Grapevine: Remembering a day of triumph

Movers and shakers i Israeli society.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hilton PR manager Motti Verses in 2013 observing a photograph from 1996, when Netanyahu was a guest of the hotel, showing his reaction to the news he was elected to serve as Prime Minister   (photo credit: HILTON HOTELS ISRAEL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hilton PR manager Motti Verses in 2013 observing a photograph from 1996, when Netanyahu was a guest of the hotel, showing his reaction to the news he was elected to serve as Prime Minister
(photo credit: HILTON HOTELS ISRAEL)
From time to time, it’s nice to walk down memory lane, especially when there is visual evidence of the memory. The Tel Aviv Hilton, which has been in business for well over half a century, keeps photo albums of famous guests, as well as special dishes prepared by chefs, changes in décor, and other significant mementos. In November 2013, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived there for some important event, Motti Verses, the Hilton’s long-time PR manager showed him an item in the hotel’s ‘History Book’ reporting that in June 1996, Netanyahu had woken up in a suite on the 14th floor to the sound of shouts that proved to be an unofficial announcement that he was Israel’s new prime minister. That first photograph of him in that role was printed in the hotel’s History Book. Returning to the same suite, Netanyahu told his entourage that he remembered that moment as if time had never passed. Naturally Verses gave him a copy of the book. Netanyahu would probably give his eye teeth to hear those rapturous screams again.
■ ANYONE WHO witnessed the United Torah Judaism preelection rally, or the jubilant post-election rally by Shas following the announcements of exit poll results, could not help but notice the thousands of teenagers who in most cases will be of voting age by the time the next elections roll around. When charismatic Shas leader Aryeh Deri addressed the crowd, he looked so much happier than most other political leaders, and his joy was contagious because the huge crowd went wild with excitement. Shas and UTJ are likely to gain in strength in the coming decades because their constituents are blessed with large families. Perhaps a prime minister will emerge from their ranks.
■ OF ALL Netanyahu’s alliances over the years, one of the most enduring has been with his loyal friend and colleague Deri. If there is any truth in the stories about the PM’s wife Sara Netanyahu influencing his choice of associates, Deri has enjoyed a priority in her good books. Early in their friendship, Deri told her to simply strike out unflattering remarks from her consciousness. “Tasimi pas” (Cross it out), he repeatedly advised her, earning her endearment. Indeed, The prime minister was quite glad to welcome Deri back to political life following the conclusion of the period in which the law dictates that a convicted felon cannot be a public servant. This of course does not sit well with KAN 11’s Moti Gilat who chooses to ignore the fact that Deri has paid his debt to society, and smugly remarks that birds of a feather flock together.
■ YEDIOT AHARONOT REPORTERS have a gift for finding human interest stories. Needless to say, the paper also published one in connection with Tuesday’s election. When Ligal Diluya, a civil engineering student and Aviv Barlev, a sports teacher and a karate instructor, planned their wedding, they checked the calendar to ensure the date they chose would not conflict with some major event. The couple, who are both 28, breathed a sigh of relief after the April 9 election, which they took as an all clear signal for their September 17 nuptials. But then when Netanyahu failed to form a government and called for a new election, they discovered the date coincided with their wedding. The two worried this might affect attendance by the invited guests, notwithstanding the long hours of the polling stations. The bride and groom cast their vote at a polling station in Kiryat Bialik en route to their wedding canopy – she in her wedding dress, and he in his tuxedo. Memorably, she was photographed in her white bridal gown standing beside the blue ballot box.
Fears that guests would not show up were groundless. The only absentees were former colleagues of the bride’s father, who is a retired policeman. The colleagues who have not yet retired were on duty at polling stations.
■ ANYONE WHO today (Friday) tries to reach Laurence Weinbaum, who heads the Israel office of the World Jewish Congress and is the founding editor of The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, will find him in Warsaw where he is participating in a conference about the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII. An historian by profession, Weinbaum specializes in Polish-Jewish history and will be speaking on the History of the Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto: Deconstruction and Reconstruction in the light of research post-1989.
Another participant from Israel is French-born historian Renee Poznanski, who teaches at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and will be speaking about Jewish and French resistance during the German Occupation.
A third Israeli participant will be Yoav Gelber of the University of Haifa, who will talk about the Jewish Brigade in the British Army.
■ MEANWHILE, THE 15-member board of trustees of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum held its inaugural meeting in the Polish capital this week. Representing Israel is Colette Avital, who heads the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, and is herself a survivor. Avital views the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum as important to maintaining the memory of the Holocaust.
“The Warsaw ghetto is a symbol of death inflicted by the so-called human beings to other people, but also a symbol of dignity, creativity, resistance, and heroism,” she said.
Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, who was born in Long Island, New York, recalled that as a youngster one of the first things that he heard about Poland was the story of the Warsaw Ghetto. “It is our duty to build the best possible Warsaw Ghetto Museum,” he declared.
Małgorzata Naimska, deputy director of the Culture Office of Warsaw city hall, said: “We would like Warsaw to be known in the world as a city where there was no ghetto before the war; so that is known that it was created by the Germans; and that Warsaw is a free and open city.”
Artur Hofman, chairman of the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (TSKZ), actor and editor-in-chief of Słowo Zydowskie (Jewish Word), said that for many years the TSKZ has laid wreaths at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. It attends the annual ceremony on April 19 commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. “Historical knowledge is not the best these days,” he said. “Places like the Warsaw Ghetto Museum must remind people who was the executioner and who was the victim.”
Anna Stupnicka-Bando, chairwoman of the Polish Association of the Righteous Among the Nations, recalled how as a young girl she accompanied her mother to the ghetto to smuggle a loaf of bread and some beet marmalade to a family with many children. “I remember how the children, very skinny, on the pavements, were dying of hunger right before my eyes. I can’t forget it,” she said.
The Warsaw Ghetto Museum was conceived by Paweł Spiewak, director of the Jewish Historical Institute, who inspired the executive of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to take on this initiative.
The museum will open in April 2023 on the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
■ THERE’S A lot of diversity in the work of an ambassador – and not all of it is pleasant. One of the more emotionally uplifting recent tasks of Mark Sofer, Israel’s Ambassador to Australia, was to travel on behalf of Yad Vashem from Canberra to Nambour,
Queensland to present 90-year-old Gerry Zwart with the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations awarded posthumously to his parents, Marinus and Maria Josepha Zwart, who hid a young couple, their newborn baby son and two Jewish girls in their home in the Netherlands. The girls, Bela van Praugh and Bea Hartogs, were treated by their rescuers as part of their family. Bela van Praugh had a forged ID card listing her surname as Zwart. Nonetheless, she hid under the floorboards for long hours during a Nazi raid of the Zwart home, and remained in touch with the Zwart family after the war. Now living in Israel, she was unable to make the journey to Australia to be present at the presentation to Gerry Zwart, but sent a video-taped message along with her son Lex who traveled down under to express the thanks of his family to the Zwart family for their heroism.