Grapevine April 28, 2023: Farewell but probably not goodbye

Katz had warm words for his successor Avi Mayer, who he is sure, will carry The Jerusalem Post to new heights.

 THE STAFF of ‘The Jerusalem Post’ bid farewell to Yaakov Katz (seated, second from right) on Independence Day.  (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
THE STAFF of ‘The Jerusalem Post’ bid farewell to Yaakov Katz (seated, second from right) on Independence Day.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)

Jerusalem Post staff came together to farewell former editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz at an Israel Independence Day barbecue night at the Ma’aleh Adumim home of managing editor David Brinn and his wife Shelley. The Jerusalem Post is a place of employment to which many people return, some after four or five years or less, and some after as much as 20 years. In fact, several of those present, including the host, had left and returned. This was Katz’s second stint at the Post, but bets were on that sooner or later he will be back, and won’t be the first to be on the payroll three times.

Currently working at the paper are close to a dozen people who were previously on staff, left for varying periods of time, and then came back. Brinn read out a witty but heartfelt tribute to Katz. Calling him a top professional with a tremendous sense of news value and an insight into the many scenarios that can be worked out of a story, Brinn also pointed out that Katz seemed to know everyone and anyone. Walking past his office at any given time, one could hear him talking to a prominent politician, to army brass, to the prime minister or to the president. But he never made a big deal of his contacts or his sources. If he felt that something he’d been told should be shared at an editorial meeting, he mentioned it in a modest, matter-of-fact manner that one of his sources in a certain ministry, in the army or elsewhere had told him that… 

For his part, Katz said that he had learned to appreciate all Post employees individually and collectively. Working under difficult constraints, they continue to tell Israel’s story to the world, and for that he commended them.

He also quipped that when he was editor, his children complained because he was seldom home. Now that he’s home, his children want to know what he does all day. (Wait for the book!)

Many people ask him what he’s going to do next, and some offer suggestions. Katz has discovered that giving flippant answers with regard to his future does not tickle anyone’s funny bone. Some people actually take him seriously, and he has to assure them that he was just kidding.

 President Isaac Herzog with foreign diplomats on Independence Day, April 26, 2023 (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO) President Isaac Herzog with foreign diplomats on Independence Day, April 26, 2023 (credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

Katz had warm words for his successor Avi Mayer, who he is sure, will carry The Jerusalem Post to new heights.

Holding the farewell on Tuesday night was a good idea, because there was no paper on Wednesday – so everyone could enjoy themselves.

No less important was the fact that fireworks were lighting up the night sky as if paying tribute to Katz as he strides toward the next chapter in the story of his life.

Peace with unsavoury enemies

■ A FREQUENTLY and widely cited quote by Yitzhak Rabin with slight grammatical changes which nonetheless leave the meaning intact, is: “You don’t make peace with friends. You make peace with very unsavoury enemies.”

Regardless of understandable emotions and differences in political views, people who objected to the joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, and those such as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who actively tried to prevent it or to disrupt it, should bear Rabin’s words in mind. Even though Israel has a troubled peace with Jordan and a cold peace with Egypt, the fact of the matter is that there has been an exchange of ambassadors and there is cooperation on numerous levels, whereas before, there was declared enmity with civilian and military casualties in all three countries.

The large number of Arabs killed this year by Arabs in Israel or in territories administered by Israel perpetuates the myth that Arabs have no concern for human life. Obviously, some Arabs don’t, but most Arabs do, as evidenced by the growth of the Red Crescent, and many Palestinians would rather live in peace and harmony with Israel than in hostility and terror.

Parents and siblings of every stripe love their children, brothers and sisters, and when they die prematurely, for whatever reason, they mourn them, just as Jews mourn when their children and siblings die.

When mourners from Israel and the Palestinian Authority are willing to come together to empathize with each other’s pain and to try to find a way to avoid future bloodshed on both sides, no rational person should try to obstruct such initial steps toward peace.

After all, if Israel and the major part of the Jewish world could make peace with Germany, Israel should be able to make peace with the Palestinians

The Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, and the Jews aren’t going anywhere, so it’s well past time for them to find a modus vivendi for peaceful and cooperative coexistence. If Jewish and Arab hospital and pharmaceutical staff, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and maintenance personnel can work together in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation, Jews and Arabs in all professions should also be able to do so.

 JERUSALEM’S JAFFA Road is decorated with flags for Independence Day.  (credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post) JERUSALEM’S JAFFA Road is decorated with flags for Independence Day. (credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)

■ ALTHOUGH SOLDIERS who come to Israel from abroad to serve in the Israel Defense Forces are referred to as Lone Soldiers, President Isaac Herzog told them on Independence Day: “You are not alone! You are part of a family, called the State of Israel. You, together with all those who serve in the IDF, the security forces, the Police and interior security, in national and civilian service – you are all emblems of a young and wonderful generation, an Israeli generation brimming with a sense of mission, leadership, and a love of giving. We are all proud of you. “

■ LATER IN the day, at a reception that Herzog and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen hosted for the heads of diplomatic missions, heads of religious communities, military attaches and Honorary Consuls, a small area beneath the pergola was cordoned off for Herzog and his wife Michal and Cohen and his wife Anat, and the ambassadors stood in line waiting to be photographed with the two couples.

It’s not as if they have not been photographed with Herzog and Cohen before, when presenting credentials or at various other ceremonies. Aside from the individual photographs, there was also the huge group photograph in which all heads of diplomatic missions were photographed with Herzog and Cohen and their wives.

But diplomats are presumably like everyone else when it comes to having proof of having rubbed shoulders with leading personalities. It’s that old story of a photograph telling more than a thousand words.

■ AMONG THE Israeli guests was Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, who, like some of his colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, felt that he had to come for this milestone anniversary of Israel. Naturally, all Israeli heads of missions abroad held some kind of Independence Day event, but not necessarily on the actual date.

Some also had a public commemoration of Memorial Day for the fallen, as did Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, who lit a memorial candle at the UN to protest that his requests to the security council not to hold a discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Memorial Day, had been ignored.

In addition to lighting the candle, Erdan read out the names of fallen soldiers and victims of terror who had met their deaths during the past year. This prompted one Twitter user to respond that it reminded him of Chaim Herzog tearing up the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, saying: “This is nothing more than a piece of paper and we will treat it as such.” The sender of the tweet also wrote: ”This candle was needed to light the dark place called the UN.”

Apropos the Independence Day reception at the President’s Residence, for many years there were disputes between holders of the purse strings in the President’s Office and the Foreign Ministry as to which of the two should foot the bill for catering and refreshments.

Last year, they found a partial solution by inviting wineries to promote their brands at the Independence Day reception. It proved to be a popular move, and this year there were more, as well as dairies that produced an incredible variety of cheeses made from milk of goats, sheep and cows, as well as delicious chocolates and ice cream with accompanying literature.

But to cap it all, as they were leaving, guests were presented with souvenir navy blue bags embossed in silver, with the presidential crest and the words Office of the President in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Each bag contained a bottle of specially made draft beer and a bag with six mini packs of chocolates. Certainly more generous than the small boxes of M&Ms handed out at the White House.

■ YISRAEL BEYTENU leader, Avigdor Liberman has again called for the sacking of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, for interfering in politics and making controversial remarks. Liberman may soon have his wish, not because the Chief Rabbi will be dismissed, but because his term is coming to an end within less than two months. Chief Rabbis are elected for a 10-year term, and new elections are due in June.

In the interim, while Yitzhak Yosef – who lacks the charismatic personality of his late father Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was also a Sephardi Chief Rabbi and the spiritual leader of Shas – was being castigated for his indiscreet remarks, his sister Adina Bar Shalom, a highly respected educator who increased the range of both religious and secular studies in haredi girls’ schools, was honored on Israel Independence Day. She was one of the people to be conferred with the title of Yakir Tel Aviv by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Also among those named Yakir Tel Aviv, was actress Yona Elian who plays the family matriarch in Rough Diamonds, the absorbing new television series on Netflix.

■ THOUGH UNDER appreciated by policymakers, teachers are greatly appreciated by the National Library of Israel and the Azrieli Foundation which award Prizes for Pedagogic Excellence. The prize named in memory of noted architect and philanthropist David Azrieli, is now in its second year, and is given to teachers who have initiated significant processes to strengthen education in the humanities in their schools; teachers who have cultivated in their students a strong desire to expand their knowledge and academic horizons, while emphasizing research, reading and writing skills.

Dozens of teachers from all over the country were nominated by students, teachers, parents and principals. The winners were selected by a committee comprising public and education system officials, as well as representatives from the Library and the Azrieli Foundation.

The three prize-winners will share a NIS115,000 monetary prize which is part of a five-year gift of NIS3.75 million from the Azrieli Foundation Israel, whose chairwoman, Danna Azrfeli said that the Foundation (both in Israel and in Canada), invests heavily in the advancement of education, the strengthening of the status of teachers and the empowerment of educators in all subjects.

The five-year gift was earmarked for the Israel National Center for Humanities Education (INCHE), a training center for educators in humanities which is run by the National Library of Israel in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

The three winning teachers were Dr. Shalhevat Ofir, Dr. Lana Wehbi and Yossi Mancovetzky. Ofir is the pedagogical coordinator and history studies coordinator at the Tevel School Jerusalem, where she also leads a Ministry of Education R&D Department for professional assessment in humanities education and serves as a national thesis instructor.

Wehbi is a 12th-grade teacher and Arabic language and literature studies coordinator at the Comprehensive School B, Maghar; and Mancovetzky is a teacher of Judaic thought, philosophy and Israeli citizenship at Ironi Aleph, Modiin and coordinator of the Be’eri program at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Ayala Gidron of the Etgari Ha’atid High School, Harish; and Rabbi Bar-On Dasberg of the Ulpanat Ir Torah Oriya in Gush Etzion.