Grapevine: May Jerusalem be my chief joy

On the evening prior to the arrival of President Donald Trump, US Ambassador David Friedman was celebrating the beginning of Jerusalem Day festivities.

Israel's national flag is projected on the wall near the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem May 20, 2017 (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Israel's national flag is projected on the wall near the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem May 20, 2017
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
On the evening prior to the arrival of President Donald Trump, US Ambassador David Friedman was celebrating the beginning of Jerusalem Day festivities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that David Melech Friedman was the first US ambassador to join in the Jerusalem Day celebrations, and commented on the aptness of his name, given that they were in front of the Tower of David at the entrance to the Old City.
Friedman is one of four members of the Jewish faith to serve as US ambassador to Israel, but the first to go to the Western Wall on the day of his arrival and prior to the presentation of his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin, who reminded the thousands of merrymakers on Sunday night that this year is also the 150th anniversary year of the establishment by Rabbi David ben Shimon of the Mahaneh Yisrael neighborhood outside the Old City, adjacent to where the Waldorf Astoria hotel stands today. The first Jew to be appointed US ambassador to Israel was Martin Indyk, who was born in London and raised in Australia.
The second was Daniel Kurtzer, and the third Dan Shapiro, who is still in Israel and in demand as a speaker and political commentator.
WHILE THE Trumps were dining with the Netanyahus on Monday night, Government Press Office director Nitzan Chen hosted a rooftop party at the Mamilla Hotel for local and foreign journalists covering the presidential visit as well as several personalities who have had dealings with Trump or some of the people close to him.
The Israelis marveled at the number of ultra-Orthodox members of the fourth estate who had come in from abroad, and who had no problem socializing with people whose lifestyle was decidedly different from their own. Nor did they walk out when budding superstar Meshi Kleinstein was singing to the accompaniment of a wonderful female violin trio.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who is as much at home in Jerusalem as in New York, said that, certain criticisms notwithstanding, at a time when the media is frequently under attack, journalists should be hailed as the guardians of democracy.
Oblivious to the waning attention of the crowd, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin delivered a 20-minute dissertation on the history and political significance of Jerusalem, saying that it is absurd for ambassadors – whose work is largely in Jerusalem, who presented their credentials in Jerusalem, and who come to Jerusalem for official meetings and events – to be based outside the capital. He called yet again for America to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act of October 1995 and urged Trump to keep his campaign promise.
ONLY A month prior to completing his term, Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma had the pleasure of attending the conferment of honorary doctorate ceremonies at both Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University, in which two former prime ministers of Australia were among the recipients. BGU honored Julia Gillard, and TAU honored Tony Abbott. BGU president Rivka Carmi, noting that Gillard was the first woman to serve as leader of the Australian Parliament, said that she was an inspiration to women everywhere and praised her 2012 celebrated speech in Parliament on the treatment of women in professional and public life, which had a worldwide impact. Carmi also emphasized Gillard’s dedication to promoting quality education worldwide.
Abbott, who has served in the Australian Parliament since 1994 and continues to do so, was honored in recognition of his exemplary statesmanship in promoting freedom, democracy and human rights; his dynamic political career, including as leader of the opposition; his compassionate and principled support for the Australian indigenous community; his abiding friendship with the Australian Jewish community; his courageous role in combating antisemitism and other extremist views; and his unwavering and forthright support for the State of Israel, including his endeavors to strengthen Israel-Australia relations.
IT’S REALLY a great Australian year in Israel. Aside from numerous Australian dignitaries who are visiting the country and the number of delegations of Zionist organizations affiliated with those headquartered in Israel, the number of trade missions is on the rise, as is the number of women participating in them, demonstrating the extent to which gender equality has taken hold in the southern continent.
Last Friday night, a food-tech and entrepreneurship trade mission comprising senior executives from some of Australia’s largest companies and from a diverse range of industries wound up its intensive weeklong visit. Led by Elizabeth Proust and Carol Schwartz, most of the mission participants were first-time visitors to Israel and were so impressed by what they had seen and heard that most decided to return soon with their spouses.
Proust has held leadership roles in both the public and private sectors and currently chairs the Nestle Australia Bank of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Schwartz, who has law and arts degrees, has had and continues to have an extraordinarily diverse career in property, arts, finance, government and health, and is currently a director of several companies geared to gender equality in the workplace and to social enterprises. She also heads a large real estate conglomerate.
This week Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce executive director Paul Israel has another trade mission and two more coming up in June. This year has been the most productive year in the history of the chamber.
A Women Leaders mission is due to arrive this week and will include some 40 women who head organizations dealing with finance, investment, innovation, retail, hi-tech, energy and innovation.
THE DIPLOMATIC community in Israel is going to be very busy shuttling between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Wednesday to hear varied views on solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict half a century after the Six Day War, which created a new political reality on the ground. In the morning the Institute for National Security Studies together with the Israel Democracy Institute will host a daylong roundtable on options for resolving the conflict; and in the late afternoon the Palestine-Israel Journal will host a similar event with different players at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.
Keynote speakers at INSS will be United Nations Middle East Envoy Nikolay Mladenov, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and Shapiro, along with Hiba Husseini, a Ramallah-based lawyer who specializes in conflict resolution, who served as an adviser in peace process negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and who practiced law in Washington, DC, while the main attraction in Jerusalem will be the articulate Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi.
TAKING TIME out from their election campaigns last Friday, Isaac Herzog and Amir Peretz – current and former chairmen, respectively, of the Labor Party – who competed against each other for that position in the past and are now doing so again, each showed up at the moving event in memory of Miri Sheetrit, the daughter of former government minister and presidential candidate Meir Sheetrit and his wife, Ruth.
The multitalented Miri, at age 15, died 24 years ago from cancer. Since then, the Sheetrits have established several memorial projects in her name and in relation to her talents and the things she loved in life. The most recent Miri memorial was the dedication in Tel Aviv of the foyer leading to the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, which is known in Hebrew as the Palace of Culture.
Herzog didn’t stay, but Peretz, who is a close and longtime friend of the family, did stay, and even spoke at the dedication ceremony, as did Construction Minister Yoav Gallant.
Zubin Mehta, the director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, broke away from rehearsals to join in the tributes to Miri and her family.
Although Miri is remembered every minute of every day, said her parents, they knew that they had to pay attention to her younger siblings, Na’ama, who is today a successful fashion designer, and David, known as Dudi, who is an accomplished singer and keyboard player.
Despite the sadness of the loss of Miri that always accompanies them, the Sheetrits exude happiness and generosity. The lavish buffet lunch that was served to their invited guests, who were nearly all IPO patrons and supporters, was a superb exercise in culinary art, with a presentation almost too beautiful to disturb and just as tasty as it looked.
At the actual dedication ceremony, Meir Sheetrit said: “We fought for Miri’s life, but when we lost that fight we decided to help other children in similar circumstances.” He paid tribute to his wife, saying that without her, none of the memorial projects would have eventuated.
Mehta spoke of the Sheetrits’ close connections to the IPO, and in greeting the guests said: “Welcome to my home – and now Ruth and Meir and Miri’s home. With this dedication they have materially become part of us. This place endorses what Israel should be all about – the home – the palace of culture. Israelis who have made their name in the world made their debut in this orchestra.”
Galant said that despite the pain that accompanies them, the Sheetrit family is a living expression of love and concern for others in its desire to improve the quality of life for others.
“Each of their projects reflects Miri’s smile, what she loved and how much they love her. Miri’s spirit is present wherever they can bring a smile to children.”
Peretz said that there is no such thing as halfway measures with Ruth Sheetrit. “She gives with her whole heart.” He understood the pain of loss that never goes away even during the happiest moments, he said, and revealed that when he was 10 years old, his six-year-old brother, Zion, died of an illness similar to that of Miri. “Zion has never left us,” he said, adding: “If only there had been families like yours to help us after he died.”
Dudi Sheetrit, a Juilliard-trained artist, sang Miri’s favorite song, “Nothing compares to you.” After she died, he said, he couldn’t listen to it, let alone sing it, for a long time, but gradually he had come to sing it for her. Peretz noted that although Dudi Sheetrit sings beautifully at any time, there is a special timbre in his voice when he sings for Miri.
WHEN CELEBRATING the Queen’s Birthday last Thursday at the British residence, British Ambassador David Quarrey and his spouse, Aldo Henriquez, could not know of this week’s Manchester tragedy, and so everyone lived it up and had good time in the ambassador’s garden, where the theme of the evening was UK creative industries, with students from the Beit Zvi School of the Performing Arts creating elements from some of Britain’s most popular films and television series, such as Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Dr. Who and Harry Potter.
Quarrey and Henriquez met with the queen in February and were struck by the history of the room in which the queen has met with every prime minister from Winston Churchill onward.
Quarrey paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, who is stepping down from public life after 75 years of service. Quarrey reminded his guests that prior to his marriage to then-Princes Elizabeth, the duke, or Prince Philip as he is also known, served in the Royal Navy, with which he saw action in the Mediterranean and Pacific during the Second World War. Philip will celebrate his 96th birthday on June 10.
Quarrey refrained from talking about the upcoming British election, explaining that he might not be able to remain in Israel if he spoke on that issue. But he did mention high-level visits, bilateral cooperation in different fields and his desire to honor the soldiers from what was then Palestine who fought in the British forces during World War II. In this context he mentioned Zvi Avidror, the 92-year-old chairman of British Royal Navy veterans in Israel, who served from 1940 to 1946. Avidror has been honored in the past but he was no less excited to once more have his service recognized.
Quarrey said that Britain continues to work for a durable peace in the region and is strongly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said that British Prime Minister Theresa May would come to Israel for the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration.
Representing the government was National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Referring to Brexit, Steinitz said: “You won’t stand alone. We will stand with you and you will have our friendship.”
He had come, he said, to thank Britain for one of the most important documents in modern Jewish history – a document that recognized the right of the Jews to return to their historic homeland. “We are very thankful for the Balfour Declaration and highly appreciative that the prime minister has declared that Britain is proud of the Balfour Declaration and stands behind it.”
He also spoke of deep-seated cooperation between Israel and the UK on intelligence and cyber technology.
As a former finance minister, Steinitz was in a position to know that Britain is Israel’s second-largest export destination.
As for creative industries, he chided Quarrey for not having mentioned Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, which he said “we are implementing in Israel.” Steinitz omitted to say that the creator of that particular series is Jonathan Lynn, the nephew of Abba Eban, who was actually one of his advisers, especially with regard to a certain episode centered on the Middle East which was based on a genuine incident, the details of which were supplied by Eban.
ON THE subject of Britain, at least two of the board members of the Young Israel Congregation of North Netanya – Eze Silas and Elkan Levy, a past president of the United Synagogue of England – are very excited about Wednesday’s British-style ceremony of the induction of their new spiritual leader, Rabbi Boruch Meir Boudilovsky. Because Boudilovsky previously served at Yavne Synagogue in Borehamwood outside London, which now has the largest community within the Modern Orthodox grouping known as the United Synagogue; and because YINN’s congregation is made up primarily of British immigrants, the congregation’s board decided to give its new rabbi a British induction ceremony which will be more than just symbolic.
Officiating at the induction will be Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, in the presence of Rabbi Kalman Ber, chief rabbi of Netanya. Several other rabbis will also be present, including the congregation’s rabbi emeritus Rabbi Edward Jackson, who has retired from being a pulpit rabbi and no longer lives in Netanya. An induction service of this kind is unusual in Israel but extremely fitting, considering the backgrounds of the rabbi and the congregation.
For Boudilovsky, a Sabra, this is also by way of a homecoming. Born in Israel, he grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, and in New York. After graduating high school in Denver, Colorado, he returned to Israel, where he studied at the hesder yeshiva in Yeroham and was a combat paratrooper in the army. He subsequently studied at Mir Yeshiva and later earned a bachelor’s degree in educational counseling. He earned his MA in religion and theology at King’s College, London. In the summer of 2016, Boudilovsky accepted his current position and moved back to Israel with his family. Two of his five children – Moshe, seven, and Daniel, six, will participate in the induction service. His other children are Shirah, 13, Tzipporah, 10, and Avraham Aryeh, one.
Boudilovsky’s wife, Esther, is the daughter of Rabbi Moshe and Rabbanit Dr. Channah Poupko, and is a qualified occupational therapist. A graduate of Jerusalem’s Michlala College and of the Hebrew University, she holds a bachelor’s degree in education and Judaic studies.
ONLY TRULY great people who have been the victims of terrorist attacks have the ability to diffuse natural emotions such as hatred and vengeance into quests for truth, peace and harmony. Three such people are filmmakers Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem, who were severely wounded in an explosion at Mike’s Place by a suicide bomber; and Knesset member Yehudah Glick, who is chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and a former executive director of the Temple Institute, which aims to eventually build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount. Glick was critically wounded in October 2014 when a terrorist shot at him several times at point-black range.
All three men appeared toward the end of last month at a Town Hall meeting at Jerusalem’s Mount Zion Hotel organized by journalist and co-founder of The Media Line Middle East news and feature service Felice Friedson. The actual purpose was to promote The Last Sermon, a new feature documentary which is a sequel to Blues by the Beach, the award-wining film about the 2003 bombing of Mike’s Place, and the graphic novel which was published in 2015.
Friedson moderated the opening session, sitting alongside Faudem, Baxter and producer Will Keenan.
The current documentary is named for the last sermon delivered more than 1,300 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad, part of which was read with the help of an interpreter by Palestinian moderate Sheikh Maher Assaf, who made it clear that the principles of the prophet were much more all-embracing and universal than they are made out to be by those who, out of political ambition, distort and pervert his teachings in his name. “We all come from one mother and father,” he said, in a reference to the beginning of creation.
The assassination attempt against Glick was by way of a warning against any non-Muslim who would attempt to introduce any aspect of another faith on the Temple Mount, where the Aksa Mosque, one of the holiest of Muslim shrines, is situated. Glick has no desire to deprive Muslims or people of any other faith of their right to pray on the Temple Mount to their Creator; but at the same time, he does not want to deprive Jews of that same inalienable right.
Noting that he was sitting at a table in which he was one of three survivors of terrorist attacks, Glick said: “It may sound strange, but I believe that coexistence is coexistence, living together is living together. I can’t say, ‘Let’s have peace. I’m going to take your house, destroy your settlement and that will be peace.’ Peace means win-win. Peace means each side benefits the most possible. I live in Otniel, which is a settlement in the Hebron Hills; and if I have a Palestinian living next to me, peace means that the way that I get superior medical treatment if I need it, he deserves the same thing.”
If coexistence is indeed possible, it was demonstrated in the audience in which Jews, Christians and Muslims sat side by side, in search of a new tomorrow in which peace will not be a dream but a reality.
POVERTY IS often associated with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities, but there are much more extreme factors than poverty that put the young men and women in those communities at risk. In an effort to rescue the young women from the crimes and injustices that can and do occur in a closed society, Technion graduate Yifat Bardash, who has close to 25 years of experience in corporate management and has served as CEO in a nonprofit organization that provides education for young adults, aims to give as many as possible of such young women the tools for self-esteem and independence.
This takes money, and she has organized a fund-raiser for this Thursday evening at the Jerusalem home of Amir and Elisheva Leybovich, where the singing duo Yonina will provide the entertainment. The event is titled “An Evening of Entertainment and Empowerment.”