Grapevine October 23, 2022: A Yemenite festival

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Yemeni Jews demonstrate outside the Cabinet office in Sanaa, March 2009 (photo credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/ REUTERS)
Yemeni Jews demonstrate outside the Cabinet office in Sanaa, March 2009
(photo credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/ REUTERS)

Many people are under the mistaken impression that Yemenite Jews first came to Israel on Operation Magic Carpet – aka Eagle Wings in 1949. But the first Yemenites came much before that. The first wave of immigrants from Yemen was in 1881 and the flow continued till 1914, the year World War I erupted.

Between 1881-1882, some 30 Jewish families made their way on foot from Saana and its immediate surrounds to Jerusalem, settling in most cases in Silwan.

From 1881 until recently, when some of the few remaining Jews in Yemen chose to leave, more than 50,000 Yemenite Jews have migrated to Israel.

Most Israelis of Yemenite descent continue to maintain Yemenite traditions – certainly when it comes to food and music.

From October 26-29, Yemenites from all over the country will make their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Yemenite aliyah.

Yemenite family (credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept)Yemenite family (credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept)

The opening event at Beit Ha’am on October 26 will be attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. Entertainment will be provided by Zion Golan, Moshe Giat, Miriam and Shirli Tzafri Shiran and her band, the Amka Dance Group, and Daniel Zandani and his band. Many more artists and musicians will appear at different Jerusalem venues in the following days.

It should be remembered that the first two Israelis to win the Eurovision Song Contest were Izhar Cohen and Gali Atari, each of whom is of Yemenite background.

80th anniversary of the liquidation of the Czestochowa Ghetto

■ HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS from Czestochowa, Poland and their descendants will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the liquidation of the Czestochowa Ghetto on Thursday, November 10 at 5 p.m.

Between September 22 and October 7, 1942, approximately 40,000 Jews were deported from Czestochowa to the Treblinka extermination camp. Few survived.

The memorial ceremony will be held in Hall D of Levinsky College, 15 Shoshana Persitz St., Tel Aviv.

People arriving by public transportation are advised to board Dan buses 9 or 125, which stop at the College Gate; Egged 71; or Metropolitan lines 12 or 26. There is a free, on-site parking lot for those arriving by car.

Following memorial prayers, there will be an address by Alon Goldman, chairman of the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel and Descendants and world vice-president of the Organization of Czestochowa Jews. Modi Givon, a tour guide who accompanies groups to Poland, will lecture on “Czestochowa, Treblinka, and Everything In-Between.”

At the general meeting following Givon’s lecture, there will be the premiere screening in Israel of Czestochowa, World War II, the Years 1939-1945. Created by Krzysztof Kasprzak, the 43-minute film was awarded third prize at the 25th International Film and Multimedia Festival 2020. The narration is in Polish with Hebrew subtitles.

Two books, History of the Jews of Czestochowa and Hassag-Aparatbau Camp in Czestochowa, both in Hebrew, will be available for NIS 75 NIS each. Proceeds will go toward the refurbishment of the Jewish cemetery in Czestochowa.

Rebelling against Islamic Regime

■ SIGNS OF rebellion were evident among Iran’s population long before the current crisis that was provoked by the death last month of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for not properly covering her hair.

Eleven years ago, singer Rita, who was born in Tehran, developed a following in Iran after recording various Iranian pop songs, which she sang in her native language.

Over time, she has gained more and more fans in Iran. Rita happens to be the aunt of fashion model, actress, singer-songwriter and dancer Liraz Charhi. Though she was born in Ramla, Charhi grew up in a Persian cultural milieu, and likewise developed a following in Iran after recording songs in Farsi.

 Liraz Charhi (credit: MARK BLINCH/ REUTERS) Liraz Charhi (credit: MARK BLINCH/ REUTERS)

She recently appeared in the highly popular television drama series Tehran, in which she played a double agent.

Her latest album Roya, which means fantasy in Farsi, has already received considerable publicity and favorable reviews. It will be officially launched on November 9 at the International Oud Festival at Jerusalem’s Confederation House. The album was recorded in Turkey with four Iranian artists who displayed tremendous courage in performing with her.

This is not the first time that she has collaborated with Iranian artists. The sad thing is that they can’t receive any credit. Their names cannot be revealed and their faces cannot be shown.

Hopefully, that will soon change.

Is Horowitz staying as head of Meretz or is Galon taking over?

■ AT THE launch of this year’s Cancer Door-Knock Appeal at the President’s Residence last week, President Isaac Herzog, while greeting participants and dignitaries, said to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz that he wasn’t sure whether to welcome him or bid him farewell.

Horowitz, the Meretz leader in the previous Knesset elections, did not stand for reelection as chairman in the party’s primaries. The head of the party is now Zehava Galon, who was persuaded to come out of retirement. 

However, if none of the leaders of the parties vying for votes succeeds in putting together a 61-member coalition, the present interim government will remain on board until a solution is found. That would mean that Horowitz would continue to serve as minister regardless of how many seats Meretz might win or lose.

99th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey

■ IN CELEBRATION of the 99th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, charge d’affaires Mehmet G. Sekerci will host a reception that will be a prelude to the centenary festivities. In all probability, these will be hosted next year by the newly appointed Turkish ambassador to Israel, Sakir Ozkan Torunlar. This would be an ideal opportunity for a reciprocal state visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who hosted President Herzog this past March.

THERE ARE many prestigious prizes that are won by Israelis that seldom come to the public’s attention because they don’t have the regal aura of the Nobel Prize.

 Gali Atari perform as the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv in 1981 (credit: YAAKOV SAAR/GPO) Gali Atari perform as the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv in 1981 (credit: YAAKOV SAAR/GPO)

Prof. Natan Davidovitch, who heads the School of Public Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has been awarded a prize by the EU Schools of Public Health in recognition of his achievements in researching the inequality of health systems.

Davidovitch, who has a distinguished curriculum vitae, is a member of the executive board of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER).

Earlier this month, he was the ASPHER delegate to a regional meeting of the World Health Organization, where he spoke about sharing the European educational experience in public health in order to build up public health capacity in Israel. He emphasized that Israel was interested in learning best practices from the EU, to be able to better prepare and train the workforce in public health.

Australia's leading Jewish Day school

■ MOUNT SCOPUS College is one of Australia’s leading Jewish day schools and a pioneer in the field, though its community college is aimed at providing some form of Jewish education to children from all sectors of the Jewish community. It never claimed to be a Zionist school, but the school hymn, “Me’al Pisgat Har Hatzofim” (From the Peak of Mount Scopus) most definitely carries a Zionist message.

Founded in the same year as the State of Israel, and opened a few months later on February 8, 1949, some thousand of its alumni and other former students have made aliyah. Some of them meet regularly, but others meet only at weddings and funerals – if at all. However, on January 3 there will be a multi-generational gathering of present students and Old Collegians under the auspices of the Mount Scopus Foundation.

Some of the students from the first matriculation class live in Israel. Among them are Amiel Gurt, Daniel Lew, Peter Medding, Louise Israeli (nee Golbourn) and Susie Yellin (nee Friedman). Probably the largest gatherings throughout the year of Mount Scopus Old Collegians who live in Israel are via the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce, whose executive director, Paul Israel is a Mount Scopus Old Collegian, as are several other members in addition to other Australian expats. 

But the January 3 event, to be held at Lago in Rishon Lezion, will include students from grades 10, 11 and 12 in what promises to be the largest-ever gathering of Australians in Israel – though an Australia Day gathering hosted by the Zionist Federation of Australia some years ago attracted a very large crowd, as did the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, in 2017. Among the non-Australians at the get-together will be President Herzog.

New book on Mordechai Richler's life

■ CANADIAN AND American Jews are perhaps more familiar with the writings of Mordechai Richler than most other people. Though Richler was a brilliant writer, he was also outrageously irreverent and embittered and had an extremely negative relationship with his mother who was the butt of his fury.

Richler died in July 2001 after a battle with cancer.

Now, a new book about him has been written by Shana Mauer and will be launched on Sunday morning, October 30, at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. Titled Mordecai Richler’s Imperfect Search for Moral Values (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2022), Mauer is confident that the book “will draw an audience of Canadians and Americans who recall the brouhaha when Richler presented The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz to the world, scandalized the Bronfmans with Solomon Gursky was Here, and endeared readers with Barney’s Version.

Although Richler was to some extent the black sheep of the family, Mauer will not be surprised if some of his relatives show up at the launch.

Book launch at the Israel Museum

■ ANOTHER BOOK launch scheduled for November 9 at the Israel Museum will have an audience of some 250 guests who have been invited by the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation to celebrate the publication of this definitive biography of one of the greatest bankers of the late 20th century. 

The book, A Banker’s Journey: How Edmond J. Safra Built a Global Financial Empire, which also provides insights into the lifestyles and loyalties of Syrian Jewry, was written by Daniel Gross, who on his mother’s side also stems from Syrian Jewry. An engaging writer, with a strong background in writing about economics, Gross nonetheless paints a very comprehensive and human picture of a man of extraordinary fiscal acumen, and a philanthropist of unstinting generosity. Gross is coming to Israel specially for the launch.

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