Grapevine September 10, 2022: Reform is in the air

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 President Isaac Herzog reenacts Theodor Herzl’s famous balcony photograph in Basel on August 29, just as his late father and Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, did during his state visit to Switzerland in 1987. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog reenacts Theodor Herzl’s famous balcony photograph in Basel on August 29, just as his late father and Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, did during his state visit to Switzerland in 1987.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

It may have nothing to do with the fact that Israel some years ago changed its legislation with regard to the president of the state, giving the elected person one seven-year term instead of the previous five-year term with the option of a second term, making a total of 10 years in office, but the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev wants to introduce a similar reform, which he announced this month in his State of the Nation address.

In a summary of the address made available by Kazakhstan Ambassador Satybaldy Burshakov, reforms mentioned by Tokayev include: limiting the president’s term to one of seven years; raising the basic wage; the creation of a new national fund for children, with 50% of the profits from its annual investment to be paid into special savings accounts for children till they reach the age of 18, after which the accumulated amounts will be used for housing or education; simplification of entry visas; strengthening the independence of the judiciary; the decentralization of government; and the easing of registration of political parties.

Tokayev’s predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who served as Kazakhstan’s first post-Communist president, was in office from 1991 to 2019, serving a total of five terms.

■ ETHIOPIAN-BORN journalist and author Danny Adeno Abebe, whose book From Africa to Zion reached the finals of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature in Association with the National Library of Israel, will appear on Zoom on Monday, September 12 at 1 p.m. EDT, 8 p.m. Israel time, in a virtual awards ceremony and in conversation with Rabbi David Wolpe. Also participating in the conversation will be Eylon Levy, the translator of the book, who is currently international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog.

Another finalist who will be part of the conversation will be Ayala Fader, the author of Hidden Heretics, as will the winner Menachem Kaiser, who wrote A memoir Of Family Property and Nazi Treasure. To listen to the discussion, log in at https://www.samirohrprize.org/watch.

 Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June. (credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS) Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June. (credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)

■ FOR PEOPLE who prefer in-person events, the Austrian Cultural Forum in cooperation with Liebling House, 29 Idelson St., Tel Aviv, will present a talk in English between Israeli artist Ronny Aviram, who was born in Haifa, in 1983 and grew up in Tel Aviv, and Austrian-born writer Christina Maria Landerl. A multidisciplinary artist, Aviram has been living and working in Leipzig, Germany, since 2017. Her work includes photography, video, installation and sound.

Christina Maria Landerl was born in Steyr, Upper Austria, in 1979 and lives and works as a writer in Berlin. She is a trained social worker and trauma counselor who worked for many years with adolescents and young women.

The two women joined forces to produce the book On Coming Home in which each looks from her present vantage point at the changes in the homeland that she left.

They have appeared together at book launches in Germany, and will now take the opportunity to address audiences in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, September 13 at 7.30 p.m.

Charity for the holiday

■ WITH ROSH Hashanah just around the corner, charitable organizations are once again putting out calls for food and cash donations for the needy to ensure that they have a better-than-average meal for the holiday. Better still, if families have room at their holiday tables for one or more additional guests, especially seniors who are living alone, this would be extremely welcome. Meanwhile, among the first to put out the call is Joseph Gitler, founder and chairman of Leket Israel, who says: “We are in a period of economic distress, and thousands of families will have trouble making ends meet in time for Rosh Hashanah.”

According to Gitler, $180 will provide 180 nutritious meals for the holiday. The calculation seems impossible, but with its food rescue plan, Leket has been able to make the impossible possible.

■ LAST WEEK, KEA New Zealand, which is represented in Israel by Josh Brown, hosted a meeting in Jaffa aimed at bringing together the expatriate Kiwi business community, some of whose members have done very well in Israel. The KEA community has more than 500,000 members around the globe and is supported by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other private and public agencies.

Among the speakers at the event in Jaffa was newly appointed New Zealand Honorary Consul Isaac Bentwich, who together with Softbank Ventures Partner Benjamin Weiss and technology innovation expert Arnnei Speiser, discussed the Israel-New Zealand relationship.

“KEA is a well-established Kiwi institution and its launch in Israel is long overdue,” says Brown. “As a proud Kiwi-Israeli, I’m working to build bridges between the two countries. I recognize that many Kiwi olim have become very successful in business and innovation, and I see the potential for them to support New Zealand in achieving the same sort of tech transformation that Israel went through in the 2000s.”

According to Brown, “Kiwi expats in Israel can have a role to play in influencing and strengthening Israel’s relationship with New Zealand and this can be achieved through expanded business ties.”

The event was hosted by Australian expat Hila Solomon of Spoons Salon aided by the New Zealand-Israel Innovation Hub and the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce.

KEA is a bridge between Kiwis living abroad and others who want to support New Zealand.

Brown is planning to hold other events in the near future.

A festive anniversary

■ THE RECENT celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel last month received widespread media coverage, but most reports failed to note the important gathering of several hundred Christians in the same venue of the Stadtcasino hall to kick off the three days of observances with a conference highlighting the Christian role in Israel’s modern-day restoration.

The Swiss branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, led by ICEJ-Switzerland national director René Emmenegger, arranged the Christian gathering, which was held on Sunday, August 28, just before the hall was handed over to the World Zionist Organization.

The ICEJ conference featured an array of Christian and Jewish leaders and scholars, including representatives from both the mainline and free churches, which presented a powerful message of Christian support and friendship to the Jewish State.

ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler opened the conference and several scholars spoke on Theodor Herzl and the Zionist movement. ICEJ Vice President of International Affairs Dr. Mojmir Kallus, gave the closing address.

“Fifty-one years after the First Zionist Congress, held in this very hall in 1897, the State of Israel was miraculously born,” Bühler told the gathering. “I believe you can say today that those founding fathers of the State of Israel who met here in this hall 125 years ago, they could have never imagined what is taking place in Eretz Israel today – that Israel became the Start-Up Nation and a leader in global research and development. We are here today to celebrate what God has done with the Jewish people, and also to affirm our stand and support for the Jewish state in the years to come.”

The Christian delegates issued a series of resolutions affirming their support for Israel and addressing several important current issues facing the Jewish state and people. The resolutions first highlighted the remarkable successes of the Zionist movement over the decades, most notably the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948, but also that these successes came at a great cost and in particular with the Holocaust. The delegates also affirmed the historic Seelisberg Declaration of 1947, issued by prominent Christian and Jewish leaders also meeting in Switzerland in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, which sought to enlist Christians more fully in the fight against antisemitism and to create a new foundation for Jewish-Christian dialogue going forward.

Other key resolutions adopted at the Basel conference stated:

“We affirm the reborn nation of Israel today as evidence of God’s faithfulness to His enduring covenant relationship with the Jewish people first sealed with the Patriarch Abraham some four thousand years ago. This covenant, which predates the Christian faith by two millennia, has never been terminated and in fact it is irrevocable according to God’s word. It is important for Christians to understand and respect the central place of the Land of Israel in Judaism and Jewish identity.

“We affirm that Israel’s right to exist as a nation in peace and security is indisputable. This principle was duly acknowledged by the international community when recognizing the historic, pre-existing rights and claims of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the San Remo Conference of 1920, the British Mandate over Palestine approved by the League of Nations in 1922, the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, and the acceptance of Israel as a UN member state in 1949. We celebrate today this legacy of Israel taking its rightful place among the nations, which is a fulfillment of Herzl’s vision of a reconstituted Jewish state serving as a safe haven for Jewish communities from the dual threats of antisemitism and assimilation.

“We affirm that antisemitism remains a prevalent threat to the Jewish people today and must be rejected and opposed by Christians everywhere.”

There is a tendency among many Jews to view any sign of Christian goodwill with suspicion. It comes after centuries of discrimination, persecution and murder at the hands of Christian Jew-haters. But not all Christians hate Jews, and certainly those who believe strongly in the Bible adhere to the content of the above-mentioned affirmations, and support both the Zionist enterprise and the Jewish people.