Grapevine: The Bible unites us

This week's social news.

(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
One of the Passover commandments is to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt to one’s children; or if one’s children are already grown, to one’s grandchildren. That’s exactly what President Reuven Rivlin and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut are going to do on Sunday evening within the framework of the 929 project, the regular study circle of a single verse of the Bible, five days a week. The sobriquet “929” is derived from the number of chapters in the Hebrew Bible. The president of the state and the president of the Supreme Court will each be accompanied by their respective children and grandchildren.
The study project involves people from every stream of Jewish identity – people who are at opposite ends of political and religious scales, but who come together over a biblical verse, contributing their own thoughts, yet learning from one another even though they may not necessarily agree. The project was launched at the President’s Residence a little over three years ago. The brainchild of former deputy education minister Avi Wortzman, the project is jointly run by Rabbi Benny Lau and journalist Gal Gabai.
Study sessions are held on a monthly basis at the President’s Residence, but this one will be particularly important. It not only signifies Jewish continuity through the presence of three generations of at least two of the families attending, which is very appropriate for a pre-Passover meeting, but, in addition to that, the occasion will be used for the launch of the Cheshin Album, which contains a digital Bible plus apps that can be used for Bible games by the whole family.
The album, named for the late justice Mishael Cheshin, who was not only a legal expert but also a Bible expert, will include writings on the Bible by representatives of the Jewish rainbow collective, among them Rivlin, former chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Erez Biton, Zeruya Shalev, Gil Hovav, Malka Piotrakovsky, Aran Tzur, Amit Segal, A.B. Yehoshua, Lucy Aharish, Ivri Gilad, Yair Lapid, Rabbi Uri Sherki, Elyakim Rubinstein, Dov Elboim, Benny Gantz, Kobi Oz, Yochi Brandes, Roni Somek, Hila Alpert, Micha Goodman, Shai Goldin, Miki Haimovich, plus some 250 other wellknown personalities. The inclusion of so many is with the aim of giving as broad an outlook as possible.
It is anticipated that members of the Cheshin family will be present for the launch. In addition, there will be a conversation about the Bible and the transmission of its teachings between satirist and author Ephraim Sidon and illustrator Danny Carman.
■ DEPUTY LABOR and Social Services Minister Meshulam Nahari is among those haredi politicians who actually served in the army and rose to become a sergeant.
He also has rabbinic ordination and secular education through which he earned a BA.
But he’s not the only member of Shas who has most, if not all, of these attributes. He has also been a high school teacher and principal and deputy CEO of the Shas school system.
But what punctures the wow is a report in last Friday’s Yediot Yerushalayim that states that neighbors in his apartment complex on Hakablan Street – made famous by the fact that Shas mentor, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, lived there – are very unhappy with him. The reason? He’s doing alterations in his apartment. That in itself is not a big deal. Noise that accompanies renovations is always annoying to the neighbors, but it’s usually over within two months, and other than for the first few days, it isn’t constant. However, it seems, according to the report, that Nahari has overstepped the mark by arrogating to himself a section of the lobby which is actually part of the public area that belongs equally to all the owners of the building. If the report is accurate, he sealed off that part of the entrance lobby where work is being done so that no one could actually see what he was doing. But the neighbors were curious and found a way to observe what had been done, after which they protested to the municipality.
Nahari had indeed gone through all the bureaucratic corridors to get permission to make alterations, but there is a dispute as to what extent he actually received permission to make changes in the building.
Inspectors came from city hall came and ordered the workmen to stop, but these instructions were ignored. The inspectors returned, saw that the work was still going on, and issued a formal order that it cease.
But the cessation of work doesn’t solve the problem, and what is decided in the long run won’t erase the bad blood that has developed between Nahari and his neighbors.
■ TIME MOVES swiftly when one isn’t looking. Only five months after celebrating the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba and having to look after Australian dignitaries who came to Israel for the occasion, Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan is already preparing for ANZAC Day services, which will be held on Wednesday, April 25, at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.
This year, thankfully, ANZAC Day does not coincide with Passover. One of Cannan’s predecessors had to cope with very small attendance and a paucity of representatives from the Foreign Ministry and the IDF when ANZAC Day was in the middle of the holiday.
■ KARMIEL MAYOR Adi Eldar, who has been in office since 1989, during which time he also served for several years as chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, has decided not to run for another term but to open the field to younger contestants who want to take over the stewardship of the city.
During his long period of service, he received the Kaplan Prize for excellence in the absorption of new immigrants and has consistently received the prize for fiscal management of a municipality.
Even without deciding whether or not to quit, Shlomo Bohbot, the mayor of Ma’alot-Tarshisha, who is a couple of years older than Eldar, already holds the record as the longest-serving mayor. He has been in office since 1976, and also served a term as a Labor Party MK between 1992 and 1996.
■ JERUSALEM’S MAHANEH Yehuda neighborhood, which surrounds the famed Mahaneh Yehuda market, is undergoing intensive gentrification, as is the market itself, where new restaurants, coffee shops, hamburger joints and beer bars abound.
Several of the old buildings adjacent to the market have been torn down and have been or are being replaced by modern structures, most of them reaching ever skyward.
The whole area has lost its character and will do so even more when David Fattal, who seems set to become the king of Israel’s hotel industry, builds on his newest acquisition, the historic Etz Chaim Yeshiva building. Part of the building has been designated as a heritage site and supposedly cannot be destroyed. But there’s been plenty of evidence of a workman “accidentally” pushing a button that caused a historic building to implode. In this case, part of the building is to be preserved, and the hotel is to be built around it.
Just down the road in Zion Square, plans are afoot to turn the actual center of town, which for decades has been the site of mass demonstrations and street concerts, into an amphitheater surrounded by trees, plus permanently installed chairs and benches.
Many Jerusalemites and visitors to the capital welcome the additional seating where people can relax and watch the world go by, but they would also welcome more seating of another kind. There is a dearth of public toilets in downtown Jerusalem, and some of those that do exist are often locked. If the municipality wants to do something beneficial for the downtown area, it will build more public toilets. It could follow the example set by some other countries by having such facilities underground so that they won’t take up undue space on the pavement.
■ THERE IS a growing demand for Yiddish lessons. Many people who know some half-dozen expressions suddenly have a hankering for the ability to actually converse in the language known as mamaloshen.
Conversational Yiddish lessons started again at Leyvik House in Tel Aviv this week, but whoever missed the first one won’t have missed very much. Future lessons will be held twice a month. Coming up in the near future are lessons on April 11 and 24 and May 9 and 23. The lessons are in the morning, from 9.30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The teacher is Leyvik House director Daniel Galai. The address is 30 Dov Hoz Street.
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