The Labor Party may seem dead, but it is in the process of awakening

For many Labor people, the trauma of Rabin’s assassination has not subsided, and they will be returning in large numbers to Rabin Square on November 4.

The Gulf-Israel Women's Forum brings children draped in the flags of Bahrain, Israel and the UAE to Jerusalem's Old City.  (photo credit: ISRAEL HADARI)
The Gulf-Israel Women's Forum brings children draped in the flags of Bahrain, Israel and the UAE to Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: ISRAEL HADARI)
Whoever was under the impression that Israel’s Labor Party is dead, should know that the sleeping giant is in the process of awakening. What has brought this about is the proximity of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the comparison of events in the weeks that preceded it, with the increasing violence and incitement emanating from anti-Netanyahu demonstrations throughout Israel.
Labor Party Secretary General Eran Hermoni wrote to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and Interim Police Commissioner Motti Cohen advocating arrest, investigation and criminal charges against all people engaging in violence and incitement, in particular against those who attack demonstrators.
Hermoni mentioned letters in a Facebook post in which he wrote that all incitement has an address, violence exerts a heavy price, and indifference to violence can lead to political murder. “It can happen again. We have to combat violence and incitement with zero tolerance.”
Almost all respondents concurred with Hermoni. The consensus was that there should be no compromise on issues of violence and incitement.
For many Labor people, the trauma of Rabin’s assassination has not subsided, and they will be returning in large numbers to Rabin Square on November 4.
■ HERMONI WROTE his letters and posted his message on Facebook before Shas MK Moshe Arbel and Blue and White’s Michael Biton presented their “Mutual Respect Charter” to President Reuven Rivlin. The charter exhorts MKs to espouse the values of mutual respect, partnership and mutual responsibility, to engage in tolerant and meaningful discourse, and to set a personal example to the public in order to fight division and hatred. It was signed by 70 MKs.
That would be impressive but for the fact that there are 120 MKs in the Knesset. Former MK and former Labor Party chair Shelly Yacimovich, while praising Arbel’s initiative, said there should have been no need for such a charter. It should be a given that the elected representatives of the nation should set an example by their behavior.
Unfortunately, the general rule in politics is that promises are not made to be kept. On the following day, Knesset members were once again at each other’s throats, trading personal insults, and displaying anything but mutual respect.
■ ORDINARILY, JERUSALEM’s King David Hotel entertains heads of state and government, as well as many international public figures. But during lockdown, Israel’s most famous and one of its oldest hotels was more or less in the same boat as every other hotel. However, following the flight of a special Israel delegation to Bahrain this week, the landing of the first Etihad flight in Israel and the Knesset’s approval this week of the agreement between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the Jerusalem Municipality, together with the UAE-Israel Business Council felt that there had to be some symbol of celebration.
This feeling was shared by the management of the King David, and so three children were brought to the hotel’s roof, from which there is a magnificent panoramic view of Jerusalem and beyond. They were photographed as they looked out on new regional horizons, with UAE, Israel and Bahrain flags draped on their backs.
The Abraham Accords were reached not only for us, but more importantly for our children. It’s about creating a new Middle East for their future – one in which they can thrive – and we felt it was important that they be included in this historic moment,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and UAE-Israel Business Council co-founder Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. “Jerusalem is significant to both Islam and Judaism, and with this photo we cordially invite our friends from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to come and visit our beloved city.”
■ NOT ALL ambassadors host receptions to mark the national days of their respective countries. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, most ambassadors who traditionally host receptions have refrained from doing so. Of those who did host reception, Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov, was the only one who held a regular, albeit smaller reception than usual, in a church park in Jaffa. Georgian Ambassador Lasha Zhvania held a symbolic reception in Jerusalem’s Old City; French Ambassador Éric Danon held a very limited reception in the garden of his residence; Philippine Ambassador Neal Imperial held a reception for embassy staff and Israel Foreign Ministry representatives; and German Ambassador Susanne-Wasum Rainer hosted an online reception that was watched by hundreds of guests, not all of whom would necessarily have been among the invitees at a live reception.
Other ambassadors who want to have a celebration of some kind are trying to think out of the box. October 23 marks the 64th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and is a very important date in the Hungarian calendar. Under ordinary circumstances, Hungarian Ambassador Levente Benko would have held the reception on October 22. Instead, he trimmed the guest list to some 100 people to whom he arranged diplomatic delivery on Thursday of an authentic Hungarian meal. The Hungarian Embassy also took the trouble to inquire whether invitees preferred meat or vegetarian food. Most of the recipients in the Gush Dan area were members of the foreign diplomatic corps. Most recipients of the door-to-door delivery in Jerusalem were Israelis who had been given a choice of lunch or dinner, which was brought to them by Hungarian diplomats János Lastofka and László Zoltan Berényi, together with a personal letter from Benko.
As an additional treat on the actual anniversary date, there is an all-day, online screening of the award-winning Hungarian television thriller The Vault, which tells the story of the removal from prison of a former robber whose services were required to open the uncrackable safe of the Internal Affairs Ministry. The keys to the safe were lost in the Hungarian Revolution. The safe-cracker succeeds, but what he finds behind the door differs greatly from anything he expected. The dialogue is in Hungarian, with English subtitles. Viewing is free of charge but advance registration is required at Rsvp.tlv@mfa.gov.hu.
■ AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR Hannah Liko came up with a different food idea. Because there will be no reception at the Austrian residence on Monday, October 26, which is Austrian National Day, Liko has decided to sponsor a food package for Holocaust survivors or other Israelis in need in the name of each person on her guest list. The food parcels will be distributed by Leket, the Israel National Food Bank.
In addition, the Austrian Cultural Forum, together with the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem, will on Sunday, October 25, at 7:30 p.m. host an online event “Jerusalem & Europe – Visions for a World of Tomorrow,” with readings and discussions in English plus musical performances. The event, which coincides with Austria’s National Day, is actually International Artists Day. Participants include Dr. Hanno Loewy, German literature and film scholar and director of The Jewish Museum Hohenems; Austrian stage and screen actress Johanna Lonsky; and Israeli bassoon player Nadav Cohen, a founding member of the Tel Aviv Wind Quartet and a faculty member of the Jerusalem Music Academy. Registration is at event@willybrandtcenter.org.
■ IT WOULD not be surprising if part of the revamped entrance to Jerusalem will at some stage be dubbed President’s Row. The main street in the series of apartment complexes constructed on land that previously housed the Foreign Ministry is named for president Chaim Herzog. It doesn’t actually bear his name because another street in the capital was named in honor of his father, Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog, who was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel.
To avoid confusion, the street at the entrance to the city is called Sixth President of Israel Street. The street is close to the Central Railway Station, which has been named in memory of president Yitzhak Navon, and borders the Jerusalem International Convention Center, better known as Binyenei Ha’uma. At the back of Binyenei Ha’uma is Shazar Boulevard, which has been sealed off until some time in 2022 while the Jerusalem Gateway project is under construction.
Adjacent to these streets are Chaim Weizmann Boulevard and Yitzhak Ben Zvi Boulevard. An underground passageway links the Navon Station with Binyenei Ha’uma, which will soon bear the name of one of Navon’s best long-standing friends Shimon Peres. Binyenei Ha’uma is undergoing extensive reconstruction, renovation and expansion that will turn it into the largest convention center in the Middle East. Binyenei Ha’uma chairman attorney David Shimron, together with CEO Mira Altman, announced this week that the Binyenei Ha’uma board of directors decided to affix the name of Shimon Peres to the 10-year, NIS 800-million project, which will now be known as Shimon Peres Binyenei Ha’uma 2030. Shimron explained that Peres was a man who was a keen proponent of innovation, and even at an advanced age, looked forward to new inventions and discoveries.
A development plan for Binyenei Ha’uma has been gathering dust for 13 years, with construction suspended for a variety of bureaucratic and economic reasons. But now that Jerusalem Gateway is in full force, there is no longer any excuse for delaying implementation of the development plan. Altman and Shimron have long been urging the start of construction, which will include a 55,000 sq.m. congress center, 9,000 meters of exhibition areas, and renovation and expansion of the Ussishkin Auditorium, which will make it the largest in the country, doubling in size from 3,000 to 6,000 seats.
There will also be additional meeting rooms of varying size with special attention paid to acoustics. The complex will also include restaurants, coffee shops and hotels. A total of 800 rooms have been designated for the hotels. There will also be two office towers, plus commercial and leisure areas.
In past years, major opera, dance and orchestral performances have been held at Binyenei Ha’uma, and although the building has undergone various improvements, Israel’s capital still does not have an opera house as such. Before construction gets under way, perhaps the architects and the board of directors could look at ways in which a performing arts center, similar to that of Tel Aviv, could be incorporated into the total project.
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