Grapevine: Not in the basket

Last Friday, some 500 peace-seeking Arabs and Jews got together in roundtables along the length of Rothschild Boulevard.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennet (photo credit: SASSON TIRAM,REUTERS)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennet
(photo credit: SASSON TIRAM,REUTERS)
For many people, it takes courage to ask for help, even for minor things. But when it’s a major thing – depending, of course, on how major it is – courage is no longer an option; it’s a must, especially when that major thing is a life-threatening illness.
Currently doing the rounds on email is a request for surplus supplies of Ibrance to prolong a life and perhaps save it. There is no greater gift than the gift of life, both to the one who gives it and to the one who receives it. Below is the unedited email of the wife of Shane Caplin and mother of their five children, asking for the kind of help that could be a gift of life at best, or if not that, at least a prolonged life.
“Shalom. My name is Esther Caplin, from Neveh Daniel, Israel. After a year of treatments for stage 4 breast cancer which has spread to my liver, my oncologist decided to put me on Ibrance (with Faslodex), providing me with a free 3-month supply of Ibrance that he had obtained from a former patient."
Unfortunately, Ibrance is not one of the cancer drugs supplied on the health plan in Israel, and my oncologist hoped to use the three-month period to assess its effectiveness on me and to try to acquire more of the drug from Pfizer on compassionate grounds.
While the Ibrance has succeeded in halting the spread of the cancer, the request to Pfizer did not work out.
“As buying the drug was not a viable option, I began a search in my support group (Inspire) for women who were once on Ibrance and since moved to a different treatment – the idea being that some people have Ibrance that is no longer being used. I was successful so far in obtaining enough pills for two more months of treatment.
“I am asking you to please spread the word. If you know anyone who was once on Ibrance and wishes to donate her leftover Ibrance pills, please contact me (at [email protected]). As I see it, the unused medicine eventually will be thrown out, but for me, every 21 pills means another month of life.”
This is not an appeal for funds – it is an appeal for life. Please ask every recovering breast cancer patient whom you know whether she was on Ibrance, and if so, whether she has any left and is willing to give it to someone else who desperately needs it.
■ IT’S NO secret that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are film buffs. They just love going to the movies, though heaven knows how they find time, given the intensity of their busy schedules.
But when legendary actor James Caan came to Israel as the guest of the Tourism Ministry, the Albert Einstein Foundation, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Netanyahus were thrilled to have him come to dinner.
Some roles stick with you, and although the Hollywood star has given stellar performances in many films since playing the role of Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, he continues to walk in the shadow of the mafiosi tough guy – but maybe that’s because the much married and divorced Caan is a pretty tough guy himself. Not the least bit shy, he wandered around the Prime Minister’s Residence, peering at photographs and being totally candid rather than coy.
Despite the mafiosi role, Caan is one of the tribe and extremely pro-Israel. He’s also far from being a left-wing, bleeding-heart liberal, and had no qualms whatsoever about touring the West Bank, especially in view of the fact that this was the 76-year-old actor’s first-ever visit to Israel. Caan told the Netanyahus that the visit strengthened his spiritual connection to the Holy Land. Caan joked that he was waiting for his mandatory draft paper. “I’m willing to fight for this country. Whenever this country suffers, I suffer with it,” he said.
■ WITH THE centenary of the Balfour Declaration less than 18 months away, Jewish organizations in various parts of the world are gearing up for gala celebrations. In Israel the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association, which each November hosts a Balfour dinner, was already planning the centenary gala more than a year ago.
According to media reports, the Palestinian Authority is in the process of preparing a lawsuit against the British government over the so-called Balfour Declaration, which was in the form of a letter a letter dated November 2, 1917, and signed by Arthur James Balfour, the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom. The letter, which was addressed and delivered to Walter Rothschild, the second Baron Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community of Britain, contained the request that its contents be conveyed to the Zionist Federation, and was a major forward step in the aspirations of the Zionist movement. The brief document, which has become enshrined in the archives of Zionist history, reads: “I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
“I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.”
In an address to leaders of the Arab League in Mauritania on Monday, the PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said that London is responsible for all the “Israeli crimes” committed since 1948, when the British Mandate over Palestine came to an end. The Balfour Declaration, according to Maliki, gave people who didn’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.
He seems to have overlooked the fact that prior to the British Mandate, Palestine was under Ottoman rule for 400 years, and although Jews were an acute minority, there were Jews living in the country throughout that period. There’s also biblical evidence to support the fact that Jews or Israelites were in the land long before the Ottoman conquest.
As for Israeli crimes, what about Palestinian crimes – or don’t they count? But aside from all that, suing the British government is nothing more than a publicity stunt, given that there was no state of Palestine in 1917, and even if there had been, there’s such a thing as a statute of limitations.
Under the circumstances, reaching a peace accord with Israel might be a better option, and a win-win situation all round.
■ ON THE subject of a national home for the Jewish people, Education Minister Naftali Bennett is trying to get that message across to Diaspora Jewish youth currently in Israel.
Literally thousands of Jewish youngsters from around the globe have converged on Israel during the summer holiday period.
They belong to schools, synagogue groups and Zionist youth groups.
Some 2,000 of them who are members of NCSY, the teen branch of the Orthodox Union, and are participating in 18 different programs around Israel, came together last Thursday at Bar-Ilan University for a happening designed to strengthen their Jewish identities and their connection to Israel. NCSY is active in some 400 communities throughout the United States and has a total membership in excess of 30,000.
The event was attended by Bennett, OU executive vice president Allen Fagin, who on the previous day had been part of an OU delegation that met with Netanyahu and presented him with a rare first edition of Don Isaac Abarbanel’s writings, which had been the key subject of works by the prime minister’s late father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu.
OU Israel executive director Rabbi Avi Berman also attended both events.
At the youth happening, Bennett told the youth that Israel loves them and that “Israel is the home of every Jew in the world.”
Speaking almost with the voice of prophecy, if not of doom, Bennett continued: “Whatever happens in your life, whatever happens, ever, in your country – a year, five years, 20 years, 500 years from now, you have a home.
Eretz Yisrael is your home. In Hebrew, “We have a home” is “Yesh lanu bayit.” Yesh lanu bayit. Yesh lanu bayit!” Bennett also referred to Shlomo Rindenov, the American lone soldier who, like two of his brothers, had come to Israel to volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces and had paid the supreme sacrifice. “He was part of a large Jewish American family born and raised in New Jersey. Yet, like his brothers and thousands of other Jews from around the world, he decided to leave his previous life and make aliya to Israel and defend the State of Israel, because he felt that Israel is his home. Thousands of Jews, thousands of Israelis this week attended his funeral, and we feel like one big mishpaha because we are one big family,” Bennett declared.
■ INAUGURATED AT the President’s Residence in December 2014 on the second night of Hanukka, 929 (the number of chapters in the Bible), the brainchild of Avi Wortzman, who was then a Bayit Yehudi MK and deputy education minister, is the daily study – five days a week – of a biblical chapter or verse.
Primarily aimed at being an all-inclusive Jewish experience to make the Bible accessible to Jews from every possible background so that they come together to study and interpret it, the project has gained a huge following, attracting people who under other circumstances might never meet, let alone study, together.
Every now and again, a study evening of this kind is conducted at the President’s Residence, with President Reuven Rivlin and Rabbi Benny Lau, one of the key proponents of the project, delivering brief addresses, followed by addresses by guest speakers.
The focus this week is on the Prophet Jeremiah, who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy Temple, after he had repeatedly warned his people that they would suffer a catastrophe if they did not mend their ways. With the realization of his prophecy, Jeremiah poured out his emotions over the terrible fate that had befallen Israel in the book of Lamentations, which is read on Tisha Be’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple.
It was fitting, therefore, that at this week’s 929 meeting at the President’s Residence, which included people from different parts of the country, in different age groups and from different social strata – Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Ethiopian – with the Bible as a common denominator, Jeremiah was the main source of discussion.
Guest speakers were Prof. Meir Buzaglo, director of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Innovative Education, who asked whether there is any room for prophets in a Facebook era; Bilha Ben-Eliyahu a lecturer in literature at the David Yellin Academic College of Education’s Kerem Institute and at the Efrata College of Education; and internationally renowned prizewinning author Amos Oz, who has written extensively about Jeremiah, who he said was regarded as a traitor in his time.
Oz clarified that he was not using the term “traitor” in its conventional sense of betraying secrets, cheating in business or being unfaithful to a spouse. He had been fascinated since childhood with the concept of “traitor” and had even been labeled as such at different times in his life. He had reached the conclusion that the definition of traitor that characterized Jeremiah is one who changes in the eyes of those who do not change, and they are unable to tolerate or understand the change in that person. They are mortally afraid of change and hate all those who do change.
Moving centuries forward from Jeremiah, Oz named as fellow “traitors” numerous people who had been called such by former friends and colleagues and sometimes by the nation at large. They included Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, and was assassinated; the German army officers who tried to kill Hitler, and were executed; Winston Churchill, who dismantled the British Empire; Charles de Gaulle, who granted independence to Algeria; Anwar Sadat, who paid with his life for making peace with Israel; Mikhail Gorbachev, who brought an end to Communist rule; Emil Zola, who stood up for a persecuted Jew; and, closer to home, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, which also led to Rabin’s assassination. Oz named other Israeli traitors, but the underlying question, said Oz, was whether they belonged to the club of Jeremiah the Prophet or to the club of false prophets with iron horns. “Which club is the more honorable?” he asked.
■ THERE ARE people on the political Right who still consider Peres to be a traitor, but no one among the politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists and social activists who congregated at the Peres Center for Peace last Thursday for the inauguration of the Israel Innovation Center see him in that light.
While it is true that Peres politically changed from hawk to dove, what remains constant is that he is a renaissance man for whom the future is more important than the past – simply because there’s nothing he can do about the past, but there is still much that he can do about the future.
Peres received a standing ovation and sustained, deafening applause before he spoke and again after he spoke. Rivlin called him a living legend and a man of peace, and a similar sentiment was expressed by Netanyahu.
Both Rivlin and Netanyahu made a point of telling Peres how much he is loved and admired, and after they left to continue with their individual schedules for the day, Peres remained on his feet for quite a long time, receiving congratulatory remarks and embraces and posing with guests for selfies.
■ TEL AVIV-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai, who was one of the speakers at the launch, voiced his pride in the fact that Tel Aviv is Israel’s “Start-up City,” that Peres is a Distinguished Citizen of Tel Aviv, and that the Peres Center on the seashore will be the home of the Israel Innovation Center, which will open to the public in 2018.
■ EVEN BEFORE Netanyahu made his video urging the increased integration of the Arab population into mainstream Israel, the Peres Center initiated programs to facilitate such integration. At the launch of the Innovation Center, there was a group of high school students from the Arab village of Daburiya who, speaking in heavily accented but fluent Hebrew, demonstrated their state-of-theart recycling robot. Each of them explained the thought process that guided its development and simultaneously promoted the value of team work. The youngsters earned nearly as much applause as Peres, and a much impressed Netanyahu rose from his seat, walked across to them to congratulate them on their ingenuity and posed for a photo with them.
■ IN ADDITION to encouraging Arabs to join the hi-tech workforce, the government is also interested in promoting hi-tech employment and entrepreneurship in the haredi community. At the Innovation Center launch, Yossi Vardi, who is the be-all and end-all of Israel’s hi-tech industry, hosted a panel discussion with three outstanding female entrepreneurs, one of whom, Sari Roth, has been in business for less than two years and is enormously successful. A haredi mother of seven whose formal education did not extend beyond a Bais Yaakov seminary in Bnei Brak, she has a haredi business partner who is also a digital autodidact, and the two of them have made amazing progress in Israel and abroad.
■ COEXISTENCE COMES in many guises, not the least of which is singing together and making music together. When Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad joined forces and sang a duet at the 2010 Eurovision song contest, it wasn’t as unusual as some might think.
David Broza and other well-known Israeli singers have appeared in concert and on disc with Israeli-Arab and Palestinian performers.
In addition, there are a number of mixed choirs that include Christian and Muslim Arabs who sing together with Jewish choristers.
According to Israel Philharmonic Orchestra director and chief conductor Zubin Mehta, who supports the Shani Girls Choir comprising 13- to 18-year-old Jewish, Christian and Muslim girls from towns and villages in the central Galilee, they sing in perfect harmony.
The choir is part of the Mifne (Turning Point) project supported by the IPO as well as by Mehta. The choir, conducted by Anat Aharoni, rehearses twice a week at the Jezreel Valley Center for the Arts and performs songs from its vast Hebrew and Arabic repertoire as well as folk songs and classics, in schools, at cultural events and at regional, national and international music festivals and conferences. Countries in which it has performed include England, Germany, Norway, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, Denmark and the United States. Mehta says that his big dream is to have Israeli-Arab and Palestinian musicians in the IPO, and for the IPO to play in Ramallah.
Another similar choir of adults is the Rana Choir of Jaffa, which recently performed at the Bastille Day celebration hosted by French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave. Comprising 10 Arab and 10 Jewish women, the group, founded and conducted by Mike Dana, was previously called Shirana, and functioned under the auspices of Jaffa’s Arab-Jewish Community Center, but broke away when seeking greater independence. It, too, has an extensive repertoire, as do other mixed choirs – Voices of Peace, Sea Pearl and Nitzanim – which still function under the AJCC umbrella.
These choirs have performed in front of dignitaries such as Peres, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the pope, to name but a few world leaders who have witnessed that despite their differences, Jews and Arabs can live in happy harmony.
The Jewish-Arab Institute of the Histadrut labor federation also hosts musical get-togethers, and in Jerusalem there is a cross-cultural project co-founded by Dror Amedi in which Arabs and Jews come together every few weeks to Simply Sing, which is the title of the project. Participants also perform together in public, and the mutual love of singing has paved the way to cross-cultural friendships and understanding.
Last Friday, some 500 peace-seeking Arabs and Jews got together in roundtables along the length of Rothschild Boulevard. They agreed on some issues and disagreed on others, but the issues on which they disagreed did not spoil the spirit of the occasion, and afterward Jews and Arabs linked arms to dance a dabke, which is an Arab folk dance popular throughout the region and similar in some respects to Greek folk dancing.
■ NO ONE wants to think badly of heroes.
Somehow, in cutting them down to size, we sever something in ourselves. In ancient Jewish tradition, while recognizing the foibles of the great, the public did not forget those deeds that made a person great. Thus, when Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen referred to former Golani Brigade commander Brig.-Gen. Ofek Buchris (who allegedly raped and committed other sexual offenses against female soldiers under his command) and King David in the same breath, it wasn’t because he thought that either of them should be absolved of their wrongdoings, but because he believes that whatever commendable things someone has done should not be swept aside when such people stray from the path of integrity and morality.
He subsequently apologized for any misunderstanding that his remarks may have caused, and in an interview on Israel Radio said that just because former prime minister and former mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert was convicted on charges of corruption doesn’t mean that he didn’t do any good while in office, and such things should not be forgotten.
Hacohen did not mention expert safe cracker John Ramensky, who during the Second World War wanted to join the army and was released from a British prison for that purpose. He was trained to be a commando and was parachuted behind enemy lines to use his safe-cracking skills in securing classified documents from Axis headquarters, including those of senior German Army officer Erwin Rommel and commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Goering. Ramensky was a crook, but he was also a hero whose contribution to the war effort was invaluable.
■ FINANCE MINISTER Moshe Kahlon was the guest in the hot seat last Saturday in Gav Ha’uma, the satirical spoof on Channel 2 in which well-known personalities, usually politicians, are roasted by the panel and in particular by Lior Schleien, the creator and host of the program.
Kahlon proved to have a great sense of humor, was quick on the uptake, and was able to retaliate in kind. When Schleien, who happens to be the significant other of Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli, asked Kahlon whether he preferred sitting with the panel in the television studio rather than with the cabinet, Kahlon admitted that it was more fun in the studio, adding that the difference was that in the studio Schleien gets paid, and in the government he gets paid. When Schleien pressed Kahlon on his plan for affordable housing for young couples, Kahlon replied: “If you register to get married to Merav, I’ll upgrade you to the top of the list.”
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