Grapevine November 2, 2022: Back to the balcony

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 CHIEF RABBI of Ukraine Moshe Reuven Azman with Nir Kimhi (center) and MK Nir Barkat. (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)
CHIEF RABBI of Ukraine Moshe Reuven Azman with Nir Kimhi (center) and MK Nir Barkat.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR)

Apparently not realizing the horrendous symbolism of what they were doing, or possibly deliberately employing such symbolism, right-wingers stood on a balcony in Zion Square last Saturday night and heckled speakers at the Labor Party memorial rally which marked not only the 27th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, but also the 27th anniversary of the right-wing protest against him that was held there.

At that rally, which took place a month before Rabin’s assassination, photoshopped images of Rabin in SS uniform and a keffiyeh were circulated, and placards carried by anti-Oslo Accords activists charged Rabin with treason and even with murder.

Former Labor MK Miki Rosenthal, who on Saturday was moderator, and Labor’s current leader, Merav Michaeli, made it clear that not all right-wing parliamentarians were guilty of incitement. Michaeli recalled that when the hateful rhetoric started at the right-wing rally 27 years earlier, MKs Bennie Begin, Dan Meridor and David Levy exited the balcony because they wanted no part in the incitement.

Rosenthal said that Labor had been accused of turning the memorial tribute into a political rally. Indeed it was, he said, because the anti-Rabin demonstration 27 years earlier had been a political rally. Past and present Labor MKs and ministers were in attendance, but what was more important was that young people who were toddlers or not yet born when Rabin was assassinated composed a large proportion of the crowd. Parents also brought children.

Before and between the speeches, there were nostalgic and patriotic songs via canned music broadcasts or live performances by Meital Trabelsi and Aya Korem, with Trabelsi presenting a more heartfelt rendition of “Shir Lashalom” (A Song for Peace) than that which Miri Aloni led only minutes before Rabin was fatally shot in Tel Aviv.

 MERAV MICHAELI at the Rabin memorial rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. (credit: RAANAN COHEN) MERAV MICHAELI at the Rabin memorial rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. (credit: RAANAN COHEN)

Former political party leader, foreign minister and justice minister Tzipi Livni, who was still a firm right-winger at the time of the assassination, before moving to the Left, said that she had gone to Rabin’s peace rally, even though she disagreed with him, “because he was my prime minister.”

At the back of the crowd in the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall adjoining Zion Square were large groups of yeshiva students – many with American accents – who got into heated arguments with left-wingers over Rabin’s policies. Happily, it was verbal, without fisticuffs, albeit a lot of accusatory finger-pointing.

Retired ambassador celebrates birthday

■ ELSEWHERE IN the country, on the same evening, founding president of the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel, retired ambassador and former chief of state protocol Yitzhak Eldan, was celebrating his 79th birthday in Herzliya, at a party hosted by Yoram Naor, the honorary consul-general of Belize. A multifaceted businessman, philanthropist and a stalwart of the ACI, Naor loves to entertain, and Eldan’s birthday in the final year of his eighth decade was as good a reason as any.

Guests included many members of the ACI, and entertainment was provided by singer Tigran Gasparian and pianist Marina Lebenson. Casablanca-born Eldan will continue to celebrate his birthday in Morocco next week. Of the many gifts he received, the best he said, was watching his infant granddaughter take her first steps.

Israel and Brazil elections

■ CHIEF PRIME ministerial hopefuls in yesterday’s election were the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, who were respectively born on either side of the election date. It was asked in this column for which of the two the election results would be a birthday gift.

In Brazil, following election campaigns that were even more mendaciously acrimonious than those in Israel, the winner, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who celebrated his 79th birthday on October 27, definitely received a birthday gift, after narrowly defeating right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in a very close race that leaves the Brazilian population politically divided. Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, a pro-Israel Evangelist, wore a T-shirt with the print of the Israeli flag when she went to vote – but it obviously was not the good symbol she was hoping for.

Her husband, who is also pro-Israel, had pledged to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem but, due to strong opposition by the large Palestinian population in Brazil, left it in Tel Aviv, but opened a trade and investment office in Jerusalem.

In November 2009, Lula da Silva hosted then-president Shimon Peres, who visited both Argentina and Brazil to warn of the Iranian global threat. In March 2010, Lula da Silva paid a reciprocal visit to Israel, where he was warmly received by both Peres and then-prime minister Netanyahu.

Over time, Lula da Silva has become increasingly pro-Palestinian. Nonetheless, President Isaac Herzog sent him a congratulatory message, just as Herzog had received such messages from world leaders who were not exactly well disposed to Israel. That’s what diplomacy is all about.

Netanyahu and Barkat hit up the Friends of Zion Museum

■ LAST THURSDAY, Netanyahu and former Jerusalem mayor MK Nir Barkat, who hopes to one day be Netanyahu’s successor as head of the Likud, took time out from electioneering to attend an event at the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem in support of Ukrainian immigrants and refugees.

Also in attendance were the ambassador of Slovakia, the head of the Kosovo diplomatic mission to Israel, and the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman.

In the presence of numerous recent immigrants from Ukraine, Barkat thanked Dr. Mike Evans and Michael Evans II, founder and president, respectively, of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center, for their work on behalf of the citizens of Ukraine.

“Since the outbreak of the war in February 2022, both Dr. Evans and Michael have been going to and from Ukraine, providing over 1,400 tons of food, medicine, generators and supplies for refugees in the war zones, said Barkat. “I believe that the State of Israel should stand by Ukraine along with the Western world, the US and European countries.”

In response, Michael Evans II said, “When I see firsthand on the front lines the unspeakable pain that Ukrainian homeless refugees are experiencing, I know that what we are doing at Friends of Zion, as friends of the State of Israel, is so very important.”

Dr. Mike Evans and his son Michael have been working in Ukraine for more than a decade, feeding hundreds of Holocaust survivors and Jewish orphans. Over the past year, Evans has been assisting in bringing Ukrainian children and Holocaust survivors to Israel.

In Jerusalem, Evans built a community center and apartments for Ukrainian Holocaust survivors, at the Friends of Zion Heritage Center campus. In addition, Evans and his son each week feed several thousand Holocaust survivors in Israel, in addition to organizing parties and events for them, including bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the Western Wall for survivors who were denied the opportunity when they were young. Evans also sponsored this year’s Miss Holocaust Survivor beauty pageant, at the Friends of Zion campus.

Ukrainian immigrants get event at Cinema City

■ IN ANOTHER part of the capital, at another event for Ukrainian immigrants that was jointly hosted at Cinema City by Bridges for Peace and Yad L’Olim, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum declared that the government must do more to help Ukrainian immigrant refugees.

Both Rebecca Brumer, the CEO of Bridges for Peace, and Rabbi Dov Lipman, the founder and CEO of Yad L’Olim, were on hand to supervise the distribution of housewares and other necessities to the many Ukrainian and Russian immigrants who have recently arrived in the country.

Hassan-Nahoum said that she was heartbroken to see the volume of needs that are only partially being met by volunteer organizations, and urged the government to do more.

The benefits of Israel-Turkey normalization

■ THE GRADUAL normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey will have a positive regional impact, diplomats, politicians and businesspeople who on Monday night were guests at the magnificent Turkish residence in Kfar Shmaryahu agreed among themselves. They were enjoying Turkish hospitality at the invitation of Mehmet Sekerci, Turkey’s chargé d’affaires, who wanted them to join him in celebrating the 99th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey.

Prior to the addresses delivered by Sekerci and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, the Republic Speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was read out, and even before that a violin duo comprising a Greek and a Turkish violinist, played the national anthems of Turkey and Israel. The two, who come from countries traditionally hostile to each other, symbolized the ability to live in perfect harmony.

In his speech, Erdogan expressed gratitude to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk for founding the Republic, which he served as its first president. Erdogan noted that at a time of global instability, Turkey is working toward peace, stability and justice, and is trying to find a solution to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

Incidentally, Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov was among the guests, and there were a number of people who were happy to talk to him.

Sekerci credited the historic visit to Turkey by Herzog as a vital factor of the increasing return to the normalization of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Since then, he continued, there have been numerous high-level visits on both sides, and cooperation has increased in every field.

Regardless of what happened on the diplomatic front, economic and trade relations between Turkey and Israel were not negatively affected, he said. Turkey is Israel’s fifth largest trading partner, while Israel is Turkey’s 15th largest trading partner, said Sekerci, who sees greater potential in trade between the two countries as business-to-business cooperation increases, especially in combining Israeli technology with Turkish industry.

Tourism has also received a boost, with 750,000 Israelis expected to visit Turkey during the whole of 2022.

Relating to the long relationship between Turkey and the Jewish people, Sekerci mentioned a photo exhibition of synagogues in Turkey that will go on view in Jaffa, later this month.

He also mentioned Turkey’s hope that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be resolved through the achievement of a just and lasting peace that will be mutually beneficial to both sides.

Hendel, who was very pleased to be representing the government, said that when he was reading up on Turkey, he learned something that he and most Israelis did not know before. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel.

Despite the ups and downs in relations between Turkey and Israel, said Hendel, relations had never actually been severed. As for trade, it continued to be strong, and currently stands at $7 billion.

Absentee voting

■ RECENTLY, THERE was mention in this column of whether Americans living abroad should be allowed to vote in American elections or should be subject to the same rules that apply to Israelis living abroad, namely: you can keep your citizenship, but not your voting right.

American expat Martin Weisberg, who lives in Israel, explains why Americans living abroad have a vested interest in voting. Under US law, citizens must report and pay US taxes on worldwide income, no matter where earned. Consequently, for the rest of their lives they will filing US income tax returns and paying taxes in America. For this reason, he says, Americans living abroad have a very definite stake in the outcome of US elections.

For many, giving up US citizenship is not an option, because many live on their social security, which often pays for their cost of living abroad.

Talbiyeh festival ends

■ THE FINAL event of the Talbiyeh Festival organized by the local Talbiyeh Community Council in Jerusalem will take place on Thursday evening, November 3, at 7:30 p.m., in the courtyard of the Capuchin Monastery at 16 Disraeli Street.

According to Bernice Fogel, who will be moderating the event, most people are unaware that there was a priest by the name of Pierre-Marie Benoit, from the Capuchin Order of monks, who in 1966 was honored by Yad Vashem for having saved 4,000 Jews in Marseilles and Rome during the Holocaust. The Capuchin Monastery has worked with the Talbiyeh Community Council and representatives of rescue organizations to create an evening in tribute to his memory and to describe some of his operations in his courageous mission to save Jewish lives.

Holocaust distortion

■ HOLOCAUST DISTORTION will be among the subjects discussed by Mark Weitzman, the COO of the World Jewish Restitution Organization at the Terezin conference taking place in Prague this week. In conversation with The Jerusalem Post in Jerusalem on Sunday, Weitzman said that Holocaust distortion applies not only to the Jews, but also to Poland. The WJRO has consistently upheld Poland’s objections to references to Polish extermination and concentration camps.

“There were no Polish death camps. There were German camps on Polish soil,” said Weitzman. “At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that there were individual Poles who collaborated with the Nazis.”

Breast cancer awareness

■ IN MANY countries of the world, during breast cancer awareness month, recovering or recovered men and women, members of their families and close friends don lipstick-pink T-shirts and go for a long-distance run to draw attention to the need for checkups, because early detection can have a lifesaving effect. In Israel, the run traditionally takes off from the President’s Residence.

While not actually joining the run, the president’s wife, Michal Herzog, hosted runners from the “I’m running, too” contingent, which altogether numbers more than a thousand women, who are divided into urban or regional groups going for runs all over Israel, with the aim of attracting attention by their uniform attire.

The female runners who met with Herzog were accompanied by Omri Pedatzur, who is in the forefront of this annual initiative. Herzog was greatly impressed by the individual and collective resilience of the women, and said it was great to see the morning at the residence begin with a blaze of pink. In contrast to the pastel lipstick, Herzog was dressed in a hot pink pants suit, which, in a way, emphasized the message.

Donating to charity

■ MANY PEOPLE who are involved in charitable causes did not give much thought to them until they or a member of their family was helped by that particular cause.

This is particularly the case with hospitals where patients who never gave much thought to any life-threatening illness are suddenly stricken with one, and have their lives saved by a certain hospital. We see it all the time during breast cancer awareness month, diabetes awareness, and in the cases of other illnesses that make no distinction between different socioeconomic and intellectual classes. Anyone and everyone can become a victim to any number of diseases, some of which are fatal. But some can be arrested or cured.

“The hospital literally saved my life.” Those were the words that resonated around the hall of the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Netanya from a recovered patient, after more than a year of hospitalization and rehabilitation in the intensive care unit of the Laniado Medical Center in Netanya.

The patient’s wife, who had that same day been moved out of the intensive care unit and into the surgery ward, echoed the sentiment. Both husband and wife had been in critical condition and had been maintained on life-support equipment, for prolonged periods.

Their praise for the devoted and skilled attention received from their doctors and other medical staff resonated with the nearly 200 guests at the annual dinner of the Netanya Supporters of Laniado Hospital.

Guests were welcomed by Tony Plaskow, chairperson of the Supporters Board, at the first fundraising dinner to be held in three years. The gap was due to COVID. Progress and update reports were given by Laniado CEO Nadav Chen, and Eli Knoller, director of development and community relations.

Laniado Medical Center provides care and treatment for the 500,000 people living in greater Netanya and the surrounding Sharon region.

In recent years, there has been intense development and expansion of facilities in the hospital’s 60 departments and units. This includes the completion of the new protected and advanced dialysis unit, capable of continuous operation even under emergency situations, new sheltered delivery and emergency rooms and a sheltered neonatal department, plus increased maternity and obstetrics services, and extended oncology and plastic surgery departments.

Academic teaching and training activities were also much expanded, due to a cooperation agreement with the Adelson Faculty of Medicine at Ariel University.

Mention was also made of the recently released Health Ministry quality index report that commended Laniado’s emergency medicine department for providing patients with initial treatment within just four minutes of entering.

A new, technically advanced, 17-bed intensive care department is presently being developed. The proceeds of this year’s fundraising dinner and brochure are directed to the $100,000 purchase of the latest cutting-edge medical equipment for each of the rooms. The ICU is one of the most crucial features of any hospital in saving the lives of those most desperately in need of treatment. The furnishing of these rooms will be dedicated to the memory of the late Rabbi Natan and Rachail Morowi, who for many years devoted themselves to unceasing work for Laniado and the community.

The activities and needs of the intensive care department were described by its head, Dr. Maury Shapira. Guests were entertained by the popular Kippalive Israeli a cappella group.

Diplomacy, Belgium and jazz

■ POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and formality are part and parcel of diplomatic baggage, but these days diplomats are much more casual and informal than they used to be, and several of those posted in Israel are not only jazz fans but also jazz exponents on a variety of musical instruments.

Case in point is Belgian Ambassador Jean-Luc Bodson, who on King’s Day, November 15, will host A tribute to Toots Thielemans, in which he will play the double bass together with Yotam Ben-Or, harmonica; Eitan Itzkovich, drums; Yonatan Riklis, piano; and Hagar Levy, vocals.

Thielemans, who died in 2016 at age 94, was one of Belgium’s most celebrated jazz musicians. Multitalented, he played a chromatic harmonica, and guitar, and was also a skilled whistler and composer. His career took off big-time in 1950 when he joined Benny Goodman’s band, which was touring Europe. He subsequently moved to the US, where he worked with top artists such as Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. He initially started playing the harmonica as a hobby, but it became his signature instrument.

In 2001, he was made a baron by King Albert II. He played his last concert in 2012 in celebration of his 90th birthday. Given that he was accorded a title by a king, it is only fitting to pay tribute to him on a King’s Day jazz evening.

Belgium, of course, is not the only country that produces diplomats who are also musicians. There was a Dutch ambassador in Israel who was an excellent pianist.

Diaspora Judaism is disintegrating

■ DIASPORA JUDAISM is disintegrating and losing its connections to the State of Israel, philanthropist and businessman Shmuel Hayek said last week in London at a meeting of Jewish National Fund presidents from around the world. Hayek, who is CEO of JNF-UK, said that Diaspora Jewry more than ever needs the help of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, whose financial resources can be channeled to education and the dispatching of Zionist educational emissaries around the world to flood Jewish communities with Zionist studies, including proficiency in the Hebrew language.

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