Grapevine: Drawing parallels

What could be the connection between a forest fire and the humiliation of a seven-and-a-half year old girls?

ZAKA FOUNDER Yehuda Meshi Zahav with outgoing IDF Home Front Command head Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai. (photo credit: ZAKA)
ZAKA FOUNDER Yehuda Meshi Zahav with outgoing IDF Home Front Command head Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai.
(photo credit: ZAKA)
Parallels can sometimes be drawn between events which seemingly have no relationship to each other. For instance, what could be the connection between a forest fire and the humiliation of a seven-and-a-half year old Russian immigrant school girl in Petah Tikva?
In prehistoric times, people created fire by rubbing two stones together. Campers do this if they run out of matches and don’t have a cigarette lighter. But, all it takes to start a forest fire – there were more than 1,500 in Israel alone this week – is a tiny match, which can cause enormous damage.
The school girl’s 81-year-old grandfather brought her to school because her mother is studying and working.
The little girl was wearing a perfectly respectable and very pretty, high necked dark dress to which the school badge had been affixed. The teacher of her class was standing at the gate and distributing disinfectant Alcogel. She made no remark about the dress. But once in the classroom, she told the little girl that she could not wear the dress because it had no sleeves. The little girl replied that her grandfather had packed a blouse into her school bag in case she got cold and suggested that she could wear the blouse over her dress.
The teacher objected, because that would mean that the school badge would no longer be visible. The school secretary called Anna, the child’s mother and told her to instantly come with a change of clothing. Anna replied that she was in class and could not leave. Two hours later the teacher called with the same demand. When Anna again explained that she couldn’t come, the teacher scrounged around and found an oversized tee-shirt with the school emblem printed on it, and told the child to go to the toilet and change her clothes. The dress had buttons going down the back and the child was unable to unfasten them herself. The teacher didn’t hesitate and sent her to the toilet with the back of the dress gaping open.
It should be emphasized that this is a state school and not a religious school, and there was no need to create this drama. The child returned with the T-shirt barely covering her underpants. She was deeply embarrassed – more so when some boys and girls began ridiculing her. The experience was traumatic and she began to cry. At the end of the lesson, some of the female classmates apparently empathized with her and wanted to stay with her, but the teacher would not allow it. When Anna showed up at one o’clock to take her daughter home, she was shocked by the sight that met her eyes and began screaming at the teacher.
The child has enough problems because she is not yet fluent in Hebrew. She thought that she must have done something wrong, cried all the way home, and now feels guilty for something that isn’t her fault. She doesn’t want to go back to school and even asked that the family move to another neighborhood. Some of the other children in the class relayed the incident to their parents, who joined forces reporting it to the police. The story was also featured on Facebook where it was picked up by the Petah Tikva municipality and Mayor Rami Greenberg responded by saying there is no room for shaming in any Petah Tikva school. Attorney Victoria Roitman volunteered her services and accompanied Anna to a meeting with the school principal. Newly installed Education Minister Yoav Galant ordered an inquiry, not just because of the intolerably insensitive attitude of the teacher, but also because his previous position Minister for Aliyah and Integration, and he fully understood the implications when Anna accused the teacher of humiliating her daughter because she’s an immigrant from Russia.
The Israel Women’s Network is also involved, and so are various media personalities. The teacher’s action was akin to using a match to set fire to the forest, and she has yet to apologize.
■ ISRAEL AND Greece on May 21 celebrated the 30th anniversary of full diplomatic ties. Although bilateral relations between the two countries had existed since 1952, they were not upgraded till 1990 when full diplomatic ties were established following in depth discussions between then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and his Greek counterpart Konstantinos Mitsotakis, an ardent admirer of Israel.
Although Greece was the last European country to enter into full diplomatic relations with Israel, ties between Jews and Greeks have existed for centuries. Greeks first came to the Holy Land more than two millennia ago and there has been a Jewish presence in Greece dating back to more than 400 years before the Christian era. The Greek Patriarchate, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is among the most prestigious of the different Christian communities in Israel.
Over the past 30 years relations between Israel and Greece have continued to flourish on many levels. When the late Greek premier’s son, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, came to Jerusalem in 2018 to speak at the Global Forum of the American Jewish Committee, he sounded like an echo of his father with regard to Israel, and last year he himself became prime minister of Greece, scoring a landslide victory.
■ FOR MOST people, including those of Polish citizenship or background, the date May 16, 1943, is of little significance. It was the final day of the failed Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which had begun on April 19, 1943, and it also marked the date on which the Great Synagogue of Warsaw in Tlomackie Street – reputed to be the grandest synagogue in Europe with seating for two thousand people – was blown up by the Nazis in accordance with the evil plans of SS Gen. Jurgen Stroop. After the war, attempts to build on the site were repeatedly thwarted as if by a ghost. After decades, a very tall skyscraper was erected there. To mark the 77th anniversary of the destruction of the synagogue, the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv last week hosted an online lecture about this impressive house of worship by Prof. Marcus Zylber of the University of Haifa who showed photographs and architectural plans as well as photos of congregants – the men in smart suits and top hats and the women in elegant gowns and striking headgear. By the w
ay, the Polish Institute Library is reopening today, May 22.
■ IN A ceremony marking the handover of command that took place on Tuesday at the Home Front Command base in Ramle, the outgoing head of the IDF Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai presented a letter of appreciation and esteem to ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, on the completion of three years of cooperation with the volunteer search and rescue organization.
“It is no secret that I view ZAKA as a significant organization in the home front preparation in times of emergency. In recent years, we have built together a modus operandi, we have trained together, and we have improved our mutual readiness for various emergency scenarios,” wrote Yadai.
“None of these wonderful things could have happened without your cooperation, partnership and involvement,” he continued.
Meshi Zahav is living proof that a leopard can change its spots. Raised in the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta movement, he was arrested many times for organizing anti-Zionist riots and protest demonstrations as well as activities against Sabbath desecraters.
All that changed in July, 1989 when a Palestinian terrorist hijacked a 405 bus traveling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,
Near Abu Ghosh, the terrorist pulled the steering wheel sharply to the right, and the bus crashed into the valley below.
The cries of the injured were heard in the yeshiva above, where Meshi Zahav was studying and he led the rescue operation to retrieve the bodies. 14 people were killed and 27 seriously injured.
The rescue operation was the nucleus for the establishment of ZAKA. Since then, Meshi Zahav has been a torch lighter on Israel Independence Day and has sent two of his sons to the army – one to Golani, and the other to the paratroopers. He is no less religiously observant than he was before, but is more tolerant of those who are not. He is not only accepted in military and diplomatic circles, given that ZAKA operates globally, but he is a welcome guest whose name appears on numerous invitation lists.
■ PUBLIC SECURITY Minister Amir Ohana ignored all the Health Ministry guidelines when he toured South Tel Aviv on Wednesday. He did not wear a mask. He hugged and kissed local residents. Later, he sat in a meeting with the area’s chief troublemakers and several senior police officers around a long table in shoulder-to-shoulder proximity. None wore masks. If Ohana so blatantly ignores the rules, should the ordinary citizen do otherwise?