Grapevine: The rule of law vs the court of public opinion

The reason that it was so important to him to convey the Kaddish to Sharansky was because it was the Kaddish that had opened his own eyes and his heart to his heritage.

Natan Sharansky (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Natan Sharansky
In a country that prides itself on the rule of law, one would imagine that anyone suspected of a crime, including a public servant being investigated on suspicion of corruption, would be tried in a court of law and not in the court of public opinion.
Whether he is guilty or not, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be accorded this elementary civil right. But now Yediot Aharonot has succeeded in drawing former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar into the anti-Netanyahu fray. Even worse, electronic media personalities are practically campaigning on air to have him resign.
One of the worst culprits is Geula Even Saar, who in a radio interview last Thursday with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, barely allowed her to get a word in edgewise to make the case for Netanyahu, and Hotovely is usually pretty good at holding her own.
Even Saar did not confine her diatribe to Netanyahu, but also to respected lawyer Yitzhak Molho, who has been Netanyahu’s personal emissary to the Palestinians for years.
It should not be forgotten that Even Saar is married to former Education Minister Gideon Saar, who has made no secret of his desire to become Israel’s next prime minister. As his wife, Geula Even Saar should desist from any comment on Netanyahu, favorable or unfavorable.
■ MANY FORMER Prisoners of Zion, whose names used to be household words in the Jewish world during the years of the struggle for Soviet Jewry, have faded into relative anonymity. Among those who have not are Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, his friend Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, who was in the prison cell next door, and Yuli Edelstein, who is today Speaker of the Knesset.
Mendelevich and Sharansky actually met in prison, and found a way to communicate by tapping on the wall.
One day, Sharansky tapped that his father had died.
Mendelevich felt very sad on his behalf and wanted to send him the words of the Kaddish, but that would have been impossible under their tapping code, because Sharansky was not yet sufficiently well-versed in Jewish prayer. Mendelevich had to find a way to get it to him on paper, and decided to do this when they were taking their exercise walk.
The problem was that, in Soviet prisons, there is no large communal compound for exercise. There is an area around each cell, so it entailed timing and throwing the balled-up paper with accuracy. Mendelevich made two futile attempts on different days, but on the third he succeeded.
Mendelevich related this anecdote earlier this month at the Water Tower Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, when launching his new book A Hero of Jewish Freedom – From Hijacker to Rabbi. Written in English, the book is an expanded version of an earlier one written in Hebrew.
The first book, said Mendelevich, is one of faith and relates how he came to religious observance. The second one is more anecdotal, with stories about incidents in his life.
The reason that it was so important to him to convey the Kaddish to Sharansky was because it was the Kaddish that had opened his own eyes and his heart to his heritage. His father died and when he was still a boy, and the funeral was the first time he had ever visited a Jewish cemetery or heard the recitation of Kaddish.
It made a profound impression on him, and he began to study Hebrew in one of the underground classes. Gradually, he came to observe the dietary laws, the Sabbath and the Jewish holy days. He was imprisoned for being a member of a group that tried to hijack a plane to escape to Israel.
While in prison, he was often punished for Sabbath observance. When he decided to send the text of the Kaddish to Sharansky, he was well aware that in order to recite it, one required a minyan, a quorum, but told himself and Sharansky that all the Jewish people was standing with him.
■ AT EVERY ceremony for the appointment of new judges, Court Registrar Michael Spitzer asks the families of the new judges to close their cellphones and to refrain from taking photos (because these would be supplied by official photographers) and not to stand, because they would block the view of video camera crews and stills photographers.
He may as well have saved his breath, because it has never happened that his request has been met. There are always people who ignore him and who are inconsiderate of others, and in some cases not only stand up but actually stand on the plush chairs of the President’s Residence.
At the ceremony last week, the situation was not as bad as usual. Only two people broke the rules, and one was told by her son to sit down.
■ THINGS ARE sometimes very tough for Raphie Etgar, curator and art director of Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam, a socio-political contemporary art museum that stands almost directly opposite where the Mandelbaum Gate, through which non-Jews passed from Israel to Jordan, used to be. Etgar is over the moon because CNN last week chose the Museum of the Seam as one of Israel’s 10 leading museums. In addition, the museum was favorably reviewed in recent articles that appeared in Italy’s La Stampa, Germany’s Der Spiegel and America’s The Forward.
■ THOUGH IT is impossible for Daniella Pick and her finance, Hollywood film director Quentin Tarantino, to get married in Israel, given the fact that he’s not Jewish, the couple will be in Israel this week to celebrate their engagement at the Dan Accadia Hotel. Curiously, neither was married before, even though the beautiful Daniella has already celebrated her 33rd birthday and her fiancé his 54th.
Daniella’s dad, famous singer and composer Svika Pick, is 67, but his second wife, Shira Manor, is 31, which indicates that large spousal age gaps run in the family.
Svika Pick has two young children with Manor, and three children with Daniella’s mom, Mirit Shem-Or, a lyricist with whom Pick continues to collaborate professionally.
■ TAKING ADVANTAGE of the good vibes early this month between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, OurCrowd, the Israel-headquartered, global venture-capital collaborative is hosting a conference on Monday, July 24, from 2:30 to 6 p.m. at the David Intercontinental Hotel, Tel Aviv, under the heading of “The Future of Innovation and Collaboration.”
It won’t be quite as a big a turn-out as their previous conference in Jerusalem a few months back, but there’s another multi-national mega event coming up early next year. On Monday there will be key players from throughout the Israeli tech ecosystem, including entrepreneurs and partners from the academic, corporate, and government sectors, as well as visiting business leaders from India.
Together they will explore the tremendous opportunities for tech investing and collaboration between the two countries, as well as provide opportunities for Israeli stakeholders to meet top CEOs from the Indian media, marketing, digital and advertising fraternity.
■ PRIOR TO the Maccabiah Games there was an item in this column about Asher Weill, who first swam in the 1957 Maccabiah as a member of the British team and during the recent Maccabiah continued to stroke the water in the 80-plus events. While it’s not unusual for siblings, cousins and married couples to compete in the Maccabiah, it was unusual for a grandfather and a granddaughter.
Weill was swimming for Israel and his granddaughter, Ashley, for Australia. He was delighted to win gold and silver medals in his age category for the 50 and 100 meter backstroke respectively, just missing breaking the national record by two hundredths of a second! Ashley, swimming the same stroke as her grandfather, won four individual silver medals and three bronze medals for Australia in the relays.
■ MORE THAN six months ago Adva Ben David, 30, and her boyfriend purchased tickets to the Radiohead concert last Wednesday night at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. Shortly after buying the tickets, Adva was diagnosed with cancer and has been battling the illness ever since.
Over the past week, she understood that due to her medical condition, she would not be able to attend the concert. She and her boyfriend decided to sell their tickets, but before they got rid of them, friends told Adva about MDA’s Make a Wish Ambulance initiative.
The upshot was that MDA took Adva from her home in Jerusalem and made her childhood dream of attending a Radiohead concert come true. She watched the show with her boyfriend in a special area located near the stage with an MDA ambulance team standing by that included volunteer EMT Shimon Sabag, and paramedic Jonathan Susan. When the concert ended, Radiohead super-fan Adva and the team returned to Jerusalem with an experience they will not quickly forget.
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