Grapevine June 25, 2023: A stain on society

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FOREIGN MINISTER Eli Cohen is briefed by MDA CEO Eli Bin. (photo credit: MDA)
FOREIGN MINISTER Eli Cohen is briefed by MDA CEO Eli Bin.
(photo credit: MDA)

Any form of racism is a stain on the reputation of the State of Israel, but more so when it is directed against Arab or Muslim players on national sports teams. It is bad enough when members of La Familia who are diehard supporters of Beitar Jerusalem prevent the inclusion of Arabs in the team and yell out negative epithets against any Arab team playing against Beitar. 

But when it’s an international match, that’s a lot worse, because it comes across in real time to international soccer fans who are watching the game on television or listening to radio coverage. After national team midfielder Mohamad Abu Fani, who played with the national team in Jerusalem against Andorra, was booed and cursed and even called a terrorist, there was a small degree of comfort in the fact that he received an encouraging telephone call from President Isaac Herzog. The president told him that he was incensed by the racism displayed by certain fans and urged Abu Fani to ignore the taunts. Herzog praised Abu Fani as a “fantastic Israeli citizen who has brought great pride and honor to the state.” In expressing his appreciation for the president’s concern, Abu Fani said that even though he had undergone an uneasy night, he never allowed the verbal abuse to get him down. He simply felt stronger for resisting it.

Anan Khalaili, another Arab star player who in the U20 national team recently brought glory to Israel when playing in championship matches in Argentina, received congratulatory phone calls from both Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and after returning home, was invited to visit the President’s Residence, where Herzog and his wife, Michal, showered him with compliments.

It’s well past time that all citizens of Israel, regardless of color, creed or national background, be treated as equals. Just as a rose is a rose is a rose – a citizen is a citizen is a citizen, particularly in a Jewish state populated by descendants of people who for centuries suffered discrimination and persecution. We are the last people on earth who should inflict it on others.

■ ALTHOUGH HE himself is a law graduate of Tel Aviv University, President Herzog last week attended the graduation ceremony of Bar-Ilan’s Law Faculty, noting that three generations of his family had in one way or another been associated with BIU.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, with star soccer player Anan Khalili. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, with star soccer player Anan Khalili. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

At the event, it was also announced that BIU will establish a Center for Justice Emerging from the Earth. The new center, initiated by Prof. Michal Alberstein, dean of the Faculty of Law and an international mediation specialist, envisions a paradigm shift in the concept of law, emphasizing its role as a bridge between fields and people, with the aim of paving a path based on dialogue and constructive conflict engagement in Israeli and global society.

Speaking in the presence of the center’s founders and heads of leading Israeli law firms, Alberstein said the center will promote research, policy, practical tools and creative thinking while integrating law with other disciplines in order to promote peaceful and constructive resolution of conflicts. It builds on initiatives already existing within the faculty and the university, and on a strong core of activities that reflect respect for diversity and community values.

In commending the center, Herzog, who awarded diplomas to the top three graduates: Amir Pincus, Ehud Landau and Ariel Frankental, said: “Disagreement is a fundamental value, and a dispute about the relationship between authorities all the more so, provided that it is with respect, listening and certainly without cheap demagoguery.”

■ OVER THE years, the Tel Aviv City Council has had several women members, but there has never been a female mayor of Tel Aviv. Knesset Member Orna Barbivay, who before entering politics, was the highest ranking woman in the IDF, being the first to be promoted to major-general, was later the economy minister. Her current goal is to be the first female mayor of Tel Aviv. Present incumbent Ron Huldai, who has been mayor for 25 years, has not apparently learned from his failed attempt to enter national politics, nor has he taken note of the fate of long-term mayors of other municipalities, such as the late Teddy Kolek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem, who served for 28 years, and ignored warnings of possible defeat when he ran his final race against Ehud Olmert, who won.

Similarly Shlomo Bohbot, who was mayor of Ma’alot-Tarshiha from 1976 to 2018, was defeated in the last municipal elections by Arkady Pomerantz. Perhaps a limit should be placed on the number of consecutive terms that anyone can serve as mayor, so as to save them the humiliation of defeat after long years of service and important contributions to their respective cities. The same goes for prime ministers. After having been dubbed “King Bibi,” it was not easy for Netanyahu to find himself in the opposition, where he may possibly end up again. Far better to have only two or possibly three terms to be determined by law, than to have seemingly limitless terms until a better candidate or a new generation of voters show up.

A busy week for MDA

■ IT WAS a very busy time last week for Magen David Adom, the Israeli version of the Red Cross, whose paramedics tended to people injured in multiple terrorist attacks as well as those hurt in traffic accidents. It was a sufficiently active week to excite the curiosity of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who visited MDA headquarters in Kiryat Ono where he was briefed by MDA CEO Eli Bin and other senior officials. Cohen was told that MDA has expanded its activities and it now operates on land, sea and sky. Cohen was taken on a tour of the whole facility and given in depth explanations on how everything works, including how MDA coordinates with the Red Cross on international tragedies, especially those involving Israeli citizens.

Cohen was particularly interested in this aspect of MDA’s work as well as in new technologies used in treating the sick and injured prior to transporting them to hospitals; and in vehicles such as helicopters that are used for emergency services.

He was informed that MDA tries to provide the best possible on site treatment so as to relieve the pressure on hospital emergency units.

MDA also works closely with MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development, which is a unit of the Foreign Ministry. MASHAV trains people from underdeveloped countries in many different spheres including public health.

Cohen said he was very appreciative of being afforded a close-up look at what MDA does in order to save lives.

■ THE JURY is still out on whether clothes make the man, but it’s not always a matter of how we want people to perceive us, but of the respect that we give to a host, to an event or to a place. There was a time when people got dressed up to go to the opera or the theater. Today, many of the patrons come in jeans or in shorts. Some may be more culturally educated and inclined than the men in suits and the women in evening or cocktail gowns, but the latter exude a more pronounced air of appreciation. While Israel is generally inclined to be more casual than formal, it really would not hurt for Israelis to show the same respect as do visitors from abroad. 

At the Wolf Prize ceremony at the Knesset this month, the prize recipients from abroad, mindful of the prestige of the prize and the venue, wore tuxedos and bow ties. The Israelis, including officials, wore business suits. The difference was very obvious, and perhaps Israelis are beginning to realize that while clothes do not make the man, they do contribute greatly to his image. Rani Rahav, one of Israel’s leading public relations executives, in preliminary invitations to his son’s wedding wrote that everyone is expected to come in evening attire. With women, this is usually not a problem. Properly accessorized, that little black dress can look like a million dollars. But men seem to be more limited when it comes to flattering attire.

■ TEL AVIV’S Carlton Hotel, which has undergone major renovations and keeps improving on itself, has launched its new Contento Beach Bar in cooperation with MasterChef television star Lior Ohayon. The menu includes a wide variety of foods and beverages.

Contento will host live music performances, parties and special events. Carlton CEO Yosi Navi said he was excited by the new venture. In addition to Ohayon, the hotel will be working with Contento Bar representatives Amir Atias, Roey Wolnerman, Amit Zanuri, Barel Adam, Ben-Or Biton, Lani Moxham, and Uri Shay Hadad to give patrons an enjoyable culinary, cocktail, entertainment and social networking experience.

■ LETCHWORTH, AN ancient town in the North Hertfordshire District of East England, once boasted a vibrant Jewish community, which diminished in the course of time. Some of its former residents live in Israel, and will probably be interested in reading a book about Jewish Letchworth, written by historian Yanky Fachler, who lives in Ireland and is a frequent visitor to Israel. In addition to writing the book, Fachler also lectures on it, and will do so next month in Netanya and Jerusalem on July 23 and 24. The Israel launch of the book will be in Netanya, where there is a fairly large representation of British expats, with others not too far away in Herzliya, Kfar Shmaryahu and Ra’anana.