Grapevine: Mincing words

One would think that at a time of political turmoil and security tensions, readers might be a little less picky about transliteration, which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

RAMON AIRPORT in the Timna Valley, north of Eilat. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
RAMON AIRPORT in the Timna Valley, north of Eilat.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Some readers have objected to the transliteration in last Sunday’s Grapevine of the Hebrew word for “Lioness,” the new dance that Rina Schenfeld created for herself as a personal 80th birthday gift. The Hebrew word for lioness is “levaya,” as was spelled in this column. Readers were quick to point out that this was the way that the word for funeral is transliterated. It may well be – but not in everyone’s book. Some people spell it “leviah” or “leviyah.” And then what do you do about those Brits and South Africans who give it a convoluted Yiddish pronunciation and call it a “levoiyeh”? Presumably, the pronunciation would be the same for the lioness.
One would think that at a time of political turmoil and security tensions, readers might be a little less picky about transliteration, which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. After all, there are no hard and fast rules between “Succot” and “Sukkot,” or “Hanukka,” “Chanuka” and some of the other alternatives. Then there’s “chutzpah” and “hutzpa,” and “arieh” and “arye,” “Shabbat” and “Shabbes,” plus many other examples of frequently used Hebrew terms in English. Does it really matter how they are transliterated, so long as the message comes across?
But for some people, being picky is a form of escapism from the truly worrisome aspects of our neighborhood. So far be it from me to begrudge them.
■ THE INAUGURATION ceremony of Ramon Airport in Eilat will take place on January 21. The airport is named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon, the father and son who met their deaths, one in the disintegration of a space ship and the other in the malfunction of a fighter plane. Wife and mother Rona Ramon, who engaged in so many national, civilian and military-related projects to honor their memories, unfortunately did not live to see the airport in all its glory. But now, perhaps while there’s still time, her name could be added to those of her husband and son.
For her surviving children, Tal, Yiftah and Noa, the past few weeks have been an extremely emotional period. After their mother’s death and cremation, they accepted an honorary doctorate in her memory from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and later this month they will again be reminded of the tragedies in their lives by the inauguration of the Ramon Airport.
■ JOURNALISTS MEET people from all walks of life. Walter Bingham, who has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest working radio journalist, is no exception. He’s also the world’s oldest sky diver, and when he goes to London in the next month or two for a medical checkup, he may well become the world’s oldest civilian pilot who is still flying. He meets diplomats, rabbis, fellow journalists, Israel Prize laureates, tour guides, people in high finance – and more.
They were all represented at the open house that he and his daughter Sonia hosted at his Jerusalem downtown apartment last Sunday in celebration of his 95th birthday. Not everyone brought a gift, and most of those who did chose alcoholic beverages. After all, it’s difficult to think of a suitable gift for a 95-year-old man.
The outstanding exception was the beautifully embroidered, fully lined Kazakhstan traditional coat and hat which was brought by Kazakhstan Ambassador Doulat Kuanyshev. Such gifts are generally a sign of the esteem in which the recipient is held. Kuanyshev, who is usually seen in a suit and tie, came in smart casual sports attire, in which he was barely recognizable. He has a reputation for being one of the friendliest people in the diplomatic community. Bingham is a big man, both in height and in girth, but his new Kazakhstan coat fitted him as though it had been custom-made.
Bingham, who rushes from one event to another without a car or a walking stick, is often asked the secret of his longevity. Very simply it’s to keep body and mind active, he says. “It’s like a foreign language. If you don’t use it, you lose it.” If he didn’t keep busy, he’d be sitting in a rocking chair, he surmises. He has a fully set up studio in his apartment, which enables him to easily organize and operate his Walter’s World program on Arutz Sheva. His advice to others who want to live long is to complete any task they set themselves, and then to continue onto the next one, so that they always have a purpose.
■ FANS OF the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, known as the Singing Rabbi, will on January 14 celebrate the 94th anniversary of his birth, two months after commemorating the 24th anniversary of his death.
The Shlomo Carlebach Foundation, which preserves and disseminates his teachings, music and stories, and develops communities that share in the love and joy that he radiated by always focusing on the positive and finding something good in all the people with whom he came into contact, is now engaged in publishing his commentaries on the Bible in Hebrew and English. The Book of Bereshit has already been published. Shmot is almost completed, and will be followed by Vayikra, Bemidbar and Devarim.
The foundation was established in Jerusalem soon after Carlebach’s death in 1994. Today it is run from Moshav Mevo Modi’im, which was Carlebach’s home in Israel from 1976 to 1994. Among the key disseminators of his teachings in Israel are Rabbi Joe Schonwald and Emuna Witt Halevi – though many others are also doing so, and his music is heard in many congregations.
■ FOR THE past two years, Gil Beilin, the son of former justice minister and former Meretz leader Yossi Beilin, has been traveling all over the country meeting people and listening to their concerns. Now he’s looking for volunteers to make up his team for competing in the Labor Party primaries in February.
The younger Beilin, who grew up in Labor when his father was one of its most promising young leaders before moving further toward the political Left, knows a thing or two about campaigning. He comes from the world of advertising and communications, and more than half his lifetime ago he headed the Labor Youth Organization. He is running in the primaries regardless of the controversies surrounding Avi Gabbay, who past and present MKs such as Avraham Burg and Eitan Cabel say does not represent the principles and values of Labor.
Despite growing hostility against him within the party, Gabbay refuses to step down, and still deludes himself that the contest for prime minister is solely between him and Benjamin Netanyahu. Ever since his election as party chairman a year-and-a-half ago, Gabbay has been changing or attempting to change the rules of the game within Labor, which is one of the reasons that Cabel, who has been a Labor MK since 1996, and is a former secretary-general of the Labor Party, is so opposed to him.
But Cabel has no intention of leaving the party if Gabbay stays. If he retains his place on the Knesset list and his seat in the Knesset, Cabel will remain the albatross around Gabbay’s neck – unless, of course, Gabbay is ousted in the interim.
■ IT WOULD seem that former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who hopes to win a realistic place on the Likud Knesset list, is not counting his chickens before they’re hatched and has embarked on a worthwhile project with which he can continue in the event that he fails in his bid to become a legislator.
Speaking this week at the Innovative Diplomacy Conference hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy, Barkat said that he has been working with Harvard University’s Michael Porter on a strategic project to develop the Galilee, the Negev and Judea and Samaria. Porter’s team landed in Israel around two weeks ago, said Barkat.
With regard to the Negev, said Barkat, the idea is to interest global investors in it as a technological powerhouse with the top experts in Israel and the world. The project will be called Desert Tech. Barkat made his fortune in technology, before entering the arena of local politics, from where he hopes to springboard into the Knesset. In the Galilee he wants to further develop tourism for bird lovers by doing more to publicize the Hula Valley as the world’s largest landing pad for birds; and in Judea and Samaria, he wants to copy the Barkan model and to create more industrial zones to provide more jobs for Palestinians living there. Among Israeli Arabs, said Barkat, when they work together, they work more efficiently.
When asked about foreign relations and how he perceives them in the coming four years, Barkat said that a 180 degree change has to be made in the way that Israel is marketed. “We show them Bar Refaeli and the beaches, and still not enough want to come here. Then we show them the Old City and the holy places, and there’s a 50% increase in tourist traffic.” Barkat said that Israel must decide what its focus should be, and should ensure the ongoing development and cleanliness of its cities.
Ron Prosor, the former ambassador to the United Nations and before that to the United Kingdom, who currently chairs the Abba Eban Institute, at the opening of the conference paid tribute to Moshe Arens as one of the stalwarts of Israeli diplomacy, who in his persona was the essence of foreign relations and much more in his long and distinguished career. Arens knew that military strength is not enough and that there is also a need for diplomatic strength, said Prosor, adding that Arens had demonstrated this as defense minister, foreign minister and ambassador to Washington.
Prosor is being courted by several parties to run on their Knesset lists. While he believes that he still has much to give to the country, it’s not an easy decision to make.
■ UNIVERSITY OF Haifa faculty member Dr. Rachel Perry, a faculty member in University of Haifa’s Weiss-Livnat International Graduate Program in Holocaust Studies, and an art historian by training, has been honored with the 2018 “Humanist of the Year” award from the Inna and Michael Rogatchi Foundation for her leadership of a groundbreaking museum exhibit at the university.
Perry, who teaches a course on visual culture and the Holocaust, is the chief curator of “Arrivals, Departures,” which was displayed at the campus’s Hecht Museum this past June-November. The exhibition featured the never previously displayed 138 salvaged works of 18 Jewish artists from France whose careers and lives were cut short by the Nazis. Known as the Oscar Ghez Collection, the artworks were donated to University of Haifa in 1978 by Dr. Oscar Ghez, and were researched and restored over the course of two years by students in the Weiss-Livnat program.
“Arrivals, Departures” traced the varied trajectories of promising Jewish artists of the École de Paris academy as they left their homelands in Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Poland to move to Paris and pursue artistic careers. Racially targeted by the Nazi regime and its French collaborators, the artists were deported and most of their work was destroyed. The exhibit featured the persecuted artists’ only remaining pieces and placed their work in a broader context for the first time, as original artifacts, documents and photographs offered a more comprehensive picture of the Parisian art scene in the prewar period and shed light on the ways in which the implementation of the Nazis’ Final Solution affected each artist and his or her work.
The Rogatchi Foundation honored Perry as one of its four Humanist of the Year laureates for the “extraordinary, in-depth and detailed ‘Arrivals, Departures’ project on the art and life of the Jewish artists from the École de Paris,” for his “sustainable humanistic teaching methodology [and] visionary art curatorship.”
In appreciating the recognition she was given by the foundation for her teaching and research on the Ghez Collection, Perry said that the exhibition had been a labor of love, with much time and energy invested in its curation. She added that she was touched and humbled to be included among the other honorees, particularly Father Patrick Desbois, who has long been, and continues to be, a source of inspiration for her.
Desbois, a French Roman Catholic priest, is the founder of the Yahad-In Unum organization, which is dedicated to locating the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazis in the former Soviet Union. The foundation’s other Humanist of the Year recipients were Prof. Domenica Taruscio, chairwoman of the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium, and Saulius Berzinis, a noted filmmaker specializing in Holocaust history.
The Rogatchi Foundation was established in 2004 by writer, scholar and filmmaker Inna Rogatchi and her husband, artist Michael Rogatchi. The foundation focuses on education; preserving cultural, historical, and spiritual heritage; and assisting cancer patients, the elderly, and children in need. It also promotes the arts as well as cultural and educational outreach projects in Finland and internationally.
University of Haifa’s Weiss-Livnat program is dedicated to creating and nurturing a new generation of Holocaust researchers and educators. In addition to rigorous multidisciplinary coursework, the program’s students gain professional experience through research assistantships, internships in Israel and abroad, seminars, and study tours. Students also have the opportunity to hear from Holocaust survivors and to build relationships with survivors through volunteering. The program’s overarching goal is to foster dedication to the field of Holocaust studies.
■ POLITICAL REPORTERS and commentators were working overtime on Monday following notification from the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu would make a dramatic announcement at 8 p.m. Netanyahu is notorious for being late, and even though he was broadcasting from home, he was six minutes late. It seems that younger brother Ido is not the only one in the family with a sense of drama. Ido writes plays, and if Bibi wasn’t so busy as prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and health minister, he might even take the star role in one or two. After all, he did put on a very good act on Monday night, combining his claim of innocence with a first-class election campaign plus proof of what he’s been saying all along – the media really is out to get him, with reporters raising their voices in a strident manner that they don’t usually use with regard to other public figures suspected of unlawful activity. After the broadcasts, some radio program anchors ridiculed the prime minister by saying that their broadcasts would be more dramatic than anything else listeners had heard that night.
One thing is certain. Even though he opened his so-called dramatic announcement with the statement that there are judges in Jerusalem, there is no way that Netanyahu can anticipate a fair trial. Judges are not immune to media reports. Just like the rest of the public, they do read newspapers, listen to radio and watch television, and for the past two years and more they’ve been exposed to reports of crimes in which the prime minister allegedly was involved. With due respect to the impartiality of the court, they cannot pretend to be unaffected by the barrage of anti-Netanyahu reports and analyses. They would be lying if they said there had been no impact. It’s been going on for so long, and comes up so frequently at small social gatherings, including those in which judges are participants, that no judge can honestly claim to be uninfluenced.
It’s interesting to compare similarities between Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday made his own dramatic announcement via major electronic media outlets.
■ AMONG PEOPLE who missed out on hearing the prime minister’s broadcast in real time were President Reuven Rivlin, Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who joined former MK Uriel Lynn, who has long been president of the Tel Aviv and Central Israel Chamber of Commerce as well as the Federation of Israeli Binational Chambers of Commerce, at a gala dinner at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, where the Tel Aviv Chamber was celebrating both its 100th anniversary and its annual general meeting.
Rivlin lauded “100 years of trade, import and business, guided by employers who have driven the Israeli economy forward.” Addressing the business leaders sitting in front of him, he urged them to look at the challenges facing Israeli society straight on and to assume, once again, a leading role in the State of Israel and Israeli society.
He then launched into his pet project, the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox and Arab workers in the employment market. “Almost 50% of today’s first-graders in Israel are ultra-Orthodox or Arab,” he said. “Including them in the economy and in society is not a ‘technical’ challenge. It is not even dependent on the ability of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations to change and fit in. It requires their future employers to see them as part of what it means to be Israeli and to see their potential.”
Presenting a little historical data, Lynn said: “In 1919 a group of businesspeople laid the foundations of the Tel Aviv and Central Israel Chamber of Commerce as it is now. Their vision is clear to us today: trade and services are 69% of what we produce. They also generate employment: of the 2.5 million business sector workers, 1,800,000 of them work in trade and services. Exports of services have risen by 400% in the last 20 years and are now worth $50 billion, and are 45% of all Israeli exports. The time has come for Israel to enact the law proposed by the World Chambers Federation, the largest business organization in the world, to protect the rights of entrepreneurs and employers. The challenge in managing the economy is not setting targets, but in finding ways to achieve them. The skill is in balancing between competing and legitimate interests, and in remembering that there is no economy and no national income without the business sector.”
■ THE SITUATION was not quite as festive the following day, when Rivlin and Shaked met again – this time on his turf in Jerusalem – for yet another swearing-in ceremony of judges, which may be her last unless she manages to be reappointed in the next government. Surveys notwithstanding, there’s no telling what may actually happen on Election Day, and it’s possible that the New Right party established by Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett might not pass the threshold, in which case she most definitely would not be justice minister in the new government. Even if she is reelected to the Knesset, there’s no guarantee that she’ll be a minister, or if she is a minister that she will once again receive the justice portfolio.
Tensions between Shaked and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, who has stated that Shaked is politicizing the court system, remained temporarily on the back burner so as to not spoil the occasion for the new judges, but there was something in the air, and there’s no doubt that relations between the two are even more at daggers drawn than were those between Shaked and Hayut’s immediate predecessor, Miriam Naor.
Hayut and Naor are not the only legal experts who are at odds with Shaked. In Haifa last week former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, speaking out against the Nation-State Law at a public law conference, called on the Supreme Court to defend democracy. He also underscored the necessity to enact a law to protect the rights of minorities.
■ ON A somewhat different legal subject, Vered Windman, the CEO of the National Council for the Child, on presenting its annual report to Rivlin this week in which figures were given to the effect that more than 300,000 children in Israel are at risk, declared that lawmakers can’t say they didn’t know, “because we supply the statistics each year that show the numbers and the trends.”
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