Grapevine: Familiarity breeds contempt

President Reuven Rivlin voting for the 23rd Knesset on Monday (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin voting for the 23rd Knesset on Monday
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
Announcements of the first three or four coronavirus fatalities in Israel were made in hushed and shocked voices, even though the full impact of the calamity had not yet been felt. The fact that all the initial victims were well advanced in age and had other health complications from which they might have died anyway did not alter the actual cause of death and the fear it generated.
But then as time went on and more people succumbed, including relatively young people, the announcements became more matter of fact, and some of the health reporters adopted an almost gleeful tone of voice because the worse the situation got, the more important they became professionally. They seemed to ignore that they were not just reporting statistics, but the passing, as the result of an insidious virus, of someone's grandparent, son or daughter, mother, father, sister or brother. All these people had left mourners behind, and the mourners did not have to hear reports of the death of their loved ones uttered in laconic or even happy tones.
One of the praiseworthy exceptions among broadcasters is Yaron Deckel, who very early began reporting the figures of people who recovered before reporting how many people had tested positive, how many cases were mild, how many serious and how many had died. And he always makes sure that his tone of voice on these matters is respectful.
KAN RESHET Bet's Keren Neubach, who hosts a two-hour morning show several days a week, is an unfaltering advocate for social justice. She is the champion of society's underdogs: the single mothers who have nowhere to live; the special-needs children for whom there is no proper educational facility; the mentally challenged who, though harmless, have been locked for years in solitary confinement; Holocaust survivors and other residents of nursing homes who have been mistreated; along with any other weaker sectors of society.
Lately she has been dwelling a lot on economics as well, and has even corrected economics experts and proved that their information was flawed. Neubach is very savvy about economics, which is not really surprising as she is the daughter of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange chairman Amnon Neubach.
A similar pedigree belongs to another KAN staff member. Economics reporter Amit Tomer is the daughter of Manufacturers Association president Ron Tomer. Whereas Neubach hardly ever refers to her father on air, Tomer frequently prefaces her reports by stating whose daughter she is.
NEWSPAPERS, SOCIAL media and radio and television programs are brimming with ideas of how to pass the time while in isolation. Gila Rockman, director for service and citizenship at Shalem College, while twice quarantined, has not followed some of the existing trends. Instead, she has spent her time in solitude fund-raising for economically disadvantaged children and their parents via the Afikim Family Enrichment Association.
The relationship between the association and these families is ongoing, with the aim of helping to take them out of the cycle of poverty. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, 90% of Afikim’s parents have lost even their menial jobs, and like so many other Israelis are not working. In response to their calls for help, AFEA initiated an emergency campaign to provide these families with essentials such as food, computers, toys and ongoing care. In addition, AFEA has enlisted Shalem College students to work hand in glove with the association's social workers to deliver such items directly to the families living throughout Jerusalem.
No less important than the food vouchers, computers and toys delivered by the students and Afikim staff, are the encouraging words which pepper their conversations with the recipients. Rockman, who is an Afikim board member, is coordinating the distribution and fund-raising efforts from her isolation room. She says that the needs are urgent and will continue for a long time into the foreseeable future.
Anyone who wants to contribute so as to make sure that these families do not starve, should send donations via the link on Jgive at jgive.com, by phoning 073-223-3000, by WhatsApp to Miriam Grotsky at 052-810-8204, via the Afikim website at afikim.org or online at bit.ly/TrumaCorona.
Rockman comes from a family of runners. In January of this year, three generations of her family participated in an Afikim fund-raising relay from Jerusalem to Eilat. In addition to Rockman, the family was represented by her father, Dr. Michael Goldsmith, her brothers Ariel and Ronen Goldsmith, her son Yoel Rockman and her nephew Matan Goldsmith.
In addition to being runners, the four adults are excellent and well-practiced Torah readers. Dr. Michael Goldsmith, who is in high demand as a reader by several Jerusalem synagogues, says he misses going from congregation to congregation.
IN PARTNERSHIP with the social welfare department of the Kiryat Shmona Municipality, Off Hagalil (Chicken of the Galilee), a subsidiary of the Galilee Development Company, distributed 100 packages of various high-quality chicken products to 100 needy families in Kiryat Shmona.
According to Off Hagalil CEO Gadi Nathaniel, the company distributes food to the needy all year-round and also contributes to educational institutions in Kiryat Shmona. However, due to the dire economic circumstances resulting from measures taken to counteract the coronavirus, the company decided this year to go the extra mile and expand its social welfare policy in tandem with the municipality's social welfare department.
"We see this as both a mission and an obligation," Nathaniel said. Kiryat Shmona Mayor Avihai Stern thanked the management and workers at Off Hagalil for upholding a time-honored Jewish tradition of feeding the poor and helping out in various ways in the period leading up to Passover.
"We have excellent cooperation with Off Hagalil, which has done a lot for the city," he said. "We will emerge from this crisis stronger and more united,” the mayor affirmed.
THE INTEREST that the wider public has in the President's Residence is evidenced each during the Festival of Sukkot, when people of all ages and streams of Judaism flock inside to see what is behind the high walls and heavy doors. That is the only time of year when visitors don't need an appointment or an invitation or a listing on a specific group tour. All they need is an ID card or a passport.
Since taking office, President Reuven Rivlin has been fond of telling large gatherings of people invited through their association with various organizations and institutions that the President's Residence is the home of all the people of Israel. But that's not quite true, because individual members of the nation cannot enter at will. The security personnel will simply not allow them to get beyond the entrance lobby.
But now they can take a virtual tour.
Among the things that Rivlin has done during his presidency is to open a visitors' center, where groups of people come almost daily to tour the premises and to learn of the history of the building and its occupants.
The virtual tours will be presented weekly. They will be accessible to people all over the world and will be posted on the president's social media channels:
YouTube: youtube.com/user/PresidentRivlin
Facebook: facebook.com/ReuvenRivlin
Instagram: @presidentruvi, instagram.com/presidentruvi
Although they are not a substitute for the real thing, these tours will at least give the public a better understanding of what goes on behind the fence.
On the first tour, visitors will hear about the history of how the President's Residence came into being. They will also visit the Avenue of the Presidents, where there are sculpted busts of all of Rivlin's predecessors accompanied by brief biographies. The avenue is surrounded by gardens.
In the second tour, visitors will see the ceremonial spaces in the compound, as well as the art and archaeological finds.
The third tour will focus on the gardens of the presidential compound, where the president holds the annual Israel Independence Day ceremony, at which 120 outstanding IDF soldiers are honored. This tour will include the avenue of trees planted by global leaders during their visits to Israel over the years. Among the tree-planters were the Prince of Wales, US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and popes Benedict and Francis
As interesting as they will be, these tours cannot quite compete with the virtual tours of the world's great museums. One such tour includes the treasures of the Vatican museums, some of which are being shown to the public for the first time.
People stuck at home are watching programs on television, YouTube and other forms of electronic media that in so-called normal times they might never think to select. Those who have never been inside a museum or an art gallery before may develop a taste for the arts while on their virtual tours, and once the crisis is over and people start traveling again, might choose destinations prompted by the museums they have seen on their screens.
Meanwhile, Rivlin is also conducting a weekly story time for children via his social media outlets.
A photograph of Rivlin and the Egyptian ambassador, which was posted by the president's press office and published last week, showed the two sitting in closer proximity than the Health Ministry allows. Unbeknown to The Jerusalem Post, this was an archive photo, and was not taken at their meeting a week and a half ago.
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