Grapevine December 6, 2020: All roads lead to Dubai

The light of the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah is marred by rising antisemitism around the globe.

DIHAD BUSINESS development manager Jennie Robin with ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav. (photo credit: Courtesy)
DIHAD BUSINESS development manager Jennie Robin with ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 Dubai is fast becoming a favorite destination of Israeli travelers. Israir’s Captain Hagai Canaan made airline history last Tuesday, as he piloted Israel’s first commercial flight from Ben-Gurion Airport to the UAE, following the granting of permission by Saudi Arabia for the flight to go through its airspace. Arkia also launched flights to Dubai last week, and El Al is expected to do so next week. In addition, flydubai has launched 60 weekly flights on the Dubai-Tel Aviv route, and expects to increase this number during the winter months.
For many Israelis, this will mean Goodbye Mikanos, Hello Dubai. It also means that a lot of people who went to Eilat in the past, will now opt for Dubai, which is attracting Israelis of every stripe, among them ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who has also founded an organization called Eshet Lapidot, which is largely comprised of Israeli businesswomen who engage in philanthropy.
Meshi Zahav was in Dubai last week to sign a cooperation agreement with DIHAD, which stands for Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development, which has similar aims to Eshet Lapidot, and hosts large scale conferences and exhibitions at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center. The agreement was signed with Jennie Robin, DIHAD’s business development manager in the presence of DIHAD chairman Dr. Abdul Salam al Madani and his son Anas al Madani, who is the CEO of DIHAD.
Meshi Zahav will lead an Israeli delegation to Dubai for the March 15-17 conference, the theme of which is Aid and Coronavirus – Focus on Africa.
Meshi Zahav said after the signing ceremony that as far as he was aware, Eshet Lapidot is the first Israeli charitable organization to sign an agreement with a Dubai counterpart.
Both organizations announced that Eshet Lapidot will be an active participant in the conference, which is under the patronage of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of United Arab Emirates.
The conference attracts some 15,000 participants representing 650 organizations.
Although it is no secret that there have long been below the radar connections between Dubai and Israeli business people who are dual or multi-nationals holding foreign passports, this will be the first time that any Israeli organization will openly participate in a DIHAD conference.
DIHAD is believed to be the largest charitable organization in the Middle East.
On a different topic that is also related to coronavirus, ZAKA has offered its services free of charge to overseas Jewish families who want to bury their loved ones in Israel.
In addition to being a search and rescue organization that operates not only in Israel but in disaster areas around the world, ZAKA also runs a free burial service whereby it helps to transfer deceased victims of coronavirus to Israel for burial. It also provides assistance to accompanying mourners.
■ ON THE subject of deceased people, in various parts of Poland, non-Jews have taken it upon themselves to care for Jewish cemeteries. One such person, Pawel Kulig, has been awarded a prize given annually by Polin, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews to individuals, organizations and institutions that are actively engaged in the preservation of the memory of the history of Polish Jews. The awardees are judged to “have undertaken an important, unconventional action which could potentially bear a lasting effect on the social awareness of the history of Polish Jews as well as on building Polish-Jewish relations.”
For the past eight years, Kulig has been taking care of the New Jewish Cemetery on Bracka Street in Lodz, and in 2019 he became the chair of the Guardians of Memory Association, which is dedicated to preserving the cultural and historical heritage of Lodz Jewry.
Lodz has the largest Jewish necropolis in Poland and second largest in Europe, with approximately 160,000 tombstones. Kulig has collected a group of like-minded people to help him tend the cemetery, as it is impossible for one person to look after such a large area. Among those who are helping him are many young people, a factor that bodes well for future respect of shared heritage.
Kulig’s efforts in keeping the cemetery tidy have come under the patronage of the Mayor of Lodz Hanna Zdanowska. In order to formalize the activities of the Guardians of Memory and extend their scope, Kulig organizes charitable events, meetings, workshops, lectures, exhibitions, concerts and educational walks.
In addition, he helps the descendants of Lodz Jews to discover their family history and the fate of their loved ones. He has helped many such people to locate the graves of their forebears, and remains in close contact with the landsmanschaft of Jews from Lodz in Israel. In 2019, the Forum of Polish Jews in Israel presented him with a citation in recognition of his actions in preserving the heritage of Lodz Jewry. He was also honored with the “Rekindle the Memory” badge granted to Poles who help salvage Jewish heritage.
Despite the resurgence of antisemitism in Poland, there are many good Poles who reach out to Poland’s existing Jewish community and who go to extraordinary lengths to preserve what remains of Jewish heritage in the towns and villages in which they live.
It is customary to also recognize such people at the annual Krakow Jewish Festival and to award prizes to those engaged in the most outstanding or unique projects. The award ceremonies are conducted in the presence of the Israel ambassador.
■ IT IS not only beauty that is in the eye of the beholder. Half a dozen people witnessing the same event and asked to describe it afterwards, might each give different versions of what they saw and heard. Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) will host a special event as part of the organization’s “Behind the Headlines” virtual series, with IDF International Spokesperson Lt.-Col. Jonathan Cornicus on Tuesday, December 8, at 1 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. Israel Time. The interview with Cornicus, who is the IDF head of International Public Affairs, Public Diplomacy and Social Media, will discuss how to fight media bias against Israel, though it is doubtful whether Cornicus will be asked whether Israel can accept the fact that criticism of a policy or an event, does not necessarily indicate anti-Israel bias?
The FIDF “Behind the Headlines” series aims to provide exclusive access and insights into Israeli news and newsmakers, delivered by the people who actually shape the events. The series will also shed light on the growing impact of the IDF on all aspects of Israeli society.
In other FIDF news, Midwest Region supporters David and Susan Kreisman last month pledged a gift of $2 million for the FIDF’s Wounded Soldiers program. The announcement was made during a meeting of the FIDF Midwestern Region attended by Executive Director Tamir Oppenheim and Or Yellin, a 27-year-old IDF wounded veteran who was visiting Chicago. Yellin, who lives on Kibbutz Beeri, served in an elite paratroopers brigade. During Operation Protective Edge, Yellin’s unit was ambushed, and he was injured. A bullet pierced his left hip and another struck his right ankle. Following his rehabilitation, Yellin worked as an educator before joining Brothers for Life as an External Relations Coordinator. FIDF and BFL have a partnership agreement.
■ THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10 is the first night of Hanukkah when Jews around the world will celebrate an age-old miracle dating back to the second century of the common era when the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian Greeks who sought to impose their culture and beliefs on the Jews and to eliminate all signs of the Jewish religion. The poorly armed Hasmoneans or Maccabees as they were known, rose up against the enemies of Judaism, and against all odds, succeeded in driving them from the land, and reclaiming the Second Temple, which had been desecrated. When the Jews sought to light the menora in the Temple, they found only one remaining cruse of undefiled pure oil, which was sufficient for only one night. But miraculously, it lasted for eight days, which is why Hanukkah is an eight-day festival.
But the light of Hanukkah is marred by rising antisemitism around the globe. Jewish communities everywhere are very concerned. Antisemitism appears to be more violent in Europe than in other places, but even in far-flung Australia there are daily incidents, which is why on Thursday, December 10, beginning at 7.30 p.m. AEDT, 10.30 a.m. in Israel, the Zionist Federation of Australia will host a conversation aimed at combating ignorance and bias. The conversation featuring Prof. Dina Porat, chief historian at Yad Vashem, and Ambassador Michaela Kuchler, president of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, will also deal with decreasing knowledge of the Holocaust, what led up to it and the widespread antisemitism that allowed it. The discussion will also deal with the issue of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. The moderator will be Yosi Goldfarb, president of Zionism Victoria.
Australia, though a full member of IHRA, has yet to adopt the definition.
Australians who will be accessing the webinar, will be urged to contact their political representatives to ask about it. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A session on antisemitism old and new. For registration contact