Grapevine March 3, 2023: Crossing red lines

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

 LONE SOLDIERS Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall. (photo credit: Pavel Dubovyk)
LONE SOLDIERS Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall.
(photo credit: Pavel Dubovyk)

On Wednesday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that protest demonstrations were legitimate in a democratic system of government, but added that there were red lines such as violence and anarchy that should never be crossed. But they are crossed – quite often in fact – and not always by the demonstrators. Horrific video shots of police brutality during the demonstrations were reminiscent of what happened in the United States in 2020 when prisoner George Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s throat, and kept it there after Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. A similar incident took place soon after in London, and this week it took place in Tel Aviv. That was certainly crossing red lines. So was manhandling women, pushing them roughly and knocking them to the ground.

Nothing will change until Israel recognizes its own flaws. When atrocities are committed in Israel, they are often dismissed by the authorities with the comment “we don’t do that kind of thing.” Well, actually we do, or at least some of us do. There’s no point in talking about tikkun olam – repairing the world – if we refuse to admit what it is that needs fixing. Perhaps David “Dudi” Amsalem who’s the surplus minister in the Justice Ministry could be given the title of Minister of Injustice with the task of tracking and revealing the many injustices to which citizens and other residents of Israel are subjected.

Netanyahu's hair salon drama

■ AS FOR Sara Netanyahu being trapped for three hours in a hair-dressing salon in Kikar Hamedina, why did she need to travel to Tel Aviv to get her hair done? There are plenty of excellent hairdressers in Jerusalem. Moreover, there had been plenty of advance publicity that Wednesday would be a day of national disruption. Why have her appointment specifically on that date – and a long way from either of her homes? She could have easily rescheduled. Why doesn’t she get a wig to serve her needs? She doesn’t need to wear it all the time, but on a day like Wednesday, it certainly would have been an asset.

MKs talk with opposition

■ TWO VETERAN Likud MKs who are former ministers – Danny Danon and Yuli Edelstein – are in the forefront of members of the coalition who are willing to start talks with the opposition under the umbrella of the President’s Residence. It should be remembered that each had thought to replace Netanyahu as leader of Likud. That may well be the reason that neither is a minister now.

Protesting the cancellation of Public Broadcasting

■ A SPECIAL protest meeting as distinct from a demonstration took place this week in the law faculty of Bar Ilan University. Participants were members of the Press Council, editors, journalists, heads of media organizations and academics who had come together to discuss how to prevent Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi from going ahead with his plan to close down or at least reduce the influence of Public Broadcasting. It’s not only Public Broadcasting that is under threat of closure but also print media, which anyway is under threat due to heavy losses in revenues. But in cases where print media manages to survive, laws can be enacted to prevent the publication of revelations about public figures and government corruption in general. Israel Hayom editor Omer Lachmanovitch recalled that in November 2014 when he was just a member of the paper’s editorial staff, nondemocratic attempts were made to deprive Israel Hayom of its independence – and even to close it down. The bitter experience of working for a media outlet whose existence was under threat, not to mention his own livelihood, had prompted a decision that he would give his wholehearted support to any media outlet in a similar situation. The Communication Minister’s attitude to KAN 11, reflects his attitude to Israeli media as a whole, said Lachmanovitch, adding that this hostility only serves to make the media, better, stronger and more reliable.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Communication Minister Ayoub Kara, Tourism Minister Levin, and Druze MKs Hamad Amar and Akram Hasson discussing the needs of the Druze community (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Communication Minister Ayoub Kara, Tourism Minister Levin, and Druze MKs Hamad Amar and Akram Hasson discussing the needs of the Druze community (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Balanced coverage

■ STARTING SUNDAY, March 5 Ayala Hasson will host a nightly interview program at 7 p.m. on KAN 11, and promises a balance in selecting public figures from both the left and the right of the political divide. In other KAN 11 News, Niv Sultan, who is in Athens shooting the third season of the highly acclaimed spy thriller television series Tehran, took time out a week ago for a 72-hour return to Israel. It seems that an international star performer will add zest to each new season of the show. For the second season, it was Glenn Close. This time around it is British actor Hugh Laurie who stars in the prize-winning medical series House.

Lone soldiers finally recognised as Jews

■ LAST MONDAY, 13 Lone Soldiers realized a dream to be officially recognized as Jews, after completing a conversion ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and being called to a reading of the Torah. All of them had Jewish DNA, but not enough of it to be recognized as Jews in accordance with Halacha. The Big Brother Association for Lone Soldiers, which was founded by its CEO Daniel Aharon, together with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation organized the ceremony. The soldiers received a blessing from Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, after which, accompanied by other Lone Soldiers who were Jewish from birth, went to the President’s Residence for a reception hosted by the President’s wife Michal Herzog.

Maria Ratzitz who serves with the Border Police – came to Israel in 2020 and recently completed her conversion studies, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah – and was feted with a special surprise. Her mother, whom she had not seen in more than a year, was brought to Israel from Russia for the occasion. There are literally thousands of Lone Soldiers in the IDF. Some are Israeli from dysfunctional families or from ultra-Orthodox Jewish families or Arab Christian or Muslim families who do not want their sons and daughters to serve in the IDF and sever relations with them. Others are young men and women from overseas who have a strong desire to make a contribution to Israel’s security by serving in the IDF. Many of them later choose to remain in Israel or to return to their homelands to complete university studies and then come back to settle in Israel. The connection with their Big Brother and Big Sister mentors is usually maintained on a permanent basis.

Israel's Irish community has a fun March ahead

■ FOR ISRAEL’s Irish community, March is the month in which to make merry. Purim and St. Patrick’s Day both fall in March. Irish ambassador Kyle O’Sullivan and his wife Carol will be the guests at the Purim event hosted at Murphy’s Pub in Netanya on Sunday, March 5, by the Israel Ireland Friendship League in Association with Murphy’s Irish Pubs in Israel. Later in the month, they will host the St. Patrick’s Day event. Ireland’s favorite brew will be available at both, and food at the Purim Party will be kosher. Music will be provided by Yonatan Miller and Co. and a special dance recital will be given by Stefania. There will be an open stage from which guests can sing or share anecdotes. For further information and confirmation of attendance, call 050 8221732. (Not on Shabbat).

Retiring in Israel

■ IT’S NOT unusual for senior citizens to make aliyah. Mostly they come after retirement to join children and grandchildren living in Israel. But very few wait as long as Sanford “Sandy” and Rosalie Goldstein from Englewood, New Jersey, who arrived in Israel on Wednesday, which was certainly not the ideal time to begin a new chapter in their lives in a different country. Goldstein is 101 and his wife is 97.

Their new home is in Netanya with their daughter Risa Shapiro. Though a staunch Zionist, Sandy Goldstein who began his aliyah process more than 60 years ago, was, for some reason, discouraged from taking the final step.

But in the spirit of better late than never, he took it while well into his third age.

The Goldsteins who have been married for 75 years, were assisted in their move to Israel by a nonprofit organization Alynu, founded by Nechama Levy. The organization is dedicated to helping new immigrants adjust to their lives in Israel. For the Goldsteins that may be less of a problem than for some other new immigrants in that, they will be surrounded not only by their daughter but by five grandchildren and their spouses and 12 great-grandchildren.

Rabbi James Kennard brings 300 people to Israel

■ ON THE subject of aliyah, Rabbi James Kennard, who for 17 years has been the principal of Mount Scopus College, the pioneer Jewish Day School in the Southern Hemisphere, and who in January of this year, led the largest-ever Australian contingent of more than 300 people to Israel, is retiring at the end of this year.

He and his wife Vicky have had a lifelong dream to live in Israel, and have decided that the time is ripe for the realization of the dream. Mount Scopus developed enormously under Kennard’s leadership, and he leaves a legacy on which to build. The school executive has now initiated a global search for a successor to Kennard, who will remain on board until such a person is found in order to ensure a smooth transition. Mount Scopus is located in Melbourne, which has one of the warmest and most hospitable Jewish communities in the world.