowers are not enough,” on September 29 at 8 p.m. The 50-minute monologue tells the story of Michal, a young woman from an upper-middle-class family, who finds herself in an abusive relationship.

Born in Los Angeles, Ackerman was nine years old when she came to Israel with her family. She started writing the monologue in 1998, when she was commissioned by the Social Welfare Ministry to create a relevant 20-minute item for a conference of social workers in Jerusalem.

In order to research the topic, she began interviewing women in a safe house, and based her monologue on what they told her. Over the years, she has continued to pursue the subject, and has lengthened and refined the monologue in line with what women around the world have told her.

One of the reasons that the show resonates with so many women is that it proves that women from all walks of life, regardless of economic or social status, can be subjected to domestic violence, which in Israel is widespread, sometimes leading to murder or attempted murder. In 2020, according to Israeli police records, there were 20,326 reported cases of domestic violence – sometimes by husbands abused by their wives.

Ackerman has performed the show internationally more than 2,000 times.

Sponsored by the Kol Haneshama charity fund, the show will be performed in Hebrew, followed by a Q and A session in Hebrew and English.

Kol Haneshama is a Jewish religious community affiliated with the Reform movement. This should not deter Orthodox people from attending. Domestic violence occurs across the board, regardless of whether the perpetrators are Jewish, Sephardi or Ashkenazi, Orthodox, non-Orthodox or secular. It requires a combined effort to stop domestic violence, and to empower the spouse who is the victim to get up and leave.

The suggested donation per ticket is NIS 100, NIS 50 for youth.