Grapevine: 10 minutes late

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Happy faces at the group Bar Mitzvah party (photo credit: YONIT PHOTOGRAPHY)
Happy faces at the group Bar Mitzvah party
(photo credit: YONIT PHOTOGRAPHY)
Jewish meal time being what it is, the baby boy who is the latest addition to the family of the President’s Office Director-General Harel Tubi and his wife, Sharon, who made his entrance into the world on Monday, arrived 10 minutes late. Otherwise, he could have been completely in sync with Armistice Day, which is traditionally commemorated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Admittedly, he was born on the 11th day of the 11th month, but took his time, and made his entrance at 10 minutes past the 11th hour.
■ PEOPLE OFTEN have the impression that everyone in Israel knows everyone else, because so many of the same well-known personalities are on so many guest lists of major organizations and institutions. The fact that they turn up to scores of the same events does not necessarily mean that they know each other, as was the case this week with former Mossad head Efraim Halevy and eminent historian Prof. Yehuda Bauer, who each arrived early for a reception at the President’s Residence.
Bauer, 93, sat down on a sofa, and proceeded to check and reply to his social media messages. Halevy walked passed him, then stopped in his tracks, turned back and introduced himself by name only, to which Bauer said, “Oh yes, I know who you are. I’ve seen you on TV.” It seems inconceivable that this was their first meeting, considering that each is a household name in his own right, and has been for many years.
■ ALTHOUGH US President Donald Trump was somewhat slow in commenting on the current security situation in Israel, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who visited Israel in June of this year, immediately issued an official statement with regard to rocket attacks against Israel, in which he said:
“Today, the people of Israel were targeted by nearly 200 rocket attacks, and thousands of innocent Israelis still remain trapped in bomb shelters as the onslaught persists. These attacks against a civilian population are wrong, plain and simple. Nothing will ever justify this horrendous violence, and we hope tensions de-escalate quickly before any innocent lives are lost. In these troubling times, New York will always stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel and we pray for their safety.”
■ YOU CAN lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. At memorial ceremonies for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz all called for a cessation of hatred, incitement and bad-mouthing of the other. But on the same day, Blue and White’s Gabi Ashkenazi was verbally attacked in Ashkelon. Gantz himself was also attacked by opponents when he attended the wedding of the son of United Torah Judaism MK Yakov Asher. Netanyahu, as he frequently points out himself, is under constant attack. There is a difference between legitimate criticism and verbal assault, but too many Israelis don’t make the distinction. It’s a bit like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but there’s nothing that anyone can do about it.
■ THIRTY-FIVE CANADIAN jurists, who arrived in Israel this week to participate in a five-day conference on current legal issues from a Jewish standpoint, had a little more excitement than they anticipated. They certainly hadn’t expected the rocket barrage from Gaza. They were in the country as guests of the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. Among the subjects they discussed with Israeli counterparts, who included former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch, was the “Legalities of Creating a Modern Nation-State,” from the perspectives of both civil and Jewish Law. At the opening of the conference, they were addressed by their representative in Israel, Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons. One of the final sessions of the conference was a panel discussion on the status of Jerusalem, with panelists representing both Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints.
■ AS TO the hostilities from Gaza, Thessalia Salina Shambos, the ambassador of Cyprus, was thrilled that the hostilities had not deterred dignitaries from Cyprus and Greece from coming to Jerusalem to participate in the trilateral Israel-Hellenic forum, which she said had been highly successful.
■ TODAY, the airport in Herzliya will be renamed the Modi Alon Airport, in honor of whose memory there will also be a fly-past.
The Safed-born fighter pilot began his career in the RAF, which he joined in 1940, when he was 19 years old. For a short time after the war, he continued to fly Spitfires and Mustangs in Italy before returning home and joining the Tel Aviv Squadron of Sherut Avir (Air Service) in 1947. He was one of 10 pilots chosen to attend special training in Czechoslovakia. Ezer Weizman, who later became commander in chief of the Israel Air Force, was part of that group which left Sde Dov Airport on May 6, 1947. The Czechoslovakian instructors were all RAF veterans.
On May 18, the group was horrified to learn that an Egyptian plane had bombed the Central Bus Terminal in Tel Aviv, leaving 42 people dead. The immediate reaction of the young pilots was to say they were going home. The Czechs tried unsuccessfully to convince them to stay and complete the course, but their reply was that they were not interested in practice sessions. They wanted to hit real targets.
They left on May 20 and arrived at their destination on May 22. Today, such a flight can be done non-stop in under five hours.
Alon became a co-commander of the Tel Aviv Squadron, and after the establishment of the state became commander of Squadron 101, which was Israel’s first combat squadron. He fell in the line of duty on October 16, 1948.
Gideon Sheffer, a retired major-general of the Israel Air Force and chairman of its veterans’ organization, sees the renaming of the airport in Alon’s memory as an important initiative toward maintaining the legacy of the founders of the IAF, including those who came from abroad as volunteers. They were significant figures in the War of Independence, for which some paid the supreme sacrifice.
■ MORE THAN 20 bar/bat mitzvah youth from economically disadvantaged families in the Israeli-Ethiopian community in Hadera recently celebrated their rite of passage to maturity at the Dan Panorama, Haifa, in much the same fashion as their more affluent peers around Israel. The festivities were of a nature that their parents could never afford. But thanks to the initiative of veteran party-planner Joan Summerfield, who is originally from the UK, and the generosity of donors and pro bono service providers, the party went off without a hitch, as was reflected in all the happy faces of so many families as well as those of the organizers.
Working in cooperation with the Gidon Association, which runs Maksam, an organization committed to improving the lives of Hadera’s children of Ethiopian background, and helping them to integrate successfully into Israeli society, Summerfield approached the families of the 20-plus youngsters who had reached this important stage in their lives.
“I wanted to ‘give back’ to the community after nearly 25 years organizing life-cycle events, and there is no better way than giving children and their families a bar/bat mitzvah party that they could never have had otherwise,” said Summerfield. “It was a joyful and very meaningful experience for everyone involved.”
■ MDA TRAINED first responder for emergency aid Daniel Amzaleg no longer lives in Israel, but returns from Canada from time to time to do a stint in Israel. This week, he was all set to fly back to Canada, where he is a member of the Friends of Magen David Adom, but with the escalation of the security situation, he decided to stay in Israel for the duration to join MDA teams of paramedics and first responders working in the southern part of the country.
■ TO MARK the 10th anniversary of Breaking the Silence, the organization that most Israelis don’t want to know about, and whose revelations they don’t want to hear about, is holding an exhibition called “Exposed.” The exhibition, which opened on November 14 at 5 Rabbeinu Hananel in Jaffa, will remain on view until December 5. It features men and women who served in the Israel Defense Forces who witnessed or participated in needless acts of violence against Palestinian civilians.
■ ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Gianluigi Benedetti and his wife, Sabina, will next week host chef Arcangelo Dandini, who will be in Israel within the framework of the Fourth World Food Week of Italian Cuisine. Dandini’s L’Arcangelo restaurant, in the heart of the Roman Prati area, is one of those must go-to eateries in Italy’s capital. Dandini, who is a creative chef, adds his own particular flavor to traditional Roman cuisine. His gourmet bistro is known for its innovative menus.