Grapevine May 21, 2023: Pride and less prejudice

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog, flanked by his wife, Michal, and Hila Pe’er.  (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog, flanked by his wife, Michal, and Hila Pe’er.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

In advance of Tel Aviv Pride Week which runs from June 5-11, with the traditional Gay Pride parade taking place on June 8, leaders of the LGBTQ community met with President Isaac Herzog and his wife to present them with the annual Gay Index. Herzog is the third consecutive president to whom the Gay Index has been presented. The Gay Index provides information about how Gays are treated by different municipalities in terms of acceptance, services and security.

This is a record year in which Gay groups have been working with 85 local authorities, but there are still a lot of municipalities that have yet to put out the welcome mat. The Index is compiled from responses to 34 questions about welfare, education, infrastructure, public acceptance, culture and more. One of the important questions is whether the municipality gives spousal rights and services to same-sex couples. The Gay Index was presented by Hila Pe’er, who chairs the LGBTQ Association.

Also in relation to the Index, Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama Hacohen is pleased as punch that in the ranking of municipalities that are most favorably disposed to the Gay community, Ramat Gan is for the first time ahead of Tel Aviv which is generally known as the Gay Capital of the Middle East.

Demonstrators were pounced upon

■ NOT FOR the first time have bodyguards of public figures hit senior citizens, women and children. This time, the key victims were senior citizens in their late seventies and early to mid-eighties, who gatecrashed a meeting that Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat was holding in the Pastoral Hotel at Kfar Blum, as part of a round of meetings that he was organizing in the Galilee.

The senior citizens, veterans of the Yom Kippur War, came to register their protest against existing and intended government policies. They were pounced upon by members of Barkat’s security detail, as well as by hotel employees. Gatecrashing a meeting is not a nice thing to do, but resorting to violence against a group of old men, hurling tables at them and pinning them to the floor is a whole lot less nice. In fact, it’s downright disgusting. The fact that Barkat, who has a distinguished military background, did not try to put a stop to the violence is equally disgusting. The excuse was that it was thought that his life was in danger.

 Nir Barkat (credit: RONEN TOPELBERG) Nir Barkat (credit: RONEN TOPELBERG)

The hotel management is to be commended for its reaction after the event, in which it expressed its regret over the violence, stating that it does the utmost to safeguard the privacy of its guests, but at the same time, it respects the right to demonstrate and protest. It invited all those demonstrators who had suffered an injury to make contact and pledged to do whatever was possible to help and embrace them. It’s not certain that the management of an urban hotel would take a similar attitude, but Kfar Blum is situated on a kibbutz where it’s easier to take responsibility than to flee from it.

Feeding the poor

■ JEWISH TRADITION commands us to provide for the poor. Indeed, a lot of people, both Jews and non-Jews, make a point of at least feeding the poor. Most people who give money to the poor give them only a few coins, but when it comes to food, most of us are a lot more generous. A pertinent example happened on the eve of a religious Jewish holiday. Someone by the name of Oren Feldman posted on social media the details of an uplifting experience that he had at the Gehalim Restaurant in Rehovot.

A young waiter approached a table at which the owner of the restaurant was seated with other people and told him about a woman who had entered the restaurant and sat down, saying she was very hungry but didn’t have the money to pay for her meal. It was the first time the waiter had found himself in such a situation and didn’t know what to do. The owner rose, approached the woman, talked to her and decided to give her a meal on the house. But it wasn’t just a small plate of anything to stave off hunger, it was the best of what was on the menu, in addition to which the woman did not leave empty-handed. The restaurant owner made sure that she would receive a huge bag of takeaway that would last her for at least a week.

Feldman was both shocked and impressed. He was shocked that there are people in Israel who do not have sufficient wherewithal to buy food and impressed that there are really kind-hearted people, such as the restaurant owner. Curious about what the owner had discussed with the woman when he initially approached her table, Feldman learned that the owner had asked her whether there was any food to which she was allergic.

On an individual basis, you can’t get more charitable than that.

A new hotel opens in Jerusalem

■ IT’S A very frustrating experience for the general manager of a new, elegant hotel that combines state-of-the-art technology with high respect for history, culture, art and religion, constantly improving upon itself, but not yet open for business.

The general manager in question is Sheldon Ritz, who previously managed the Vert Hotel Jerusalem, which for many years was the Crowne Plaza, and before that, its original trademark was that of the Jerusalem Hilton.

The new, 73-room Theatron hotel, a Hasid Brothers project under the management of MGallery, finally opens for business this week. It is still not fully completed, with presidential suites in the final stages of construction, but it has been well-tested by members of the extensive Hasid family, who have stayed overnight and eaten meals there and have been asked to comment on everything they have experienced, with the aim of overcoming any flaws that might exist, before the hotel receives paying guests.

Ritz’s daughter Jessica, who works for a rival hotel company in Tel Aviv, stayed overnight last week and had high praise for the accommodation, the food and the service, and not just because her father is the general manager. Among its many attractions is the most exquisite and elegant synagogue, with the most utterly comfortable seating for 90 people, including a permanently screened-off women’s section. The synagogue was consecrated last week by Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, who put up the Mezuzah and supervised the placing of two large Torah scrolls in the ark.

Among the signs that guests can put on their doors, such as “Do Not Disturb” or “Please Clean The Room” is one that states “Sabbath Observant.” Such guests, in addition to receiving electronic keys, also receive regular door keys. There’s also an electronic panel built into the wall which a religiously observant guest can press on arrival to guarantee that the elevator will stop on his or her floor on Shabbat, without the need to press a button.

The hotel is directly across the road from the Jerusalem Theater which is a boon for out-of-town or overseas guests who have come for a special event there or to see a particular production.

The official opening will take place next month.

The Jerusalem Post conference

■ CONFERENCE LOVERS who will be in New York during the first week of June are in for a treat with two conferences hosted by Israeli media outlets taking place on two consecutive days with a smattering of the same dignitaries participating in both. The first, on Sunday, June 4, at the New York Hilton Midtown, is dubbed the Jerusalem Conference and is hosted by Arutz Sheva and B’Sheva who are each part of the same organization.

On Monday, June, 5, The Jerusalem Post will host its annual New York Conference at Gotham Hall, Broadway. Whereas the Sunday conference, which is much smaller in size, can be categorized as preaching to the converted in that all the participants are known to have right-wing views or affiliations, the Monday conference is much more varied and will therefore appeal to a wider public in that there is something for everyone.

Some of the right-wing participants in the Post’s conference who will also be appearing at the Arutz Sheva-B’Sheva conference include Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Minister of Intelligence Gila Gamliel and Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Ofir Akunis. The Jerusalem Conference has a more obviously Zionist flavor with the inclusion of Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Doron Almog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency. The Right in all its political variances is depicted through the inclusion of MK Simcha Rotman and Rabbi Meir Porush, among others. Diplomatically, there is one past ambassador, former US ambassador David Friedman, and one current ambassador, Gilad Erdan, who is a former Likud Minister and Member of Knesset.

The Post’s conference has a larger diplomatic representation, with present and past ambassadors. Obviously, Erdan who is Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, will be there, as will Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, along with former Israeli and American diplomats, as well diplomats from other countries.

Israeli government ministers who will be in New York on June 4, will have an extremely busy day. In addition to participating in the Jerusalem Conference, they will be participating in the annual Celebrate Israel Parade along 5th Avenue, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council under the banner “Israel @ 75: Renewing the Hope.”

Thousands of Jews from all over America plus non-Jewish friends and supporters of Israel join this march, walking arm-in-arm, regardless of political or religious differences, in a true show of Jewish unity. Hopefully, it will be contagious and spread to Israel.