Grapevine April 30, 2023: Defining democracy

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 RIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Nefesh B’Nefesh welcoming ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2012. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)
RIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Nefesh B’Nefesh welcoming ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2012.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

There is no all-embracing, universal definition of democracy. Every country that claims to be democratic has its own rules.

Thus, Israeli democracy and American democracy are not identical – a factor that bewilders many American citizens who choose to live in Israel.

The differences between Israeli and American concepts of democracy will be discussed on Tuesday, May 2, when American best-selling author, comedian and television personality Dave Rubin, and Israeli writer and journalist Gadi Taub debate democracy and compare the rights and liberties in their respective countries.

The event, organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon, will be held live at 7 p.m. at Social Space, 168 Hayarkon St., Kikar Atarim, at the end of Ben-Gurion Boulevard, near the beach. Admission is free, but registration is required. RSVP here:

Rubin started out as a stand-up comedian, but is best known for his political commentary. His television talk show, The Rubin Report, has more than a million viewers, plus millions of subscribers.

Dave Rubin in his broadcast studio (credit: Courtesy)Dave Rubin in his broadcast studio (credit: Courtesy)

Taub has been a radio and television presenter. He teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Communications and at the School of Public Policy. He has authored fiction and non-fiction books for both adults and children.

In their discussion, Rubin and Taub will not confine themselves purely to defining what democracy means in their respective countries, but will also talk about Israel’s proposed judicial reforms, the political differences between Left and Right, and the world views of personalities such as President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Donald Trump.

The event is in English and they will take questions from the audience. The event is geared to those ages 20-40.

■ JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Mizushima Koichi, who has already hosted a number of events celebrating the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Israel, has not finished yet. He will open the art exhibition Ukiyo –e Tel Aviv, (“the floating world of Tel Aviv”) on Friday, May 5, at 11 a.m., at the Pastry Box by Nurit Chitayat, 7 Rival St., Tel Aviv. The exhibition will be on view until June 30.

■ TO MARK the 30th day since the passing of famed Yiddish writer and poet Rivka Basman Ben-Haim, the Leivik House Tel Aviv last week hosted a memorial evening at which several poets, some of who also write in Yiddish, spoke of Basman’s rich contribution to Yiddish literature, and read from her works. Music has been composed to some of her poems, and the songs were sung by Shira Carmel, accompanied by pianist Rotem Sherman.

When Basman’s late husband served as an Israeli diplomat to the former Soviet Union before the severing of relations, Basman did a lot to encourage Soviet Jewish writers, particularly those who wrote in Yiddish.

Leket Israel

■ IT’S WELL known that poor nutrition affects a person’s health. That may sometimes account for army conscripts having a low profile and being unable to serve in units that they desire.

Five years ago, Noam Luzon, then a student at a vocational high school in Jerusalem, was in danger of becoming such a person. Due to the socio-economic background of his family, Luzon was frequently hungry, and the constant hunger pains made it difficult for him to concentrate on his studies. Yet he longed to stay in school until he could graduate.

Thanks to Leket Israel, the premier supplier of hot meals to the needy, he was able to have a hot lunch every day. When it was time for him to do his national service, he was given an important role in the navy. He attributes his ability to carry out his service in an exemplary manner to the fact that Leket made sure that he was well-fed.

Leket Israel founder Joseph Gitler invites the public to mark family events, such as birthdays, bar mitzvah celebrations and wedding anniversaries, by joining in Leket’s picking and packing of fruit and vegetables on Friday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to noon. Many foreign diplomats stationed in Israel have brought their families to join in this effort on previous occasions. It is heart-warming that non-Israelis care so much about the well-being of those Israelis who do not have enough to eat, or who cannot afford nutritious food.

Leket Israel rescues food for distribution from the field, restaurants, catering halls and more. It is amazing how much surplus there is, and how much good it does. For details visit or call (09) 744-1757.

■ ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Sergio Barbenti had been scheduled to host a festive concert of operatic arias on March 30 in celebration of the 100th Arena di Verona Opera Festival. But the musical treat had to be postponed since the date coincided with the “Day of Paralysis,” and there was concern that blocked roads and lack of services would cause many invitees to stay away.

The event was therefore postponed, but neither shelved indefinitely nor forgotten. It has been rescheduled for mid-May and will include arias from Rigoletto, Aida, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata and Carmen, with performing artists from Fondazione Arena di Verona. The actual festival takes place in June, and the operatic concert may prompt some of the ambassador’s guests to take their summer vacations in Italy.

HADASSAH-UNIVERSITY Medical Center recently announced the appointment of Prof. Yaniv Sherer as the new director of Hadassah Ein Kerem. Sherer was previously at Barzilai Medical Center, where he was the deputy director. He replaces Dr. Yinon Buda, who held the post for 18 months.

A professor of internal medicine, Sherer has an impressive CV. He was a military doctor, medical assistant to CEOs of the Health Ministry, deputy director-general of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital Center, and chairman of the National Research Fund. He has written more than 150 articles on autoimmune diseases.

His goal is to promote the best medical services for Jerusalem’s residents.

Hadassah’s director-general, Prof. Yoram Weiss, said he is confident that Sherer will take the Hadassah University Medical Center at Ein Kerem to many new heights. Visitors can see that construction is constantly in progress, with new hospital towers under construction to serve the capital’s ever-growing population, as well as patients from outside of Jerusalem who have illnesses that are best treated by Hadassah specialists.

■ SPEAKING OF the medical profession: A significant number of North American medical professionals are keen to come to Israel, and presumably, the same can be said of medical professionals in Europe and Australia. But there’s one major problem. Regardless of the recognition they have already earned in their home countries, and even beyond their home countries, their qualifications and experience are not always recognized in Israel. 

But in order to obtain a medical license here, they have to take courses and tests. Some highly qualified medical professionals regard this as an insult and are unwilling to do so, making it unlikely that they will work in Israel.

This is something that the country simply cannot afford. It is no secret that there is a dire shortage of medical staff in Israel, and forcing highly qualified professionals to study for exams is a strong deterrent to aliyah.

The psychometric exams are another factor contributing to the scarcity of medical staff here. Many who score poorly on them go abroad to study, where they do well, find good and highly satisfying jobs, and are happy to stay in a foreign country. Israel then offers them various incentives to entice them to come home.

All that could be avoided by abolishing the psychometric exams, and instead allowing all applicants to do the first year of the course. Those whose results indicate that they erred in their career choice will at least be able to work as paramedics in cases of emergency.

Just over a month ago, Nefesh B’Nefesh Medex organized their annual aliyah event for medical professionals, which was attended by 400 people, of whom 120 were physicians in an advanced stage of the aliyah process. Most were under the age of 35, with some starting the Israeli licensing process, while others were still enrolled in medical school.

Among the Israelis attending the event was National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf. He said that there is a dire need for more medical professionals in the Negev and Galilee, encouraging those at the gathering to consider aliyah to the southern and northern regions of the country.