Grapevine: Removing the stigma from Bnei Brak

One of the highlights of the activities of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Foundation is the annual gala at the Tel Aviv Hilton.

Yuli Edelstein (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yuli Edelstein
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has begun doing the rounds of medical facilities, and last week visited Mayanei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak. This was the first time that he had set foot inside this particular medical center in the heart of the ultra-Orthodox community. He was accompanied by deputy Health Minister Likud MK Yoav Kisch, senior members of the Health Ministry, and United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who serves as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee.
The tour began with a visit to the hospital’s mental health center that was opened only three years ago and is headed by Prof. Israel Strauss. Unlike several other psychiatric clinics that have an almost threatening aura about them, this one was built to look like a luxury hotel and has a policy of not forcing anyone to do anything against their will.
In fact, the atmosphere is so casual that Edelstein played a game of table tennis with one of the patients.
Led by Hospital director Shlomo Rothschild and medical director Prof. Moti Ravid Edelstein and his entourage also visited the cardiology and intensive care units, and were given a briefing by Ravid along the way.
Earlier in the day, Edelstein had visited the Maccabi health clinic, but Mayanei Hayeshua was the first hospital that he visited, a factor greatly appreciated by Rothschild.
Lauding both the professionalism and the humanism of the hospital, Gafni declared that it could serve as a model for other hospitals in Israel.
He stated that a grave injustice had been done to the residents of Bnei Brak who had been unfairly branded with a stigma which he hoped Edelstein would help to remove.
Edelstein, who admitted to having been impressed with what he had seen, replied that Mayanei Hayeshua would be treated like every other hospital.
■ MEANWHILE EDELSTEIN’s predecessor in office, Yaakov Litzman, who is now minister for construction and housing, is busy attending to new neighborhoods for the burgeoning ultra-Orthodox community. According to various reports, the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, is particularly interested in cutting the bureaucratic red tape which is holding up construction of a large new neighborhood on the former Atarot Airport in Jerusalem. The Gerrer Hassidic dynasty is the largest, wealthiest and most powerful in Israel. Litzman is a Gerrer Hassid and acts in accordance with the Rebbe’s orders.
The project has received most of the approvals needed, but is still encountering a few difficulties.
■ IN LAST Friday’s Grapevine, there was mention of how Iran is grabbing headlines in areas other than the nuclear threat.
One of the largest communities of Iranian Jewish expatriates resides in California which is also home to Jimena (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa). Jimena is dedicated to preserving the history, culture and traditions of Jewish communities from all the countries which come within the scope of its activities, and this month the focus is on Iran.
In its Iranian Jewish Women’s series running in three consecutive lectures this week on social media, Jimena is featuring Jacqueline Saper on June 23, Dr. Galeet Dardashti on June 26, and Dr. Sharon Nazarian on June 28.
Saper’s talk is titled “From miniskirt to hijab: a girl in revolutionary Iran.” Dardashti will discuss Persian Jewish music and pre-Kabbalat Shabbat; and Nazarian will talk about global antisemitism in 2020. Full details are available on the Jimena website.
■ ONE OF the highlights of the activities of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Foundation is the annual gala at the Tel Aviv Hilton, which in addition to a sumptuous dinner, features great musicians and singers presenting diverse programs ranging from classics to jazz.
Last year’s gala was particularly memorable in that it was a farewell tribute to the orchestra’s long term director Zubin Mehta on his retirement after heading the orchestra for 50 years. Even so, Mehta will make an appearance at this year’s gala, albeit a virtual rather than a live appearance. For the first time in its almost 84-year history, the IPO will not be giving a live concert-hall performance, and the gala will not be at the Hilton. However orchestra members will be performing to the world at large via the Medici TV website. Full details will be available on the IPO website.
The Gala is scheduled for Sunday, June 28, at 9 p.m. Israel time, and is free of charge, though donations will be greatly appreciated. Three of the major financial supporters of the IPO have pledged to double every $200 donated in honor of the Gala.
The event will be moderated by renowned British actress Dame Helen Mirren, who even without her title had noble blood in her veins and a connection to the royal family. Her name on her father’s side was originally Mironoff. Her father was descended from Russian aristocracy. Her mother could not boast a similar pedigree, but her maternal grandfather was the butcher to Queen Victoria.
Lahav Shani, who succeeded Mehta at the IPO and in addition to being musical director is a world acclaimed pianist, will be appearing at the gala with members of the orchestra. Others on the program include Yitzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Amanda Forsyth, Yefim Bronfman, Yevgeny Kissin, Andras Schiff and Chen Reiss, as well as several additional fine musicians. It may not be as exciting as being in the same room with any of the above, but then again, it would be extremely rare to have all of them performing at the same concert. In the final analysis, the gain is far greater than the loss.
■ PEOPLE IN desperate economic straits often do things which they might not do otherwise. That was the case 12 years ago of a woman who gave birth to her second child under the most difficult of physical and economic circumstances. When she was released from Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, she was so poor that she could not afford to buy an outfit for her baby, and took him in the clothes that the hospital provides for newborns while they are in its care. In a heart-warming article in Yediot Aharonot last week, readers learned that over the years, the woman’s fortunes improved dramatically and she was able to donate to various causes.
However, the fact that she had taken something that did not belong to her from the hospital rankled, and weighed heavily on her mind until she finally decided to write an anonymous letter of explanation, signed only Mummy and accompanied by 20 brand new babies’ outfits. She asked that the outfits be given to new mothers in dire economic circumstances, so that they could dress their babies nicely when leaving hospital. Ella Aronson-Roth, the head nurse in the neonatal ward, said that every month there are women in financial need who give birth, and the hospital actually has a stock of baby clothes to give to them, but that these new outfits were very special given the history of the donor.
■ EVERYONE WHO was adversely affected by the coronavirus lockdown is eager to get back to what they were doing before the pandemic – especially those people engaged either as employers or employees, and even more so those involved in bilateral and multilateral enterprises. A case in point is David Yaari, the CEO of the Arizona Trade and Investment office that was opened last November in Tel Aviv.
Previously an entrepreneur and business leader with a strong background in technology and finance, Yaari was appointed by the Arizona Commerce Authority.
Yaari could barely wait to resume his efforts to further develop the trade and investment relationship between
Arizona and Israel, and last week discussed the matter with Minister for Water Resources and Higher Education Ze’ev Elkin.
The two noted the geographic and climatic advantages of both Israel and Arizona, and how they could benefit each other as economic hubs. Two-way trade between Israel and Arizona in 2018 stood at $460 million, which was more than double what it had been in 2010. Both Yaari and Elkin saw potential for far greater increases.
■ THE ROLE of an ambassador is to enhance relations between the country which he or she represents and the ambassador’s host country. This will be quite difficult for Sweden’s Ambassador Designate Erik Ullenhag, who is due to take up his post in September.
Ullenhag is outspokenly anti-Israel, yet for some reason, the Foreign Ministry has opted not to reject his inclusion in the foreign diplomatic community in Israel. Ullenhag will certainly not be the first hostile ambassador to Israel. Ross Burns, a former Australian ambassador who served in Israel from July 2001 to September 2003, had previously served in Syria, a country with which he was greatly enamored and about which he has written books and essays. While in Israel, he put on a diplomatic face, but once he was back in Australia, he wrote virulently anti-Israel articles in the Australian press – and he’s still at it.
■ IT’S LEGITIMATE to lampoon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a satirical comedy show, but it’s not legitimate for a car dealer to get someone to imitate Netanyahu’s voice for the purpose of selling a certain brand of automobile. Unfortunately it’s a very good imitation, except for the guffaw at the end. There are naïve people out there who will fall for this gimmick, which comes very close to conning the public. Apparently it has escaped the attention of Yair Netanyahu who surely would have taken the advertiser to task.