Grapevine July 26, 2020: Zooming in on Tisha Be’av

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

FROM LEFT: Meron Reuben, Foreign Ministry chief of protocol; Yoram Rabad, honorary consul for Liberia and Anat Schleien, who heads the ministry’s Africa desk. (photo credit: Courtesy)
FROM LEFT: Meron Reuben, Foreign Ministry chief of protocol; Yoram Rabad, honorary consul for Liberia and Anat Schleien, who heads the ministry’s Africa desk.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Customary as it is to have lectures about Tisha Be’av during the nine-day period leading up to the day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, plus special events with moral messages on the actual day, Zoom has given rise to a boom in Tisha Be’av lectures and conferences. Some organizations and institutions that never previously paid special attention to Tisha Be’av, are getting on the Zoom bandwagon, and many people who were not particularly interested, but who have become Zoom addicted for want of other social outlets, are registering for Tisha Be’av-oriented events.
Among the organizations which are dealing with Tisha Be’av for the first time is the Herzliya Cultural Group, whose activities take place on Thursday mornings.
As it happened, Jerusalem-based, London-born Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair was available to speak. An internationally known speaker and writer, Sinclair’s popularity derives in part from the fact that he wasn’t raised religious, and can therefore speak knowledgeably about secular subjects, which he skillfully weaves into his religious lectures. Before settling in Jerusalem in 1987 and immersing himself in Torah studies, Sinclair was deeply entrenched in the entertainment industry and the founder of SARM Studios, the first 24 track recording studio in Europe, where some of the world’s top music makers produced some of their most iconic recordings. These days he is a lecturer in Talmudic logic and philosophy at Jerusalem’s Ohr Somayach/Tannenbaum College and a senior staff writer of the Torah Internet publications Ohrnet and Torah Weekly. He has also contributed to numerous Jewish print media publications.
Anyone interested in listening to his lecture should contact Werner Bachmann at 054-456-0303.
■ THE PLANS and activities of many organizations and institutions were indefinitely put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among them was IBCA, one of the first organizations established after the founding of the state, whose membership is made up of native Israelis, diplomats, politicians and immigrants. IBCA is an acronym for Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth. It has not been the easiest year for the affable, outgoing IBCA chairman Prof. Alex Deutsch, who has been at the helm of the organization since 2014 and will hand over the leadership to his successor at IBCA’s annual general meeting on August 3, which for the first time ever will be held on Zoom. Deutsch decided to step down because he thought it was time for a change.
Actually, it’s more like a rotation, considering that he will be succeeded by Brenda Katten, who was IBCA chair well over a decade ago, and so far, is the only woman to serve in that position.
London-born Katten is familiar to readers of the weekend Jerusalem Post, for which she writes a column
Professionally, she is a relationship and educational counselor, but since girlhood has been engaged in volunteer Zionist organizations, - mostly in leadership positions
She started out as a member of Bnei Akiva and the Federation of Zionist Youth and later joined WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization). She is a past chairperson of British WIZO and an honorary president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland and of the Bnai Brith Hillel Foundation of Great Britain and Ireland.
Katten and her late husband John, an architect who died last year, relocated to Israel in 1998, and Katten, for whom community work is part of her DNA, immediately threw herself into volunteer organizations, serving inter alia as chairperson of ESRA, the English Speaking Residents Association, chair of Europeans for Israel, chairperson of World WIZO’s Public Relations Department, and the executive of the International Council of Jewish Women.
An eloquent speaker, who speaks from both her heart and her mind – often without notes, Katten is particularly interested in helping children of Ethiopian background to realize their full potential.
As for IBCA, it was established very soon after the British left Israel because there were people who realized the importance of maintaining and developing contacts and relations with Britain.
Such contacts have always been encouraged by the British Embassy.
Among the various IBCA activities are annual events at the residences of the British ambassador and the Australian ambassador.
Both had been planned for the first half of this year, but had to be canceled due to COVID-19.
However, Deutsch was pleased that an annual IBCA project to send Israeli colorectal surgeons to England for further training was able to proceed. The prestigious Basingstoke course was to have taken place over Purim. When Deutsch explained to the course organizers in England that this would affect Israeli participation, they agreed to bring the course forward by a week, which was fortunate. Had they not done so, the course would have had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
■ COOPERATION BETWEEN Israel and Liberia was enhanced by the February 2019 official visit to Israel by Liberian President George Weah, who was accompanied by a ministerial delegation that included his foreign minister. Diplomatic relations between Israel and Liberia which were severed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, were renewed in 1983, but there is no resident Liberian ambassador in Israel, nor is there a resident Israeli ambassador to Liberia. Shani Cooper, who is Israel’s non-resident ambassador to Liberia, is also ambassador to Ghana, where she resides. Weah recently appointed Israeli lawyer Yoram Rabad as Honorary Consul of Liberia in Israel. The quasi-diplomatic position was approved by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and a certificate to that effect, which was signed by President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, was presented to Rabad at a small ceremony at the Foreign Ministry attended by Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben and Anat Schleien, who heads the Africa desk at the Foreign Ministry.
Rabad was a prominent member of the inner circle known as the Ranch Forum, which met regularly at Ariel Sharon’s Sycamore Farm. In 2004, when Sharon was prime minister, he appointed Rabad to head his negotiating team in coalition talks. Other members of the team included Yaakov Neeman, Eyal Arad, Gideon Sa’ar and Yisrael Maiman. Rabad later helped Tzipi Livni in her failed bid for the premiership.
■ MOST ENGLISH-language journalists living in Israel, and several living in the US and England have at some stage or another worked as reporters, feature writers, copy editors and section editors at The Jerusalem Post, which for many has been a stepping stone to a broader journalistic career.
Former staff members of the Post either worked, for or are currently working, for Israel Hayom, Haaretz, KAN, i24, Bloomberg, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, CNN, the London Jewish Chronicle, The Economist, the Independent, the Australian, the Bulletin, Associated Press, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Reuters and numerous other media outlets.
Among the many journalists who once worked in the old Romema offices of The Jerusalem Post is Tom Gross, a British-born journalist and international affairs commentator who is also a campaigner for human rights, specializing in the Middle East. Gross is now more in the nature of an opinion writer than a news reporter and writes for Israel, Arab, British and American publications, and is a frequent commentator on the BBC and various Middle East networks.
In addition, he monitors Middle East news and sends out a Middle East dispatch list to journalists, politicians and members of think tanks.
Unable to move around as much as he used to before COVID-19 put a blight on travel, Gross decided to do a series of YouTube informal conversations with people such as Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff; Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland; former aide to Margaret Thatcher John O’Sullivan, author, commentator and a senior editor of the National Review David Pryce-Jones; Iranian born screen writer and film director Hossein Amini and several other interesting citizens of the world. The conversations cover an extraordinary broad range of subjects. In Jewish religion it is believed that he who saves a single life saves a whole world. But all of us are part of many worlds, a factor which repeated itself in the various conversations and caused Gross to realize that he too was part of many worlds.
So he put himself into the series as well and in conversation with British classical pianist Paul Lewis, who asks Gross about his own life experiences and views Gross talks about: growing up surrounded by cultural and literary luminaries in London and New York who were the friends and acquaintances of his parents distinguished author and critic John Gross, and his mother Miriam, a literary editor, Sunday brunches with Elvis Presley’s songwriter; crossing Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin with his grandmother during communism; helping the Roma when almost no one else would; his close relationship with his godmother Sonia Orwell (the model for the heroine Julia of her husband George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984); being in Manhattan on 9/11; the Mideast; the importance and legacy of the Holocaust; and other matters.