Grapevine April 23, 2023: Conflicting viewpoints

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRINCE EDWARD (third from left) with winners of the Israel Youth Award. (photo credit: IYA)
PRINCE EDWARD (third from left) with winners of the Israel Youth Award.
(photo credit: IYA)

As the battle continued to rage last week over whether or not ministers and legislators should attend services for the fallen on Remembrance Day, it appeared that the problem would not be resolved. Ministers and legislators who were interviewed on electronic media said that there was no point in breaking a long-held tradition in which elected officials represented the state at such events.

Bereaved parents and siblings argued that they didn’t want politicians to spout their respective ideologies on this national day of mourning – especially those politicians who had never served in the Israel Defense Forces and had done their utmost to avoid military service.

But the most potent argument for not having politicians present, was advanced by veteran military reporter Carmella Menashe who said that in her capacity, she often receives information about military fatalities before it is released to the families. She always imagines a mother lovingly preparing dinner for a soldier-son or daughter coming home on weekend leave, and making sure that the meal consists of the soldier’s favorite foods. She goes about the preparation, not knowing that the soldier has been killed. “It’s the last time she ever really smiles,” said Menashe, adding that in respect for the mother’s pain, if she doesn’t want politicians present, they should stay away.

■ AFTER NINE years as Executive Director of B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad is stepping down. He does so with a heavy heart, he says because that time has been the most significant period of his life. He is deeply attached to the organization and its work, “but every organization needs to revitalize and grow.”

With this realization in mind, and also the urge to discover what else the future may hold for him, El-Ad has advised the organization’s board to begin a search for a successor.

 ONE FAMILY holds a ceremony on Remembrance Day, last year in Jerusalem. (credit: ONEFAMILY) ONE FAMILY holds a ceremony on Remembrance Day, last year in Jerusalem. (credit: ONEFAMILY)

For the unaware, B’Tselem is a watchdog organization that operates within and across the Green Line, monitoring and documenting injustices to which Palestinians may be subjected.

For some Palestinians, life under Israeli control is a never-ending nightmare.

For Israeli members of B’Tselem, who witness the daily difficulties in the lives of Palestinians, it is painful to acknowledge that Israel is responsible for some of those difficulties.

One of the things that bothered El-Ad from the time that he first took on his position, was that the B’Tselem team can never meet physically in its entirety. Its members are scattered in Israel, the disputed territories that are under Israeli administration, and Gaza. They cannot all get together anywhere in the Middle East, and it would be extremely difficult for all of them to make their way to Europe at the same time.

Yet for all that, El-Ad describes the team as “the most dedicated and professional” with which he has ever worked, and is proud that despite all the pressures and barriers, Palestinians and Israeli Jews who are members of the team, stand together in solidarity

■ THERE WAS a time when the president of Israel could serve two five-year terms. It might have been three years if Israel’s second president Yitzhak Ben Zvi had not died early in the first year of his third term. Due to a fiscal misdemeanor, Ezer Weizman had to resign during his second term, after which the tenure of the president of the state was reduced to one seven-year term. There has been a lot of debate about reducing the periods of time that anyone can serve as prime minister or as president of the Supreme Court. Currently, there is a cut-off age for all members of the Supreme Court including the president but there is no cut-off age or limited time frame for a prime minister or the leader of a political party. The same goes for heads of municipalities. There is nothing in the law that places a limit on the period of time that any one person can serve as a mayor.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the longest-serving prime minister of Israel, he will never equal the number of years that the longest-serving mayors were in office nor even the number of years that current long-serving mayors have been in office. With municipal elections coming up in October, the question of how long a mayor may serve has risen to the surface.

The record was held by Avraham Krinitzi, the first mayor of Ramat Gan, who took office during the British Mandate and continued after the establishment of the state. Krinitzi served a total of 43 years, and might have served even longer but he was killed in a car accident in 1969.

Coming up close behind him in terms of longevity in office is Shlomo Buchbut, the former mayor of Ma’alot Tarshisha, who lost the 2018 election. Before, he served as mayor for 42 years. Several other mayors – some of whom are still in office – served for between 24-34 years. While this may attest either to their popularity or to the apathy of residents with the right to vote, it also places a barrier in front of talented and motivated people who might do a better job but are not given the opportunity to prove themselves. Although a handful of women currently serve as mayors, only one, Miriam Fierberg-Ikar, is a long-term mayor, serving for 24 years as the mayor of Netanya.

Prince Edward

■ IN 2007, Prince Edward, who was then the Earl of Wessex, paid a four-day visit to Israel at the Invitation of the Israel Youth Award program, an offshoot of a program initiated some 50 years earlier by his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, whose title he has inherited.

Last week, IYA winners went to London, with the aim of introducing new supporters to the project.

The event, hosted by Sir Mick Davis – one of IYA’s leading supporters – was attended by Prince Edward, who is the patron and chairman of the International Award Foundation. Also present was guest of honor, Dr. Samer Haj-Yehia, chairman of Bank Leumi; Adv. Amir Amar, a Founding Partner and Head of AYR – Amar Reiter Jeanne Shochatovitch & Co. law firm, who serves as co-chairman of the association; and other leaders from the wider business and education community.

Attendees heard from two Award participants who spoke passionately about their experiences of working in Israel for the Award, and the difference it had made to each of their lives:

Ria Yaniv, Award Leader and Service Year volunteer for the charity organization said: “As someone who just graduated last year from high school, this year has not been easy for me. It has matured me in many ways and has shown me that I am capable of doing more than I thought I could.”

Maysa Assaf, a Gold Award Alumna of the charity, emphasized: ”The award taught me a lot about myself. It took me some time to realize how these moments would help me in life but now after it’s been a while, I get it.”

The Duke of Edinburgh International Award was established in the United Kingdom in 1956 in order to provide young people with a set of personal and practical tools for growth and development, regardless of their cultural status, religion or background. It currently operates in more than 130 countries around the world, each year supporting one million teenagers and young people from all walks of life.

Thousands of young adults from diverse populations partake in the charity’s activities in Israel, delivered through the support of many tireless volunteers.

IYA’s activities inspire young people to undergo various experiences and challenges that contribute to their self-esteem and help build their confidence in a manner that is beneficial to them and to their communities.

■ ONE OF the most controversial but highly praised museums not only in Jerusalem but in the whole of Israel is the Museum on the Seam, a socio-political contemporary art museum that has no political or religious boundaries. This deliberate lack of boundaries enables the raising of diverse social issues, some of which might be taboo in other places, and creates a wide platform for discussion. Among the exhibitions presently on view is Jerusalem Syndrome, the subject of a special project by Polish artist Katarzyna Kozyra.

The Jerusalem Syndrome is a form of severe psychosis, which seems to strike tourists and other visitors who are under the delusion that they are the reincarnation of significant Biblical characters, most often Jesus or King David.

As a native of one of the most Catholic countries in the world, it is hardly surprising that this prominent Polish artist should take such a project upon herself.

The exhibition includes videos from the Looking for Jesus library, made by Kozyra during her various visits to Jerusalem, in which she interviewed some of the extraordinary individuals who believe themselves to be the Messiah or prophets or apostles with whom Bible scholars of both the Old and New Testaments are familiar.

The project took some ten years to complete.

The exhibition, which also includes a full-length documentary film, is not only about religion, but how beliefs can change perspectives.

The exhibition, including the documentaries, does not focus entirely on Christianity but looks at how other faiths are practiced in the holy city.

It will remain on view till May 31. Guided tours are available but must be reserved. The museum’s phone number is 02-628 1278. Its location is opposite Mandelbaum Gate, which prior to June 1967 was the demarcation point between Israel and Jordan, and used by diplomats, Red Cross personnel and various other people who were neither Israelis nor Jordanians.