Grapevine September 6, 2023: How history will inscribe him

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu bends down to make eye contact with first graders in Ma’aleh Adumim.  (photo credit: Avi Hayoun/GPO)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu bends down to make eye contact with first graders in Ma’aleh Adumim.
(photo credit: Avi Hayoun/GPO)

Will history inscribe Yoav Kisch as the education minister who didn’t learn? Following the debacle in which he unsuccessfully tried to deprive the National Library of its independence, Kisch should have learned from the brouhaha not to tamper with the independence or leadership of other globally respected institutions. With all the tension that exists in Israel, and especially in the period leading up to Rosh Hashanah, was it really necessary to try to unseat Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan?

On the other hand, the support and kudos that Dayan has received from far and wide are a compensatory balm for the humiliation he has suffered at the hands of Kisch.

Receiving the President’s Medal of Honor

Ironically, KAN 11 military reporter Carmela Menashe will be among the recipients of the President’s Medal of Honor this evening at a festive gathering at the President’s Residence. The recipient of several prestigious awards, Menashe, who is Israel’s first female broadcaster to be assigned to cover military affairs, has been singled out for recognition at a time when Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi wants to either close down public broadcasting or at the very least put a muzzle on it.

Forget about freedom of speech or the fact that journalists are the conscience of society. Imagine how much corruption and injustice would never come to light if journalists were permitted to report only on matters that meet with government approval.

Menashe’s award is not the only irony of the evening. Today also happens to be the seventh anniversary of the death of president Shimon Peres, who initiated the medal, which he called the President’s Medal of Distinction. For whatever reason, it was never presented by president Reuven Rivlin, and when Isaac Herzog, early in his presidency, decided to revive its presentation, he changed the name to the President’s Medal of Honor, as if to erase the image of its founder.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, interact with first graders in Yokne’am. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG and his wife, Michal, interact with first graders in Yokne’am. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

As for public broadcasting, Army Radio, which for years has been under threat of closure, received yet another reprieve this week when Defense Minister Yoav Gallant decided not to close it and not to privatize it.

Saturday's demonstrations

The last thing that Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai wanted as a 79th birthday gift toward the end of last month was another round of large-scale demonstrations. But Saturday saw not only the usual anti-judicial reform demonstration for the 34th consecutive week, but earlier in the day an extremely violent demonstration by Eritrean asylum-seekers in reaction to an event organized by the Eritrean Embassy to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the rise to power of President Isaias Afwerki. Opponents and supporters of the Eritrean regime were involved in violent clashes in which more than 150 people, including police, were mildly to severely injured.

It was not the first time that there has been violence on the part of African asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv, but Saturday’s outbreak was the worst to date. It may have serious repercussions with regard to all African asylum-seekers, most of whom live in south Tel Aviv.

Huldai gave his full backing to police and other security personnel in their efforts to quell the riot, but the extent of the damage caused may affect the outcome of his final race for mayor. Huldai has been mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998.

Upcoming demonstration this Thursday

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion will have to contend with what purports to be the largest demonstration ever in the capital on Thursday, September 7, when right-wing activists from all over the country will gather in front of the Supreme Court in what they call a Freedom Rally in support of judicial reform.

A huge amount of money has been spent in repeatedly advertising the rally in several media outlets, including a double-page spread listing names and phone numbers of contact people in 48 towns and cities all over the country. A third of the contacts are women.

In addition, Lion has to cope with Jerusalem neighborhood forces which are closing ranks in joint demonstrations against the construction of tall towers and the manner in which they are changing the city’s character. Lion has said that while he respects the right of residents to demonstrate, it won’t change anything.

Uniting Jerusalem courts

If a report in the Jerusalem edition of Kol Ha’ir, happens to be true, another major transformation of the capital may be in the offing. According to the report, there is a move afoot to unite all the courts in Jerusalem in a single complex near the commercial section at the entrance to the city. The various courts are currently scattered in different areas, and the proposal to unite them in one place, under one roof, is being led by the Department of the Accountant-General in the Finance Ministry.

The Accountant-General Department is responsible for the government’s assets and manages its funds.

The plan for a courts complex has been on the drawing board for several years now. Studio PEZ, helmed by architects Pedro Pena and Daniel Zarhy, has produced a design for the new complex, which includes the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, the Jerusalem District Court, the National Labor Court, and others scattered throughout the city, as well as all the divisions of the State Prosecutor’s Office. It is not certain whether the complex will include the nearby Supreme Court building, which was gifted to the state by the Rothschild Foundation, which at the time was headed by Dorothy de Rothschild.

In 1986, in an architectural design contest organized by the foundation, the winners were Israeli architects Ram Karmi and his sister, Ada Karmi-Melamede, who were among 180 architects from Israel and abroad who competed for the right to design Israel’s new Supreme Court building.

Dorothy Rothschild, shortly before her death, visited Israel in 1988 to view the designated site of the Supreme Court. Construction of the building took several years. The official opening was in November 1992.

In addition to its numerous projects throughout Israel, the Rothschild Foundation has contributed largely to various prestigious buildings, including four that are in very close proximity to one another – the Israel Museum, the Knesset, the Supreme Court and the National Library, which is set to officially open next month.

Museum construction behind schedule

While all the new buildings are rising skyward in Jerusalem, construction of the Knesset Museum, located on the capital’s King George Avenue, in the building that housed the Knesset before it moved to its permanent home, is way behind schedule. Initially planned to open on the 70th anniversary of the Knesset, the initial excuse for the delay was that all the plumbing throughout the building had to be changed. After that the excuse was that funds were not available to enable completion of the project.

Meanwhile, Moshe Fuksman-Sha’al, the director of the Knesset Museum, presides over a special room in the Knesset, where gifts made to the Knesset by representatives of foreign parliamentary bodies are kept, and will eventually be transferred to the Knesset Museum. It would be wonderful if one or more philanthropic foundations would come forward to aid the completion of the museum.

In the interim, the wrap-around cover over the scaffolding is changed every so often to bring more historic photographs to public attention. It’s just a pity that thoughtless vandals spray-paint these covers, covering large sections of interesting history.

Unfortunately, the Knesset Museum is not a large enough project to interest Chinese companies that are active in Israel.

In the absorbing and highly informative article on his visit to China that was published in The Jerusalem Post Magazine last Friday, Alan Abbey lists large-scale projects in Israel that Chinese companies are engaged in or have completed in Tel Aviv, Acre, Karmiel, Haifa, Kochav Hayarden, Eilat, Holon, and Rosh Ha’ayin – but none in Jerusalem. Considering how quickly and efficiently the Chinese finish the job, one has to wonder why Jerusalem, plagued by construction cranes, is ignoring them.

100th anniversary of the British Mandate

When Israelis relate to the British Mandate, they usually think of the end, not the beginning, though occasionally they think of the infamous White Paper of 1939, which restricted Jewish migration to Palestine. The end, of course, was in 1948 with the creation of the sovereign State of Israel. As for the beginning, though technically created in mid-1919, the Mandate did not become effective till September 29, 1923.

Looking at the calendar, it is obvious that this month marks the centenary of the British Mandate.

Although there are still people living from that period, they were too young at the time to recall any specific impressions of what it was like to live under the British administration. It is left to historians and other academics to analyze this period, and to speak of it on the basis of secondhand and thirdhand knowledge.

It’s always important to know where we have been, as an aid to charting the course to where we are going. Past experiences offer valuable lessons for the future for those who are willing to learn.

This is why the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities is holding a multidisciplinary conference on “The British Mandate in Palestine: Regional and Global Contexts.” Arab academics are well represented among the speakers, instead of a token one or two. This, by the way, is becoming increasingly obvious at other conferences, including business and medical conferences. Arabs are finally being recognized in accordance with their professional status.

Comparison of different mandates in other countries is one of the subjects that will be discussed. Among the others are borders and landscapes, peripheries, regions and empires. Among the many speakers from Israel and abroad is historian, Prof. Motti Golani, an expert in Jewish history during the period of the British Mandate.

The two-day conference will be held on September 11 and 12 at Academy House, 43 Jabotinsky Street, Jerusalem, just behind the Van Leer Institute.

A fond farewell to Lahav Harkov

Colleagues gathered in the editorial offices of the Post on Tuesday to bid farewell to diplomatic correspondent Lahav Harkov, who is heading for the next stage of her career and will be the senior diplomatic correspondent for the American-headquartered Jewish Insider.

During her 12 years at the Post, Harkov spent a long period as Knesset reporter, and for the past four years has been the diplomatic correspondent. While at the Post, she got married, gave birth to three children and moved into a new apartment in Modi’in, where she finally has her dream kitchen.

The Post has been a significant stepping stone in the careers of many well-known journalists. Some came as interns from abroad on various programs run by Jewish organizations, and later returned as immigrants or for a couple of years’ stay before moving on. Some had already worked for other publications abroad and came to the Post initially as copy editors, but soon got the chance to see their own bylines in the paper on a regular basis. Journalists whose CVs have included The Jerusalem Post have subsequently worked for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The Australian, The Independent, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Jewish Insider, JNS, JTA, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Times of Israel, Azure, Hamodia, The Algemeiner, Haaretz, Israel Hayom, Reuters, Associated Press, and Honest Reporting. Some either freelanced or were the Israel correspondents for a variety of publications while working at the Post. Some who left to go elsewhere, returned not once, but twice in some cases. The Post has been a home away from home for immigrants from the US, Canada, England, South Africa, Australia, India – and even France.

Some former Post journalists went on to other professions such as public relations, diplomacy, government, think tanks, hi-tech and academia, and in most cases returned to journalism every now and again.

The prime minister and the children

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a very mobile face that positively radiates when he’s happy, but seldom more so than when he is in the company of young children – possibly he trusts anything they have to say to him, more than he trusts the comments of his political cronies.

Two delightful sights, when he and Kisch opened the school year in Ma’aleh Adumim last Friday, included one in which he and the minister were seated on either side of a youngster whom they were teaching to recognize letters of the alphabet; and another in which a standing Netanyahu bent down to make eye contact with first grade pupils.

It’s customary for the president of the state and the prime minister to sit in on a first grade class on the first day of school. Like Netanyahu, President Herzog always enjoys himself in the company of young children and is curious about what they have to say. He and his wife, Michal, interacted with first graders in Yokne’am.

Multiple births on the rise?

Anyone traversing the streets of Israel cannot help but notice the number of double baby carriages. It seems that multiple births are on the rise. Maariv, the sister publication of the Post, reported that at the Montessori School in Hadera, there are seven sets of twins, and in the case of one particular family, there are two sets of twins – Adele and Tahal Itzhak, who are in third grade, and Avia and Yaheli Itzhak, who are in fourth grade. Their mother, Bat El Itzhak, says that she is very pleased that they are all attending the same school, because it gives them a sense of security to all be together.

Multiple births are not confined to Israel. In June of this year, Israel Hayom reported the birth of quadruplets in Gaza. The father of the infants was a security prisoner in Israel, but the birth, like many others in Gaza, was facilitated through sperm transfer. At the time of the birth of the quadruplets, Gazan authorities reported that since 2012, there had been 118 children born through such sperm transfers. Now that National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir is toughening conditions for security prisoners, he may also find a way to prevent sperm transfers.

Jewish prisoners in Israel, including Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, are permitted conjugal visits. This is denied to Palestinian prisoners who are incarcerated in Israel, which is why some of them have found a way to create families through sperm transfer.

Levin vs. Baharav-Miara

If Justice Minister Yariv Levin continues with his savage attacks against Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara, he will turn her into a Jewish Joan of Arc. The French heroine was known as the savior of France, and Baharav-Miara may well become the savior of Israel.

Vietnamese-Israeli ties

To mark the 78th anniversary of the National Day of Vietnam and the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Israel, Ambassador Ly Duc Trung and Pham Minh Trang are hosting a special Vietnam event at the Riziere Vietnam in Israel at the Tourism and Cultural Space in Netanya, this coming Friday, September 8.

On September 2, 1945, president Ho Chi Minh read Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence at Ba Din Square in Hanoi. A year later, he met with David Ben-Gurion when both were staying at the same hotel in Paris. Ho Chi Minh advised Ben-Gurion to set up a Jewish government in exile.

It took a while before Israel and Vietnam established diplomatic relations in July 1993. Israel opened an embassy in Hanoi in December of that year.

In July of this year, Israel and Vietnam signed a free-trade agreement. Direct flights between Israel and Vietnam are set to begin in October of this year, following a decision reached by Economy Minister Nir Barkat and his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Hong Dien. There will be two weekly flights operated by VietJetAir.

Israel-Japan Economic Forum

Barkat is paying a lot of attention to Asian countries these days, and this week signed an agreement with Japan’s Minister of Economic Revitalization Yasutoshi Nishimura, in the course of a business meeting of the Israel-Japan Economic Forum at the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv.

 SHIGEYUKI GOTO, Japan’s minister for economic revitalization, and Economy Minister Nir Barkat sign an agreement at the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv. (credit: ARIEL ZANDBERG)
SHIGEYUKI GOTO, Japan’s minister for economic revitalization, and Economy Minister Nir Barkat sign an agreement at the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv. (credit: ARIEL ZANDBERG)

It is not the first time that bilateral agreements have been signed at the Dan, but nonetheless, general manager Ilan Ben Hakoon was as excited as if it was a first-time event.

In the dim and distant past, when the Labor Party’s headquarters were across the road from the Dan, it was almost a given for its ministers to frequent the lobby lounge of the hotel, often with their counterparts from abroad. To this day, many ambassadors who decide to host national day receptions in Tel Aviv opt for the Dan. Among them this year have been the ambassadors of Kazakhstan, India, and the Philippines.

Cooking in Israel

In addition to running a hotel, the Dan chain also runs a cooking school in partnership with ORT Israel, under the title of the ORT Dan Gourmet – The Israel Center for Culinary Studies.

The center also conducts workshops, and this coming Friday, September 8, will hold a workshop on preparing yeast cakes with apple, honey, dates and other sweet fillings, as well as the secrets of braiding challah. The workshop will begin at 9 a.m. and will continue till 2 p.m. at 53 Ness Lagoyim Street, Tel Aviv. The workshop will be conducted by pastry chef Saar Mor, and participants will pick up a lot of culinary tips that will stand them in good stead if they are baking for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot.

Separation is not segregation

If you will it, it is no dream, is the Herzlian lesson handed down to the people of Israel. Sometimes that proves to be true in the most unexpected places.

Rivka Ravitz , a 47-year-old haredi woman who is a mother of 12, has combined her duties as a wife and mother with an international career in politics and diplomacy. Ravitz, who has a couple of university degrees, is, among other things, an expert in international relations.

Last Friday, she published an op-ed piece in the Post explaining that separation between men and women is not segregation. But between the lines, and more obviously in some paragraphs, she was telling her secular sisters to mind their own business and not intrude on the haredi lifestyle in the mistaken belief that they were liberating haredi women.

Due to certain restrictions in the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, it would appear to some secular women that ultra-Orthodox women are being humiliated and treated as inferiors. This is not the case, and ultra-Orthodox women will be the first to say so.

Ravitz herself is a perfect example. Working with Rivlin for more than half her lifetime, she accompanied him through his career as an MK, a minister, speaker of the Knesset, and president, working as his bureau chief. She played an integral role in all his visits abroad, and she was part of the meeting and greeting reception given to foreign dignitaries. But unless they were women, she never shook hands with them. Dignitaries were primed in advance, but in case they forgot, they were quickly reminded when they saw Ravitz with her hands behind her back.

When traveling with Rivlin, she also declined to shake hands with the pope or with US President Joe Biden – and they respected her for it. In addition to being an experienced political administrator and adviser, Ravitz has also acquired expertise in international relations, and is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute.

On a personal level, she makes sure to spend quality time with her husband, Kiryat Ye’arim Mayor Yitzhak Ravitz, whom she married when she was 18. He has always encouraged her student and career ambitions. He also chooses the clothes she buys – not because he wants to rule over her, but simply because he has better taste than she does, she says.

Rivka Ravitz, along with many other ultra-Orthodox women, has succeeded in living in both worlds without compromising her religious beliefs or lifestyle. No one should think that they are doing her or other ultra-Orthodox women a favor, in the effort to “liberate” them from sitting at the back of the bus.

Studying abroad in Israel

The trend for North American university students to come to Israel in the springtime with Birthright has been going on for several years, but over the past few summers, many students remain in Israel, mostly in Tel Aviv, and do internships through the Onward Israel and Tamid programs.

For those students who choose to study abroad, it used to be mainly at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Jeff Seidel, who runs the University Student Centers in Israel, headquartered in Jerusalem’s Old City. But after a summer spent working in and enjoying Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the majority of these students now attend universities in such places as Madrid, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Rome, and Amsterdam, laments Seidel.

In Israel, it’s easy for these students to find a place to eat on Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah with or without Seidel’s help. Seidel wants to be sure that these mostly North American students have a place to meet and eat during Rosh Hashanah. But those studying in Europe and the US will find it much more difficult. Seidel is offering Rosh Hashanah meals, services, and student discussion groups to students from universities in Spain and the US, many of whom have already signed up with him.

He urges Jewish students studying anywhere in Europe, who would like to join one of his centers during the High Holy Days period, to contact the student center at or by WhatsApp, +972