Grapevine January 13, 2020: If you want to shoot – shoot

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

BLUE AND White MK Ruth Wasserman Lande. (photo credit: Courtesy)
BLUE AND White MK Ruth Wasserman Lande.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, on Saturday night telling his personal physician Dr. Zvi Berkowitz to “shoot” – meaning that he was about to receive his second Pfizer vaccination – thousands of demonstrators, for the 29th consecutive week, gathered close to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, deliberately ignoring the lockdown regulations, and the discomfort they have caused to the prime minister’s neighbors and other residents of the capital for just over six months.
Presumably, most of them will not ignore the opportunity to be inoculated, but will not acknowledge Netanyahu’s role in that possibility.
Interestingly, ever since the previous week in which police had to contend with the invasion of Smolenskin Street, in which the entrance to the residence is actually located, several media outlets have finally recognized this street, and even though they still refer to Balfour, in which there is a side entrance to the residence, they now also refer to Smolenskin.
Just before getting jabbed for the second time, Netanyahu said: “I am used to it, but I am excited and I am certain that all citizens of Israel who are about to receive the second dose of the vaccine are excited like me.
“In my 17th conversation with my friend, Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, we agreed about additional huge shipments of vaccines for the State of Israel, which will enable us to vaccinate all citizens of Israel over 16 within two months, by the end of March at the latest.”
That Netanyahu almost always refers to people of note with whom he converses as “my friend” or “my good friend” provided fodder for a delightful skit by the Zehu Ze! team, which chose to spoof Netanyahu’s embarrassing photograph with convicted felon Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, who was the millionth recipient of the vaccine.
Jabarin, who was widely misreported as having committed a much more serious crime than the one for which he was convicted, is thinking of suing the media outlet that initially released the erroneous information. He also doesn’t like the idea of the photograph being used to the prime minister’s detriment by Netanyahu’s opponents.
The event as such was too good to be ignored by the comedy team, which includes Shlomo Bar-Aba, 70, Moni Moshonov, 69, Gidi Gov, 70, Dovale Glickman, 71, and Avi Kushinir, 60. In the spoof one of Netanyahu’s aides whispers to him that the millionth recipient is a criminal, but Netanyahu ignores the warning and persists in talking about his “good friend” Jaber.
Strange though it may seem Covid has given these five actor/singers a new lease on life. Zehu Ze! which originally went to air on Educational Television in 1978 and kept viewers laughing all the way to 1998, was revived by members of the show who came together for what was supposed to be a onetime reunion in March 2020, but was so popular that it’s still going strong on a weekly basis. They proved that time has not robbed them of their talent or their verve. They sing and they dance, and with the aid of an amazing assortment of wigs and cleverly applied makeup, they not only assume a variety of characters – both male and female – but neither look nor act their ages.
In America, it is already being said that 90 is the new 60. Indeed, after most of the Israeli media had been hammering out the message that the so-called golden age is also the most vulnerable age and most susceptible to virus infection, there’s been a sudden turnaround in which members of the third age are being featured as marathon runners, authors, actors, lecturers and more.
■ ALTHOUGH FORMER Mossad chief Danny Yatom, 75, has formed a Veterans Party which includes well-known figures of high achievement and reputations of integrity, it is not the only party being led by people in the 60 plus age group, defined by health authorities as people at risk in terms of anti-Covid vaccine priorities.
Netanyahu, Likud is 71; Benny Gantz, Blue and White, is 61; Arye Deri, Shas, will be 62 in February; Ya’acov Litzman, United Torah Judaism, is 72; Moshe Ya’alon, Telem, is 70; Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who has established The Israelis, is 76, and is not resigning as mayor until he knows whether he has a Knesset seat. He would then have to resign by law. Prof. Ehud Shapiro, who has founded the Democratic Party from among the protesters who come to Jerusalem each week, is 65, and has, as a member of his secretariat, Israel Prize laureate Ruth Arnon, 87, who was the first woman president of the Israel Academy of Sciences, and who before that was the co-developer of Copaxone, the wonder drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Ofer Shelah, who quit Yesh Atid to form a new party, will be 61 on February 9.
■ WHEN HE was interviewed some six weeks ago by Uri Yitzhaki, President Reuven Rivlin was asked whether he would be going back into politics once he completes his term as president. Rivlin replied that he thought that dealing with politics at 82 is a bit far-fetched, but on Monday of this week he sounded as if he was more than ready to step back into the political arena.
Rivlin, who normally makes public speeches in an avuncular tone of voice, sounded furious when giving a civics class to a group of high schoolers on Zoom under the auspices of the Israel Democracy Institute, which combined the civics lesson with the presentation of its annual Democracy Index. Rivlin wasn’t angry at the kids but at what’s happening in his beloved Israel. He is an emotionally patriotic, multigenerational Israeli.
Appalled by what happened during the Capitol riots in Washington last week, he is fearful that they might be a curtain-raiser for what could happen in Israel in an atmosphere of fomenting hatred and incitement. That fear was reflected not only in his tone of voice but also in what he actually said.
In reviewing the erosion of public confidence in Israel’s institutions of democracy, Rivlin called for a stoppage of the blame game. “When attempts are made to persuade us, time after time, that our system is rotten, that the supporters of the other camp are villains or even, Heaven forbid, traitors, it would be better if this deplorable blame game were to disappear from our public discourse,” he said. “It erodes our faith in ourselves, in our belief that we can work together and live together.”
Rivlin called on all elected officials, members of Knesset, party leaders, mayors and spiritual leaders not to allow the shocking images from the US Capitol Building to be a trailer for events in the streets of Jerusalem in the months ahead.
Rivlin’s fears were voiced in the shadow of emergency regulations, a fourth election campaign, demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s Residence and the criminal cases against the prime minister.
In listing all these elements that contribute to the fragmentation of Israeli society, the hostile confrontations and the perpetuation of differences, Rivlin declared that the restoration of public faith in the Knesset, in the political parties and in all the institutions of the state must be the priority of elected officials not only following the March elections, but immediately.
■ OUTGOING US Ambassador David Friedman is being pursued by various media outlets as he winds up his term. Friedman has said, in the course of interviews and at farewell events, that there is no going back on Trump policies in relation to Israel.
As one of President Donald Trump’s former lawyers, Friedman has had direct access to him, and there is a widespread belief that were it not for Friedman and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, few if any of those policies would have seen the light of day, let alone become an ongoing reality.
■ AT THIS time last year, Israel was in a flurry of preparations for the visits of more than 40 world leaders who had responded to the invitation of Rivlin to join him in saying “Never again” on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Among those who came to Jerusalem for a series of memorial events at the President’s Residence, at Yad Vashem and elsewhere were King Felipe VI of Spain; King Phillipe of Belgium; Prince Charles of the United Kingdom; Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon; Henri, the grand duke of Luxembourg; German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Italian President Sergio Mattarella; and French President Emmanuel Macron.
This year is not a milestone year in terms of liberation from Nazi death camps, but many of those who came to Jerusalem last year will be participating in live and social media memorial events in their own countries, while simultaneously deploring the rising resurgence of antisemitism.
■ IN SEVERAL countries, Holocaust memorial museums have been established, not only by Jewish communities but also by governments, in an effort to prevent a future outbreak of hatred against any ethnic or religious group. But genocide that has taken place and is taking place in many parts of the world proves that hatred and vengeance are the most difficult emotions to eradicate.
Nonetheless, civilized communities persist in their efforts to teach against violence, and in Porto in Portugal, on January 20, Mayor Rui Moreira will join Dias Ben Zion, the president of the Jewish community of Porto, in opening a Holocaust Museum. The ceremony will be attended by ambassadors of countries that participated in the Second World War, as well as Israel ambassador Raphael Gamzou.
Other dignitaries who have indicated their attendance include Karel Fracapane (UNESCO Focal Point for Holocaust Education); Ambassador Luíz Barreiros (head of the Portuguese delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance); Marta Santos País, commissioner of the Projeto Nunca Esquecer – Programa Nacional em torno da Memória do Holocausto (Never Forget Project – National Program for Remembrance of the Holocaust); the bishop of Porto and the president of the Muslim community of this city. The government will be represented by the secretary of state for culture.
The Porto Holocaust Museum was conceived and created by the Jewish community of Porto, and portrays Jewish life before the Holocaust; Nazism; Nazi expansion in Europe; the ghettos; refugees; concentration, labor and death camps; the “Final Solution”; the death marches; liberation; the Jewish population in the postwar period; the founding of the State of Israel; and the Righteous Among the Nations.
On January 27, in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the museum will be visited by a large number of students from various schools in the region.
Under the auspices of members of the Porto Jewish community whose parents, grandparents and other relatives were victims of the Holocaust, the Porto Holocaust Museum will develop cooperative partnerships with Holocaust memorial museums in Moscow, Hong Kong, the United States and Europe, contributing to a memory that must not be erased.
■ IN ISRAEL in preparation for International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the marking of the National Day to Combat Antisemitism, the World Zionist Organization will host an online Zoom event on Thursday, January 21, at 7 p.m. Israel time, with the participation of WZO chairman Yaakov Hagoel; Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper; Raheli Baratz-Rix, head of the WZO’s Department for Combating Antisemitism; and basketball champion Tal Brody, who will discuss antisemitism in sports. The event will be moderated by Ariel Goldgewicht, director of the WZO’s Department of Pioneer Youth and the Next Generation. For further details and registration contact [email protected] The event will also be broadcast on the WZO’s Facebook page.
■ ALSO ON Wednesday, January 27, at 8 p.m., the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra will present an online International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert under the title “Days of Light.” The 90-minute concert, which is free of charge, will include three masterpieces from Europe between the two world wars – embodying a world trapped between terror and optimism, between bold novelty and yearning for ancient times. All three works possess a humane and humanistic spirit, cut abruptly with the rise of Nazism and its horrors.
Conducted by Steven Sloane, the program includes Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite; Korngold’s music to Much Ado About Nothing; and Weill’s Suite from Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
It is no coincidence that both David Bowie (the fifth anniversary of whose death was commemorated on January 10) and The Doors chose to record cover versions of “Alabama Song” from Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The bittersweet notion holds a gut-wrenching poignant view throughout the song, based on despair mixed with pity – an emotion that nowadays seems even more poignantly common than when the work was first performed in 1930.
The concert can be accessed on JSO’s Facebook page and JSO’s YouTube channel.
■ NEW INFORMATION related to the Holocaust and pre-Holocaust period, in Europe in general and Poland in particular, keeps coming to light.
For instance, just as Lodz was known as the Manchester of Poland, through its reputation for fine textiles and the high ratio of Jews engaged in the fashion and textile industry, so Czestochowa was known for toy manufacture. According to Alon Goldman, chairman of the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel, and vice president of the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and their Descendants, Polish researcher Maria Wieczorek of the University of Szczecin, who is writing a book about Poland’s toy industry in the interwar period, has learned that toy manufacturing was done mainly by Jews, with Czestochowa as the key production center.
A Czestochowa Yizkor (Memorial) book published in Jerusalem in1967 and edited by M. Schutzman contains a list of toy and doll factories and their craftsmen and owners up until the Holocaust. The following family names are listed: Bratt Bros, Hendel-Hocherman Hocherman, Hamburger & Sztyller, Wajsberg & Danziger, Zeligzon, Seweryn Landau, Ferleger, Frydman, Kaufman, Rozenberg, Ruzewicz, Ringelblum, Yitzchak Szaja and Szmulewicz.
Goldman would appreciate if readers related to any of the above, would get in touch with him, so that he can forward their details to Wieczorek, who is eager to receive whatever information, family stories and photographs that anyone can provide. Goldman can be reached at: [email protected]
■ FOR MANY years there was minimal acknowledgment of the fact that large numbers of North African Jews were also victims of Nazism and sent to death camps and labor camps.
It is now a known fact that Jews from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were deported to the Sobibor death camp, where they were murdered by the Nazis. During excavations for a memorial museum that was inaugurated on the site last October, archaeologists Wojtek Mazurek of Poland and Yoram Haimi of Israel discovered metal name tags and items of name-engraved jewelry that indicated that North African Jews had shared the bitter fate of their co religionists.
■ PEOPLE NOT yet fed up with reports and opinions about the pandemic can, on Wednesday, January 13 at 3 p.m. Israel time, Zoom in to the Jerusalem Press Club’s international forum hosted by KAN 11’s Moav Vardi, who will be speaking with Prof. Lothar H. Wieler of Germany, Dr. Keren Tegmark Wisell of Sweden and Prof. Nadav Davidovitch of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s School of Public Health. All three are actively engaged in advising their respective governments on issues related to the current global health crisis. Full details are available on the JPC’s Facebook page.
■ APPROXIMATELY 20 former MKs are among the signatories of physicians, academics, lawyers and former diplomats to a petition to the government to vaccinate Palestinians living in the West Bank. In a quarter-page advertisement on the front page of Haaretz on Tuesday, the signatories declared that the life of one person is not worth more than the life of another, and that Israel is obligated to concern itself with vaccinating Palestinians living under its administration in the West Bank.
Among the past legislators are former education minister Yuli Tamir, former tourism minister Uzi Baram, Colette Avital, Haim Oron, Zohair Bahloul, Avraham Burg, Roman Bronfman, Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan, Dov Henin, Prof. Yossi Yona, Prof. Naomi Chazan, Esawi Frej, Dedi Zucker, Michal Rozin, Micky Rosenthal, Mossi Raz and Tzali Reshef. Also among the signatories is Prof. Rafi Walden, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, who was one of the founders of Doctors without Borders and who was the son-in-law and personal physician of president Shimon Peres.
■ BLUE AND White’s new member of Knesset Ruth Wasserman Lande received many congratulatory messages from leading figures in Israel’s Arab community, which is not really surprising as Wasserman Lande, in her role as deputy director-general of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, had frequent interaction with heads and members of Arab municipal councils. In addition, she and her husband, Aviv Wasserman, were extremely active in breaking down religious, ethnic and social barriers in Lod, which has a large Arab population. In fact, both husband and wife are social activists who are keen on promoting equal rights for all sectors of Israeli society.
Aviv Wasserman is a former deputy mayor of Lod, the founder and former director of the Lod Community Foundation and the former founding chairman of the board of the Lod Social-Economic School. Together with a photograph on Facebook with his wife, Wasserman posted: “We’re proud of you – very, very proud of you...”
Last week, on the day that she made her pledge as an MK, Wasserman Lande posted on her own Facebook: “Today, I had the honor of becoming an official member of the Israeli parliament. I enter humbly, for what appears to be a relatively short stint, with my feet firmly on the ground and my eyes wide open. Despite inherent challenges in the Israeli political arena, I will do my utmost to make this as meaningful as circumstances allow.
“Social cohesion, the integration of those in our society who are less fortunate, and forwarding peace with our Arab neighbors on a people-to-people level are my life passions. May the Lord guide me to forward those goals, humbly, during this time.”
■ JUDGING BY reactions to the speech that her party leader, Gantz, made on Monday night, Wasserman Lande indeed has her eyes wide open when she anticipates a short stint as a legislator. Most of Gantz’s political rivals, in sync with the views expressed by political pundits, doubt that Gantz will be able to cross the threshold in the upcoming Knesset elections, and therefore any votes he receives will be wasted when they could otherwise aid other parties.
In referring to Gantz’s call to put egos aside and to join forces, some of his critics say that he should set an example by putting his ego aside and stepping out of the political arena.
Gantz has accused Netanyahu of doing whatever he has done with regard to the coronavirus crisis to advance his own political ambitions and to ameliorate his legal problems. Yet Gantz, as defense minister and acting justice minister, is working hard to create an additional committee of inquiry to probe the acquisition of German submarines from Thyssenkrupp in the hope of finding a grain of truth in bribery allegations against Netanyahu, even though Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has stated more than once that Netanyahu is not a suspect in this case. Surely, in his desire to unseat Netanyahu, Gantz is working to promote his own political aspirations.
Former state comptroller and retired judge Joseph Shapira has agreed to head such a committee. A former committee appointed by Gantz for this purpose resigned due to restrictions imposed on it by Mandelblit.
■ JERUSALEM FOUNDATION president Shai Doron recently accompanied a relative to Shaare Zedek Medical Center. It was late at night, and they had to wait for many hours. The emergency room was overcrowded, and the atmosphere intense and anxious, with many people seeking treatment and the staff trying to give answers to a multitude of questions.
In the midst of the commotion, one scene caught Doron’s eye. An Arab resident of the city from the Shuafat refugee camp – not a young man – was at a loss. He seemed not to know what to do, where to turn, what treatment he needed or how to find his way in the long maze of hospital corridors. Then, suddenly, like a scene unfolding before one in a movie, a very young, delicate-looking doctor, whose attire identified her as an observant Jew, addressed the stressed man with infinite patience, guiding and reassuring him in a soothing and caressing voice – all in fluent Arabic.
Like Doron, the beneficiary of the doctor’s kindness was visibly surprised, almost astonished, and those long minutes seemed to transform into the first signs of healing of a much deeper wound. As Doron put it: “Minutes of sanity, humanity, compassion; minutes of a beautiful, respectful Jerusalem, a Jerusalem that listens, that offers hope. A city that honors differences, that celebrates the fascinating diversity and sees it as a great asset for the future. A city of day-to-day human acts of connection and kindness, a city that lives, breathes and inspires....”
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