Grapevine: Haunted by the Holocaust

In 1948, when the State of Israel was established, after the unprecedented suffering of the Jewish people.

MIRIAM AND Sheldon Adelson pose with IDF soldiers in New York. (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)
MIRIAM AND Sheldon Adelson pose with IDF soldiers in New York.
(photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)
More than 70 years after the Holocaust, Germans whose parents and grandparents either were part of the death machine or stood by and let it happen are haunted by the horrors perpetrated by their own relatives whose genes they carry. The bulk of today’s German population was not yet born during the Holocaust years, and yet so many Germans continue to bear responsibility for something that they personally did not do.
Thus, it was inevitable that at the celebrations marking the Day of Germany Unity, both German Ambassador Clemens von Goetze and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev would refer to the Holocaust and the unique relationship between Germany and Israel that has evolved, both because of and despite the Holocaust. Guest of honor Bundesrat President and President of Rheinland-Palatinate Maria Luise Anna “Malu” Dreyer, who was visiting Israel for the first time, also referred to the Holocaust, and on the following day went to Yad Vashem. Among close to a thousand guests who came to The Q at Kibbutz Glil Yam to celebrate with Israel’s German community were many Holocaust survivors.
The actual date of German Unity Day is October 3, which fell on the day before Sukkot, so it was decided to postpone the celebration. Dreyer celebrated on the correct date in Mainz, and decided that if she was to celebrate again abroad, it would be in Israel. Part of the reason was to make Israelis more aware of the efforts under way to gain UNESCO recognition of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, known in Jewish tradition as the ShUM cities on the Rhine. “ShUM” is the acronym used to refer to them, coined on the basis of the initial letters of Speyer, Worms and Mainz in Hebrew. The cities, once a Jewish world unto themselves, link Jewish history with German, European and global history by virtue of the traditional Jewish culture that emerged from there to the wider world.
In speaking of “a unique security partnership that resulted from tragedy,” von Goetze referred not only to the Holocaust but also to the Munich massacre in which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were murdered. He also spoke of the recent German elections and the challenges confronting the new government, but pledged that whatever government is in power, Germany will continue to assume responsibility for the darkest hours in her history and will safeguard the existence and security of Israel.
Regev, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government, said that the occasion presented a great opportunity to congratulate Germany and to once again congratulate Chancellor Angela Merkel, “a great friend and ally of Israel,” on winning the national election, and to wish her success in her endeavors. Out of the devastation of the Holocaust, she said, there grew a great relationship between Israel and Germany. She thanked Germany for its support for Israel in international forums, its defense of democratic institutions, and its ongoing fight against terrorism, cyber threats, antisemitism and racism.
In 1948, when the State of Israel was established, after the unprecedented suffering of the Jewish people, it was not self-evident that such a friendship between Israel and Germany would grow and prosper, said Dreyer. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1965, she said, some 600,000 young Germans and Israelis had traveled to one another’s countries and had become ambassadors of peace, notwithstanding their tragic history. With regard to the ShUM project, she said that it had been undertaken to ensure that German-Jewish culture would not be extinguished.
On departure, guests were given a ShUM Cities coffee mug with “ShUM Cities on the Rhine” inscribed on it in Hebrew, German and English, plus a package of three chocolate bars wrapped in blue and white in a cellophane package tied with a ribbon in the national colors of Germany.
■ TOGETHER WITH some 1,200 other Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, America’s most generous donors to causes in Israel, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, were among the contributors who donated a total sum in excess of $35 million at the FIDF’s gala Night of Heroes dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown this week. The Adelsons pledged $7m. – one-fifth of the sum raised. Also present were Consul-General Dani Dayan and Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, along with Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman, who was master of ceremonies; FIDF national chairman Arthur Stark; FIDF national president Rabbi Peter Weintraub; FIDF national director and CEO Meir Klifi-Amir; and FIDF Tri-State executive director Galit Brichta.
Current soldiers and veterans of Israel’s wars were saluted by the crowd of businesspeople and philanthropists, who came from all over the US to the Big Apple for the occasion. Among the speakers was outgoing Israel Air Force chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, who oversaw the recent acquisition from the US of F-35 fighter jets – the most advanced warplane in the Middle East.
A commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War was led by legendary IAF test pilot Danny Shapira, who was one of the very first to fly over Israel and served in most of its wars.
Also among the speakers was Amir Ofer, a hero of Operation Entebbe, the 1976 rescue mission at Uganda’s Entebbe airport. Ofer, who was then a soldier in the IDF’s most elite special operations unit, was the first Israeli commando to enter the airport terminal, where he used a megaphone to tell the 102 hostages from the hijacked Air France plane, “Stay down! Stay down! We are Israeli soldiers!”
■ ALTHOUGH ISRAEL is not without its own business tycoons and philanthropists, it is highly unlikely that a sum of $35m. could be raised for any cause in Israel. However, a much smaller group of people did raise NIS 4.8m. at the annual gala of the Friends of Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.
The event, held at The Avenue, attracted a considerable showing of well-known personalities among the 900 guests, including David Ben Bassat, chairman of the Friends; Dr. Eitan Wertheim, CEO of Meir Medical Center; Brig.-Gen. (res.) Arie Fishbein, CEO of the Friends; Leket founder Joseph Gitler; former CEO of Bank Hapoalim Zion Kenan and his wife, Mira; film producer and distributer and owner of Cinema City Moshe Edery and his wife, Pnina; former head of Military Intelligence Amos Malka and Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon. The evening was enhanced by comedian Avi Nussbaum and singers Kobi Aflalo and Hila Eitan.
■ INTERDISCIPLINARY CENTER Herzliya has a new provost, Prof. Alex Mintz, who took office on October 1. Mintz has quite a record of initiative and achievement at IDC. Between 2013 and 2016 he directed the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC and was chairman of the Herzliya Conference series. Prior to this position, he served as dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy for seven years. Mintz also founded the master’s degree program in government and leads the program in political psychology and decision-making at IDC.
Mintz is a recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award of the foreign policy analysis section of the International Studies Association for distinguished contributions to the field and is also the chairman of the Israel Political Science Association. In addition, he served as co-chairman of the steering committee for “Israeli Hope – Towards a New Israeli Order,” with the blessing of President Reuven Rivlin, who spearheaded the concept.
■ TODAY IS the day of confusion for television viewers, as Channel 2 disappears and channels 12 and 13 emerge to compete not only with each other but also with channels 10 and 11. Keshet (12) and Reshet (13), which used to share the Channel 2 franchise, are now going their separate ways.
When Channel 2 was officially launched in November 1993 after several years of experimental transmissions, and began operating commercially, there were three concessionaires, the first of them being Telad, which remained on board till 2005. Since then, Reshet and Keshet split the week between them. Now, each will be on air 24/7, which will initially be confusing for fans of Channel 2. But there are also various changes in time slots for Channel 11 and Kan radio programs.
One thing for which Kan deserves a lot of credit is the rebroadcasting of both radio and television programs in the midnight-to-dawn loop. Many of the radio rebroadcasts are current, which means that if someone missed them in the daytime and is prepared to remain awake, there is always the possibility of hearing them in the loop. But Kan should get its radio interviewers to be more polite when cutting off an interviewee for lack of time or the need or desire to interview someone else on the same subject, just when interviewee No. 1 is getting to the most salient point. Among the interviewers who are polite and gently conclude the interview are Yaakov Eichler and Eran Singer, who even when they disagree with their interviewees do not raise their voices and conduct a civilized conversation. Economics expert Shlomo Maoz, on his call-in program on which members of the public are invited to express their views, could stand some improvement in this regard. Nonetheless, he seems to be very popular.
But even broadcasters such as prize-winning Keren Neubach and Gili Tamir, who do amazingly dedicated work on issues of social welfare, do not always remember to be polite, and sometimes speak very sharply to their interviewees, as Neubach did recently when interviewing Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz, overriding any explanations that he tried to give for his inability to instantly improve the lot of certain sectors of the population. Many listeners and viewers enjoy a good fight, but the people in charge at Kan should make it a rule that if any broadcaster is going to fight, the fight should at least be fair.
■ WHEN PETAH Tikva couple Hila and Ophir Tidhar arrived at the Rambam Healthcare Campus for the birth of their first child, the expectant mother was surprised to discover that the doctor who had delivered her 31 years ago was now delivering the next generation of babies. Dr. Roni Avrahami presented Hila with her baby daughter, Maya. Hila’s mother remembered Avrahami from the time that she had given birth. His name seemed familiar to her, and as soon as she saw him, she recognized him, despite the passage of time. Although Maya’s parents now live in the center of the country, they were each raised in the North, and therefore chose to return for Maya’s birth because Hila, who had been born with a birth defect, had been treated at Rambam for years and almost considered it her second home.
■ ALTHOUGH HE was born in Jerusalem and lives in Mevaseret Zion, which is on the outskirts of Jerusalem but still within the 02 telephone radius, best-selling author David Grossman is being honored not by the Israel Museum or any other cultural institution in the capital but by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, in recognition of his winning the Man Booker Prize for 2017 for his novel A Horse Walks into a Bar. Not only is the museum honoring him Wednesday evening, but Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai will publicly congratulate him.
Bilha Ben-Eliyahu, another native Jerusalemite, who is a lecturer in literature at Jerusalem’s Kerem Institute as well as at the David Yellin Academic College of Education and Efrata College of Education and also edits and presents radio programs on literature, will talk with Grossman about his writing, and actor Dror Keren will read excerpts from the book. Admission is free of charge, but registration for an invitation is required by telephoning (03) 607-7020.
■ AS FOR Jerusalem cultural institutions, the Khan Theater is Wednesday evening launching its 50th anniversary celebrations with a musical production of Napoleon – Dead or Alive by poet and playwright Nissim Aloni under the direction of Udi Ben-Moshe. In the audience will be Israel’s No. 1 citizen and Jerusalem’s most ardent proponent, Rivlin, with his wife, Nechama.
■ WHETHER BY chance or design, Architecture Week in Jerusalem coincides with the “Jerusalem in Detail” exhibition at the Israel Museum, which is based on the research of architect David Kroyanker, a native son of the capital, who for years has been collecting architectural data and documents about the city, and has written several books on Jerusalem’s streets and buildings.
An international conference of architects opens Wednesday at the International YMCA, where a late-afternoon session called “Who owns my house?” will be devoted to church ownership of land in Jerusalem, the sale of such land to private developers, and the financial and emotional effect this can have on home owners whose apartments are built on land that was leased to Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, but which has since been sold.
Speakers at this session will include Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, who is a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, lawyer Amnon Merhav, who currently serves as the director-general of the Jerusalem Municipality, prominent Jerusalem architect Arthur Spector, and Oded Levinson, the Economics Editor at Army Radio. It is a possible that a decision this week by the Jerusalem District Court may delay or even prevent finalization of land sales.
In the evenings of October 25-26, members of the public can meet with architects and interior designers in some 14 bars on King George Avenue, Jaffa Road, Bezalel Street, Shlomzion Hamalka Street and King David Street.
From October 26 to 28, the public will have the opportunity to look at “Houses from the Inside.” This will include monasteries, churches, artists’ studios, hotels and various public buildings throughout the capital, but one of the more interesting features on Friday, October 27, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. will be free consultancy with members of the Israeli interior design association, who will give advice on architectural plans and how to make the most of a small space. People seeking such advice should come with architectural plans of their homes. This event will be held at Safra Square, the plaza leading to Jerusalem’s City Hall.
■ WHETHER IT is essential for a prime minister and a foreign minister to know English was one of the topics of discussion by Emily Amrussi and Yuval Elbashan on an early morning radio show last Friday, generated by the fact that some people are unaware that Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay, who wants to replace Netanyahu, speaks fluent English. Admittedly, his English is not on a par with Netanyahu’s, but he does know how to get his message across.
Further into the conversation it came up that, over time, reporters had denigrated various politicians for their supposed inability to speak English, and not a single one of the politicians criticized is an Ashkenazi, to which Amrussi said that if Ya’acov Litzman were to be appointed foreign minister, he would also be expected to speak English. She seems to be unaware of the fact that Health Minister Litzman grew up in New York.
■ APROPOS LITZMAN, it is strange that his name is not listed among the speakers at the November 9 conference on “The Challenges of a Health System in the North of Israel.” Numerous Jewish and Arab medical experts from hospitals, health clinics and academia, primarily from the North but from elsewhere in Israel as well, will congregate at the communications building of The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, as will local mayors Adi Eldar of Karmiel, Yossi Ben David of Tiberias, Eli Barda of Migdal Ha’emek, Mazin G’Nayem of Sakhnin, Dr. Suhail Diab of Tamra, Imran Kanana of Yafia, Yitzhak Meron of Afula, Ali Salam of Nazareth, Amin Enbatawi of Shfaram, and Ilan Shohat of Safed.
It has been frequently stressed that for many residents of cities, towns and villages in the north of the country, there are no medical services close at hand, and that outpatients with life threatening illnesses have to travel long distances for treatments. This sometimes entails having to leave home before dawn in order to keep a hospital appointment. Presumably, several participants in the conference will question Litzman’s absence when so important a subject is on the table.
■ AND ONE last item pertaining to Litzman. According to a report in Yediot Yerushalayim, the Jerusalem weekend supplement of Yediot Aharonot, Litzman effectively put a spanner in the works of an agreement between the Jerusalem Municipality and Isrotel, which after building its Jerusalem flagship, the Orient Hotel, at the entrance to the German Colony, had planned on other projects in the capital.
At the opening ceremony of the Orient Hotel earlier this year, Isrotel owner and president Julian Lewis, when asked about future plans for Jerusalem, said that there are some in the pipeline, but that he preferred not to talk about them yet. One of those plans was to build a boutique hotel on the Jaffa Road site of the district office of the Health Ministry.
The site is located close to the Sfas Emes Yeshiva of the Ger Hassidim, the hassidic movement with which Litzman is affiliated. Even though the municipality is part owner of the land on which the district health office is located, Litzman somehow managed to prevent the hotel plan from going ahead, although the municipality has a long-range plan to convert most of the city’s buildings that are slated for preservation into boutique hotels. It is anticipated that Litzman will try to convert the building into some kind of Torah institution.
■ ON THURSDAY, renowned French Armenian singer Charles Aznavour, who at 93 is probably the oldest active performer in the world, will receive the Raoul Wallenberg Award presented by the International Raoul Wallenberg Committee at a ceremony at the President’s Residence, with the participation of Rivlin. The award is conferred on individuals who were involved in saving lives, as well as on those who have dedicated their lives to human rights.
In Aznavour’s case, the medal will be awarded in recognition of the humanitarian work of the Aznavour family during the Holocaust by providing a hiding place for a number of people who were fleeing from Nazi persecution. Aznavour and his sister Aida were involved in rescue activities. He chose to receive the award in Israel in light of his strong ties to the country and the Jewish people. He has been performing in Israel since 1948, and was one of the first international performers to come here.
The award is within the framework of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation’s Houses of Life program, in which it traces members of families who sheltered Jews in their homes, thereby saving their lives. So far, more than 300 Houses of Life have been discovered in Italy, France, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Greece.
Aznavour’s parents hid Jews and Armenians in their apartment during the Holocaust. “Aznavour and his sister frequently gave up their beds to their ‘guests’ and slept on the floor. For many years, Aznavour said very little about this especially humane and heroic chapter in his and his family’s life, primarily the decision by his parents to shelter and save Jews, Armenian deserters and underground activists in their home during the German occupation of France, and their own involvement in anti-Nazi activity.
Now, in the twilight of his life, Aznavour has decided to tell the whole story, in Hebrew, in a self-published book, Matzilim (Tzadikim) Ve’lohamim (“Righteous Saviors and Fighters”), by genocide researcher Prof. Yair Auron, who has interviewed both Aznavour and his sister, Aida Aznavour-Garvarentz, who told him about their lives under the German occupation. The book will also be translated into French and Armenian.
One of the world’s most successful recording artists, Aznavour is in Israel at the tail end of a world tour and will perform at the Menora Mivtachim Arena on October 28, 2017. The nonagenarian singer’s CV includes a career of seven decades, three marriages, six children, and 80 films. In August of this year, Aznavour was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
■ THOUGH CRITICAL of the vulgar manner in which fellow Likud MK Oren Hazan reacted to the resignation from the Knesset of Meretz head Zehava Gal-On, Yehudah Glick nonetheless showed up on Friday at the reception hosted by Hazan and his wife to celebrate the birth of their daughter.