Grapevine August 24, 2023: Remembering Shimon Peres

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 THEN-FOREIGN MINISTER David Levy (left) meets with André Azoulay, the adviser of the Moroccan king, in 2000. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
THEN-FOREIGN MINISTER David Levy (left) meets with André Azoulay, the adviser of the Moroccan king, in 2000.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)

As part of the centenary year marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Israel’s ninth head of state Shimon Peres, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation has invited a series of international personalities to come to Israel throughout the year within the framework of its Dream Big program. 

The guest on Friday, September 8 at 10.30 a.m. will be Andre Azoulay, a senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco. He had previously served as an adviser to the king’s late father King Hassan II.

Azoulay was also a close personal friend to Peres, the seventh anniversary of whose passing will be marked on Wednesday, September 6, with a service on Mount Herzl.

UK synagogues

Regardless of how staunch a Zionist one may be, many hard-core Zionists, who opt to migrate to Israel from other countries, cannot quite separate themselves from their past. They continue to speak their native language, partake of the cuisine of the old country, listen to the music of that country, and follow news reports about events in that country. 

David Newman, who is professor of Geopolitics at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, has taken it a step further. Newman, who is originally from the UK, has an abiding interest in religious Jewish life in his former land of domicile, and has created a Facebook page on Synagogues of the UK.

 THEN-PRESIDENT Shimon Peres meets with former US president Jimmy Carter, in Jerusalem, in 2009. Successive president have tried to duplicate Carter's achievement, but only a few come close to matching the scope of his breakthrough, says the writer.  (credit: ABIR SULTAN/FLASH90)
THEN-PRESIDENT Shimon Peres meets with former US president Jimmy Carter, in Jerusalem, in 2009. Successive president have tried to duplicate Carter's achievement, but only a few come close to matching the scope of his breakthrough, says the writer. (credit: ABIR SULTAN/FLASH90)

During the past 50 years, many of the largest synagogues in the UK have closed as communities shifted gear and moved away. These abandoned edifices, many of which are quite magnificent, have hosted some of the greatest cantors of the 20th century, not to mention great rabbis who were extraordinary scholars and riveting orators. Most of these synagogues were either replaced by other buildings or taken over by Muslim or Christian communities and turned into Mosques or Churches.

For Newman, and many others, this has been heart-breaking, and from time to time, he gives talks on the subject. He will do so again in the evening of Wednesday, September 6, at a Zoom meeting organized by Bnai Brith UK. He will talk about the history of the vanished communities, the rabbis who were their spiritual leaders, and the cantors whose voices enthralled them. The meeting is open to all. To register, email:

As the British expat community in Israel is quite large and probably includes people who attended synagogues that will be discussed by Newman, it would not surprise if there are numerous registrations from Israel.

Waldorf Astoria surpasses King David Hotel

Can it now be assumed that the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was reputed to have the most stringent security measures of any hotel in the country, has been moved into second place by the nearby Waldorf Astoria? Given that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are staying at the Waldorf while their apartment, some 15-20 minutes walk away, is undergoing re-enforced security measures, it looks as if the Netanyahus have deserted the King David which was once one of their favorite hotels. 

Most visiting heads of state or government stay at the King David precisely because of the security it offers. Two other nearby hotels in competition are the David Citadel and the Mamilla. It’s not only a matter of security, but also price. 

Of the four luxury facilities, the hotel that offers the best deal for the visiting dignitary and his or her entourage, will probably get the business. In the case of the Netanyahus, their stay is at the expense of the public purse. One wonders if it would have cost less for them to stay at their other residence in Caesarea.

Ethiopian Israelis speak out

Members of Israel’s Ethiopian community this week blocked part of Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv to protest the haphazard handling of the case of hit-and-run driver Emma Carroll, who three months earlier had killed four-year-old Rafael Adena as he was strolling down the street in Netanya with his grandfather.

Most of the demonstrators were wearing white T-shirts featuring a portrait of the gorgeous little boy and the words Justice for Rafael. The blood of Rafael is not worthless. Rafael did not die immediately. He was taken to hospital in critical condition and lingered for several days before he died. 

Attorney Kinneret Barashi, who is a regular panelist on the nightly KAN 11 current affairs talk show hosted by Ayala Hasson, wore such a T-shirt on camera, and the issue of the child’s death was discussed by the panel.

The driver and her daughter in whose name the car was registered, were arrested the following day. The file on the daughter was closed because she was not the driver. There is a conflict between police investigators and those of the district prosecutor’s office, with the latter claiming that the accident was unavoidable. Although the driver has not yet been charged, it would seem that if charges are brought against her, she will receive a very light sentence.

That may change due to Barashi’s involvement. Barashi rose to fame when she represented Orly Revivo, the first of several witnesses in the rape case against former president Moshe Katsav. Revivo had been the first to complain, but for a long time her identity was kept secret, and she was referred to only by the initial of her first name. The striking-looking Barashi had appeared nightly on television to speak out on Revivo’s behalf. If she does so in the quest for justice for Rafael, she might be equally effective.

Commemorating Australian victory over Ottomans

The ambassadors of Australia and Turkey, Ralph King and Sakir Ozkan Torunlar are expected to attend the 105th anniversary ceremony commemorating the victory by an Australian light horse unit over Ottoman forces at Tzemach railway station. 

The event, hosted by Kinneret Academic College which is located on the site of the battle, will be held on Wednesday, September 20 at 5.45 p.m. In the knowledge that yesterday’s friends may be today’s enemies and yesterday’s enemies may be today’s friends, the ceremony will be held under the slogan of Yesterday’s foes – Today’s partners.

Turkish representatives have consistently attended Australian memorial events in Jerusalem, Beersheba, and Tzemach related to the First World War, when the armies of the two countries fought against each other.

Also expected to attend the ceremony are the military attaches of Australia, Turkey, Germany, the UK, and India, as well as some representing other countries.

Sharp criticism from Rani Rahav

Although he is one of Israel’s best-known public relations executives, with a heart of gold, and a readiness to do a favor for friends and even chance acquaintances, Rani Rahav can get to the quick when he’s being critical. One of the people whom he frequently criticizes, is the equally outspoken Minister for the Advancement of the Status of Women May Golan. 

Fed up with all the verbal slings and arrows that Rahav has aimed in her direction, she has threatened to sue him, and her lawyer Uriel Nizri has sent a warning letter to Rahav before proceeding with legal action. Rahav shrugged it off saying that letters from lawyers don’t scare him and that he would continue to be critical of Golan on social media platforms until she behaves as a minister should behave. 

Rahav also made the point that while Golan can sue him, he can’t sue her because she has parliamentary immunity. He suggested that amid all the reforms that the government plans to introduce, there is a need for ordinary citizens to be able to sue legislators.

Malka Leifer sentenced to prison on rape charges

After a very long, drawn-out case of sexual abuse against two of her students, the trial of former school principal Malka Leifer has finally come to an end after 15 years of denial, extradition requests, feigned mental illness, cover-ups, political interference, obstruction of justice, gag orders, and more. 

Leifer was sentenced this week at the County Court of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, to a total of 15 years for raping and sexually abusing sisters Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper. She will serve a non-parole period of 11-and-a-half years. Time served will be taken into account.

Mannie Waks, an earlier victim of sexual abuse, set the ball rolling for an Australian commission of enquiry into sexual abuse against children in school. He was a pupil at the Chabad Yeshiva in Melbourne, and the two sisters, together with their two other siblings, were pupils at a girls’ school run by the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel.

When Waks brought his own story to public attention, his family was ostracized, but he persevered, and has since founded Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse.

Waks said after Leifer’s sentence was announced, that the conclusion of this trial “sends a powerful message to victims and survivors: justice can be achieved even when the road is long and challenging. It also acts as a strong deterrent to perpetrators; no one is above the law and the authorities will pursue justice regardless of when the crimes are alleged to have occurred.”

Waks also underscored that this was only one case against many and that child sexual abuse continues to be pervasive

Journalism cash prize

The Israel Institute for Media and Communications that was established two years ago at the initiative of former Supreme Court judge Dalia Dorner, at its outset introduced an annual NIS 50,000 prize to be awarded to a journalist or media outlet for excellence in reporting. 

Nominations for this prize are now being accepted. Dorner, a former long-time president of the Israel Press Council, founded the Institute, after rumblings that she had served on the press council way beyond the specified time. She had headed that organization since 2006. It is now headed by another retired Supreme Court judge, Hanan Melcer. In creating the Institute, of which she is the president, Dorner said that its purpose was to promote higher standards in journalism.