Grapevine December 11, 2020: An end to Zoom?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN holds a book of Jabotinsky’s essays alongside leaders of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. (photo credit: Courtesy)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN holds a book of Jabotinsky’s essays alongside leaders of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Movie reviewers who have been watching a spate of documentaries and feature films streamed on their computers say they miss sitting with other people in a cinema, and that eating popcorn at home is not the same as sitting down in a cinema seat with a box of popcorn. Watching events on Zoom or Facebook can occasionally be rewarding, but there are just too many technical hitches, especially when such events include pre-recorded addresses or interviews that also appear on YouTube.
Two major inconveniences in this category are sound and timing. It happens too often that speakers cannot be heard. Sometimes you think the fault may be with your computer, until another speaker from another location comes on screen and can be heard perfectly. In addition, there is often a delay in the start of Zoom programs, and one can see participants either fidgeting as they wait, or sitting like statues because they are self-conscious about the number of other people who can see them.
One of the most disconcerting technical hitches this week was totally unexpected given the excellent service that is usually provided by the Government Press Office which on Tuesday, together with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, hosted the Fourth Jewish Interactive Media Summit whose main theme was Jewish Solidarity. Speakers included journalists from Israel, the US and Mexico, as well as people engaged in social activism and fighting antisemitism. But there was something resembling an echo chamber in the sound system, and every time someone spoke, there was a background repeat, not just once but sometimes two and three times, drowning out what was being said next. Also, while the journalists were reasonably brief in what they had to say, the non-journalists rambled, and moderator Hila Korach of Channel 13 had a tough job trying to get them to stick to the time frame.
Among the issues discussed was whether Diaspora Jews should have a say in what happens in Israel. The consensus was no, and someone pointed out that even Israelis living abroad are not given a say about what happens in Israel, because other than those who are overseas in service to the state, they are not permitted to vote in Knesset elections. It was also noted that Jewish solidarity exists only when Jews are under threat. Otherwise, Israelis are basically ignorant about Diaspora Jews and vice versa, though on the whole Diaspora Jews arguably know more about what goes on in Israel than Israeli Jews know about what goes on in the Jewish Diaspora. What was advertised as a special interview with UAE Chief Rabbi Elie Abadie was much too short. Given the repeated video inter-cuts of an ultra-Orthodox young man breaking eggs into a glass cup to ensure there were no blood spots, and lighting a gas stove in a hotel kitchen in accordance with the requirements of Halacha, Jewish law, it seemed more like a promotion for kashrut standards in UAE hotels.
■ THE LATEST shake-up in Israeli politics, with MK Gideon Sa’ar leaving Likud and taking some other Likudniks with him as he forms his new party, has now made him a target for vicious attacks by loyalists of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The interesting thing is that Sa’ar, who is a lawyer by profession, was up till now silent about Netanyahu’s legal woes, but has taken up the mantra of relating Netanyahu’s actions to his upcoming court cases. In announcing his departure from Likud and his reasons for doing so, Sa’ar appeared to be a synthesis of Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. The content and style of oratory were similar to those of Gantz, whereas the body language was much like that of Netanyahu.
Despite the fact that Sa’ar, a former cabinet secretary and minister, is not alone in leaving Likud, pugnacious Likud MK Osnat Mark said in a Reshet Bet interview that Sa’ar was no great loss to the party. She listed several former Likud luminaries who left the party and are no longer in politics, and sneered, “Where are they now?” She predicted a similar fate for Sa’ar, who was soundly defeated by Netanyahu when he vied for the party leadership. Now it remains to be seen if he can do better for himself as he vies for the national leadership. Former Labor leader and current broadcaster Shelly Yachimovich, after praising Sa’ar as a parliamentarian, a minister and a person of integrity, observed that the one quality that he lacks is charisma
■ THIS IS an important year for disciples and admirers of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, in that 2020 is the 140th anniversary year of his birth and the 80th anniversary year of his death. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress republished the famous collection of feuilletons by Jabotinsky, which for some inexplicable reason is the first reprint of the collection since its initial publication in 1922 in Berlin. The book, which is a brilliant anthology of writings about Jews, the Jewish people, Jewish life, Russia and more, was presented this week to President Reuven Rivlin by EAJC president Dr. Mikhael Mirilashvili, EAJC director general Dr. Haim Ben Yakov, and EAJC treasurer Menachem Bushuev.
Rivlin, who has been a life-long disciple of Jabotinsky’s, and who frequently quotes from his writings, was delighted to receive the book. He was also interested in hearing from the EAJC leaders about the large-scale study of Jewish populations in former Soviet bloc countries that was initiated by the EAJC, and of the cultural, Jewish awareness and Zionist activities the EAJC provides for them.
■ ALTHOUGH NEW half-owner of the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa of UAE royalty is convinced he can win over the notoriously racist La Familia supporters of the team, a lot of people are wondering why such a savvy person would want to invest in Beitar. It should be remembered that the UAE has never made a secret of the fact that it wants to partner with Israeli technology. The sheikh’s new partner, Moshe Hogeg, is a technology entrepreneur who heads Blockchain Israel, and has excellent connections in the hi-tech community. For such an easy introduction, the sheikh might be willing to put up with a bunch of frustrated racists.
■ FORMER JERUSALEM POST Knesset reporter Sheera Frenkel, who is presently the cybersecurity correspondent for The New York Times and a prize-winning journalist, is now attracting wide attention from television channels and other media for the book she co-wrote with fellow prize-winning investigative reporter Cecilia Kang about Facebook’s battle for domination. Titled An Ugly Truth, the book, which can be purchased from Amazon for $29.99 plus shipping, reveals a lot of information about Facebook that the company would prefer not to make public. It also strips the veneer from Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.
■ IN THE pre-Zoom era, there were many events on the same date, sometimes making choices difficult for people who wanted to attend more than one, but very often the final decision had something to do with geography. Admittedly, football fans went abroad in droves to watch championship matches, and some people who could afford it went abroad for a special musical performance. But in general, people went to events in Israel, and more often than not to events in the areas in which they lived. Today, with Zoom, our choices are global and include concerts, lectures, workshops, sporting events and international conferences with top-notch speakers. Choices can be extremely frustrating, especially at this time of the year, with Hanukkah and Christmas events adding to the list of choices. There were a lot of events to choose from last Sunday, and even more this coming Sunday, December 13.
■ EVERY ORGANIZATION sees its event as the most important, but the true judges are the ones who are least involved. The fact that only one event is mentioned here is because it genuinely stands out against the others. Shine a Light and Save a Life is part of the fund-raising campaign of the Laniado Medical Center in Netanya. The gala virtual event with a world-wide audience hopes to raise $2.5 million to pay for the cost of a new general intensive care department, which has become an urgent need since the onset of COVID-19. Hospital officials say that while much of the Jewish world celebrates miracles during the Hanukkah week, Laniado celebrates miracles every day of the week, every week of the year – especially this year when dealing with COVID-19.
Dr. Maurice Shapiro, head of the intensive care department, says, “The demand for intensive care beds in Israel has grown greatly, especially during the last year, and we must prepare ourselves now to meet this demand going forward.”
Sunday evening’s gala starts at 6.30 p.m. Israel time and will include music by hassidic rock superstar Shloime Gertner, a virtual tour of places throughout Israel that are connected to the Hanukkah story, and more. It will be the kickoff event for the week-long international crowdfunding campaign, with similar simultaneous events around the world. Local events during the week include an outdoor billboard campaign saluting the “Angels in White” medical staff at Laniado; two national radio stations broadcasting a special day of programming from the hospital; visits by celebrities, sporting personalities and politicians; and a special Netanya Municipal Council meeting inside the hospital nursing school chaired by Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg Ikar.
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