Grapevine September 11, 2020: A Peres park

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

NOA KIREL (photo credit: SHAI FRANCO)
(photo credit: SHAI FRANCO)
 Although a formative part of his life was spent at Ben Shemen where he first met his wife Sonia, former president Shimon Peres chose not to be buried at her side in Ben Shemen, but to have his final resting place in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, among the leaders of the nation.
Nonetheless, at a joint initiative of Keren Kayemet LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, the name of Israel’s ninth president will be linked in perpetuity with Ben Shemen, with the creation of a park bearing his name. The laying of the cornerstone for the park, will be more or less in tandem with the fourth anniversary of Peres’s death, and will take place in the Ben Shemen forest on Monday, September 14, at 10:30 a.m. When completed, the park will have bicycle tracks, special tracks for horse riding, a running track and various observation points. There will also be a special section devoted to Peres’s connection to Ben Shemen, telling not only the story of his life, but also featuring some of his poems and letters that he wrote. The cornerstone ceremony will be attended by members of the Peres family and some of the loyal team which over the years followed him through various phases of his career, and continue to serve in the Peres Center, along with KKL chairman Daniel Atar for whom this project is special because it is being launched in the centenary year of JNF.
The date of the state memorial marking the anniversary of Peres’s death coincides with the arrival of a high level delegation from the United Arab Emirates. As Peres was a prime minister as well as a president, it would be natural for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to participate in the memorial ceremony, but the Peres people suspect he will try to earn political points in his address, and are adamantly against his participation.
■ A PARK was launched this week in Dimona in memory of actor and comedian Dudu Dotan, who was born in Dimona, and who died of a sudden heart attack in 2001 while on vacation in Turkey. In addition to being a popular stage and screen personality, Dotan was the formidable chairman of EMI, the Israeli union of performing artists, for whose members he fought angry battles. Dotan was born and died in the month of September.
Among those attending the launch ceremony were Dotan’s wife Miri, his children, his grandchildren, his brother and his childhood friend Moshe Edery, who today is one of the most important people in Israel’s film industry, and inter alia is the owner of the Cinema City chain of cinema banks. The launch was presided over by Dimona Mayor Benny Biton, who brought along some local performers. Excerpts from recordings of Dotan’s television programs were played, and the occasion was also used to honor Edery and his late brother Leon for their tremendous contribution to the cultural and leisure-time development of the city.
■ A SMALL park in Jerusalem was long ago named for pre-state Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov, who was secretary-general of the World Zionist Congress, and somehow found time to be a prolific author and translator. Major changes are taking place in the immediate and extended area surrounding the park. These changes will affect the lives of many people, some of who have voiced their anxieties to municipal representatives and to Elias Messinas , the urban planner of the Ginat HaIr Community Council. In order to help residents understand that whatever worries they have are shared by others, Messinas has convened a meeting at Sokolov Park on Sunday, September 13 at 9 p.m., primarily to enable concerned residents to get to know each other, but also to discuss some of the issues that bother them. The meeting will be held in strict accordance with Health Ministry directives. Participants will also be informed about the upcoming elections for the administrative body of Ginot HaIr, which are due to take place in November.
■ ISRAELI CIVIL servants, NGO representatives, journalists, bankers, businesspeople and even fashion models are flocking to the UAE, and soon Israeli tourists will be going there in droves. Israeli model May Tager and Anastasia Bandarenka, a Russian-born Dubai based model, last week engaged in a photo shoot which was headlined as model diplomacy. Tager draped an Israeli flag across her back while Bandarenka draped an Emirati flag across her back. The two were actually brought together to be photographed in Delta Israel’s new princess collection of Disney-inspired loungewear. Though the first Israeli model to officially participate as such in a photo shoot in the UAE, Tager arrived on her Danish passport. She is of mixed Yemenite and Danish background. It is believed that as of next week, Israelis will be able to enter the UAE on Israeli passports.
■ ANOTHER ISRAELI model, singer, actress and television hostess, Noa Kirel, will appear in the virtual gala of the Friends of the IDF on September 13. Kirel, who is currently doing her mandatory army service, seems get a lot of time off for other activities, which the army probably chalks up to public diplomacy. Also appearing on the program are Idan Reichel; Eden Alene,who will represent Israel at the next Eurovision contest; Netanyahu; Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz; IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi; Pastor John Hagee and Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. This year’s gala will also be by way of a farewell to FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res) Meir Klifi, who will be handing over responsibilities to Steven Weil on September 16. Weil is the first American to be appointed to this position.
■ AMONG THE most empathetic of broadcasting personalities, Michal Rabinovich of KAN 11, who is usually a news anchor but sometimes does investigative reporting, last Saturday night showed a video of a group of young Ethiopian women who have been living in Israel for more than a decade, but are now facing deportation and either death or slavery. All the women in the group were kidnapped as adolescents, gang raped, whipped and knifed. They were taken to Egypt where they were forced into prostitution, but told that if they could come up with enough money, they would be taken to the Israeli border. It was difficult for them to raise the required sum. They did every possible kind of odd job, in addition to working for their pimps, but eventually they were taken to the border, and found it not too difficult to cross. Their hearts raced with joy at the sight of Israeli soldiers. Once in Israel, they started to rebuild their lives. They all studied Hebrew, which they speak quite well. They worked and were able to pay the rent on decent apartments. Some got married and had children – and now the government wants to deport them. They are all terrified and say that Israel and the Israeli people have been good to them. If they have not caused any trouble, why deport them after all this time, and possibly separate them from their husbands and children? What could be crueler after all that they have suffered?
If Israel wants to introduce a law whereby it will no longer accept asylum seekers, let that be a future policy, but leave alone those who are already here and have been law abiding contributors to the economy. For goodness sake, Yad Vashem awards the title of Righteous among the Nations to non-Jews who sheltered Jews during World War II. Why can’t we be righteous Jews and shelter the refugees in our midst? Something to think about on the eve of the High Holy Days.
■ TO JOG our memories about the tribulations which Ethiopians, both Jews and non-Jews, have experienced, a regular online program in the lockdown learning series conducted by the Zionist Federation of Australia – at 1 p.m. on Sundays Israel time – features the official Netflix trailer of the 1979 rescue operation of Ethiopian Jews. It also features a panel discussion with former Mossad agents DanieI Limor; Raffi Berg, who wrote the book about the rescue on which the film is based, and Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom, one of the Ethiopians who was evacuated in the daring Mossad operation, and who came to Israel at the age of eight under the name Zaude Tesfay. His early years in the country were spent in an orphanage. He thought his parents were dead, and initially he was visited by an uncle and aunt whom he had not known in Ethiopia, and they became his family. One day the director of the orphanage – or the children’s center, as it was known – called him to his office. The boy was scared, thinking he had done something wrong. But it transpired that he had been misinformed about the death of his parents, and they, and other members of his family, had arrived in Israel the previous evening within the framework of Operation Moses. The little boy who came as an orphan today has a PhD and lectures in various universities.