Grapevine: Capital Controversy

Moran Samuel in a racing boat at the World Championships in Amsterdam. (photo credit: DETLEV SAYEV)
Moran Samuel in a racing boat at the World Championships in Amsterdam.
(photo credit: DETLEV SAYEV)
IT’S A well-known fact that Israelis who cannot get into local universities, but who want to pursue a particular subject in order to have the qualifications for a career, have far less trouble in being accepted by universities in Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and even Italy.
Sometimes medical students do so well at universities abroad that they opt to remain indefinitely in the countries where they received their degrees, and often prove to be very good doctors.
The irony is that Israel has to offer them fat incentives in order to entice them to return home. Last week the Czech Embassy in Tel Aviv, currently headed by Ambassador Ivo Schwarz, hosted an information seminar for Israelis who in the fall of 2017 are going to study medicine at Charles University in Prague and Masaryk University in Brno and veterinary medicine at the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brno. Israeli students who are already enrolled at these universities told them what they could expect both on and off campus, and embassy staff informed them about scholarship possibilities and the issuing of visas.
However, it appears that the students, in addition to studying, will spend a lot of time defending Israel’s right to determine its own capital. Following Palestinian pressure, Czech education authorities have decided to expunge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from school text books and to instead designate Tel Aviv as the capital. No country has the right to impose a capital on another. However, if Prague persists in recognizing Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, when Schwarz’s successor has to present his or her credentials in two years, he or she will face a diplomatic dilemma. Credentials are presented to the president of the State and the president sits in Jerusalem, as does the prime minister.
Jerusalem is not only the seat of government but also the home of Israel’s legislative and main judicial bodies, not to mention the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with which diplomats must deal on a fairly frequent basis.
Will the next Czech ambassador decline to present credentials in Jerusalem? If that is the intention, the appointee will not be recognized as an ambassador, and Israel could just as easily decide not to recognize Prague as the capital of the Czech Republic, but to opt instead for other Czech cities such as Liberec, which was once the capital of Sudetenland or Olomouc that was once the capital of Moravia.
■ HAVE TICKET, will travel, seems to be the motto for Laura Kelly, the editor of the weekend magazine of The Jerusalem Post, who this week put out her last magazine and took her leave after a series of farewell parties, the last of which took place on Wednesday in the editorial offices of The Jerusalem Post.
More emotional than she thought she would be, Kelly spoke of the feeling of family that has enveloped her during the three-and-ahalf years with the paper, during which time she had many adventures, some of which were initiated by op-ed editor Seth Frantzman with whom she traveled to Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to some of the intriguing and occasionally dangerous places that she went to solo. Kelly loves the challenge of doing something new and different, though in all probability, she will stick with journalism in one form or another. The jobs listed on her CV include: Birthright recruiter, schedule manager of 100 cancer patients at Sloan Kettering Cancer in New York; pop culture columnist; and associate instructor at New York Institute of Technology.
She’s also a great photographer.
For the next month, she will be volunteering at a hostel in the Galilee after which she will return to the US.
■ JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat shocked residents of the German Colony and its environs who this week attended a Jerusalem City Council meeting at which an attempt was made by opposition leader and Meretz representative Laura Wharton to delay a final decision on the routing of the light rail through the German Colony’s Emek Refaim. Barkat, who is usually soft spoken and smiles a lot, was brutal with Wharton, and all but refused to listen to her, cutting her off time and again.
Barkat has recently been trying to integrate himself into Likud circles and he may be practicing his tough guy act for if and when he moves out of local politics and into the Knesset. One recent move in this direction was a meeting at the Jabotinsky Institute with its executive director Yosef Ahimeir, who is a former Likud MK who worked closely with Yitzhak Shamir when the latter was foreign minister and prime minister. It was Barkat’s first visit to the Jabotinsky Institute.
For those who may not be aware, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, though dead for well over 60 years, remains the political and intellectual mentor of the Revisionist Movement and of the Likud.
Ahimeir took Barkat on a tour of the museum, spoke to Barkat at length about Jabotinsky and at the end of Barkat’s visit, presented him with Jabotinsky’s book The War and The Jew. Barkat was far from ignorant about the history of the Zionist leader, but to hear about him and his philosophy from someone who lives and breathes Jabotinsky day in and day out was a novel experience, causing Barkat to tell Ahimeir that it was amazing how relevant Jabotinsky remains today. Barkat confessed to gaining new insights into Jabotinsky’s vision and deeds, and said how much he appreciated this broader perspective of the man and his values.
On the subject of Jerusalem, Barkat told his host that integration and cooperation in the united capital are moving at a faster pace than would appear from media reports. Ahimeir reminded Barkat of the Jerusalem riots of 1920 in which Arabs had attacked Jews in and around the Old City. The British had insufficient troops to successfully quell the Arab marauders and Jabotinsky organized a meeting with British Military Governor Ronald Storrs and offered the services of some of his followers to augment the British fighters, and thereby defend Jerusalem from further harm. Storrs refused.
■ THE START of the school year yesterday presented politicians with yet another opportunity to hog the limelight. Politicians and entertainers are frequently warned to steer clear of children and puppy dogs which tend to upstage them in the eyes of photographers and television cameramen, but at the opening of the first school year, it’s often the politicians who upstage the children as they squeeze their bodies to fit on tiny, uncomfortable chairs behind minuscule desks.
If Education Minister Naftali Bennett has his way, curricula in most schools will cut down on humanities and focus more on math, technology and science. This means that students will learn even less history than they do already but history is an important backdrop to the future of any nation.
Realizing this, Aryeh Halivni, born Eric Weissberg in Cleveland, Ohio, founded Toldot Yisrael, an archive which contains a series of short films in English and Hebrew, recording the first hand testimonies of men and women who helped to found and build the State of Israel. Halivni who made aliya with Nefesh B’Nefesh in 2002, has (with the help of assistants) recorded interviews with more than a thousand such people including every living general who fought in the War of Independence, former Mossad directors, government ministers and others.
The Toldot Yisrael archive is now housed in Israel’s National Library.
On Monday September 5, some of these short films will be screened at the Jerusalem Cinamatheque from 7 p.m. Halivni will introduce the films and share some of the behind-the-scenes stories about them. In addition Ruth Stern, an immigrant from South Africa, who served as a nurse in the Medical Corps during the War of Independence, will make a live appearance following the screenings and will share her story. At the conclusion of the program there will be an Israeli wine and cheese reception in the gallery room adjacent to the theater hall, where veteran immigrants will be networking with relative newcomers and telling their own stories to whoever asks.
■ ALTHOUGH ONE should never count one’s chickens before they are hatched, when it comes to the Paralympic competitions, it’s not a case of whether Israel will win a medal, but how many medals will Israel win? The Paralympic athletes have long brought honor and glory to Israel by winning numerous gold, silver and bronze medals, but for some reason, seldom get the publicity they deserve.
However, with the new government and media focus on people with special needs and a policy advocating their abilities rather than their disabilities, members of this year’s delegation are likely to get better media attention than in the past. Each of the athletes has their own special story. Many who were not born with physical disabilities, took up sport as part of their therapy after losing some of their physical abilities, and discovered that they were good at it.
Rower Moran Samuel was a member of the national basketball team before she lost the use of her legs as the result of a rare spinal stroke. She then attempted wheelchair basketball, but was persuaded to try her hand at rowing, which has become her new love. Samuel previously competed in the London Paralympics.
Among the people who came to Ben-Gurion Airport this week to send off the Paralympic delegation that will be competing in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next week, was MK Karin Elharar, whose confinement to a wheelchair has not impeded her career ambitions. A successful lawyer before she became a legislator, Elharar has become a symbol of the ability to overcome adversity. She told the athletes, “You are the proof that it’s possible to triumph.”
Also present at the farewell ceremony were Rafi Beeri, vice president of marketing and sales of the Dan hotel chain, and Ditza Ben Moshe who manages the Dan customer loyalty program. The Dan chain is among the chief sponsors of the Paralympic delegation.