Grapevine October 30, 2020: Absence of camaraderie and peace

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

RAN VAIZMAN (left); Tamar Greenberg Ben-Ari; the patient, David Bader; Sason Dabul and chapter head Ofer Levin. (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
RAN VAIZMAN (left); Tamar Greenberg Ben-Ari; the patient, David Bader; Sason Dabul and chapter head Ofer Levin.
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
Due to the pandemic, there were significant differences this year in honoring the memory of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin compared to events in bygone years. Perhaps most different was the absence from the airwaves in the days leading up to the 25th anniversary of Rabin’s death of his two favorite songs: “HaRe’ut” (“The Camaraderie”) written by Haim Gouri and put to music by Sasha Argov; and “Shir Lashalom” (“Song to Peace”) written by Yaakov Rotblit with music by Yair Rosenblum. It was first sung to army troops in the Sinai in 1969 by Miri Aloni, who remains identified with it to this day. She sang it at the peace rally at the conclusion of which Rabin was assassinated. It is the unofficial anthem of the peace movement, and for years in the days leading up to the anniversary of Rabin’s death it has been played over and over on radio stations. After the assassination, Naomi Shemer translated Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!,” which was written about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. She also composed a haunting melody to go with the Hebrew lyrics, and dedicated the song to Rabin. The three songs were barely heard this year – perhaps signifying the end of an era; perhaps because they are too frequently linked with the Left; perhaps because air time was taken up with coronavirus issues, the US elections and Israel’s current political maelstrom.
■ THE NUMEROUS photographs in the special Rabin supplement published on Thursday by Yediot Aharonot that included a double page spread of world leaders who attended Rabin’s funeral, illustrated how quests for power and glory are buried in the dust of history. A lot can happen in 25 years, and most of the people sitting in the front row have since died, including King Hussein of Jordan; Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, president Ezer Weizman; Shimon Peres, who was then prime minister; German chancellor Helmut Kohl, French president Jacques Chirac; UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali and other dignitaries. Among the very few front-row survivors are former US president Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Charles, the oldest crown prince in the world and in the history of England, who on November 14 will celebrate his 72nd birthday.
Without in any way denigrating diplomatic successes in the region, it should be noted that in addition to Hussein and Mubarak, the funeral was also attended by high-ranking Arab state representatives from Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia and south Lebanon.
■ BEING A Democrat has not prevented former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer from acknowledging that US President Donald Trump has been a great friend to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government of Israel with regard to Netanyahu’s priorities. Speaking during a Zoom event this week in a series hosted by the Jerusalem Press Club, Kurtzer said that there is no question that relations between the current US administration and the government of Israel are better than anyone would have imagined.
At the same time, he reminded JPC director Uri Dromi, with whom he was in conversation, that all American administrations have been committed to Israel’s security and that US president Barack Obama had made a 10-year commitment to American security assistance, with particular emphasis on the Iron Dome.
When asked to assess the outcome of the November 3 election, Kurtzer was hesitant, saying: “After 2016, we are all humble.” Although the polls indicated a sense that former vice president Joe Biden was prevailing, Kurtzer said that he doesn’t have much faith in polls, because a lot of people don’t respond to polls and some who do, don’t tell the truth.
Kurtzer who was ambassador from 2001 to 2005, had previously served in Israel as a political officer from 1982 to 1986, and had been a student in Israel in 1969.
■ A SECOND of silence on 24-hour radio is like an eternity. Generally speaking, even when dealing with catastrophic issues, radio broadcasters manage to maintain the flow. It wasn’t quite like that on Wednesday of this week when Kalman Libeskind and Yossi Liberman interviewed a man called Shlomi, who is still seriously ill with COVID-19. The Health Ministry is running commercials with people who have recovered but who have been left with what are likely to be lifelong aftereffects. Shlomi still has a long way to go to recovery, and spoke to Libeskind and Liberman about what it was like to see youngish men of his own age come into hospital feeling relatively well, and then within a day becoming critically ill, and then a day or two later being wheeled out because they had died. Shlomi shared the psychological impact of being exposed to such a sight again and again. Moreover, his mother had also contracted COVID-19, had been hospitalized in the next room and had died.
Shlomi was constantly afraid that he would be next. He also described his symptoms, and the pain that he occasionally felt. It was obvious from the tone of their voices that Shlomi had definitely hit a chord with both his interlocutors, who at the conclusion of the conversation were simply dumbfounded. The silence lasted for maybe two or three seconds – but it seemed like forever.
■ IN ALL the vast and varied media attention given to COVID-19, one very serious aspect does not receive sufficient media coverage – and that is the psychological effect that lockdown, isolation, loss of income, family tensions and actually being diagnosed as positive has on different individuals. Curious about the psychological aspects of the pandemic, President Reuven Rivlin visited Eran, Israel’s emotional first aid telephone service, and spoke with representatives of the Forum of Public Psychology Organizations. Since the start of the pandemic in Israel, Eran has received 240,000 emergency calls, 5,500 of which were suicidal. Of the total calls, 60% were about dealing with daily challenges such as finance and employment, mental health crises and identity crises. 86% of the callers suffered from emotional overload and asked about psychological treatment and the frequency of therapy sessions. In addition to staff, Eran has a large number of trained volunteers to respond to calls in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English.
■ JEWISH TRADITION has it that if someone dies on Shabbat or a holy day it is a sign that the person is a tzaddik(a) – a righteous human being. But what do you call someone who almost died on Rosh Hashanah but whose life was saved?
For reasons of privacy, the name of the Kfar Saba resident who got his life back is being withheld, but the credit goes primarily to United Hatzalah EMTs David Badar and Sasson Dabul, who in response to a call, rushed with defibrillator in hand, to a fifth floor apartment where they found anxious family members trying to give first aid to a 60-year-old man lying on the floor unconscious and without a pulse. While the two paramedics engaged in emergency treatment, a third United Hatzalah volunteer and ambucycle rider Ran Vaizman arrived and helped the other two with assisted breathing and compression. An ambulance team arrived 15 minutes later and joined in the effort to revive the patient. Then all of them joined forces to carry the patient down the stairs of the building to the ambulance. On the way to the hospital, Badar attached the defibrillator and continued with CPR. The patient was still unconscious when they reached the hospital, but with a pulse and regular blood pressure. Following the incident, Badar had to take two days off work, having strained his back through the intensity of the CPR that he performed. Tamar Greenberg Ben-Ari, another United Hatzalah volunteer, happened to be working in the hospital and maintained contact with Badar to advise him of the patient’s condition. Fortunately, the patient made a full recovery, and on the day prior to his release from hospital Badar and Dabul went to visit him. While at the hospital, they learned that had they brought the patient in any later, it is doubtful that he would have survived. This week, all four EMTs were invited to the man’s home for a happy reunion with him and his smiling and appreciative family.
■ AUSTRALIA’S STATE of Victoria was named after Queen Victoria, who was said to be very puritanical. Apparently, Victoria’s legal system is too. Dassi Erlich, the Melbourne woman who, with two of her sisters was a sexual abuse victim of religious school principal Malka Leifer – who has yet to be deported from Israel – was prevented earlier this year from talking to local or foreign media even though her case had been widely publicized for years. A draconian law made it a criminal offence for sexual assault victims to reveal their true identities when telling their stories. Now there’s an even more mind-blowing draconian law that Erlich has brought to the attention of her Israeli supporters. Happily, this law does not apply to her, but takes invasion of privacy to new depths. The legislation proposed by the Victorian government would ban relatives of murdered rape victims from mentioning the identity of the victim in social or traditional media, including material already published in print or online that would have to be pulled. Relatives would also be prevented from speaking to the media under their own names or sharing stories of their grief on social media, because in doing so they would enable the identification of the victim. After that, Israelis should not complain about our legal system.
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