GRAPEVINE: A new definition of chutzpah

Read about what Alan Dershowitz thinks on the Netanyahu investigations, Irish columinst Kevin Myers, and Jewish education.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER Ehud Barak in 2013 (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 Following an interview that he had given to Israel Hayom regarding police investigations into suspicions of corruption on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, internationally renowned lawyer and retired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz was interviewed on Channel Kan11 by Geula Even-Sa’ar, who questioned him on the same subject. It was clear that Dershowitz did not provide her with the answers she wanted, so without checking the depth and range of his legal knowledge, she told him that even though he’s a very famous lawyer, he doesn’t know anything about Israeli law or the cases related to the prime minister.
Dershowitz responded that he is very familiar with Israeli law and also with the investigations related to Netanyahu, and castigated Netanyahu’s political opponents, the public and the media for interfering with, and trying to override, due legal process.
The expression on Even-Sa’ar’s face and her attempts to argue against almost everything that Dershowitz said, even though he assured her that he was speaking from a purely legal standpoint, took chutzpah to a whole new level. She even had the gall to ask whether Netanyahu’s people had put Dershowitz up to being interviewed.
Irish columnist Kevin Myers was fired by the Sunday Times for writing what was widely interpreted an antisemitic article in which he mentioned two successful Jewish employees of the BBC. He has subsequently apologized, saying that he is actually a great admirer of the Jews. Even-Sa’ar certainly owes Dershowitz a big apology for having publicly insulted him and questioned his integrity – especially as she did so on the day after Tisha Be’av.
■ ON THE morning of Tisha Be’av, Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet’s Kalman Libeskind and Yossi Liberman interviewed two of the many rabbis in the Lau family, which can boast two chief rabbis of Israel plus several chief rabbis of Israeli cities, as well as congregational rabbis. Brothers rabbis Benny Lau and Amichai Lau-Lavie are first cousins to current Chief Rabbi David Lau and nephews to former chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv. The two brothers, though very close, are very different. Rabbi Benny, as he is generally known (so as not confuse him with any of his relatives), is a Modern Orthodox rabbi who is the spiritual leader of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem, whereas his brother Amichai, who lives in New York, was ordained by the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary.
Strictly Orthodox in most respects, Benny, who is also an electronic media personality, has a liberal attitude toward women scholars and sees no reason to deny them spiritual leadership – although he stops short of ordaining them as rabbis.
Amichai, the founder and spiritual leader of the Lab/Shul, is, like his brother, an educator and a writer. But he is also a performance artist. He has caused a major controversy in the Conservative movement because he is willing to perform mixed marriages that will embrace the non-Jewish partner and hopefully keep the Jewish partner within the fold. He sincerely believes that because there are so many mixed marriages in America with the danger that the Jewish partners will drop out of the Jewish community, it is better to perform the marriage and hope that the non-Jewish partner will convert and become an active member of the community.
As a result of the uproar this has caused within the Conservative movement, Amichai, who has also officiated at samesex marriages, has resigned from the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.
Benny, while empathetic to the LGBT community, and a participant in a Jerusalem LGBT memorial rally following the killing two years ago of Shira Banki at a gay pride parade, cannot go along with his brother’s decision on intermarriage, and said that he simply could not understand. He sees it as detrimental to Jewish continuity.
They debate this and other religious issues on which they disagree, with each respecting the other’s perspective, while neither compromises on his own. What is perhaps very important is that Benny recognizes Amichai’s commitment to Judaism, but acknowledges that they have taken different paths to similar goals.
■ WITH MEDIA headlines focusing increasingly on corruption in political and business circles, it would seem that it is almost impossible to get anything done without sacrificing one’s integrity. After reviewing the morning news on Wednesday, Reshet Bet early morning anchor Aryeh Golan said that he was reminded of a story of the late Elimelech Ram, a legendary figure in what used to be known as Israel Television and is today Kan 11.
Ram, who had a 42-year career as a radio and television journalist and who died in January 2015, was many years ago on assignment to an African state. When he presented his Israeli passport, the clerk in passport control thumbed through it several times and returned it without giving Ram permission to enter the country. When Ram asked what the problem was, he was told it was the clerk’s birthday. Ram quickly understood the implication, and despite the integrity for which he was known, calculated that if he’d come all that distance, he couldn’t just turn around and go home. So he slipped a $100 note into his passport, and suggested that the clerk look at it again. He was processed in almost no time at all and was able to carry out his assignment. How many times does one have to engage in similar actions before corruption becomes a norm? ■ IT’S HARD to believe that almost a year has gone by since the death of Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres. Invitations for a memorial gathering next month at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation were signed by Peres Center CEO Efrat Duvdevani and chairman Chemi Peres.
His signature featured his actual name, Nechemia, but in the typed name and title below, it was Chemi. The memorial event is to be attended by President Reuven Rivlin, heads of multinational industries, heads of innovative hi-tech industries, Jewish community leaders from Europe and the United States and partners in the establishment and continuity of the Peres Center. The event will highlight Israel’s achievements as an innovative Start-Up Nation and will also point to future opportunities in which innovation will contribute to the making of a better world.
During the seven years of his presidency, Shimon Peres would occasionally explain the secret of Israel’s success. “It’s because Jews are never satisfied,” he used to say.
“They’re always dreaming about something else they want to achieve.”
It is on the basis of this saying that Moriah Films, the documentary division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, is producing a documentary titled Never Stop Dreaming – the Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres.
Among the dignitaries and celebrities who will appear in the production are former US president Barack Obama and singer Barbra Streisand, who specially came to Israel to sing at Peres’s 90th birthday celebrations in Jerusalem. Obama came to Jerusalem more than once when Peres was president, and the two had a very special relationship.
According to Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the founder of Moriah Films, the Peres family was keen for the Moriah team, together with Oscar-winning director Richard Trank, to make the documentary. Moriah Films has a good record of making films about the history of modern Israel, and the life of Shimon Peres was on many levels a significant part of that history, from before the establishment of the state to the final week of his long life.
■ AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR-DESIGNATE Chris Cannan, who will be among four envoys presenting credentials to Rivlin next Tuesday, has not wasted any time in learning about Israel from embassy staff, Australian expats, Knesset members and most recently from former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak, who could clue him up on quite a few things.
Unfortunately, that meeting could not be balanced with a similar get-together with a former right-wing prime minister, because all the former Likud prime ministers are deceased. Still, Cannan and other new ambassadors may have an opportunity to chat with the present Likud incumbent, considering that he’s also the foreign minister.