Grapevine November 26, 2021: Romance at any age

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 NECHAMA AND Reuven Rivlin.  (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
NECHAMA AND Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)

Romance has no age limit. When two people are attracted to each other, their birth certificates are irrelevant. The media – both print and online – went overboard this week over the apparent romantic relationship between former president Reuven Rivlin and a lady in her 60s named Sarit Tzemach, who lives not in Jerusalem but in Ramat Gan. It’s hard to tell whether the media people were amazed that romance could blossom at age 82 or whether they were simply surprised given the intensely close relationship Rivlin had with his late wife, Nechama, who had a severe lung illness, and who died on June 4, 2019.

When the two sat together at events at the President’s Residence, they almost always held hands, and Nechama often circled her husband’s hand with her thumb. They also talked to each other about almost everything, and despite her condition and the fact that she had to take a mobile oxygen tank with her wherever she went, she kept up with the activities expected of a president’s spouse, even to the extent of accompanying her husband to India. Rivlin cut short a state visit to Canada when he learned that his wife had been hospitalized and rushed to her bedside. At the funeral service in the Jerusalem Theatre, he kissed her feet.

Perhaps because their affection for each other was so obvious and so well known, some media people may have been surprised Rivlin had found someone else to make him happy so soon after his wife’s passing. But he was lonely without her, and not embarrassed to say so. Everyone is entitled to be happy no matter how young or how old they might be. If Rivlin has found someone who makes him happy, then everyone should be happy for him.

■ ALTHOUGH THEY are not strangers to shelters for battered women, including Bat Melech, the shelter for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox women who have been abused by their husbands, and whose lives in some cases are at risk, President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, are always shocked when they hear first hand of the harrowing experiences women have endured – often in front of their children – and how difficult it was for them to pluck up the courage to leave everything familiar to start a new life.

This is much more difficult for haredi women, whose lifestyles and traditions are so different from those of secular women. The president and his wife were accompanied by Meir Cohen, social services minister, and MKs Keren Barak and Merav Ben-Ari, who chairs the lobby for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In addition to speaking to several women and listening to their stories, the Herzogs, who were introduced to the women by Bat Melech Chairwoman Zilit Jacobson and Director-General Noah Korman, also spoke to some of the children who are living in the shelter with their mothers, and were happy to learn that the youngsters are not missing out on their schooling, and that they also have plenty of opportunities to play.

The Herzogs each praised the women and encouraged them to stay on course. Michal Herzog called them “true heroines” and the president urged them not to look back. “Have no doubt, you have done something momentous,” he said. “You can’t begin to understand its magnitude for other women. It is not women’s fault. Don’t think for a moment that it is your fault. Nobody can stop this revolution. Keep going, and bit by bit, you’ll see the light.”

 YAIR SHAMIR unveils the monument at the entrance to the Yitzhak Shamir Promenade in Kiryat Malachi as (from left) Gilada Diament, Samuel Hayek, Oded Forer, Eliyahu ‘Lalo’ Zohar and Miki Zohar look on. (credit: MIKA GORVITZ) YAIR SHAMIR unveils the monument at the entrance to the Yitzhak Shamir Promenade in Kiryat Malachi as (from left) Gilada Diament, Samuel Hayek, Oded Forer, Eliyahu ‘Lalo’ Zohar and Miki Zohar look on. (credit: MIKA GORVITZ)

■ REGARDLESS of which political party they identify with, the descendants of deceased leaders of the nation, more often than not complain that successive governments have not given their father, grandfather or great grandfather, – whatever the case may be – the honor due to him. Even though former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and people of lesser rank have had streets and schools and other places named after them, and books written about them, their offspring feel that not enough has been done.

Case in point this week was businessman, retired air force colonel and former agriculture minister Yair Shamir, who following the naming of a promenade in Kiryat Malachi in memory of his father, prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, said: “Today they inaugurated a promenade in memory of my father’s work. He did not seek commemorations; rather it was important to him that his message be preserved regarding the importance of the People of Israel in its land. Unfortunately, Israeli governments have failed not only regarding my father but also with others with respect to their legacies, which is a shame. Without roots, how will the nation be built?”

The sad part is that the project was not a government initiative but a joint project of JNF UK and the Kiryat Malachi Municipality. Located at the entrance to the city, the Yitzhak Shamir Promenade is intended as a correction to a historical injustice, namely insufficient recognition of Shamir’s contribution to the state in his various roles before and after independence.

JNF UK Chairman Samuel Hayek, declared: “The inauguration of this promenade at the entrance to the city of Kiryat Malachi, which is chock full of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, is a necessary step on the road to correcting the historical injustice committed regarding Yitzhak Shamir’s legacy. 

“The late prime minister put these important waves of immigration, and the advancement and development of the entire periphery, at the top of the nation’s priorities. We will do everything we can to perpetuate his memory, and we will continue to work to provide equal opportunity for the inhabitants of the periphery.”

The promenade is not the first JNF UK memorial to Shamir. Two years ago, it engaged in a Yitzhak Shamir project in Sderot, and plans are afoot for another in Yeruham.

Kiryat Malachi Mayor Eliyahu “Lalo” Zohar noted that JNF UK has been supporting Kiryat Malachi for several years. “Yitzhak Shamir’s memory is felt in every corner of Kiryat Malachi, and for good reason,” he said. “Indeed, his contribution to the city was and still is profoundly significant in every aspect. The new promenade is the gateway to the city, just as this great leader deserves, and the next promenade to be built in the city will be named after the courageous lover of Israel, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, may his memory be for a blessing.”

World Chairman of KKL-JNF Avraham Duvdevani, described Shamir, as “an extraordinary man whose contribution to the revival and reconstruction of Israel was among the greatest of our generation.”

■ SINGER-guitarist David Broza is expected to join elected officials, musicians, community leaders, and other special guests in Times Square on Monday evening, November 29, to generate awareness of the rise of antisemitism at the Shine a Light hanukkiah lighting event, which will feature special performances and synchronized displays on billboards in celebration of the second night of Hanukkah.

November 29 is also the 74th anniversary of a latter-day miracle when the General Assembly of the United Nations voted in favor of the partition of Palestine, paving the way for the creation of the State of Israel.

A national initiative organized by the Relations Council of New York, AJC New York, ADL New York/New Jersey, the New York Board of Rabbis, the UJA Federation of New York in partnership with more than 60 American and Canadian Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, Shine a Light will illuminate iconic buildings in New York until December 6.

The November 29 event, which begins at 5.30 p.m. New York time, will be relayed on numerous social media platforms including Instagram @ShineALight_On; Twitter: @ShineALight_On; TikTok: @shinealighton; Facebook: @ShineALightOnAntisemitism; The full schedule of events can be seen on www.shinealighton.com

■ FRENCH USED to be the language of diplomacy, but eventually gave way to English on the presumption that more people in the world spoke English. Chinese dialects are also widely spoken, and so is German. Last week the German Embassy hosted “Germanit in the Haus” together with 16 organizations and institutions that identify with and promote the German language.

The event at the Max Liebling House in Tel Aviv included speed-dating in German, workshops on German calligraphy and various aspects of German culture, short Austrian films and more. Participants also enjoyed Bavarian beer and pretzels. German Ambassador Susanne Wasum-Rainer, who also speaks fluent Hebrew and English, and who will soon be concluding her term, was also on hand and commented that 15.4 million people in the world are studying in German, and that German is the most common mother tongue in Europe. She also noted that among languages spoken in the world, German ranks in 11th place.

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