The High Holy Day liturgy contains a passage from Psalm 71: “Forsake me not in my old age.” Some translations start with the words “Abandon me not,” and others with “Cast me not off.”
Regardless of the choice of language, the message is the same. People who have survived into old age should not be ignored or discarded. They have souls, they have feelings, they still have the ability to be creative and to contribute, and moreover they are walking history who can guide the next generation to the future because they have lived through the mistakes of the past.
No one should point a finger of blame at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former health minister Ya’acov Litzman, current Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, National Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu or anyone else involved in policies related to attempts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. They are all walking in the dark, and doing their best to find the light. However, in their efforts for the greater good they have overlooked the loneliness and the suffering of the most senior members of Israel’s society, too many of whom were forced to spend the twilight of their lives alone, transferring into the next world without the company or embrace of a loved one to farewell them on their way.
Some spent weeks alone in hospitals while the coronavirus sapped them of the last vestiges of their strength. Surely some provision could be made for a relative dressed in protective gear to sit at the bedside. Even some of those who have been sufficiently fortunate to evade the virus say that they would rather take the risk of becoming infected than to be confined to day after day loneliness. Almost every retirement home has a large garden in which there are many benches. Surely relatives of residents can be rostered to come at certain times on certain days to sit outside with their loved ones, not specifically two meters apart, but at least one meter apart.
The people who make the rules that separate the elderly from their families may become emblematic of the old proverb: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” One day, they too will be old.
■ THE MEDIA have rarely been kind to Sara Netanyahu, but its negativism where she is concerned is not always warranted. While her husband is known to be a superb international diplomat, it should be noted that Sara Netanyahu has a few diplomatic talents of her own.
Some people may recall that at the funeral of Shimon Peres that was attended by many world leaders and high-ranking representatives of state and government, it was Sara Netanyahu who engaged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in conversation, when just about everyone else was ignoring him.
Her diplomatic skills also came to the fore in Central America in December 2018, when she led an official Israeli delegation to Guatemala as the guest of Patricia Marroquin, who was then Guatemala’s first lady. The purpose of the visit was to lay the cornerstone of a new neighborhood, which literally became the Jerusalem of Guatemala, and was being built for the many families and individuals left homeless following the eruption of the Volcan de Fuego in June of that year. During the official state reception in her honor, Guatemala’s then-president Jimmy Morales telephoned his good friend and neighbor Juan Orlando Hernández, the president of Honduras, to whom he introduced Sara Netanyahu.
In her phone conversation with Hernández, Netanyahu suggested that he follow Guatemala’s example and move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Less than two years later that conversation bore fruit, and health situation permitting, Hernández hopes to move the embassy before the end of this year. Unless someone puts up a plaque within the embassy as a reminder of that important telephone conversation, it’s doubtful that anyone will remember Sara Netanyahu’s contribution to the advancement of diplomatic relations between Israel and Honduras, but some future historian will find it in the digital archives of The Jerusalem Post.
■ ON WEDNESDAY OF this week, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt Amira Oron finally presented her credentials to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. She was one of 15 new ambassadors who in a masked ceremony presented their letters of credence to Sisi. The others were from Uruguay, Portugal, The Vatican, the Republic of Korea, Bangladesh, Sudan, Denmark, Ethiopia, Hungary, the European Union, The Netherlands, Belgium, Kazakhstan and Lesotho.
A veteran diplomat who speaks fluent Arabic, Oron was initially selected for the post two years ago, but Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to appoint one of his Likud loyalists, and Oron’s appointment was not endorsed by the government. Approval finally came in June of this year, after Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi reached an agreement.
Oron’s predecessor, Daniel Govrin, left last year and the void was filled in the interim by Charge d’Affaires Eyal Sela.
Although she is Israel’s first woman ambassador to Egypt, just a few months more than 40 years after Israel’s first ambassador to Egypt, the late Eliahu Ben Elissar, made history, she is no newcomer to Egypt. In a previous assignment to the Israel Embassy in Cairo, she worked as deputy spokesperson to the media of the Arab world. In an interview on Wednesday on Reshet Bet, she told Esti Peretz-Ben Ami that she was being very well treated in Egypt and that many people remembered her from her previous posting.
She is the second woman to be named Israel ambassador to an Arab country, although she has previously served as ambassador of another Muslim country, serving for two years as Israel’s ambassador to Turkey.
The other female Israeli ambassador to an Arab country was Einat Klein, who served as ambassador to Jordan.
■ FOR MORE than a year there had been random articles in newspapers around the world with regard to Armenia’s intention to open an embassy in Israel. When that finally happened last week, it was such a low-key event, it barely received a mention in the Israeli press, although it was widely reported in Armenian media. The opening of the embassy in Tel Aviv was initially planned for early this year, but the pandemic got in the way.
Israel and Armenia established diplomatic relations in 1991, following the latter’s independence from Soviet rule. Armenia refrained from opening a diplomatic mission in Israel due to Israel’s reluctance to recognize the genocide inflicted on the Armenian people by the Turks. Although there were individual Israeli politicians and certain prominent journalists who called for recognition, Israel put a high priority on its relations with Turkey and continued with its policy of non-recognition. Armenia’s ambassador to Israel was non-resident and stationed in Cairo, paying three or four visits a year to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, for the past quarter-century, Jerusalem-born Tsolag Momjian, a prominent member of the local Armenian community, has served as Armenia’s honorary consul, carrying out duties which to all intents and purposes were on a par with those of an ambassador.
If Karen Grigorian, Armenia’s ambassador to Egypt, cares to come to Jerusalem, it will probably be to visit the Armenian patriarch. He won’t be coming as an ambassador to Israel, because that title belongs to Armen Smbatyan, who inaugurated the embassy together with Itzhak Carmel Kagan of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
■ IT’S A fishy story, but not in the usual sense of the expression. Israeli businessman Moshe Indig jumped on the bandwagon, went to Abu Dhabi and met up with some United Arab Emirates businessmen from Arabian Gulf Investments, which is headed by UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
The outcome of their discussions was an agreement to build one of the biggest fish ponds and fish-processing plants in the world, where they intend to cultivate top-quality fish to replace imports from Scandinavia and Europe. They were discussing a yield of around 20,000 tons a year. The estimated investment in constructing the infrastructure for the project is €150 million. The businessmen whom Indig met included Arabian Gulf Investments chairman Khalifa Almeharbi, vice chairman Khalifa Alhammadi Fathi bin Grira and acting general manager Abdulla Al Rustumani.