Grapevine: Where the heart is

Sufganiot at Kadosh (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Sufganiot at Kadosh
The fact that he left the Knesset to take up his post as chairman of the Jewish Agency does not mean that Isaac Herzog’s heart has left the political arena. Last week, addressing a gala dinner of Britain’s Labour Friends of Israel, he said, “My family’s history is intertwined with British history of the past century. My father fought the Nazis as a British officer. They would be shocked to see what happens in the UK today on antisemitism!” “Antisemitism cannot be dismissed as legitimate criticism of Israel,” Herzog emphasized.
“What we’ve seen from several leaders and activists in the Labour Party is not a foreign policy debate – it is a campaign of hate, using the Israel-Palestine conflict as camouflage.”
■ INCORRIGIBLE CZECH President Miloš Zeman, who despite opposition on the home front is still determined to move the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem, said at the inauguration of Czech House in Israel’s capital: “In the near future, I firmly believe and deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome.
There will be not only the embassy, but also a nice tavern with good Czech beer.”
Zeman is convinced that when he comes to Israel a fourth time, it will be to celebrate his embassy’s move to Israel’s capital. During his visit this week, Zeman limited his speeches to very brief remarks – many of them gems – especially those that were off-record and unfortunately cannot be repeated here.
■ IT IS not unusual for Prof. Sari Nusseibeh to share a platform with best-selling author and intellectual Amos Oz to reminisce about what life was like when each lived on opposite sides of the minefield that for 19 years divided Jerusalem, and then to voice their views on what life could be like if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is brought to a peaceful and mutually agreed-upon conclusion.
But at some time between December 11 and 13, Nusseibeh is scheduled to share a platform not with Oz, but with Prof. Sarah Stroumsa, and instead of discussing peace prospects, they will be talking about philosophy and ethics in the Muslim world.
Of course, this may indirectly relate to the quest for peace, but the main thrust of the discussion will have something to do with Moses Maimonides, better by his acronym as Rambam.
It is doubtful that any thinker has contributed so much to the Jewish world in so many diverse fields as did the Rambam.
Given his environment, there is likewise little doubt that he also contributed greatly to the Christian and Muslim worlds of his time.
A 12th-century philosopher with an incredible range of knowledge in science, medicine, nutrition, ethics, philosophy, religion and Jewish law, the influence of his intellect continues to inspire Jewish teaching. Nusseibeh and Stroumsa will be participating in the Maimonides conference, a joint enterprise of the National Library and the Israel Museum under the sponsorship of the Maimonides Fund. The conference will include discussions on relevant and current issues in Israeli society – areas that Maimonides himself dealt with and wrote about. Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak will open the conference and will discuss the legal doctrines of Maimonides, and the inherent tension between civil law and Jewish law.
Prof. Moshe Halbertal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will respond.
Other topics to be discussed will include the relationship between religion and state (with Dr. Meir Buzaglo and Dr. Micah Goodman); the revealed and the hidden in The Guide for the Perplexed (with Prof. Shalom Rosenberg and Prof. Zeev Harvey) and more.
Conceived and sponsored by the Maimonides Fund, the conference will be enhanced by the collaboration of the National Library with the Israel Museum with the simultaneous showcasing by each of rare and extremely important Maimonidean texts and illustrated manuscripts.
The conference will be held at the National Library. Admission is free of charge.
Some very important people have stayed at the Tel Aviv Hilton over the years, but they did not elicit the same smiles from the Hilton bakery staff as they branded cupcakes with the names of Euroleague Basketball teams last week, with Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague president, chairman and CEO ,who organized the first-ever EuroLeague board meeting held outside Spain. Motti Verses, Hilton Israel head of public relations, assured Bertomeu that talented pastry chef Idan Hadad made sure every team’s logo appeared on the cupcakes and were all equally tasty. In 2004, the hotel was home for the Final Four stage, hosting teams, officials and supporters, including title-winners Maccabi Tel Aviv.
On Tuesday of last week, Shimon Mizrahi, the veteran chairman of Maccabi Tel Aviv, who has won literally scores of prizes, was named a Euroleague “basketball legend.” He is the first member of the Euroleague executive to be accorded the title. He is only the eighth person to receive it. The others are former coach Dusan Ivkovic, and former star players Dimitris Diamantidis, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Juan Carlos Navarro, Theodoros Papaloukas, Ramunas Siskauskas and Mirsad Turkcan. Of these, Jasikevicius and Papaloukas played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, and their contracts were signed by Mizrahi, who is currently serving his 50th season with the club. Under Mizrahi’s leadership, the team has played in Euroleague championship games 14 times.
Bertomeu said that Mizrahi was a natural choice for the first executive member of the club to be named a Euroleague basketball legend.
“You can’t overstate all that Shimon has meant to the game of basketball in Israel and across Europe in his half-century on the job.”
Mizrahi’s managerial talents have been widely recognized at home and abroad. There won’t to be too many awards left to give him, but his 80th birthday next year should be a real blast, and there’s bound to be another award in the offing.
■ HANUKKA IN Jewish tradition is not limited to jelly doughnuts and potato pancakes fried in oil. It’s also a time for gift-giving.
For four Israeli academics, their gift will be admission to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities at a special ceremony due to take place on the third night of Hanukka on Tuesday, December 4. The four scientists who will be inducted are Prof. Naama Barkai, head of the department of Molecular Genetics at the Weizmann Institute; Prof. Simon Hopkins, philologist and professor emeritus of Hebrew language and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof.
Adiel Stern, professor of theoretical physics at Weizmann; and Prof. Micha Sharir, professor of computer sciences at Tel Aviv University.
■ THOUGH STILL in its infancy, Bar-Ilan University’s new Clinic for the Advancement of Equality is already engaged in a number of advocacy projects on behalf of socially and economically disadvantaged sectors of Israel’s population. Thousands of Israelis lack the means and knowledge to protect and exercise their legal rights. Every year the number of those in need of legal assistance increases.
Free assistance to those who cannot afford legal representation is vital.
The particular emphasis this year is on discrimination against minority populations in employment, in education and in the health care system.
On the employment front, the clinic is actively engaged in ensuring that government decisions regarding access to information and appropriate representation in civil service are being implemented among underrepresented groups such as Ethiopians, Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox. The clinic is also working to ensure that the Health Ministry implements all of the recommendations from its May 2016 report regarding racism in the health care system. These recommendations include addressing past incidents of racism in the system, facilitating procedures for filing complains about racism, and training medical professionals about the principles of equality.
Lastly, the clinic is actively involved in ensuring that the State Comptroller’s 2016 report obligating the Education Ministry to educate in schools about racism, and train teachers toward the values of equality is implemented.
The clinic recently marked its official launch with a conference at which the keynote speaker was retired Supreme Court judge and former attorney-general Elyakim Rubinstein, who said the launch of the clinic was a “sweet and sour” moment.
Sadly, racism and discrimination exist in Israel, he said, but the sweet part is that there is now a clinic that will address these issues on behalf of underprivileged groups. Referring to the enactment of the Nation-State Law, Rubinstein said he wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “We must act with dignity and integrity toward our fellow citizens and, therefore, the law must be amended.
Equality is the soul of democracy.”
The conference was moderated by Prof.
Ariel Bendor, of the Faculty of Law and the dean of the School of Graduate Studies, who praised Adv. Itzik Dessie, whom he first met while Dessie was a distinguished law student at the University of Haifa, for his initiative in developing such a project at BIU and for transforming the concept into reality. Bendor and Dessie are co-academic advisers of the clinic, which is now the university’s eighth legal advocacy clinic.
Law Faculty dean Prof. Oren Perez pointed out that while each of the seven additional clinics advocates for a different purpose or group, such as disability rights, environmental justice, women’s legal aid, and Holocaust survivors and the elderly, for example, they all share a common goal of promoting equality.
The clinic was established with the support of The Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation, which is deeply involved in promoting the equality of disadvantaged groups. Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit, played an instrumental role in introducing the Foundation to the project ■ THE LATE Harry Hurwitz, at whose initiative and under whose direction the Menachem Begin Heritage Center was established and developed, was a powerful orator whose memory and talent are being preserved through the annual debating contest organized by Sia’h Va’Sig: The Israel Debating Society, Cohen-Idov Center for Rhetoric & Debate and the Harry Hurwitz Memorial Fund. The contest is held in two stages – first on a regional basis, after which the finals are held at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, where scores of school children and teachers from all over the country come to support their representatives.
The finals for the current contest will be held on Tuesday, January 8.
Contestants can speak in English, Hebrew or Arabic on any subject they like. Given that English is one of the world’s universal languages, it’s possible that some of the contestants who opt to speak in English will be future spokespeople for Israel. At last year’s contest, high school students whose parents were not native English speakers, demonstrated admirable proficiency in the English language.
Israel Debating Society founder and chair Ann Swersky says the contest helps to develop self-esteem, confidence, power of persuasion, analytical skills, creative thinking and more.