Grapevine: People who are invisible

At a staff meeting, the invisible person may have the best solution for a problem that is under discussion, but is never given the chance to propose it.

ZAKA volunteers recovering one of the Har Adar terror attack victims (photo credit: Courtesy)
ZAKA volunteers recovering one of the Har Adar terror attack victims
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are people who, regardless of their size or their profession, are invisible. At a cocktail reception, they come to the bar and even if they happen to be the first to stand there, they are not the first to be served. People who come after them are noticed – but they are not. At a social gathering, they stand with a cluster of people, when a relative stranger joins the group and is introduced to everyone other than the “invisible” person. At a dinner party, they try to contribute to the conversation, but even though what they have to say may be extremely pertinent, they are ignored, and every time they open their mouths, someone else at the table instantly interrupts and talks louder, drowning out the invisible person before he or she is able to enunciate more than two or three words. At a staff meeting, the invisible person may have the best solution for a problem that is under discussion, but is never given the chance to propose it, because each time the invisible person tries to speak, no one else present listens.
Artist and author, Libby Bergstein, who worked with both Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert when each served as mayor of Jerusalem, is sensitive to the subject of the invisible woman because she has several invisible friends and has witnessed their efforts to be noticed while remaining overlooked. This inspired her to write a Guidebook for Invisible Women: A past of “feeling invisible” and the beginning of a process of transformation. Few people who know Bergstein – who oozes self-confidence – would believe that there were times when she, too, felt invisible.
Despite the fact that she worked on special events with the two mayors and was on first-name terms with a long list of local, national and international dignitaries, there were times that she was totally ignored, and she would ask herself if she was invisible.
But she didn’t leave it at that. She continued the train of thought, saying that if it was true that she was invisible, who and what made her feel that way? She understood that she needed to embark on a journey, but one without a specific destination or timetable. She was traveling on this journey without a suitcase or a passport. All she had with her was her artist’s sketch pad and a pencil. On the first page she jotted down some guidelines. On the second page she wrote: Guidebook for Invisible Women.
As she wrote, she discovered things about herself and her friends, not to mention countless women who suffer from invisibility.
For women who have this problem and want to overcome it, the book is available on Amazon.
■ ON THE subject of invisibility, in too many Israeli apartment complexes – even the relatively small ones in which there are a dozen apartments or fewer – the neighbors do not know each other and – prior to COVID-19 – made little or no effort to get to know each other. Participation in balcony celebrations and prayer services changed this situation, but not entirely, so much so that ZAKA, the volunteer organization that responds to emergency search and rescue operations in cases of terrorist attacks, traffic accidents and suspected foul play, has mounted a door-knock campaign. They’re not asking for money, explains ZAKA founder and chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav; they just want to make sure that people who live alone are still alive. The initiative for the campaign started as a result of several calls to apartment complexes in which a terrible stench emanated from one of the apartments in the building.
When there was no response to a knock on the door or a ring of the bell, police broke in and discovered that the the apartment dweller had passed away days and sometimes weeks earlier, and that the body was decomposing. ZAKA was called in to ensure that the remains were removed in a dignified manner for proper burial.
During isolation and the novel coronavirus lockdown, neighbors see even less of each other than they did before, and therefore, a daily door knock at the apartments of people who live alone is a must, says Meshi-Zahav. During the present crisis, ZAKA has expanded its activities to include food deliveries. In an article in a recent edition of B’Sheva, a National Religious weekly tabloid, ZAKA spokesman Moti Buckstein relates that since the second wave of COVID-19 infections, ZAKA has been distributing food to people aged 67 and over. At one of the apartments where he had brought food, the elderly woman told him that she is not in need of food or money. She was a widow with a son who works as an engineer in the United States, and he keeps her well provided. Her other son died, and what she really needs, she said, is companionship.
She begged Buckstein to come and sit with her for a while, because she was terribly lonely and had no one with whom she could talk. He sat for 20 minutes while she spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust. The time that he spent with her, convinced him – more than ever – how essential it is to knock on the doors of people living alone.
ZAKA actually initiated the door-knock campaign several months before the coronavirus hit Israel. ZAKA put together a list of people living alone and the languages they spoke so that whoever came to visit them from the organization, could converse with them in a familiar language. Once the coronavirus set in, it became increasingly difficult for the system to operate.
Even if neighbors are reluctant to knock on the door, they can telephone daily, or they can get their children to “adopt-a-neighbor” and have a daily telephone conversation with their adoptee or, if they happen to live on the same floor, they could have a daily balcony-to-balcony conversation.
■ AS FAR as food is concerned, the various organizations that distribute food to the poor and the needy are fearful that they will soon run out due to restrictions placed on catering halls and restaurants, which were among their primary suppliers.
Joseph Gitler, the founder and chairman of Leket, one of the largest suppliers of food for the needy, says that there is a new reality on the ground with no foreseeable end due to the fallout factor of the corona-accompanying economic crisis. Over the past four months Leket Israel has delivered 1,100,000 cooked meals and 8,100 tons (17.9 million lbs.) of produce to people in need. But this is not enough, says Gitler, noting that the needs will increase as Israel’s middle class gradually becomes part of Israel’s poor and needy. People – who themselves used to donate to charity – will soon be receiving charity. Some do already.
Leket now needs financial donations in order to be able to purchase food for the poor. It is terribly sad when walking through the markets and seeing fine examples of fresh fruits and vegetables, is knowing that so much of this produce will go to waste because there are so few shoppers.
■ DESPITE THE economic downturn, there are foreign investors who believe in better days ahead, and are getting in on the ground floor of a brighter tomorrow.
Yediot Aharonot reports that Maison Kayser, the global French baked goods company with 250 branches world-wide, is coming to Israel. Although the company was launched in September 1996, by baker and food writer Eric Kayser, he is, in fact, a fourth-generation baker with a passion for what he does. His first bake shop in Paris was an instant success and led to the opening of many more branches there, where there are 28 today.
Other locales to where he has expanded include Tunisia, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Japan, Ukraine, the UK, Cambodia, Morocco, Senegal, South Korea, Lebanon, the UAE, Chile, Indonesia, Singapore, Colombia Mexico, the US, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Nigeria and now, Israel.
Kayser opened his first overseas branch in Tokyo in 2001.
In Israel – as in New York – the groundwork was laid for him by French immigrant pastry chefs, some of whom are excellent professionals. Kayser, the winner of many prestigious awards, is just that much better and he has a known reputation among French immigrants who are looking for a taste of the old country.
His first Israeli branch is due to open at the Port of Tel Aviv in August. He is taking over 550 meters of space previously occupied by two well-known restaurants that have closed.
In addition to selling baked goods over the counter, the enterprise will include a coffee shop and a bake shop for deliveries. It will operate seven days a week and, in addition to cakes and cookies, will sell 25 varieties of bread and baguettes.
Two more Israelis branches are planned for Rothschild Boulevard (where the French Institute is located), and for the Midtown Towers.