Grapevine: From Navon to Navon

The Ladino Festival at Habimah Theater has been named after Yitzhak Navon.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN with the cast of ‘Bustan Sephardi,’ which was written by Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon. (Kobi Gideon/GPO) (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN with the cast of ‘Bustan Sephardi,’ which was written by Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
It’s an interesting coincidence that Transportation Minister Israel Katz decided to name the new national railway terminal in Jerusalem after Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon. The coincidence derives from the fact that one of Navon’s relatives, Joseph Navon, who was an extremely successful businessman with diverse interests, was the man behind the construction of the Jerusalem-Jaffa railway line. Joseph Navon, who was born 160 years ago, was also the developer of the Mahaneh Yehuda market, which he named after his late brother Yehuda.
One suspects that of all his predecessors in office, the one for whom President Reuven Rivlin has the greatest admiration and affection is Navon, who, like Rivlin, was a multigenerational Jerusalemite. In fact, Navon’s family came to Jerusalem well over a century before Rivlin’s. When Navon launched his autobiography a few months before his death, Rivlin was there. Last year at a memorial tribute to Navon, Rivlin was again among the speakers. And last Wednesday night he attended the performance of Bustan Sephardi (the Sephardi Orchard), which was written by Navon and was a central feature of the Ladino Festival at Habimah Theater.
The festival, which was held for the fifth consecutive year, has been named after Navon, who was the head of the National Authority for Ladino. It also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the debut performance of Bustan Sephardi. In the audience together with Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, were members of the Navon family.
Members of the Diplomatic Spouses Club will soon have the privilege of hearing from the next generation of the Navon family, when Erez Navon, the late president’s son, will address them on January 30. Erez Navon, a businessman dealing with real estate in Israel and Latin America, where his father once served as a diplomat, has established an association in his father’s memory, which prioritizes educational facilities. Among the various positions that he held, Yitzhak Navon, who started out as a teacher, was also an education minister. Erez Navon will talk about the importance of culture as a bridge, and will present an overview of Ladino culture and his father’s legacy.
■ UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS have to travel abroad to help raise funds for the institutions that they head. The overseas friends of any university are always keen to meet with the president, especially when he or she is a new person at the helm.
In his first official address in the United Kingdom since assuming the presidency of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Arie Zaban outlined Bar-Ilan’s extraordinary achievements and his vision for the university over the next decade. Zaban spoke at an event hosted by British Friends of Bar-Ilan University chairman Romie Tager and his wife, Esther, in the presence of Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev and university vice president for development Dr. Merav Galili.
In introducing Zaban, Regev called him the “ultimate Israeli,” having served as a combat pilot in the Israel Air Force and subsequently becoming a renowned scientist, founding director of Bar-Ilan’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials and, most recently, president of the university.
One of the most important aspects of Zaban’s vision outlined by Zaban is Impact, a concept developed at BIU, which represents a new approach to academic research. IMPACT emphasizes multidisciplinary research between groups of researchers from various disciplines, with a common goal of tackling some of the most complex social, economic, political, technological, medical and cultural challenges in order to impact upon the world at large.
Eleven Impact Centers are currently operating at BIU. Zaban concentrated on three of these groundbreaking centers, focusing on prisoner rehabilitation, depression monitoring and energy storage.
One of the ways in which BIU will make an impact over the coming years, said Zaban, is by improving the rehabilitation of prison inmates and successfully reintegrating them into society. In a first-of-its-kind program, the university inked an agreement with the Prisons Service to designate one ward of the Rimonim Prison, near Tel Aviv, as the pilot for Israel’s first university research prison. This will allow BIU researchers to work together with rehabilitation staff at the prison to collect and study data on prisoners and life within prison walls.
A second Impact center is developing a special technique for measuring depression, which affects millions of people worldwide. The center combines the knowledge of psychologists, psychiatrists, natural language processing specialists, computer scientists and engineers, who are creating a DepressoMeter, a system that will continuously gather linguistic, vocal, facial, kinesthetic and physiological data, which will be integrated in order to provide real-time feedback to patients and therapists on the severity of a patient’s condition. Creating an objective measure of depression severity will transform diagnosis and inform treatment of depression, and it can be applied to numerous other psychological and psychiatric conditions.
“The world’s need for energy will quadruple by 2050, and we must free ourselves from using fossil fuels for the majority of our energy,” said Zaban. He was very much on home ground in this respect; renewable energy is his area of expertise. To this end, the Israel National Research Center for Electrochemical Propulsion at BIU, named by the State of Israel as the national research center in its field, is making a unique impact by combining fuel cells and batteries to create solutions for storing the energy that will serve autonomous cars – which are the wave of the future.
■ DURING HER recent visit to Israel, Argentinean Vice President Marta Gabriela Michetti visited the Tel Aviv University campus and met leading TAU researchers as well as Argentinean doctoral student Melisa Herrero, who described her experience as a student at TAU, expressed her appreciation for being part of the TAU community, and shared information about her research on rare diseases in the laboratory of Prof. Orna Elroy Stein of the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience.
In addition Michetti was presented with the TAU Friendship Award by TAU president Prof. Joseph Klafter and president of the Argentinean Friends of TAU Polly Mizrahi de Deutsch. The award was conferred upon her in recognition of her warm friendship toward Israel and the Israeli people; her commitment to combating antisemitism; her dedication to strengthening academic cooperation between Argentinean and Israeli institutions, among them TAU; and her endeavors to reinforce economic, diplomatic and trade ties between Argentina and Israel.
“Occasions such as these underscore the importance of international academic cooperation, and I believe this visit will serve to enhance and expand frameworks for working together,”said Klafter.
Michetti responded that she was pleased to learn about the academic scope of TAU and Israel, and that she was proud to see so many Argentineans active in Tel Aviv University’s scientific achievements.
Also attending the event were TAU vice president for resource development Amos Elad; Ilan Sztulman; director for South America at the Foreign Ministry Shmulik Bass; representatives of the Embassy of Argentina; and representatives of various government ministries in Argentina, who were members of Michetti’s delegation.
■ OF COURSE we didn’t invent the word “grapevine,” the name of the column that has been appearing in The Jerusalem Post for almost 25 years, but there’s a possibility that it might be confused with a public diplomacy effort in the United States, whose website is called “From the Grapevine” and in a subtle fashion promotes Israel in much the same way as 21c.
One of its founders, Gerry Ostrow, appeared last week on Elihu Bar-Onn’s radio program The Israel Connection, in which Bar-Onn interviews Hebrew speakers from around the world. Ostrow said that the From the Grapevine project has a multimillion-dollar budget provided by a group of philanthropists, plus a stable of professional writers who write on an endless variety of topics that come under the categories of Israeli Kitchen, Lifestyle, Innovation, Arts, Nature, Health and Photos. There are quizzes as well.
Not all the material focuses directly on Israel, nor does it come within the rubric of propaganda. It’s simply informative and interesting, and, according to Ostrow, 90% of the readership are non-Jews. Its website states that “From the Grapevine was created to provide a fresh perspective on Israel. From the land’s natural beauty to Tel Aviv’s vibrant technology scene; from the global culinary world’s focus on Israeli food and recipes to the innovative Israelis who are changing the world – From the Grapevine covers the bounty of what Israel is about today, in detail, with great writing, rich photographs, and its own editorial voice – engaging, nonpolitical and nonreligious. From the Grapevine tells the stories about Israel you may have missed, but not for much longer, as our engaged social media community begins to share our words. If you find a story that speaks to you, please pass it along, and tell others you heard about it From the Grapevine.
“ is published by reThink Israel, an American nonprofit 501c3 corporation.”
All the writers live in America. One was born in Israel but was raised in America. All have impressive records in terms of where their material has previously been published.
Ostrow said that, collectively, they put out 200 stories a month.
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