Grapevine: The Left strikes back

To counter the pre-apology attack, artists and NGOs for human rights and peace will on Friday, February 5, present a performing arts response called Blacklisted: A Show with a Glimmer of Hope.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On presenting the party's diplomatic platform (photo credit: MERETZ)
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On presenting the party's diplomatic platform
(photo credit: MERETZ)
Even though Im Tirzu, a right-wing Zionist organization, has apologized for its blacklist and has been roundly censured across the political spectrum, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu onward, the damage was done, and the seeds of mistrust implanted in the minds of extreme right-wing elements in society.
To counter the pre-apology attack, artists and NGOs for human rights and peace will on Friday, February 5, present a performing arts response called Blacklisted: A Show with a Glimmer of Hope. Participants will include leading Israeli artists such as actress Rivka Michaeli, author Nir Baram, singer Mira Awad, journalist and activist Gal Ochovsky and choreographer and dancer Renana Raz.
The event will take place at noon at Hangar 11 in the Tel Aviv Port. Entrance is free of charge. The event is sponsored by leading civil society organizations in Israel, headed by the left-wing New Israel Fund.
Among the other participating organizations are: Gush Shalom; Peace and Security Association; Association for Civil Rights in Israel; the Movement for Freedom of Information; Peace Now; Gisha; Breaking the Silence; the Israeli National LGBT Task Force; Adva Center; Israel Religious Action Center; Human Rights Defenders Fund; Mahapach Taghir; Amnesty International; Women’s Coalition for Peace; Physicians for Human Rights; Worker’s Hotline; Emek Shaveh; Yesh Gvul; Morashtenu; Peace NGO Forum; Mossawa; Assaf; Sikkuy; Yesh Din; the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants; Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; Machsom Watch; Zazim; Standing Together; Bimkom; the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow–New Discourse; Achoti – for Women in Israel; Ir Amim; the Coalition Against Racism; B’Tselem; Shatil; Combatants for Peace; and the Public Committee against Torture.
Aside from a response to Im Tirzu, the event is by way of protest at what participants perceive to be the government’s recent attempt to curb freedom of expression in the arts and civil society. Organizers say that they are coming together for a performance of music and art to demonstrate their determination to uphold democracy in Israel.
■ FOLLOWING AN announcement by Buckingham Palace, Israeli businessman Eitan Wertheimer was appointed an honorary commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was given the award in recognition of the key role he has played in promoting business cooperation between the UK and Israel. In sending out the notification to this effect, the British Embassy described the award as “a rare honor from the Queen.”
Actually, it’s not all that rare. Several Israelis have been honored by Her Majesty. Some were her former subjects who now live in Israel, and others were actually Sabras.
Among the latter were Amnon Dotan, Dan Propper, the late Dov Lautman, Zeev Aram, Rivka Carmi and Isaac Shapira. Carmi received a CBE and Propper an MBE. All the others were awarded an OBE.
Wertheimer, who is the son of noted industrialist, social entrepreneur and philanthropist Stef Wertheimer, whose own awards include the Israel Prize, said at the presentation ceremony that it was a great honor for him to take a small part in this long tradition and effort to “plant trees for other people to enjoy their shade.”
He added that he was grateful for the recognition bestowed on him as a representative of the amazing people that he had the opportunity and pleasure to work with, and of course to his family for their long-lasting love and support over the years.”
The presentation of the award took place in Israel at the residence of the British ambassador in Ramat Gan, as it usually does, although there have been exceptions, such as London-born David Landau, whose abiding attachment to England prompted him to return there to receive his OBE from Prince Charles who was acting on behalf of the Queen. Landau, who had been battling with cancer for some time, died less than half a year later.
Wertheimer received his award from British Ambassador David Quarrey, who in making the presentation said, “I am delighted that Her Majesty has chosen to honor Eitan in this manner. He has been an important partner in promoting business cooperation between the UK and Israel, and has contributed greatly to the prosperity of both our countries, including through the development of Rolls-Royce’s advanced engines and his support to the UK’s prosperity work in Israel. I am delighted that he will now be an honorary commander of the Order of the British Empire.”
■ USUALLY, WHEN two members of the Lau family participate in the same conference or seminar, it’s the past and present Ashkenazi chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Meir and Rabbi David Lau, who are father and son. But at the Jerusalem Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on February 8 and 9, instead of father and son it will be cousins rabbis David and Benny Lau, although they will not be appearing on the same day.
Neither of them, however, will participate in the most interesting session, which is the last, which deals with reasons why people go to the rabbinate – usually with regard to matters of marriage and divorce but also for other reasons. Among the panelists in this session will be legendary divorce lawyer Benny Don Yihye, who happens to be divorced himself; marriage counselors Rabbanit Esther Levanon and Rabbi Shalom Markowitz; parental counselor Rabbi Amos Rolider; the head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva and head of the Har Bracha community Rabbi Eliezer Melamed; and pleader in the Rabbinical Court Miriam Goldfisher.
■ FRENCH AMBASSADOR Patrick Maisonnave, who was so frequently interviewed last year in relation to terrorist activities in France, and who participated in various memorial services for the victims of terrorism, has a much happier task ahead of him next week when he launches the Fourth Annual French Food Festival in Israel, during which French and Israeli chefs will cook together in hotels and restaurants. Twenty-eight French chefs are expected to participate under the slogan of “So French So Food.”
■ WHILE ISRAELI diplomats and politicians keep making doomsday statements about Israel’s isolation in the world, the international community keeps sending high-ranking representatives and delegations to Israel. A good many opt to stay at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which was where Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the Federation Council of Russia, stayed during her visit to Israel this week.
Matviyenko, who is known to be closely allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a former diplomat who served as her country’s ambassador to Malta and Greece, and has been deputy prime minister, a former governor of Saint Petersburg and the first woman speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament.
Also booked into the King David this month are the president of the Russian Senate; a British- Israel security delegation; the president of the Singapore Supreme Court; a British parliamentary delegation; the US deputy secretary of state for economics; the Spanish minister of the interior; the foreign minister of the Ivory Coast; the president of the Romanian Senate; the deputy foreign minister of Germany; the foreign minister of Norway; members of the House of Lords; the Spanish police commissioner; the US ambassador to the United Nations; a Swedish parliamentary delegation; a British minister of the Cabinet Office; the prime minister of Bulgaria; and a delegation from the International Monetary Fund. And that’s just a short list.
The interesting thing is that none of the countries mentioned above recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, yet when their presidents and prime ministers come to visit, they almost invariably stay in Jerusalem.
The closest they’ll get to an east Jerusalem hotel is the Mount Zion, which is on Hebron Road directly opposite the walls of the Old City. They don’t stay in Arab hotels or in other hotels in east Jerusalem.
■ IT WOULD be arguably fair to say that Israel has more lawyers per capita than doctors or nurses. Israel reportedly has the highest ratio of lawyers in the world. A lawyers’ graduation ceremony was held last December at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, where more than 2,000 people filled the auditorium.
Six years ago, according to figures published by Yediot Aharonot, one out of every 170 people in the country, taking the total population into account, was a lawyer. In 2015, a Globes report gave an even higher ratio of one out of every 145 people being a lawyer, and cited the total number of lawyers in Israel as 57,820 in 2015 and reporting that 3,700 lawyers had joined the Israel Bar Association in 2014.
And guess what? Nearly all of them are working. They don’t necessarily join legal firms. Many of them become corporate counsels, working as in-house lawyers for companies, hospitals, universities, museums and charitable institutions.
Hundreds of corporate counsels came together this week at the Carlton Hotel, Tel Aviv at a conference co-sponsored by the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Bar.
ACC Israel president Ron Belkine said that companies and institutions with corporate law departments are spending more on internal budgets than external lawyers. The number of internal house lawyers increases from year to year, he said, because internal lawyers are completely familiar with the operations of the companies or institutions in which they are employed and are valuable resources because of this familiarity, which is also timesaving, in that there is little need for the long meetings that are held with external lawyers.
Quoting from a recent Washington survey of 1,300 ACC general counsels and chief legal officers in in-house legal departments in 41 countries, Belkine said countries found that ethics and compliance remains the top concern of law department leaders, with regulatory issues/challenges 1 percentage point behind. Data breaches were GCs’ third-most concerning issue this year, and the percentage of respondents who said their companies had experienced a breach dropped slightly, from 27% to 22%. CLOs based in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Latin America/the Caribbean had heightened regulatory concerns, as 44% and 41% of GCs answered that their companies had been targeted by a regulator in the past two years, compared to 31% worldwide.
ACC Israel will hold its annual event at Kibbutz Ga’ash in mid-June.
■ IT DID not exactly come as a surprise when Channel 10 news reporter and anchor Tali Moreno, a former co-hostess of Shishi, the Friday night news review and current affairs program, handed in her resignation. Shishi competes with a similar program broadcast on Channel 1. The hostess of that program until last November, when she resigned and moved to Channel 10, used to be Ayala Hasson.
Although Moreno was regarded as star quality, she was overshadowed by Hasson, who doesn’t seem to be doing as well at Channel 10 as she did at Channel 1. In fact, Oded Shahar, who is now anchoring in Hasson’s place at Channel 1, is doing a much smoother job than she did and is allowing panelists to have their say without interruption or overriding them, as Hasson was in the habit of doing.
■ ONLY A week after receiving official consultative status at the United Nations following a four-year struggle for recognition, ZAKA search and rescue organization representatives this week participated in a four-day United Nations Disaster Management Conference in Geneva under the rubric of Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week.
The conference, which focused on the first few critical days of an international mass casualty incident, established working groups to examine issues such as search and rescue, caring for volunteers at the disaster site, media at the disaster site, building a multinational platform for information exchange in times of emergency, and so forth.
Just across the border from Israel in Syria, there is a critical situation every day, with the White Helmets of Aleppo risking their lives to find survivors in the rubble and to rescue them after an air strike. The White Helmets of Aleppo are a Syrian equivalent of ZAKA and United Hatzalah combined. Some White Helmets have lost their lives in the effort to save the lives of others. Their motto is almost Talmudic.
They believe that he who saves a single life is as one who saved the whole of humanity, while Jews believe that he who saves a single life is as one who saved a whole world. The similarity in philosophy and raison d’etre is awesome.
■ THERE IS little doubt that society is influenced by highly popular films and television series. Such productions often generate new trends in fashion, home décor and even language.
The proof of the pudding is in the huge demand for courses in Moroccan Arabic resulting from the enormous popularity of the television series Zaguri Imperia, which appealed not only to Israel’s Moroccan community but to anyone with a command of Arabic.
In light of the desire of so many people to understand Moroccan Arabic, Orly Simon of the National Library initiated a course and will be one of the teachers who will be giving it.
The National Library has many collections of rare books and newspapers in Moroccan Arabic, and these will be used as a foundation for the course, in which students will learn the historical background of the language and will read texts from both secular and religious books, including the Moroccan Haggada.
They will study liturgy and children’s books.
The only prerequisite is proficiency in Arabic.
■ IT’S QUITE possible that Meshi Kleinstein may outshine her superstar parents. The daughter of famous Iranian-born singer and actress Rita and singer, musician and composer Rami Kleinstein, she has appeared on stage with both, and has also had singing engagements abroad and at important events in Israel. Like her mother, she has also appeared at a state dinner hosted by the president of Israel.
For the 250th performance of the Cameri Theater production of Hair in which Meshi is one of the stars, Rita made a surprise appearance with her. After placing flowers for Meshi in the dressing room, Rita joined the cast on stage for the grand finale. Meshi also stars in the Cameri Theater’s production of West Side Story.
The Cameri Theater, located in the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, is well on the way to outshining Israel’s national theater, Habimah, partially because it has had one general director for such a long time, thereby ensuring its stability. Noam Semel has held the position since 1992 and has ensured not only a diversity of productions but also a diversity of audiences by making subtitles available in English, Russian, French and Arabic, so that tourists and nearly all sectors of Israeli society, including new immigrants, can enjoy Cameri Theater productions.
Prior to joining the Cameri Theater, Semel, who will next year celebrate his silver “wedding” anniversary with the Cameri, was Israel’s consul for cultural affairs in the United States, and before that director of the Haifa Municipal Theater. He was a founder of the Israel Theater Prize and continues to serve on its committee.
■ AMONG THE most popular people in Israel are the lone soldiers who come from abroad to spend a year or two or more in the IDF.
They come from many countries and seem quite happy to put up with hardships. But those of them who are religiously observant would love to sit at a family table on Shabbat, because back home Shabbat is a very special day.
Jerusalemite Pnina Caplan has been meeting and talking to a small group of recently arrived lone soldiers from Canada who are in the above-mentioned category and asked them about their needs. They don’t mind using plastic flatware and eating off paper plates, but they would like to be with religiously observant families on Shabbat.
Caplan is their key liaison and can be contacted at [email protected] or (02) 566- 7175.