Grapevine January 22, 2021: A question of age

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

HER MAJESTY Queen Elizabeth II conducts a virtual audience with a new ambassador at Windsor Castle. (photo credit: COURTESY BUCKINGHAM PALACE)
HER MAJESTY Queen Elizabeth II conducts a virtual audience with a new ambassador at Windsor Castle.
■ DELAWARE RABBI Michael Beals of Congregation Shalom, has compared President Joe Biden to Moses, who scholars have calculated was just a little older than Biden is now, when he led the Children of Israel out of Egypt. While former president Donald Trump has left office under a dark cloud, future historians are unlikely to place much emphasis on his provoking of the January 6 riots but are more likely to focus on the influence that he had on the rednecks of America and other extremist elements. Getting back to Rabbi Beals, it is part of Jewish tradition to recognize the good in people, and although a lot of unflattering appellations currently accompany references to Trump, there were positive things that he did for America – even when he did something for Israel such as transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act had been passed by Congress in 1995, and for almost a quarter of a century, there were excuses not to implement it. When Trump decided that it was time to make it a reality, he received dozens of calls from around the world urging him not to do so. But he went ahead anyway, because he believed it was the right thing to do, and said as much. Certainly, it was right for Israel, but it was also right for America’s credibility. That unfulfilled promise had lingered in the air for too long. Trump was the president who kept that promise and doing so, scored points for America’s integrity. It is to Biden’s credit that he will leave the embassy in Israel’s capital where all foreign embassies should be.
■ IT WAS a minor mistake regarding Biden’s age. In a conversation on Reshet Bet on the morning prior to Biden’s inauguration, Assaf Lieberman told Kalman Liebskind that he thought that Biden was 76. The two were discussing the frequency with which news items in the Hebrew press about people in the 70 plus age group are referred to as ‘old’ or ‘aged’ yet Shimon Peres had not been regarded as old, nor had certain other prominent Israelis. Liebskind opined that it was a good thing that elders were recognized for their experience and leadership abilities, and Lieberman was delighted to be corrected about Biden’s age being 78 and not 76. Numerous corrections had arrived on Facebook. “That’s how you know people are listening to you,” he enthused.
While Biden is the oldest person to be elected president of the US, the only other septuagenarian out of his 45 predecessors was Trump who entered the Oval Office at age 70. However, several former presidents lived into their nineties. Former president Jimmy Carter at 96, is both the oldest of all former presidents and the oldest living former president. George H.W. Bush lived to 94, and Gerald Ford to 93. John Adams and Herbert Hoover each lived to 90.
■ ACCORDING TO Washington headquartered B’nai B’rith International there are 40,000 descendants of European Jews who were saved from deportation and possible death thanks to the courage and compassion of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who put his own life and career in jeopardy in order to issue documents to terrified Jews. While serving as Vice Consul in Lithuania. Sugihara issued some 6,000 transit visas to Jews fleeing from the Nazis. In 1985, he was honored by Yad Vashem which recognized him as Righteous among the Nations – the only Japanese national to be named as such. For a long time, Sugihara was persona non grata in the Japanese Foreign Service – so much so, that when after the war, one of the beneficiaries of his act of conscience went to Japan to look for him, the Foreign Ministry claimed that it had never heard of him. Today, Japan is very proud of him, and in countries that observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Japanese embassies feature photographs and literature about Sugihara. On Monday, January 25, at 5 p.m, Israel time, 10 a.m. EST, BBI’s Combat Antisemitism Movement will feature a virtual reception to honor Sugihara’s memory. Sugihara is widely known as The Japanese Schindler.
Registration for the reception is at:
Among the participants will be BBI President Charles O. Kaufman, BBI CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and Honorary President (as well as past president of BBI) Richard D. Heideman whose wife Phyllis Greenberg Heideman is president of the International March of the Living.
The Heideman family is intensely involved in Holocaust remembrance, combating antisemitism and in making terrorist groups accountable for their deeds.
■ THE FIRST group of new diplomats for 2021 who were due to present credentials to President Reuven Rivlin this week were somewhat disappointed to learn that their ceremonies would be delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown. While Queen of England Elizabeth II has been accepting credentials via Zoom instead of the regular twenty-minute one-on-one face-to-face meetings with new ambassadors, it was thought in Israel that even though Rivlin has held numerous Zoom conferences on other issues including meetings with the diplomatic community, that live presentation of credentials are so important to each ambassador that it was better to postpone the ceremonies till after the lockdown. Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel is hopeful that ambassadors will be able to present credentials sometime in February.
The Queen, who used to have an audience with new ambassadors at Buckingham Palace, now receives them under the one roof but in separate rooms at Windsor Castle.
■ WHILE THE debate on gender equality continues in Israel, at the Israel Embassy in the UK such arguments, at least for the time being, are irrelevant. Of the 14 diplomats listed among embassy personnel, there are seven women headed by Tzipi Hotovely and Deputy Chief of Mission Sharon Bar.
■ IN NORMAL times, not all ambassadors host receptions on the national or independence days of their respective countries. Among those who don’t is the Australian ambassador unless Australia Day happens to fall during an official visit by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Nonetheless, Director of the Israel Office of the Zionist Federation of Australia Moriah Ben David, together with Telfed which represents the Zionist Federation of South Africa, is hosting an Australia Day scavenger hunt on January 26. At the time of writing, Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths has not mentioned Australia Day in his tweets, nor is there a mention on the Embassy’s Facebook page. In both cases, the main focus is on the novel coronavirus, innovative technology and the extradition of Malka Leifer.
■ A YOUNG married couple from Ashdod who are volunteer EMTs with the Ashdod branch of United Hatzalah are currently engaged in vaccinating Ashdod residents against coronavirus.
Thirty-year-old Yogev and 22-year-old Noa Ben Yehuda have been volunteering since they met a year and a half ago.
Noa volunteers as a paramedic and Yogev as an ambulance driver. The two have responded to many medical emergencies separately and together. But recently they have been engaged in life-saving roles of a somewhat different nature, by taking an active part in the national campaign to vaccinate Israel’s population as quickly as possible.
The couple joined hundreds of other United Hatzalah volunteers and other trained medical personnel who are vaccinating people at regional vaccination centers throughout the country. During the first stage of the vaccination drive, the couple vaccinated hundreds of elderly individuals and others at-risk, as well as their fellow first responders. During the second wave of the vaccine drive, Yogev and Noa began vaccinating teachers and those over the age of 50 in the Ashdod area. The couple works together, and can often be seen side by side as they give vaccination shots.
When persons who are somewhat afraid arrive at the vaccination center, Noa and Yogev work together to reassure them that it is painless and that they will suffer minimal discomfort afterward. The most important thing is that it is preferable to be vaccinated than to have to cope with the virus if they get infected.
Many people have asked Noa how she works so well together with her husband. She explains that they have been volunteering together for so long, “that it has become a part of us.”
Working side by side from 8 a.m. until the late evening hours, the two have vaccinated more than one thousand people each. Recently, after returning home at night from a shift in the vaccination center, the couple received a call from United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center alerting them to an emergency taking place nearby. Despite having worked all day, they got back into their car and raced to the scene with their medical kits.
Yogev, when asked about working with Noa said: “We both have a passion for volunteering and providing medical aid to people who need it. So when people ask what it is like to have a spouse who has the same passion as you, I tell them that it is the greatest feeling of all.”
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