Grapevine November 4, 2022: Ben-Gvir – a new political star

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with members of the Israel delegation to the UN Climate Conference.  (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with members of the Israel delegation to the UN Climate Conference.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

It’s high season for conferences, memorial days and the marking of historic anniversaries. It will be interesting to see how soon some think tank organization will mount a conference on the meteoric rise of Itamar Ben-Gvir from the role of political enfant terrible to that of the darling of the right, and to what extent the media influenced his increasing stardom. While Ben-Gvir’s ascent in the popularity polls is largely attributed to the outgoing government’s inability to curb Arab violence or to stop Palestinian terrorism, media reports of his appearance at the Blich High School in Ramat Gan in September, and the warm reception that he received from a large segment of the students, served to clinch his political future. The Blich school where former Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg was once a student, has achieved a reputation as Israel’s political fortune teller. In the interim, Ben-Gvir received enormous media coverage, which though not always objective did much to promote him and his cause to the extent that he eclipsed his mentor and teacher the late Rabbi Meir Kahane by leaps and bounds. Kahane, an American-born extreme right-winger, while on a speaking tour in the US, was assassinated on November 5, 1990 in New York. What a remarkable coincidence for Ben-Gvir to soar politically on a date so close to the anniversary of Kahane’s death. The intense media interest in Ben-Gvir was evidenced by the number of local and foreign press photographers and reporters who congregated in Kiryat Arba on Tuesday when Ben-Gvir cast his vote.

Prime Minister's Residence

■ IF, AS seems to be the case, Benjamin Netanyahu once again becomes the occupant of the Prime Minister’s Residence, he may find that one of the couches that was there when he left a year and a half ago, is no longer in place. It was thrown out with a lot of other trash in the course of renovations. Although it was probably in a faulty condition, it should perhaps not have been discarded, considering who may have sat on it during the administrations of Ehud Olmert and Netanyahu, and possibly even before then. The couch represented the butts of history – both local and international.

 ITAMAR BEN-GVIR will not make Benjamin Netanyahu’s life easy in a government they form together. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS) ITAMAR BEN-GVIR will not make Benjamin Netanyahu’s life easy in a government they form together. (credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)

Remembering Kristallnacht

■ KRISTALLNACHT, OR the Night of the Broken Glass as it is often referred to, was in a sense, the most public beginning of the Holocaust. During November 9 and 10, 1938, 1,400 synagogues and Jewish institutions in Germany and Austria were broken into and torched.

Jewish-owned shops and factories were vandalized and broken into, and many Jews were murdered. This is yet another dark chapter in Holocaust history, the lesson of which has not been sufficiently learned. Synagogues and other Jewish institutions are still being attacked by antisemites and hate-mongers, and Jews are still being murdered for no reason other than the fact that they are Jews. To both draw attention to this social malady and to combat it, the International March of the Living in 2020 initiated a global campaign Let there be Light that aims at spreading light over the darkness of hatred and encouraging solidarity in the struggle against antisemitism, racism and intolerance. One of the main features of the campaign is to keep lights on in Houses of Worship, public institutions and private homes on the night of November 9.

In Jerusalem, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9, various people connected with fighting Nazism, neo-Nazis, and antisemitism and racism in general will be honored at an event on the Mamilla promenade, from which their stories will be projected on the walls of the old city. Among the people being honored will be German-born journalist Walter Bingham, 98, who is remarkably well preserved and still working. Bingham, who witnessed Kristallnacht, was in 1939 sent to England on a Kindertransport. As soon as he was old enough, he enlisted in the British Army, and served as an ambulance driver in the Royal Army Service Corps. He participated in the front lines of the Normandy Landing in 1944, and was awarded a medal for bravery for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire. Due to his knowledge of German, he was transferred to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force to help analyze German documents. He also worked in counterintelligence where he identified former Nazi officers who were attempting to conceal their Nazi past. He has been living in Israel since 2004.

He will celebrate his 99th birthday in January.

■ ELSEWHERE IN Israel, the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht will be commemorated at Beit Terezin at Kibbutz Givat Haim, with an all-day conference beginning at 10:30 a.m. on November 9. Participants will explore part of the history of pre-State Israel to ask whether the leadership of that time had distanced itself from the suffering of the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. The event cohosted by the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin and Beit Terezin, will include amongst the speakers Austrian Ambassador Nikolaus Lutterotti and Deputy Chief of Mission at the German Embassy Dr. Jorg Walendy. An historical overview will be presented by Prof. Dina Porat, chief historian at Yad Vashem, followed by a panel discussion on the attitudes of the pre-State Jewish community moderated by journalist Oren Nahari with historians Muki Tsur and Prof. Moshe Zimmermann.

Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies president steps down

■ AFTER SEVEN years as President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Prof. Doron Bar, a seventh generation Jerusalemite has stepped down to make way for his successor Prof. Ari Ackerman, Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Education, who officially took up his new role on October 1.

The Schechter Institute is located close to the Israel Museum which was considered to be an ideal venue for an event in which to pay tribute to Bar, to honor Ackerman as the Institute’s new president and to simultaneously engage in what Schechter is all about – namely, Jewish education. Participants were given a museum tour to learn about Jerusalem-related art, folklore and archaeology.

In his farewell address, Bar reflected on how Israelis are thirsting for knowledge in all areas of Jewish studies.

“I have seen how huge an interest Israelis have for Jewish studies. They long to learn more about their own selves and inquire about their Jewish and Israeli identity,” he said “The challenge before us is how to best create connection in a real and visceral way between Israeli society and our important field. Many of us want and actually need a connection to our roots, to the tradition, to the spiritual underpinnings, the religion, the national aspect in the Bible, Midrash, to S. Y. Agnon and modern Israeli singer-songwriter Meir Ariel.”

Jonathan Steinberg, chairman of Schechter’s Board of Directors who worked closely with Bar, said of him: “His personality allows him to listen to each and every one, to teach and learn from each person, and share thoughts with others during the process.”

Herzog heads to COP27

■ PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid had been scheduled to lead the large Israel delegation to COP 27, the United Nations Climate Conference that is taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6-18. But after it became obvious that the right-wing bloc headed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu had come out ahead in the national elections held on Tuesday, Lapid bowed out of the conference, and the Israel delegation will now be led by President Isaac Herzog, who since taking office has made climate change research one of his top priorities. In fact, he hosted outgoing Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg and other members of the delegation on Wednesday evening, and showed a keen interest in what individual people had researched.

When Herzog was still in politics, and heading the Labor Party, his ambition was to be prime minister. That didn’t work out then, and now he’s standing in for the prime minister

But a lot can happen in six years, especially in Israel, and Herzog, though he denies any interest in returning to politics, may have a change of heart when nearing the completion of his presidential term. After all, Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon went back to politics and served as Education Minister.

However, any decision-making about politics these days is related to recommendations that Herzog will receive from Knesset delegations as to which MK he should ask to form a government.

But before that, in Sharm, the Israel Export Institute, the Manufacturers Association and The Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy will hold an official business event on Tuesday, November 8, from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Israel is home to about 200 companies in the climate technology (Climate Tech) field, which consolidates solutions from different domains to combat climate change. On average, about 20 new climate-tech companies are launched in Israel each year. Of the 200 companies currently operating in Israel, about half of them are already selling actual products and about half are still at the research and development stages. According to the IVC research firm, investment in climate technology in Israel in 2021 amounted to $1.6 billion dollars, while in the first half of 2022, investment came to $625 million.

Participants in Tuesday’s business event include: Chairperson of the Israel Export Institute Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin; President of the Manufactures Association of Israel and Chairman of the Presidency of Employers and Business Dr. Ron Tomer; CEO of the Israel Export Institute Nili Shalev; Deputy Director of Economics, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yael Rabia Zadok; Deputy General- Manager Industries at Ministry of Economy and Industry Oz Katz; Director-General of the Innovation Authority Dror Bin; CEO of the Start-up Nation Central Avi Hasson; Partner and Head of the Environmental Quality and Climate Change Department at Herzog Fox Neeman Law Firm Dr. Ruth Dagan; CEO of Mekorot Amit Lang; and CEO of Eilat-Eilot Dorit Bennett, along with many others.

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