Grapevine, October 9, 2020: Question time

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN at the Mitchashvim workshop.  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN at the Mitchashvim workshop.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Among the questions that Israelis have to ask themselves when casting aspersions at the relatives of public figures is how much control public figures have over their kith and kin.
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett has accepted responsibility for the fact that his 15-year-old son hosted his girlfriend at their home over Yom Kippur, even though Bennett had no prior warning that the visit would be taking place. What was Bennett supposed to do once she was already there – throw her out, especially on Yom Kippur? And then there’s the matter of the prime minister’s wife inviting a hair dresser to the residence during lockdown.
She was about to appear in a public service video, and therefore wanted to have her hair done. Her explanation was that female news presenters on television are always beautifully coiffed, so she was under the impression that in order to look her best in the video it was also permissible for her to be well coiffed.
In the eyes of the Israeli media, Sara Netanyahu can never be blameless of anything. What may have been an innocent mistake on her part became a major international news item, which directly or indirectly pointed the finger of blame at her husband, who may have been totally unaware of the presence of the hair dresser. Although, due to his many television appearances, he has his hair done frequently by the same hairdresser, Yaniv Malka, who has been primping him for years. Sara Netanyahu has had a series of hairdressers, but also makes use of Malka from time to time.
Two years ago, when Sara Netanyahu led a Foreign Ministry delegation to Guatemala, there was a hue and cry over the payment of her travel and accommodation expenses on the grounds that she is neither an elected nor appointed representative of the State of Israel. If that’s the case, what’s the big deal about the hair dresser? Still, she may have inadvertently become the heroine of the beauty parlor business in that the exaggerated publicity given to her request that Malka come to fix her hair, has led many hairdressers around the country to announce that they are reopening in response to desperate demands by their regular clients.
■ THIS WEEK, considerable media coverage was given to President Reuven Rivlin’s visit to the Israel Police Command Center to express his appreciation and support for the work that the men and women of the various units of the Israel Police are doing during the pandemic. The command center is more than a kilometer away from the President’s Residence, and Rivlin could just as easily have used a social media platform from which to convey his message.
Earlier in the month Rivlin visited the workshop of Mitchashvim, a national initiative to ensure that in an era of long-distance learning, children from low income families will be provided with computers.
The press release from the president’s office did not say that the Mitchashvim workshop is located at Western Digital, which according to its website, is much further away.
On its Facebook account, Western Digital enthused over Rivlin’s visit and his support for the project, which involves taking apart used PCs, laptops and tablets and rebuilding them for the use of students.
Both visits were conducted during the lockdown period when Rivlin was exhorting the rest of the population to follow the Health Ministry guidelines.
■ FOR PEOPLE whose attitudes to differences in skin color are much the same as their attitudes to differences in the color of hair or eyes, racist bias is something unfathomable. Surely, the color of one’s skin should have no bearing on that person’s character, intellect or agility. There are good and bad individuals in every ethnic group, there are clever people and there are idiots and there are people who move like gazelles and others who are clumsy. But skin color has nothing to do with any of the above. No one should be liked or disliked on the basis of the color of their skin, but rather on their actions.
Ethiopian-born Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus in August, while recuperating received an unbelievable amount of racist hate mail on social media platforms Some actually accused her of being the cause of the virus.
Several weeks ago, retired Israel Air Force general Brig.-Gen. Amir Haskel, who is one of the leading figures among demonstrators seeking to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office, got into both a verbal and a physical scuffle with members of the Border Police, one of who was a female of Ethiopian background. He asked her if she wasn’t ashamed to be arresting him. “I brought your parents to Israel,” he told her.
During his long career in the IAF, Haskel was involved in operations to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He has no way of knowing whether the parents of the policewoman were among them. He later made a half-hearted apology, after his remarks had been circulated on social media and had received angry reactions, including allegations that he was a racist. He subsequently apologized properly, but it was a little late in the day.
Even if he is not a racist, there is something sickeningly patronizing in the attitudes of some people who have been involved in secret missions to bring non-Europeans to Israel.
Haskel’s remark was reminiscent of something said to military historian Ami Gluska when he was military attaché and spokesman for president Chaim Herzog. In November 1986, Gluska was part of Herzog’s entourage, when Herzog paid a state visit to Australia. Among the many Jewish dignitaries who Herzog and his delegation met in Melbourne, was Doron Ur, an Israeli expatriate who served as executive director of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies.
On meeting Gluska, Ur told him that he had been involved in bringing Gluska’s Yemenite parents to Israel on Operation Wings of Eagles, which is also known as Operation Magic Carpet. Gluska smiled, shook his head and quietly told Ur that he was mistaken, but Ur remained insistent. The problem was that he hadn’t bothered to check Gluska’s details in the biographical notes on the delegation. Operation Magic Carpet took place during 1949-50, but Gluska was born in Petah Tikva in 1943.
■ WITH FRESH outbreaks of antisemitism occurring daily in the world, it is difficult for Jews to imagine that there are tens of millions of Christians who are extremely pro-Israel and who are actively combating antisemitism. Just as various Israeli and Jewish publications assemble annual lists of the 50 or 100 most influential Jews, the Christian Allies Foundation, in honor of Sukkot, has published the first of what it promises will be an annual list of Israel’s top 50 Christian Allies. While most of the people on the list are Americans, others live and work in several other countries.
All the people named have over the years been recognized by various Jewish organizations. They have not only mustered support for Israel, especially those who are affiliated with Christian broadcasting networks – but have also contributed to Israel’s economy by consistently leading large groups of their followers to Israel.
“The list includes internationally known pastors, former politicians, organizational leaders and recognized businessmen and women in leadership who have been recognized high profile defenders and advocates of Israel worldwide in 2020,” says foundation President Josh Reinstein, noting that the organizational mission of each of the people on the list is to mobilize global support for Israel: “These Christian leaders were selected to be honored in recognition of their consistent conveyance of a deep love and support of Israel,” he emphasizes. Among the more familiar names to Israelis are: Dr. Jürgen Bühle, president of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; Dr. Naim Khoury, founder of the largest Arab Church in Israel and the disputed territories and Dr. Petra Held, director of the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel.
Some of the other well known figures on the list include Laurie Cordoza-Moore, founder and president of the pro-Israel advocacy group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations; Earl Cox, founder of Israel Always; Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, (who has been diagnosed with coronavirus); Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network and Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas.
■ THE DESIRE among entertainers to perform is so great that they are willing to endure the trauma of performing on the stage of an auditorium devoid of audience. On the other hand, they are aware that their performance, whether on Zoom or Facebook, is being watched by many more people than the number which the auditorium can accommodate, so with that uppermost in their minds, they are reaching out further than usual. At the International Convention Center Jerusalem, there were Sukkot Live performances every evening throughout the festival, with a different performer each evening. On one such evening, Yonatan Razel hosted Amir Benayoun.
Both are noted as unique performers, and to have both on the same stage in the Ussishkin Hall was a feather in the cap for Rakefet Illouz, ICCJ’s deputy director of marketing and business development. Benayoun promised her that when the crisis is over, he would return to sing in front of a live audience.