Grapevine December 18, 2020: Justice at last

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN brings donuts and an orange cake made according to the recipe of his late wife, Nechama, to soldiers at Metzukei Dragot. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN brings donuts and an orange cake made according to the recipe of his late wife, Nechama, to soldiers at Metzukei Dragot.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
 The long-awaited decision to extradite alleged sex offender Malka Leifer to Australia, where she is wanted on 74 charges of sexually abusing pupils in her charge as the principal of a religious girls’ school in Melbourne, was widely reported in the Australian media. Dassi Erlich, the main victim, tweeted after the court ruling: “BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!! EXTRADITION APPEAL HAS BEEN DENIED!! STAGGERING CONCLUSION TO 74 COURT HEARINGS! Only one more step – Justice Minister Nissenkorn’s signature and Leifer is on the plane to Australia!!!” Erlich will be pleased to learn that Avi Nissenkorn has already signed the extradition order.
■ ON WEDNESDAY, the Arts and Entertainment page of The Jerusalem Post featured an article about the still-in-the-making television series based on the book The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, which four years ago was the debut novel by Jerusalem-born veteran journalist Sarit Yishai-Levi, who had previously authored four non-fiction books.
Around 70 years ago, Jerusalem actually did have its own beauty queen, who in 1951 was the second person in the country to be crowned Miss Israel. For most of her life she was known as Michal Moda’i, having married a young army officer by the name of Yitzhak Moda’i, who in civilian life became a politician and held several ministerial positions including that of finance minister.
Like Yishai-Levi, Michal Moda’i was a seventh-generation Jerusalemite, the daughter of Zipporah Salomon and Osher Samuel Zelman Herison. Her mother was closely related to Yoel Moshe Salomon, one of the founders of Petah Tikva, which was originally an agricultural settlement. YMS also built the first house in Jerusalem’s Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, and collected funds abroad for the construction of the original Shaare Zedek Hospital on the capital’s Jaffa Road. After studying to become a kindergarten teacher, Michael Moda’i entered a beauty contest and was named the first Miss Jerusalem, after which in 1951, she won the Miss Israel title, and was sent abroad to raise money for the United Jewish Appeal. Because prime minister David Ben-Gurion wanted Israel’s representatives throughout the world to have Hebrew names, she changed her name from Herison to Har’el. In London, she met her future husband, who was then a military attaché at the Israel Embassy.
In 1968, she joined WIZO, and rising through the ranks, eventually became world president of the organization, a position she held from 1996 to 2004, after which she became one of three honorary life presidents of World WIZO.
She was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and of the World Jewish Congress.
She was 81, at the time of her death in March 2012.
Her son Boaz Moda’i is a career diplomat who currently serves as Israel’s ambassador to Slovakia. His previous ambassadorial posting was as ambassador to Ireland. During that time, he and his wife, Nurit Tinari Moda’i, who served as his deputy, were the recipients of an award from the Comper Center for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism at the University of Haifa in recognition of the embassy’s online hasbara, which is one of those Hebrew words that has gone through an evolutionary phase from meaning “propaganda” to “information” to its current version of “public diplomacy.”
■ AFTER JUST over two decades on the air, The Israel Connection, broadcast on Wednesday nights on Reshet Bet radio, will no longer be heard as of January 1, 2021. Elihu Ben-Onn, who has anchored the show throughout its history, sent out a message to listeners around the world to alert them to the fact that the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN 11) has decided to cease broadcasting the program. This is just another example of Israel shooting itself in the foot. Over the years, Ben-Onn has spoken to foreign diplomats who served in Israel and want to maintain some sort of connection, expatriates who still relate to the mother country, people contemplating immigration to Israel, students of Hebrew, religious leaders – in fact, people from almost every walk of life who have some interest in Israel and are happy to converse in Hebrew on an Israeli phone-in show. 
Many of those who have done so have told Ben-Onn how much the show means to them and that they are faithful listeners. Just when the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and other organizations are putting so much emphasis on closing Israel-Diaspora gaps, one of the most important vehicles in this endeavor is being shut down. Perhaps the Jewish Agency or the Foreign Ministry will see fit to transfer the program to one of their websites in order not to lose touch with the many thousands of listeners in so many countries around the world who have tuned into Reshet Bet every week to hear the stories of others who have been maintaining the Israel connection, including in some of the most isolated villages where no one would expect to find someone who can speak Hebrew.
■ WHEN FUTURE historians look back at this period in world history, the pandemic that has caused so much distress and taken so many lives will get a passing mention in relation to political and diplomatic developments. Allegations of corruption and security violations by Jared Kushner, senior adviser to and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, will be ignored or barely mentioned, because his role as a peace-broker in the Middle East will be far more important from an historical perspective. Likewise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered to be one of the world’s most savvy politicians, will be remembered more for his diplomatic coups than for the months of nation-wide demonstrations against him in relation to his indictment on charges of corruption. 
With due respect to Trump for the positions that America has taken vis-à-vis Israel, it is doubtful that he would have gone as far as he did without Kushner’s urging. Kushner led the American delegation on the first joint American-Israel commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Dubai, and is scheduled to yet again lead the American delegation on the first joint commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Rabat, which is due to take place on Tuesday. Kushner’s diplomatic successes have also helped to breathe new life into Israel’s national air carrier El Al, which only a few months ago was grounded and in danger of closing down. Kushner still hopes to add to his list of diplomatic achievements in the final weeks of the Trump administration.
■ NETANYAHU WANTED his vaccination against COVID-19 to be as public an event as possible so he could claim on Saturday night to be the first world leader to be inoculated. Instead, President Reuven Rivlin, who has limited his contacts with the media to one-on-one Zoom or other social media conferences, will be inoculated on Sunday at Hadassah Medical Center with coverage by the Government Press Office, which disseminates texts and photographs to the media. Throughout the week, Rivlin has been lighting Hanukkah candles with different segments of Israeli society. On Tuesday, when he went to light candles with the Jordan Valley Brigade soldiers at Metzukei Dragot, he came armed with platters of donuts and an orange cake that was a favorite recipe of his late wife, Nechama.
■ IT WAS an interesting coincidence that on the day after “D” was announced as the next head of Mossad, the annual prize-giving ceremony for outstanding Mossad officers was held at the President’s Residence, where both the incoming and outgoing heads of the legendary organization were in attendance. Addressing D, Rivlin said, “We are lucky to have you. You are a leader from within the service, and we all have full faith that you will know how to protect us, as the head of the Mossad of us all, working for the country and its people.” 
Thanking outgoing Mossad chief Yossi Cohen for his service, Rivlin praised him for his capability and confidence in paving a path for new and professional leadership. One of the award recipients was a woman who was credited with managing complex and sensitive relations that helped bring about significant projects in Israel’s relations with Gulf states.
■ WHILE ISRAEL’S Druze community has produced some of the country’s finest soldiers and academics, as well as a few diplomats and politicians, Jewish Israelis in general know very little about the Druze. Some of the mystery will be cleared up on Sunday, December 20, at 10:30 am, when Anan Kheir, a Druze lawyer who lives in Peqin Village with his wife and two daughters, will be talking about the covenant between Druze and Jews in a Zoom event hosted by the Netanya branch of AACI
To register, send an email to with your name, email address, phone number, number of people watching, venue, and whether or not you are a member. Non-members will be asked to pay NIS 20. Pre-registration is essential in order to receive the Zoom link. If the link has not been received by 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, telephone (09) 833-0950
■ WITH ELECTIONS looming, politicians would be wise to take note of something that former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said to former Israel ambassador to the UN Danny Danon at the opening of the DiploTech Global Summit hosted by The Jerusalem Post: “You have to have the courage to tell your constituents the truth.”