Grapevine: The Bike Age

A round-up of news from around Israel.

GIRO D’ITALIA cyclists at the entrance to Yad Vashem. (photo credit: COURTESY YAD VASHEM)
GIRO D’ITALIA cyclists at the entrance to Yad Vashem.
(photo credit: COURTESY YAD VASHEM)
Future historians will probably refer to the first quarter of the 21st century as the Bike Age. Bikes are everywhere – and there’s no escaping them.
No one denies that they’re a good idea in terms of reducing pollution and bypassing traffic congestion, but like so much else in Israel, insufficient thought was given to rules and regulations related to bikes.
Yes, there are rules about headgear and not talking on one’s cellphone when riding a bike, but where are the police to enforce these rules? Too often, a bareheaded father, with one bareheaded child sitting behind him and another in a seat fixed to the handlebars, is seen weaving in and out of traffic or precariously riding along the uneven surface of a sidewalk.
Pedestrians almost always have to give way to cyclists who are riding in both directions – sometimes in packs, a factor that can be quite frightening.
Bicycle riding was given additional impetus in recent weeks during the period leading up to the Giro d’Italia Big Start taking place this Friday morning in Jerusalem, almost as a prelude to the relocation of the US Embassy to the capital.
Within the range of events leading up to the Big Start, Yad Vashem, hosted participants from the Israel Cycling Academy along with the leadership of the Giro d’Italia at a ceremony in which commemorative citizenship of the State of Israel for Righteous Among the Nations was posthumously conferred on Gino Bartali by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, who presented the certificate of commemorative citizenship to Gioia Bartali, granddaughter of the champion cyclist who hid forged documents that saved the lives of many Jews in the handlebars of his bike. Also present at the ceremony were Italian Ambassador Gianluigi Benedetti and honorary president of Giro d’Italia Big Start Sylvan Adams.
Gioia Bartali, who lost her father earlier this year, said she was standing in Yad Vashem “as Gino’s granddaughter, bringing testimony of his heroic actions.... My grandfather was a great champion of sport,” she said, “but today he will be remembered as a champion of life.”
Giro d’Italia Big Start taking place in Jerusalem is viewed with such importance that several government ministers got in on the act at a press briefing at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria hotel on Wednesday.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin were joined by deputy Police commissioner Asst.-Ch.
Zohar Dvir, Sylvan Adams, RCS Sport general manager Paulo Bellino and RCS Sport head of cycling Mauro Vegni.
The consensus was that this is the most significant sporting event ever held in Israel, unprecedented in its size.
On a symbolic journey from Jerusalem to Rome, participants from around the world will see quite a lot of Israel during their three-day ride through the country.
Levin said: “Giro d’Italia is much more than a sporting event. It allows us to expose Israel to hundreds of millions of television viewers all over the world, marking an additional step in the marketing revolution that the State of Israel has undergone over the last three years.”
Elkin added: “There is nothing more symbolic than the fact that this race begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome.... This competition reflects Jerusalem’s status today as one of the most fascinating places in the world, both in its history and in its promising future as a modern and developing city that can be proud of its worldwide achievements in tourism in science and hi-tech.”
Vegni, who is the Giro d’Italia director, declared: “We are really proud to be here for the Big Start today. Every year the Giro tells the stories of places of great interest.”
He noted that areas crossed in stages throughout Israel will include Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Eilat and the Red Sea, which collectively will give television viewers around the world a sense of the beauty and variety of Israel’s landscapes, seascapes, culture and tradition, while capturing the excitement of the sport.
Several Israeli celebrities are cycling enthusiasts, among them singer and television personality Ivri Lider, who likes to ride with the Israel Cycling Academy, and has been designated as ICA’s ambassador for the two-wheel sport. Lider likes to ride with Guy Sagiv and Guy Niv, who as far as is known are the first Israelis to participate in Giro d’Italia, and will be among the riders in Jerusalem on Friday.
■ IN ANOTHER sporting realm altogether, judoka Sagi Muki brought great honor and glory to Israel, when he won a gold medal in the European championships for 2018 that were held in Tel Aviv last week.
Judo seems to be the sport best suited to Israelis. The first Israeli Olympic medals were won in 1992 in Barcelona by judokas Yael Arad and Oren Smadja. Other judo champions who have won Olympic medals include Arik Ze’evi in Athens in 2004 and Yarden Gerbi and Or Sasson in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
One of Muki’s most dedicated fans is Moshe Mamrud, the CEO and principal shareholder in Tadiran, which also sponsors the Hapoel Beersheba soccer team. Mamrud hosted a cocktail reception for Muki before the championship contest and took three generations of his family to watch the competitions.
Together with other Israelis, they roared with joy when Muki scored over Belgium’s Sami Chouchi, and joined the rest of the huge crowd of supporters in singing the national anthem with gusto.
■ LAVI INDUSTRIES, located on Kibbutz Lavi near Tiberias, is well known for manufacturing synagogue furniture. Its reputation is such that many overseas congregations, especially those building new synagogues, order the ark, the bima and the seating from Lavi.
Among those opting for this particular branch of Made in Israel were the congregants of the magnificent new $30 million synagogue of the Biala Hassidim in London. The order placed by the Biala Hassidim included four arks at a total cost of NIS 2m., including the seating. Lavi Industries CEO Micha Oberman was invited to the launch of the grand facility in London’s Stamford Hill by Rabbi Baruch Leib Rabinowitz, who happens to be the Biala rebbe. According to Oberman, Lavi Industries has, to date, supplied synagogue furniture to some 50 synagogues in London and Manchester.
■ WHEN TANZANIAN Ambassador Job Daudi Masima presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin last June, the president exclaimed: “We are making history!” At the time, Masima was still a nonresident ambassador, but since then, with the help of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, he has established an embassy in Ramat Gan, which will be officially opened on May 8.
Tanzania severed relations with Israel in 1973 after the Yom Kippur War.
It was announced during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tour of Africa last year that Tanzania would open an embassy in Israel.
The inauguration of the embassy on Abba Hillel Street, Ramat Gan, will be attended by Augustine Mahiga, minister for foreign affairs and East African cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. It will be Mahiga’s first official visit to Israel.
Masima has quite a number of diplomatic neighbors. Abba Hillel Street seems to hold a great attraction for the diplomatic community, and several embassies are now located in less than a handful of high-rise buildings that are very close to each other.
■ LAST WEEK, the Canadian Embassy hosted NGO Monitor and Innovation: Africa as well as a large representation of the diplomatic community, to discuss the topic of “Considerations and Challenges in Delivering Humanitarian Assistance.”
The meeting was held in Tel Aviv at the residence of Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons, who is a tireless advocate for humanitarian aid and civil rights. NGO Monitor legal adviser Anne Herzberg highlighted the areas of responsible funding, adherence to humanitarian principles, and the importance of oversight in international humanitarian aid. Sivan Ya’ari, founder and CEO of Innovation: Africa, addressed several of the points raised by Herzberg, as she spoke about how the organization brings water and light to rural African villages in a sustainable way and what steps the group takes to ensure that the aid reaches those who need it most. The event was attended by numerous members of the diplomatic community in Israel.
Lyons, thanked NGO Monitor for coming to share knowledge with the diplomatic community, and welcomed the fact that NGO Monitor will continue to work with the Canadian Embassy on issues related to NGO funding and oversight.
Lyons is particularly interested in overcoming obstacles to the provision of effective humanitarian assistance in difficult circumstances, especially as issues of targeted aid provision and preventing the diversion of funds are of increasing importance internationally.
Herzberg presented the existing challenges to providing humanitarian aid in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and explained issues of oversight with respect to programming in Gaza.