Grapevine: Not forsaken in their old age

LITHUANIAN AMBASSADOR Edminas Bagdonas (photo credit: GPO)
(photo credit: GPO)
It was a happy day at Ichilov Hospital last week, when an end was officially put to having geriatric patients in beds in the hospital corridor. A 32-bed unit specifically geared to the needs of patients over the age of 70 was inaugurated thanks to the generosity of Israel Prize laureate Prof.
Ruth Arnon and her husband, Dr. Ariel Arnon, who donated $1 million for this purpose.
Prof. Arnon, who was the previous president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the first woman to hold the post, said that she was sick and tired of hearing about “the elderly person in the corridor” which had become a kind of catch-phrase in Israeli medical jargon.
An internationally acclaimed biochemist and professor of immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Arnon developed Copaxone, which has benefited millions of people around the world suffering from multiple sclerosis. She also made a lot of money from the treatment and decided to give some of it back to the community.
Dr. Yael Orion, who is in charge of the unit, said that special attention will be given to maintaining the dignity of the patients and to allowing them to decide on treatment options offered to them. Prof.
Ronni Gamzu, the former director-general of the Health Ministry and currently CEO at Ichilov, said: “We hear the expression ‘the elderly person in the corridor’ far too often in Israeli society. This is not the way to treat people who helped to build the state and bring the nation to where it is today.
There will be no ‘hospitalization in the corridor’ in this facility.”
■ BRIEFLY BACK in Israel to complete a project that she started while living here is Barbara Wisman, who together with her husband, Kern, was the Baha’i representative in Jerusalem for more than 20 years. She hasn’t had time to look up all her old friends, but did manage to see a few from the Jerusalem Rotary Club, in which she and her husband were very active. The Wismans now live in Missouri and were delighted to discover that some of their favorite Israeli food products are available in local stores. Over lunch in a Jerusalem coffee house, Barbara said that what she really misses are the Israeli fresh fruits and vegetables, which is the reason she ordered a salad without any dressing, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
■ FRIDAY IS still a day in which many Israelis do not work in their professions and are free to attend leisure time pursuits such as concerts, lectures and sports. The Friday lectures at the Japanese Embassy in the Museum Tower in Tel Aviv have proved to be very popular with the insights they give into Japanese culture, academia and tourism. Such lectures are often conducted in cooperation with the Israel-Japan Friendship Society.
Coming up on Friday, February 16, is a lecture that will focus on the urban area of Kansai, which includes mainly Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. This region is the second-most populated area in Honshu and one of the favorite destinations of Israeli tourists. The lecture is designed to spur added interest in these places by providing information about various attractions, such as Kyoto’s temples and shrines, like Beth Shalom, the Gion Quarter, and the Nishiki Market; the cosmopolitanism in Kobe, including the foreign houses in Kitano-cho, the Kobe port, the Chinese Quarter, and the Nunobiki Herb Garden; the modernism in Osaka, such as the Floating Garden Observatory and the Osaka Aquarium; the historical sights of Nara and its Todai-ji Daibutsuden, Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha; and, most importantly, the rehabilitation in Hiroshima with its Peace Park, Shukkei-en Garden and Mazda Museum.
The lecture will be delivered by Israel Benozer, who works as a freelance agent in Israel’s tourism market and publishes informative articles about various destinations around the globe. He also lectures extensively and helps clients to plan their tours so that they will be able to experience as much as possible of what really interests them and thus get the best value for their money.
■ EVERY TIME that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or anyone else in the government, is critical of a television or radio program or a newspaper or magazine article, there are inevitably people who say that such criticism is yet another excuse to find fault with the media. While a lot of the prime minister’s followers on social media did agree that the popular, long-lasting, satirical television program Eretz Nehederet (“Wonderful Country”) had crossed all redlines in spoofing the Holocaust, one of the unfortunate truths about satire is its refusal to respect holy cows.
Generally speaking, sensitivity to the feelings of Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as of the families of those who did not survive, serves as self-censorship on entertainment outlets. But the people on Eretz Nehederet are not the only ones who cross redlines where the Holocaust is concerned.
Despite his close relationship with MK Merav Michaeli, who is highly sensitive to anything related to the Holocaust, Lior Schleien, who can be very funny but who seems to have made a religion out of being an iconoclast, has been just as bad if not worse in his Gav HaUma (Back of the Nation) program in which his chief victims are Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. He’s also been almost as merciless with the Netanyahu family, as well. As biting as political satire usually is, it was much more painful and even embarrassing when he tackled the Holocaust.
■ SOME 30 TO 40 years ago, in Jerusalem, well over half a dozen movie theaters existed in the center of town – before they all gradually disappeared. The buildings were converted to pubs, eateries, shops and even a residential complex. It took a few years for replacements to pop up, such as Cinema City and Yes Planet, which are not in the center of town but are easily accessible by public transport, as is the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
But now, a unique monument to one of the old movie theaters – a hostel in which the rooms are named for famous movies – is targeted to open in July of this year. The move may be in line with the construction of townhouses in the capital, with more people seeking leisure time options within walking distance.
■ FOREIGN DIPLOMATS stationed in Israel are exposed to considerable doses of Israeli culture in one form or another. Lahav Shai, the 29-year-old pianist and composer, will succeed the legendary Zubin Mehta as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra director at the beginning of the 2020-2021 season and will be music director-designate during the 2019-2020 season. Shai conducted the IPO last month where he instantly earned himself a dedicated fan in the person of Latvian Ambassador Elita Gavele, a great lover of classical music who, unless she has other obligations, goes to every IPO concert recital.
She’s going to be somewhat busy this year, as is Lithuanian Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas. Each of their countries is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the restoration of its independence, and there will quite a lot of centennial festivities throughout the year.
■ TRITE THOUGH it may be to say so, truth is often stranger than fiction, and certainly more dramatic in terms of its effect. One can only imagine right now the potential television series and screen plays that will derive from the ever evolving hostilities between Netanyahu and Police Chief Roni Alsheich. Taking into account some of the other dramas involving public figures, Israel’s image is changing from that of being the “Start-Up Nation” to idols with feet of clay.
■ ALTHOUGH THE late Ilan Ramon was Israel’s first and only astronaut to actually go into space, he was not the only Sabra at NASA. Prof. Jacob Cohen, the Israeli-born chief scientist at NASA Ames Center, was in the country earlier this month and met with MBA students from Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) and faculty staff at IDC’s Arison School of Business, discussing big data and innovation in space. The idea was to inspire students to study in this direction and to encourage cooperation. Though born in Israel, Cohen has spent most of his life in America, having accompanied his family there when he was nine years old At the NASA research center he advises the director and develops opportunities for integrating research with new and evolving technologies. During the meeting with the students he spoke on innovation in outer space, which is relevant to many other fields, such as autonomous vehicles, big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and entrepreneurship.
“The key to life-long success in life is imagination, perseverance and compassion,” he said. Cohen’s visit was organized by Dr.
Hagit Perry, the head of the MBA specialty in big data for business at IDC, who voiced pride in IDC’s unique cooperation with NASA. She invited Israeli companies and entrepreneurs to offer projects relevant to this cooperation.
■ IN ISRAEL last week for the International Mediterranean Tourism Market, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda’s tourism minister, said that for the past 30 years Uganda has been safe and secure. Alluding to the Uganda Plan, which had been introduced as a British offer for a possible homeland and safe haven for the Jewish people at the sixth Zionist Congress, Kamuntu urged Israelis to visit his country to see what they missed out on. After all, Israelis should have a special interest in Uganda, he said.
■ “THE CENTRAL existential threat to Jews in America today is the toxic nature of partisanship in American political culture.
I believe we are at a critical juncture for a new American Jewish conversation on this issue that asks us to consider how our political choices as Jews implicate our collective identity as Jews in America.
“Thankfully, Jews have come a long way as Americans and as stakeholders in American democracy, which obligates us to act politically not just on behalf of parochial Jewish interests but also on behalf of what is best for the country. And yet the cost of toxic partisanship – a social ill that Jews are complicit in helping promote – is severely taxing Jewishness and Jewish communal life in America.”
So writes Yehuda Kurtzer, the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, who will be one of the keynote speakers next week at the David Hartman Memorial Conference for a Jewish Democratic State. The conference will be held at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem on Wednesday, February 14, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the central theme of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. It will be conducted in both English and Hebrew and will also be uploaded on video at a later stage to Hartman’s website. Part of the conference will also be live-streamed.
■ AS CHAIRMAN of the Mifal Hapayis state lottery, former Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan gets to see the completion of a lot of educational, cultural and sports projects funded by his company in all parts of the country. In appreciation of what Dayan has done to advance such projects in Upper Nazareth, Mayor Ronen Plot made Dayan an honorary citizen of his city last week. Plot is a former director-general of the Knesset and Dayan, who celebrated his 70th birthday last month, is a former national security adviser and former deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. He is a nephew of Moshe Dayan and a cousin to Yael Dayan, and to the controversial poet and entertainer, Yonatan Geffen. Dayan said that since the year 2000, Mifal Hapayis had transferred NIS 141 million to Upper Nazareth.