Grapevine November 3, 2021: Doctors in the house

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM LEFT: Itsik Kamilian, CEO of the Ambassador's Club; Erez Naane; Bahraini Ambassador Khaled Yusef al-Jalahma; Yitzhak Eidan (photo credit: KOBI MEHAGER)
FROM LEFT: Itsik Kamilian, CEO of the Ambassador's Club; Erez Naane; Bahraini Ambassador Khaled Yusef al-Jalahma; Yitzhak Eidan
(photo credit: KOBI MEHAGER)

In an effort to alleviate the shortage of qualified medical doctors in the country, Israel Experience, the Jewish Agency subsidiary, encourages young Jewish doctors to immigrate to Israel under the auspices of the Masa program and then places them in preparatory courses that will qualify them for work in Israel. The 14th preparatory cycle is now underway in Haifa.

Close to 700 Jewish doctors from Eastern Europe have already come on aliyah as part of the program, which is conducted in conjunction with Rambam Health Care Campus.

Organizers believe that the program can save both time and money, as participants come to Israel after completing medical studies abroad, whereas people studying medicine from scratch in Israel each cost the state approximately NIS 600,000, and spend six years studying before they become interns.

For each of the immigrant doctors, the cost of the course – which is designed to ensure that they meet Israeli standards of medical practice – is only NIS 40,000.

Lisa and Konstantin Chuikov came from Ukraine through the program. Konstantin said: “We experienced the war in Ukraine and treated corona patients while not being permitted to be protected from the virus. The possibility of being a doctor in Israel is a great gift for us.”

Also in the program is Katya Yakir. “From a young age, I have wanted to be a doctor. My brother Yevgeny today is a doctor at Ichilov [Hospital] after making aliyah with the program himself several years ago. So for me, participating in the program is a special closure,” she stated

Alexander Starvarov left his wife and three-year-old infant behind in Ukraine while participating in the program in Israel. His wife is studying clinical psychology in Ukraine, so they had to choose whether to come to Israel together or whether Alexander should come alone. In the final analysis, the importance he attached to being a medical practitioner in Israel won out, and the couple decided to be apart for eight months until they are reunited in Israel.

The program’s doctors are carefully selected from graduates of Eastern European schools of medicine recognized by the Health Ministry.

Israel Experience CEO Amos Hermon and chairwoman Hanna Pri-Zan are both very excited by the large number of doctors in the current cycle.

According to Avi Weissman, deputy director of Rambam Health Care Campus, these immigrant doctors could have come to any hospital in the world. But they are wanted by Rambam, which is fighting to expand the program. “Every graduate of the program has an excellent future in Israel,” he said.

■ THE AMBASSADORS’ Club of Israel often hosts a luncheon or dinner to welcome new ambassadors to the country, and to introduce them not only to fellow diplomats but also to businesspeople interested in trade and investment with their countries and to representatives of cultural institutions who are interested in cultural exchanges.

There was much more interest than usual in the guest of honor last week, at a dinner held in the spectacular Jaffa penthouse of lawyer and real estate entrepreneur Erez Naane, who builds luxury homes, lives in them for a while, then puts them up for sale. Naane loves to entertain, and this was not the first time that he made his home available to the ACI, but this time it was somewhat more crowded than in the past because everyone wanted to meet Khaled Yusuf al-Jalahma, the first ambassador of Bahrain to serve in Israel.

The ambassador displayed infinite charm and patience as ACI president and founder Yitzhak Eldan introduced him to a seemingly endless stream of people who wanted to meet him and be photographed with him. It was more than just posing for the photographers. Jalahma exchanged a few words and shook hands with each person.

Just as there are no free lunches, there are no free dinners – and the ambassador was obliged to give a speech. He had already said on other occasions how moved he was by the friendship and hospitality that he has experienced in Israel, but said so again, in an environment where he was once more engulfed in an atmosphere of warmth.

He admitted that he had initially been nervous about taking up his post. He had wondered, when the Abraham Accords were signed, who the first ambassador might be, and how that person would prepare himself for traveling in an unchartered diplomatic territory as far as Bahrain was concerned, but had never imagined that he would be chosen for the role. When it was offered to him, he thought for a minute and then reached the conclusion that this was the mission of a lifetime, and the opportunity to make the region in which he lives a better place.

He had many questions which kept multiplying because he knew practically nothing about Israel. But he realized that he had to be objective in every step he took, because of the beacon of hope that the Abraham Accords had brought to the region.

He discovered that there were similarities in Muslim and Jewish culture and religion as well as in popular sayings.

Asked what he would tell people in his own country and elsewhere in the region about Israel, he replied that he would advise them to come and see for themselves because the narratives in the Arab world have for a long time cast an adverse perception of Israel. In general, the Arab concept of Israel is based on what is shown on television news.

The ambassador said that he tries to understand how Israel looks at things “and not just how we do.” He also emphasized the need for Israel to try to do the same, vice versa, because of the importance of “how we look at each other and at different things.”

Israel often speaks of years of unsuccessfully attempting to make peace with other countries in the Middle East, but somehow overlooks the peace aspirations of at least some of those countries. The ambassador spoke of a vision 20 years ago of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in which he stated that a point in time had been reached for peace in the Middle East and beyond, and added that it was essential to move forward to create peace in the region through open dialogue, and to become stronger with less conflict in the region.

Naane told the ambassador that it was symbolic that the dinner in his honor was being held in Jaffa, which has one of the oldest ports in the world, and which is a symbol of coexistence. He presented Jalahma with a graffiti-style painting by pop artist Dan Groover in which the artist combined the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace in Hebrew gold lettering, but with the suggested flow of Arabic script.

It wasn’t the only gift that the ambassador took home with him. The ACI presented him with a basket of Israeli food products, and socialite businesswoman Olesya Kantor presented him with her Hebrew novel, Lev Esh (Heart Fire), which she claims is not an autobiography but a literary collage of stories that she has collected about different people and turned into a work of fiction. People who know anything of her background will also discern part of her own story.

■ IF ASYLUM-SEEKERS had a tough time with former interior minister Arye Deri, it looks as if the situation may be even rougher under current Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who, according to a report in Haaretz by Bar Peleg, has advocated for segregating schools so that children of asylum-seekers do not study together with Israeli children. In a meeting with Tel Aviv municipal officials and school principals, Shaked reportedly argued that the move she proposes would convince asylum-seekers to leave the country sooner.

Her thinking may stem from the memory of protest demonstrations some years ago by Israeli parents and students against the deportation of Israeli-born children of Filipino caregivers, who were sent out of the country together with their parents. The longer asylum-seekers stay in Israel, the more likelihood there is of them bringing Israeli-born children into the world.

It’s ironic that Israel honors people who provided shelter for Jews fleeing Nazism and other forms of persecution, but is unwilling to do the same for Africans fleeing from countries of conflict in which violence is rampant and schoolgirls are kidnapped, raped and forced into loveless marriages.

The only bright light in the situation is that, under Israeli law, all children, regardless of their legal status, are entitled to education

■ SOME OF the people who came from places beyond the Negev to commemorate the 104th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba – in which the 4th and 123rd Light Horse Regiments of the Australian Army and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade triumphed over the forces of the Ottoman Fourth Army, a victory that a few days later led to what subsequently became known as the Balfour Declaration – did not expect much of a turnout.

Due to restrictions imposed in relation to coronavirus, there was a very modest commemoration ceremony last year, and since the epidemic is still not over, the general expectation was that there would be sparse attendance this year.

But in fact, more than 200 people from all over the country showed up at three ceremonies held at the Park of the Australian Soldier, the Turkish Memorial Monument and the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. The ceremonies were organized by the Australian and New Zealand embassies, in collaboration with the Beersheba Municipality, Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce and the Israel office of the Zionist Federation of Australia.

In the absence of Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths, keynote addresses were made by Australia’s deputy chief of mission Matthew Wise.

New Zealand’s Ambassador Wendy Hinton, who is also the ambassador to Turkey, was unable to attend, due to diplomatic fallout in Turkey because she was one of 10 ambassadors who signed a letter demanding the release from prison of political activist Osman Kavala, who, after being incarcerated for years, has not yet been brought to trial.

The 10 ambassadors contended that his continued incarceration is a human rights violation, as a result of which they have all been declared persona non grata. Hinton’s deputy Nicole Slight was supposed to come to Israel for the ceremony, but in the long run, the New Zealand address was delivered by Lt.-Col. Brent Morris, who serves in Sinai.

Among the dignitaries present were Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel, Ambassador-designate to Australia Amir Maimon, British Ambassador Neil Wigan, Canadian Ambassador Lisa Stadelbauer, Turkish chargé d’affaires Mehmet Sekerci, Thomas Goldberger, who served as US deputy chief of mission in Tel Aviv and also served as director of the Office of Israel and Palestine Affairs at the US State Department, Rabbi Edward Belfer, a veteran immigrant from Australia, Rabbi Benji Levy, a somewhat more recent immigrant, Rev. Angleena Keizer, Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, as well as representatives of the Australian and New Zealand contingents of the Multinational Force and Observers.

Among the wreaths that were laid toward the conclusion of the ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery were tributes by most of the abovementioned as well as by Federation of Australian Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women, the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association, Kinneret Academic College-Tzemah train station, the Jewish Agency, Israel Defense Forces, JNF of Australia, Australian Zionist Youth Council and Surf Life Saving Israel.

Wise quoted from the memoirs and writings of Anzacs and historians as well as from Australian-Israeli freelance journalist and blogger Lisa Perlman, a former member of The Jerusalem Post editorial staff, who played an important role in drafting the English-language signs and texts in the ANZAC Memorial Center, which is in the grounds of the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Beersheba.

Wise noted that soldiers had been lost on both sides. He concluded his remarks by saying that what defines the ANZAC story and remains its legacy, are ingenuity, friendship, loyalty and courage.

Levy said that the ANZAC victory changed the course of history and that he is proud that the legacy of the country of his birth lives on in the country that he lives in today.

Morris, as is the custom among New Zealanders, began his address in the Maori language, then switched to English and underscored that the ANZAC conquest in the Battle of Beersheba was a crucial element in the subsequent allies’ capture of Jerusalem.

Danilovich said that as someone born and raised in Beersheba, he had always been curious about the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, which is a final resting place for heroes. In considering all of the fallen soldiers as heroes, he queried: “What would the world be like if the outcome had been different?”

Keizer urged those who had not yet done so to visit the ANZAC Memorial Center, where she had been moved to see that the fallen soldiers were not just numbers, but names with faces and history, recorded in files displayed and available to take home. Several people took advantage of her advice.

A recent tradition related to commemorating the Battle of Beersheba is the annual ANZAC trail bike ride, followed by an Australian-style barbecue and beer. The bike ride will be held on Friday, November 5, leaving at 7:30 a.m. from La Medavesh Bike Store at the entrance of Kibbutz Be’eri. Bikes are available for rental and can be ordered in advance by telephoning (08) 994-9374.

The event, organized by the Israel Life Saving Federation, whose leadership is largely made up of immigrants from Australia, is supported by the Australian Embassy. For further details contact [email protected]

■ ON NOVEMBER 9, the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), when the Nazis carried out a two-day pogrom against the Jews of Germany, a ceremony will be held in Vienna, where the Shoah Wall of Names, located in the city’s Ostarrichi Park, will be officially inaugurated.

The concept of the memorial wall containing the names of the 66,000 Austrian-Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazis was initiated by Kurt Y. Tutter, a Holocaust survivor who fled from Austria via Belgium to Canada. His parents were murdered in Auschwitz. The project has been fully financed by the Austrian government in an effort to create greater Holocaust awareness, and to ensure that “66,000” is more than just a statistic related to the victims, but to make people conscious of the fact that behind those numbers were human beings with names.

The inauguration ceremony will be attended by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who has been outspoken in condemning antisemitism, members of the Austrian Jewish community, members of the Austrian government and members of the European Jewish Congress. In addition, EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor will receive a state award from Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg at the Lichtenstein Palace.

■ WHETHER AUTISM is a condition in which the ratio of people of the Jewish faith is higher than that of other creeds, ethnic groups or nationalities is something yet to be determined. But the fact of the matter is that more attention is being given to autism in Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities than was the case in past years.

Coincidentally, following a study led by Cambridge researcher Rabbi David Sher, believed to be the first on autism within the UK Jewish community, the National Autism Research Center at Ben-Gurion University has received a donation of NIS 40 million from the Israeli- and Canadian-based Azrieli Foundation. The findings by Sher’s team are about to be published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The NARC is a collaborative endeavor between BGU scientists and clinicians from Soroka-University Medical Center.

The research center has been renamed and is now known as the Azrieli Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research.

Although the words “autism” and “autistic” frequently pop up in newspapers and magazines, it is doubtful whether those readers who do not have a relative with autism have a clue about what it is, and what it entails for a family with an autistic child.

Whether Sher’s study or the Azrieli millions can shed light on how to treat autism, and whether it can be detected and prevented while the embryo is still in the womb, are things that people involved with the subject are aching to find out.

■ SLOGANS ABOUT zero tolerance for antisemitism may attract more people to organizations and movements that are fighting all forms of racism and xenophobia, but there’s no known formula for totally eradicating hatred and incitement. People suffer discrimination and persecution for the color of their skin, the slant of their eyes, their faith, their nationality and their politics. There’s no logic to it – just a cesspool of intolerance and a deep well of ignorance.

Singer Dudu Aharon is part of a group of Israeli, African and American singers who are hoping to conquer antisemitism and other forms of racism by coming together to record a videotaped performance of “The Blessing Israel” – a series of songs in Hebrew and English based on well-known biblical verses.

 GALI ATARI performs in Tel Aviv in 1981. (credit: YAACOV SAAR/GPO) GALI ATARI performs in Tel Aviv in 1981. (credit: YAACOV SAAR/GPO)

“Israel can release many videos about antisemitism, but I believe that music can bring us together and unite [us],” said Aharon, adding how shocked he is when singing abroad to see the intensive security at synagogues in the US and Europe. He admitted to being afraid to wear a kippah in the street.

“There are differences in the world, but at the end of the day, the key is to get along together,” said Avraham Tal, who recalled that his encounter with antisemitism was in Marseilles, where he had gone to visit his grandparents and in the street had been called “dirty Jew.”

Others participating in “The Blessing Israel” are multiple award-winning country music singer Ricky Skaggs, who has an honored place in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Jacky Clark Chisholm, Narkis, Eden Meiri, Gali Atari, African singers Rahel Gatu, TY Bello and Mynah Rams, with the backing of Christian students from Passage, an American organization that brings Christian students to Israel.


The video has been released by Passage in collaboration with nonpartisan advocacy group StandWithUs.

■ INTERVIEWED ON Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet about her coverage as a young Army Radio reporter of the Madrid Conference in 1991, Ilana Dayan, widely regarded as one of Israel’s star broadcasters and interviewers, reminisced that with all the technological advances over the past 30 years, there were fewer technological hiccups in broadcasting from Spain to Israel than there are today on domestic broadcasts, let alone those from abroad. But what really bothers her about advanced technology is its effect on diplomacy, which she said is no longer what it used to be.

Today, leaders of opposing sides are no longer locked in a room where they can talk to each other face-to-face and possibly convince each other on certain issues, she said. “Today, telephones and social media have become the tools of diplomacy.” Even when there are face-to-face talks at international conferences, the atmosphere is different.

“In Madrid,” Dayan recalled, “there was still hope on all sides, including Right and Left, that there was a chance for peace and that a way would be found to divide the territory between Israelis and Palestinians. That hope no longer exists.”

■ IN AN online event last Thursday, Peres Center for Peace and Innovation chairman Chemi Peres was awarded the Reinhard Mohn Prize for 2020.

The prize, given in memory of the founder of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Reinhard Mohn, recognizes internationally esteemed individuals who have played a key role in developing solutions to the societal and political challenges confronting humanity.

The annual prize focuses on a different theme each year, thereby giving outstanding individuals in diverse fields the opportunity to be nominated. For the 2020 prize, the Bertelsmann Stiftung conducted a global search – under the heading of “Fostering Innovation – Unlocking Potential.”

The award generates thought on how innovative capacity can be promoted in Germany and in Europe: on the one hand, in order to remain both technologically and economically competitive, while simultaneously cultivating humane, just and democratic economic development.

■ DESPITE CONTINUING reports about violence and murder in Taiba, Michal Herzog, the wife of the president, accompanied her husband on a visit there this week, just as she accompanied him last Friday when he visited Kafr Kassem.

 MICHAL HERZOG (second left) with some of the women of Taiba who have endured violence. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) MICHAL HERZOG (second left) with some of the women of Taiba who have endured violence. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

While President Isaac Herzog spoke about making the eradication of violence in Arab society a national priority and thereby restoring personal security to all Arab citizens, his wife, who is a veteran criminal lawyer, met some of the women of Taiba who have experienced personal violence or violence against members of their families.

One woman, Hamasat Gabara, a widow with two daughters and son, said that five years ago her husband left for work and never returned. He was murdered, and life has been difficult for her ever since. Although she wants to be strong for her children, the widow has become an introvert who rarely leaves the house. She knows very little about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death.

Deeply saddened by the story, Michal Herzog’s spontaneous reaction was to say, “I have come here to hold your hand and embrace you.”

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