Grapevine February 10, 2023: Turkey and Syria's earthquake tragedy

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Professor Dan Shechtman who presented him with the booklet of the biographies and achievements of Wolf Prize laureates for 2023. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Professor Dan Shechtman who presented him with the booklet of the biographies and achievements of Wolf Prize laureates for 2023.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

The progressive Orthodox congregation of Jerusalem

The Shira Hadasha congregation in Jerusalem, though Orthodox, is progressive and has certain customs not generally seen in other Orthodox congregations. They’ve now gone a step further with a mixed voice choir, which does not necessarily run the gamut from tenor to bass, but which includes both men and women. 

Next Friday night, February 17, the Kol Rina mixed voice choir conducted by Jonny Greenstein, will be part of the Kabbalat Shabbat service at Shira Hadasha, which is located at Beit Yehudit in Emek Refaim. Greenstein believes that this may be the first time that a mixed voice choir will be heard at an Orthodox synagogue service in Jerusalem, though it was the norm in Britain in the Victorian era.

Greenstein regrets that this is no longer the case, but in a nod to the past, the Kol Rina choir’s repertoire next Friday will be based on the music of the Victorian synagogue.

Druze delegation hosted for Shabbat

SOMETHING ELSE that is unlikely to be found in even the most modern of Orthodox Synagogues, is a tribute to the Druze community, whose members paid the supreme sacrifice while serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

Since making aliyah seven years ago, Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier has been organizing an annual event for members of the Druze community on the Shabbat of the Jethro Torah reading.

Jethro, a Midianite priest, who was the father-in-law of Moses, is highly revered as a prophet by the Druze community. Jethro gave considerable advice to Moses, and what is currently the most pertinent, he advised him to set up a legal system, which is the basis for the legal system which is currently under threat. 

Just ahead of the evening prayers this Friday night, February 10, Kermaier will host a Druze delegation, including several Druze notables, at the Shai Agnon Synagogue at 11 Leib Yaffe Street in Jerusalem. Later in the evening, he will welcome congregants and friends to an Oneg Shabbat at his home at 13 Kfar Etzion Street in Arnona, where they can meet the Druze personally, and chat with them. Special honor is being given to the Nahed widow and the two young sons of Lt. Col.Mahmoud Kheir Al-Din, who served as a combat soldier and special operations commander in the Intelligence Division of the IDF, and who fell during an operational action in Gaza in 2018.

When his death was initially reported, he was referred to only by his initials. It took nearly four years before the IDF Spokesman released his name and photograph.

It is very important to Mahmoud’s family that his sons should know how much he was respected and appreciated by the IDF and large numbers of the civilian population, and how dedicated he was to defending Israel’s security.

International film showing war trauma and PTSD

DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATIVES of Poland and Ukraine, together with the European Leadership Network (ELNET Israel), are hosting the screening of a documentary film “We’re in this Together” portraying Polish-Ukrainian-Israeli cooperation in the field of war trauma and PTSD prevention.

Poland has been very much in the forefront of support for Ukraine, and has provided a haven and social welfare services for some 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees. This figure is higher than any other in Europe. Altogether, more than 7.4 million recorded Ukrainian refugees are scattered across countries in Europe.

Hosting the event that will be held on Monday, February 20 at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, 22 Yermiyahu Street, Tel Aviv will be Polish Charge d’affaires Agata Kaplinska, Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgeni Korniychuk and ELNET Israel CEO Emmanuel Navon. The screening will be followed by a discussion between Prof. Eyal Fruchter, CEO of the Maale Ha-Carmel Mental Health Center, and Dr Gila Matzliach Liberman, Senior Educational Psychologist at the Education Ministry.  The moderator will be Marta Kubica Executive Director of ELNET Poland.

Film screening about human rights lawyer

AS NO venue was provided in the invitation, it’s hard to tell whether the initial screening on Monday, February 20 of First to Stand, a documentary film about the cases and causes of international human rights lawyer and former Canadian Minister for Justice Irwin Cotler will be shown in Israel, or in Canada. Among the people he championed were Natan Sharansky and Nelson Mandela. Whoever is interested should email

Where to watch the Super Bowl

AMERICANS AROUND the world are checking their devices to find out where and when they can watch Super Bowl LVII next week. Jeff Seidel who takes care of university and Gap Year students in Jerusalem advises that they can watch for free at the Asher David Milstein University Center, 14 Lehi Street, Jerusalem. For further information, Seidel, who is the director of the center can be reached at or on 052 286 7795

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP)

TRADITIONALLY HELD in the Ballroom of the Inbal Hotel, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP), will again hold its annual National Leadership Mission in the familiar venue. Participants in this post-Covid conference which runs from February 19-23, will be spending less time indoors and will be doing more traveling to meet the people who will brief them on a plethora of issues about Israel, says CoP CEO William Daroff.

Among the speakers will be President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who are traditionally on the Conference program, but there will be several people from the current administration whom some of the conference participants have never met before, as well as US Ambassador Tom Nides who is in high demand at various conferences who will also be among the speakers at the OurCrowd Global Investment Summit on February 15, and at the opening of the 16th International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) on February 28. And those three events are simply the cherries on the cake.

Karen Alkalay-Gut hosts author Jonathon Wilson

FANS OF noted author Jonathan Wilson should be aware that he will be hosted on February 23, at 7.30 p.m. Israel time by poet, editor, translator and author Karen Alkalay-Gut, who will converse with him on Zoom.

The two know each other well, so it should be a lively conversation under the auspices of the Israel Association of Writers in English, which Alkalay-Gut helped to found in 1980, and served as its chair for almost 15 years, with a three-year break.

Wilson’s latest book The Red Balcony will be released by Schocken on February 21, so in all probability, it will find its way into the conversation. Anyone interested in receiving a Zoom link should contact

No Israelis among 2023 Wolf Prize in the sciences and the arts

AT THE announcement of recipients of the 2023 awards of the prestigious Wolf Prize in the sciences and the arts at the President’s Residence on Tuesday, laureates and overseas jury members were able to participate via social media.

Acting Chairman of the Wolf Foundation, Nobel Prize laureate, Professor Dan Shechtman, who himself was a Wolf Prize laureate in physics in 1999, and has also won other prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize for physics in 1988, and the Emet Prize for Chemistry in 2002, said that winning the award was the climax of decades of effort accomplished by determination and perseverance.

There are no Israelis among this year’s laureates.

Although several Israelis are among former Wolf Prize laureates, not all of them actually live and work in Israel, as for instance renowned architect Moshe Safdie who received the Wolf Prize in 2019.

In fact, Israelis have a better record among Nobel Prize laureates than Wolf Prize laureates, which at least proves that there is no national favoritism when adjudicating nominations.

The prize is awarded regardless of religion, race, nationality or gender, and consists of a certificate and a monetary award of $100,000.

President Isaac Herzog who will present the awards in the Chagall Hall of the Knesset in June, said that he was looking forward to meeting the laureates personally and congratulating them. He also mentioned that he had met the late Ricardo Wolf, whom he regarded as “a legendary philanthropist” who had helped to enhance Israel’s image.

Yet in the midst of what was essentially a festive occasion, Herzog could not ignore the social turmoil that is currently pervading Israel.

“We in Israel must remember at this fateful moment for our society that the democratic freedom at the root of scientific inquiry and artistic expression are the basis for this progress,” he said in relation to the achievements of the laureates.

Looking back at the recent past, he added: “These years have made clearer than ever, that the spirit of scientific discovery is only the beginning. It is the goodwill and willingness we bring to see across divides and work together, that fertilizes our creative process and translates it into the collective action for the common good – our only promise for the future.”

Education Minister Yoav Kish described the event as “a holiday for education, for discovery and for creation.”

He spoke earnestly about his belief in quality education, saying that it was a big challenge to assure quality education for all, but that every child, regardless of the economic circumstances in which he or she lives, should be given the tools to enable them to achieve. “The sky is no longer the limit,” he said, adding “children who are now in classrooms are among future Wolf Prize laureates.”

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Professor Dan Shechtman who presented him with the booklet of the biographies and achievements of Wolf Prize laureates for 2023. (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO) PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with Professor Dan Shechtman who presented him with the booklet of the biographies and achievements of Wolf Prize laureates for 2023. (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

From fighting for citizenship to presenting for the Ministry of Tourism

THOUGH BORN in Israel, fashion model Fay Jekita spent a large part of her life fighting for Israeli citizenship. She grew up in South Tel Aviv as the daughter of foreign workers from the Congo. Time and again, she was on the verge of being deported as she suffered bureaucratic discrimination. Around 18 months ago, she finally triumphed. Also, a talented actress and an articulate public speaker, she has frequently appeared as a panelist at forums on women’s empowerment. To crown her triumph as an Israeli citizen, Jekita has been chosen as a presenter for the Ministry of Tourism.