Grapevine November 24, 2021: Saying 'no' to violence against women

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 Britain's Prince Charles meets President of Israel Isaac Herzog at Highgrove House, in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, Britain. (photo credit: BEN BIRCHALL/POOL via REUTERS)
Britain's Prince Charles meets President of Israel Isaac Herzog at Highgrove House, in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, Britain.
(photo credit: BEN BIRCHALL/POOL via REUTERS)

Although November 25 was officially designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, related events have been held in Israel since the beginning of this week, and will continue into next week, although the fact of the matter is that women’s organizations are engaged all year round in the prevention of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment.

Among the early starters this week, was Woman to Woman (Isha L’Isha), which since its inception in 1982 has assisted women and their children to escape the abuse inflicted by husbands, partners and fathers, by providing therapies, legal aid, an education center for children and a helping hand toward independence.

Other organizations involved in similar activities include WIZO, Na’amat, Emunah, Bat Melech, the Israel Women’s Network, Mavoi Satum and other women’s organizations, some of which, like Woman to Woman, operate shelters with on-site psychological and occupational therapies and legal counseling and representation.

There are not enough shelters in the country, and many of the women who need them cannot be accommodated for lack of space. The government does very little to alleviate the situation, and Woman to Woman, like the other organizations mentioned here, is heavily reliant on donations from Israel and abroad. In the hope of having the wherewithal to open another shelter, it has been running an appeal, details of which are available on its Facebook page in Hebrew and English.

Abuse cannot be attributed to any particular social strata, religious or ethnic group. It runs across every boundary, regardless of status, wealth or intelligence. However, in some societies, there is still a reluctance to talk about it – in some cases, this is due to age-old traditional beliefs that to do so would shame the victim and her family, and possibly bring even more abuse upon her and her children.

 FROM LEFT: Roy Antebi, Tamir Kobrin and Haim Cohen. (credit: EVYATAR NISSAN) FROM LEFT: Roy Antebi, Tamir Kobrin and Haim Cohen. (credit: EVYATAR NISSAN)

The veil of silence has largely prevailed in Arab and haredi communities. 

Although it would appear, on a per capita basis, that Arab women are among the ones who suffer most from abuse and so-called honor killings, it is only relatively recently that the voices of Arab women have been raised in protest.

On Wednesday, November 24, several Arab women, including Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman will speak on issues related to domestic abuse and its worst-case scenarios at a conference at the Ramat Eshkol Community Center in Lod. Among the other speakers are Dimiter Tzantchev, the head of the Delegation of the European Union, Neila Awad, the director of Women Against Violence, and Fida Shehade of the Lod Municipal Council, who has long complained that the council is neglecting the safety of the city’s Arab residents.

On the same date in the capital, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, his wife, Stavit, and members of the city council will join in the Don’t Mix Me campaign, which is being run by nightclubs and bars in protest at rape drugs being infused into women’s alcoholic beverages.

■ THERE IS only one shelter for haredi women in Israel, and it is located in Jerusalem. Bat Melech provides shelter for, and assistance to abused Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women and their children, including psychological and legal help, especially those needing to escape from life-threatening situations.

The shelter will be visited on Wednesday by President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal. Presidents Shimon Peres and Reuven Rivlin used to visit the WIZO shelter for battered women, and the Herzogs are familiar with a Na’amat shelter near their private home in Tel Aviv’s Tzahala neighborhood, where Michal Herzog has for many years worked as a volunteer.

■ APROPOS THE United Nations, Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan, an immediate past consul-general in New York, was back in the Big Apple this month to speak at a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony, to reconnect with the American Jewish leadership, to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to offer Yad Vashem’s cooperation in matters related to fighting antisemitism and preserving Holocaust memory, and to invite Guterres to visit Israel. Among the people accompanying Dayan to the meeting was Gilad Erdan, who heads the Israel delegation to the UN.

 FROM LEFT: Micha Shitrit, Tamir Kobrin and Ester Rada. (credit: EVYATAR NISSAN) FROM LEFT: Micha Shitrit, Tamir Kobrin and Ester Rada. (credit: EVYATAR NISSAN)

■ ALSO IN New York last week was former president Rivlin, who, together with former US president George W. Bush, was a guest of honor at the 50th anniversary gala of the America-Israel Friendship League, where both former presidents were the recipients of Partners for Democracy Awards.

Rivlin, who is now the president of ElectReon, an Israeli technology company, was in New York as the guest of Calcalist, the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot, which was a co-sponsor with Israel Mapped in New York of the Mind the Tech Conference, which brought American and Israeli executives of hi-tech companies together. Rivlin was also given the honor of opening the Nasdaq Stock Exchange last Wednesday during the AIFL and Israel Mapped in New York Israel Day at Nasdaq.

Among other Israelis present at the event was Dayan’s successor, Assaf Zamir, who said that celebrating Israel Day at Nasdaq is something that should not be taken for granted. Any cooperation that can publicly strengthen the relationship between Israel and the US is welcome, he added.

 FROM LEFT: Uriel Lynn, Roy Roznek and Berat Rukiqi.  (credit: YAIR SAGI) FROM LEFT: Uriel Lynn, Roy Roznek and Berat Rukiqi. (credit: YAIR SAGI)

In his address at Nasdaq, Rivlin declared the start-up dream to be open to all. During his presidency, he frequently referred to America as Israel’s greatest and oldest ally and reiterated this sentiment.

Also present was Dan Gillerman, a former head of the Israel delegation to the United Nations and presently chairman of the Blackstone Group and of the Israel branch of AIFL. Gillerman lauded Rivlin’s many years of service to the State of Israel, mentioning in particular, Rivlin’s roles as president and as speaker of the Knesset, and welcomed Rivlin as having become a techie and having acquired a passion for new developments in the hi-tech industry.

Rivlin, for his part, said that many Israeli technology companies were looking for ways in which to help treat illnesses, care for the environment and become a model for the rest of the world in terms of climate technology. “Both America and Israel are working to create a better world for today and tomorrow,” he said. “The secret is that we approach every challenge as an opportunity to find solutions to problems. Israel is the engine of innovation.”

■ INNOVATION IS not just a matter of technology. Innovation is also a gender issue and a social issue in general. Peres introduced innovation in relation to minority communities by appointing the first Druze military secretary to the State of Israel in the person of Brig.-Gen. Hassan Hassan, who is currently involved in the campaign for an amendment to the Nation-State Law. Rivlin also appointed a Druze military secretary, Brig.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rakun, who, despite a brilliant career in the IDF, has let it be known that he wants to retire from the army next summer.

Herzog now wants to introduce gender innovation and to have a woman military secretary. He asked Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi to find suitable candidates so that he can make his choice. The field has been narrowed down to two female officers, one in an intelligence unit and the other in human resources.

Whoever lands the job will be promoted to brigadier-general and will be the fourth woman to reach this rank after Orna Barbivay, recently appointed Brig.-Gen. Yifat Tomer, who is military advocate-general, and Orly Markman, the new president of the Military Court of Appeals. Senior law appointments, which not so long ago were very much a male province, are increasingly being given to females.

Miriam Ben-Porat was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Her prior appointment in 1959 to the Jerusalem District Court, of which she eventually became president, was boycotted by the Israel Bar Association at her swearing-in ceremony as a judge. She was also the first and only woman to serve as state comptroller, and was reappointed at the conclusion of her five-year term.

Admittedly, the ratio of female Supreme Court judges still leaves a lot to be desired, but on the other hand three women – Dorit Beinisch, Miriam Naor and present incumbent Esther Hayut – have held the position of Supreme Court president, and two women, Tzipi Livni and Ayelet Shaked, have been ministers of justice. Women have held high positions in other areas of the legal system, and if Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has his way, the next attorney-general will also be a woman.

■ IT HAD been widely known for weeks that the main reason for Herzog’s visit to London this week was to attend a Genesis Foundation-hosted tribute dinner for the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. All details related to the dinner were kept under wraps, and an embargo on the actual night, coupled with the two-hour time difference between the UK and Israel, resulted in press releases from the Genesis PR people and Herzog’s representatives arriving at media outlets well after midnight, and in the case of print media, not appearing in Tuesday’s newspapers.

As far as electronic media were concerned, the event was upstaged by Israel’s first-ever EMI win for the KAN television series Tehran, the vaccination of schoolchildren, and the evidence given by his former aide Nir Hefetz in the trial of opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Secrecy is often employed in the news business in order for the outcome of an event to be revealed with a bang. In this case, secrecy had the opposite effect – at least in Israel.

The tribute dinner and the screening of a documentary tribute to Rabbi Sacks, his ideas and his impact, were in order to present his wife, Lady Elaine Sacks, with her husband’s Genesis Foundation posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.

At the dinner, attended by more than 150 distinguished leaders of the UK, friends of the Jewish community, and international leaders of Jewry, a video was screened in which Prince Charles spoke of Sacks as “an eloquent and moral presence in our lives and a global ambassador par excellence for the Jewish people.”

Herzog – who presented the award to Lady Sacks in the presence of Genesis Prize co-founder Stan Polovets, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Ephraim Mirvis, former UK prime minister Theresa May, British ambassador to Israel Neal Wigan, Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely, Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Burla, former Jewish Agency chairman and former Genesis Prize recipient Natan Sharansky and many other notables – said that Sacks became a masterful articulator of the Jewish foundation of universal values, while unapologetically verbalizing a proud, dignified Jewish identity.

■ WITHIN THE framework of the Jerusalem Biennale, the legendary Tmol Shilshom restaurant-cum-coffee shop-cum-library, in the capital’s Nahalat Shiva, hosted an evening which in Hebrew was called Ness o Botz, which literally translates as Miracle or Mud, but within the context of a coffee shop refers to instant or Turkish coffee.

The event was devoted to the history of 19th-century European coffee shops, with presentations by author Ora Ahimeir and Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy.

Few places if any in Jerusalem were more appropriate for such an event. Tmol Shilshom, located in one of the first Jewish neighborhoods built outside the Old City, retains its yesteryear ambience, including its adherence to Middle East meantime, meaning that everything is late. The event was advertised for 8 p.m. but didn’t start till 8:33 p.m., even though the inside room and the outdoor patio were packed well before 8. Of course, that did not signify an absence of stragglers. They kept coming till at least 9 p.m., and although every chair at every table was already taken, somehow seats were found for them. Food and beverages continued to be served during the presentations, and no one seemed to mind.

Even though people were almost sitting on top of each other, hardly anyone wore a mask, including waitstaff, and no one asked to see a green pass.

A lot of people came not only to listen, but to look at a mini-exhibition of old photographs of cafés, bars and coffee shops that were iconic 40 and 50 years ago, but no longer exist.

Fink’s, the famous bar whose clientele read like an international top-of-the-line list of politicians, entertainers, business executives, army brass and spies, in recent years became a branch of the Ne’eman coffee shop chain, and over the last couple of months was transformed into a hairdressing salon. Café Ta’amon, which was home away from home to the bohemian cultural heroes of the city, has evolved into a Superpharm outlet. Atara is one of McDonald’s kosher eateries. There’s another coffee shop on the site of where Alaska used to be, but no vestige remains of Kapulski, Feferberg, Café Alno or Chez Simon.

In 19th-century Europe, especially Vienna, the coffee shop was a place where people met with, talked to, and talked about, writers, artists and musicians, and discussed literature and philosophy. A person sitting all day in a coffee shop could get a broad education just by listening. In fact, according to Elior, for the price of a cup of tea or coffee, a person could spend a whole day in a coffee shop reading newspapers. Then, as now in some places, coffee shops were well stocked with newspapers for their clients to read.

Many writers found their inspiration in coffee shops. Best-selling novelist Aharon Appelfeld did all his writing in coffee shops, not much different from people sitting in coffee shops today and working on their laptops.

When Café Atara closed its doors on Ben-Yehuda Street in September 1996 after 58 years of operation, Haim Gouri, who was the nation’s poet laureate, declared that he was sad over the fate of Café Atara because every capital city should have coffee shops that pass from generation to generation. Gouri was referring not only to the proprietorship but the clientele. Atara was a place, he said, where not only the hoi polloi gathered but also the cultural elite. He recalled having met Agnon there. “If you wanted to meet anyone,” he said, “you went to Atara.”

■ IT’S HEARTENING to once again see lights twinkling in hotel windows and people coming and going through the revolving doors, but traffic has not picked up sufficiently to allow hotels to rest on their pre-COVID laurels. Many hotels are adding a series of attractions to improved service, more varied cuisine and upgraded decor.

At Jerusalem’s King David, general manager Tamir Kobrin is bringing in top-class entertainers such as singer Ester Rada and composer, singer and guitarist Micha Shitrit, and celebrity chefs such as Haim Cohen to cook up a storm together with the hotel’s executive chef, Roy Antebi. In addition, guests are taken on culinary tours to Mahaneh Yehuda market, where they experience the hustle and bustle of Friday shopping, but also get to taste some of the many flavors of the market.

■ SOCIAL WORKER Dr. Gili Tamir, who runs a nightly call-in program on KAN Reshet Bet in which she advises listeners on their rights, and sometimes even goes to bat for them when the situation is too complicated for a nonprofessional to handle, is on the warpath.

Tamir is furious that foreign caregivers whose employers died before the expiration of the caregivers’ work permits, as a result of which they found employment with someone else and stayed in the country longer than stipulated in the permit, are being denied the services of health clinics because the Interior Ministry refuses to approve their entitlement.

Although it might be an offense to remain in the country once the work permit is no longer valid, the people they care for depend on them and do not want a replacement.

The ministry tried to persuade Israelis to become caregivers, but it’s a job that even people in the most desperate of financial straits are reluctant to take. The interim solution during the period in which travel to Israel all but came to a standstill was to allow those foreign workers who were already in the country to remain and continue working, but to deny them basic services. Once things return to normal, they will have to leave.

The bureaucrats in the Interior Ministry don’t seem to realize that the bond that exists between a caregiver and a child with disabilities, or an elderly adult with disabilities, is something that should not be broken.

Tamir says that she will highlight cases histories related to the cruelty and indifference of Interior Ministry personnel until such time as the Knesset takes note and enacts appropriate legislation. Some other program anchors on Reshet Bet are doing the same as Tamir.

■ FOR MANY people, it is not enough to note the passing of a loved one with an engraving on a tombstone. They want to do something more meaningful that reflects something that was important to the deceased.

The sons of the late Helen Olivestone, who made aliyah from England at the age of 98, and lived to age 105, spending her declining years on Kibbutz Lavi, where one of her sons, Ellis, has lived for 50 years, came up with something that would please their mother greatly. Recalling how much their mother loved to play the piano, the Olivestones decided that the best way to honor her memory was to donate a beautiful grand piano to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where it could be used for concerts and by patients who know how to play piano, as a therapeutic aid to their recovery. Most of the arrangements have been made by the Jerusalem-based brother David Olivestone.

The presentation ceremony will fittingly take place during Hanukkah because the music emanating from the piano will bring light into people’s lives. On the day of the presentation, there will be a piano recital by Tom Zalmanov.

The Olivestone family originates from Warsaw and was originally called Oliwenstein. There are several versions of the name in use today, and the branch of the family that calls itself Olivestone has done considerable genealogical research, with professional help, into the family’s roots and shoots, and recently published the second edition of a family book, running to over 700 pages. This is a wonderful gift for generations who will have a well-documented starting point for their own research.

In 2012, there was a family reunion in Warsaw, with about 70 attendees from all over the world. The Israeli Olivestones are currently planning a second reunion to be held in Jerusalem in October 2022, during the week following Sukkot, and expect well in excess of 100 participants from around the globe.

They are hoping that Herzog, who is also of Polish and British background (among others), will be able to clear a small space on his timetable in order to receive the group, who collectively symbolize so much of Jewish history.

As Herzog is strongly family-oriented, trying to secure a meeting with him almost a year ahead should not be all that difficult.

Meanwhile, the Olivestones are honoring the memory of Helen Olivestone in the way she would like best.

■ FORMER BROADCASTER David Witzthum, lecturer on German history and culture and a former longtime broadcaster, is also a well-known musician. His combined talents and experience have placed him in high demand by travel organizations taking groups to Germany.

He will be leading a music history and art group tour to Berlin during December 8-15, where inter alia they will hear the Berlin Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Daniel Barernboim playing Don Carlo, The Magic Flute, The Rite of Spring, Fiddler on the Roof and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The tour will include visits to museums and walks through the historic areas of Berlin.

■ PRESIDENT OF the Federation of Chambers of Commerce Uriel Lynn, together with Zeev Lavie and Roy Roznek, last week welcomed a 17-member business delegation from Kosovo headed by Berat Rukiqi. Unlike Israeli chambers of commerce, the chamber in Kosovo, which was founded in 1962, is not an independent body, but is subject to the Kosovo legislature.

With the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Kosovo in February of this year, a gate was opened to trade relations.

At the signing of a bilateral memorandum of understanding between the Israeli and Kosovo chambers, Lynn said: “We extend our hand in friendship to the business sector of a country which historically has gone through so much hardship and so many shocking experiences.”

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