The voice of prophecy?


FROM LEFT: Gideon Sa’ar, Einat Sarouf and Albert Dadon.  (photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
FROM LEFT: Gideon Sa’ar, Einat Sarouf and Albert Dadon.
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
One of the reasons that the annual conference of the International Institute for Strategic Leadership Dialogue receives so much publicity in the Israeli media is that its founder, Albert Dadon, succeeds in bringing so many political movers and shakers, as well as academics from different countries and different parties, to sit together in Jerusalem to discuss common issues such as Iran, China, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and climate change.
The institute, which in recent days convened for the 11th time, has gone through a series of name changes because initially it was composed of Israelis and Australians. Then it branched out to include Brits, after which it branched out even further to include Americans. But the multilateral dialogue was this year reduced to again encompass a trilateral representation without Americans.
The institute’s gala dinner on Sunday at the King David Jerusalem Hotel was also by way of an Australian reunion, with several of the invitees wondering out loud as to how they had made it onto the invitation list.
Dadon, when introducing the Israeli keynote speaker, Gideon Sa’ar, noted that prior to their respectively becoming prime minister of Australia, both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott had spoken at one of the dialogue meetings. The inference was that Sa’ar, who has been a regular at these sessions, might perform the hat trick, and be the third potential prime minister to address the institute and go on to the highest political position in the land.
Dadon, who is noted for a broad range of initiatives, is also the founding chairman of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which inter alia sponsors the annual Australian Film Festival in Israel and an Israeli film festival in Australia.
Born in Morocco in 1967, an auspicious year in the history of contemporary Jewry, he grew up in Israel and France, and in 1983 migrated to Australia, where he has been actively involved in various activities covering international affairs, political activism, music and numerous cultural undertakings. A jazz guitarist and composer, Dadon is also a prominent jazz impresario, businessman and philanthropist.
Abbott – who is a great and longtime friend of Israel, and who has attended several of the international dialogues – when he came last year with Dadon, said it would be a good idea to move the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. At the time, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, he said that he had actually proposed moving the embassy at a previous dialogue in Jerusalem in December 2016, before US President Donald Trump had actually ordered the move of the US Embassy. Abbott admitted, however, that moving the embassy had not been on his radar during his own term as prime minister.
So many people wanted to be photographed with Abbott that he barely had any time for social chitchat.
In a sense, there were two Australian reunions, one between Australian expats and visitors from Oz, and another also within that context among alumni of Mount Scopus College, Melbourne’s highly reputed Jewish day school, which has an impressive record of aliyah from among its former students.
Among the Australians in the crowd were former longtime politician Michael Danby; attorney Zvi Ehrenberg; businessman Barry Batagol; physician Michael Goldsmith; Paul Israel, executive director of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce; Rachael Risby Raz, director of development, Tisch Family Zoological Gardens; Manny Waks; James Morrison, digital editor at The Australian; former Australian defense minister Christopher Pyne; Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan; PortGuru founder and CEO Rob Getreu; and Sam Fay. Also among the guests was Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem, who served as ambassador to Australia from 2007 to 2013.
■ OF THE Brits, one of the happiest was Conservative MP John Howell, who sits on the 47-member Council of Europe, which protects and ensures human rights in Europe, promotes sustainable democratic societies, fights corruption and upholds democracy though the rule of law; and is not part of the European Union. There’s been a long-standing argument as to whether the EU should be granted membership in the Council of Europe, which among other things elects the judges who sit in courts ruling on violations of human rights, and according to Howell has done marvelous work on climate change, medical research and health services.
Speakers at last year’s dialogue included a former Israeli prime minister in the person of Ehud Olmert, of whom Dadon spoke glowingly in his introductory remarks. The two men have known each other for more than a decade, and have met both in Israel and Australia.
This year, effervescent singer Einat Sarouf had Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter get up to sing a duet with her. The song was one of The Beatles’ favorites, “Let it Be,” and the lively rendition prompted loud cheers and applause from the Australians present. Sarouf, for her part, wowed everyone. Always a dynamic singer, she was truly at her best on this occasion.
Porter who was the Australian keynote speaker, and on his first-ever trip to Israel, later said that he had been told to be prepared for anything in Israel, “but I wasn’t prepared for this,” he said of his Israeli singing debut. He emphasized that there had been nothing disappointing in his visit, which he said was astounding in every way. It was something that he had craved for his whole life, and it had been “a stunning experience.” If he had one criticism, it was that Israel is not doing enough “to spread its most unique message in the history of mankind.”
Though not Jewish, Porter grew up in a very pro-Zionist household in Perth, Western Australia. He described his mother as a committed Zionist. This was the result of a book that she had been given to take with her on her honeymoon. It was Exodus, by Leon Uris. She was so impressed that Uris became compulsory reading for her family.
A keen gardener, Porter had excitedly noticed some rare eucalyptus trees gracing the streets of Tel Aviv. He recalled that Australian eucalyptus trees were originally brought to Israel to help drain the malaria-infested swamps.
In his concluding remarks Porter said: “Coming to Israel is the most important thing I’ve done in a long time.”
Lord Eric Pickles, the former Conservative MP, who is currently the UK envoy for post-Holocaust issues, is very proud of the fact that England was the first country – even ahead of Israel – to adopt the full definition of antisemitism. This was his third visit to Israel in just over a month. As he often says of himself and said yet again: “I am an unapologetic Zionist.”
Relating to failed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism, which appears to have pervaded the UK, Pickles said that antisemitism had come out of the shadows to become part of a political party. “At 10 p.m. last Thursday, Britain said: ‘You can be an antisemite, but you can’t be elected.’” Those who promote antisemitism, Pickles continued, attack the British way of life.
He saluted those of his friends from the Labour Party who had stood up to Corbyn, and who in some cases had resigned from the party because Corbyn had not done enough to quell antisemitism within it. Pickles declared that he had been proud to be a member of Parliament at the same time that they had been MPs.
Citing some of the reasons Corbyn objected to the definition of antisemitism, Pickles said that the definition made it impossible to compare Israel to Nazi Germany, to say that Israel is an apartheid state or to say that British Jews have a greater loyalty to Israel than to their own country.
Stressing the importance of preserving Holocaust memory now that so few Holocaust survivors are left to testify to the atrocities of that era, Pickles referred to a Holocaust center that is being built within the Imperial War Museum in a series of World War II galleries that will focus on the importance of the Holocaust in the broader sense of the conflict. The center is due to open in 2021, and will be built at a cost of £30.5 million.
He subsequently joined Sarouf on stage together with some other leading figures to belt out the Gali Atari version of “Hallelujah.” Strangely, Sarouf didn’t call on Sa’ar, who inter alia is an amateur DJ.
Sa’ar, at the start of his address, congratulated Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his victory, and described him as a great friend of Israel and the Jewish community of the UK. He also thanked the British people for rejecting Corbyn and his hatred of Jews, and thanked Porter for his strong stand against BDS. Meanwhile, Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev posted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s congratulatory message on his Twitter account.
Israelis have a soft spot for Johnson because he worked as a volunteer on kibbutz, and Australians have a soft spot for him because in 1983 he spent his gap year in the state of Victoria, where he worked as an assistant at the Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School and developed a taste for Australian beer.
■ IT’S INTERESTING that Sa’ar, who is contesting against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, and who has stated more than once that someone who has been indicted should not be leading the country, doesn’t mind having his name linked with Haim Katz, who last August resigned from his position as minister of labor and social services following his indictment on charges of fraud and breach of trust. Neither Netanyahu nor Katz has yet had his day in court, so why does Sa’ar, a lawyer by profession and a former aide to both the attorney-general and the state prosecutor, prefer to look on Katz as innocent until proved guilty, and on Netanyahu as guilty until proved innocent?
■ MANY HIGH-ranking Israelis were quick to post congratulatory messages to Johnson on his landslide victory. Some referred to him as their “good friend,” but the only one who can really make the claim on a personal and not political basis is Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who is part of the Blue and White triumvirate plus one. Lapid and Johnson have been friends since before the latter was mayor of London – a position he held from 2008  to 2016. In November 2015, Johnson came to Israel as one of the keynote speakers at the annual Balfour Day dinner hosted by the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association. Lapid was the Israeli keynote speaker on that occasion.
But even Lapid didn’t get to kick a soccer ball to Johnson. That honor was reserved for President Reuven Rivlin – and, believe it or not, both men were wearing their regular business suits. Well, there’s something to be said about the old adage that men will be boys.
■ THE TWO most sobering thoughts related to the upcoming Fifth World Holocaust Forum, taking place on January 23, 2020, at Yad Vashem under the title of “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” is that so few survivors of that horrendous era in human history remain to tell of the atrocities they witnessed and personally experienced. This also means the gradual cessation of personal memoirs by Holocaust survivors. In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, there was a glut of such literature. People who had never spoken of their experiences felt a need to commit their memories to paper to ensure that future generations would know what had happened and would try to prevent a future catastrophe of such proportions of inhumanity.
Close to 40 world leaders have accepted Rivlin’s invitation to come to Jerusalem and to reaffirm their commitment to fight not only antisemitism but all forms of racism, and to ensure that the Holocaust remains on the educational curricula of their countries. The gathering, being organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, in cooperation with Yad Vashem, the President’s Office and the Foreign Ministry, will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Yad Vashem and award-winning portrait photographer Martin Schoeller have joined forces to create a meaningful commemorative project portraying 75 Holocaust survivors who reside in Israel. The project includes a photo book containing 75 portraits and the messages bequeathed by the survivors to coming generations. The book includes forwards by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev and former president of Germany Joachim Gauck.
In addition, an impactful photography exhibition is to open in Germany on January 21 in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This exhibition is being offered for display in museums throughout the world, in general, and Europe, in particular.
Within the context of Holocaust remembrance, Facebook is collaborating with Yad Vashem to promote the I Remember Wall on its platform in six languages, so that people all over the world will be able to engage in interactive and dynamic commemoration of victims of the Holocaust. Each participant will be randomly linked to the name of one of more than 4,800,000 Jewish men, women and children currently listed in Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names.
■ THERE ARE many ways in which to commemorate both the victims and the heroes of the Holocaust. In London, the Chelsea Football Club Foundation, which has been active in the Say No to Antisemitism campaign, will host an event at Stamford Bridge in West London, where celebrated street artist Solomon Souza, who was born and raised in London but has been living in Israel since his late teens, will paint a commemorative mural of Jewish soccer players and British POWs who were incarcerated in Nazi camps.
Souza, who is famous for his spray-paint portraits of famous people on the walls of Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market, recently took his talent to Goa in India, where his grandfather Francis Newton Souza, a famous artist, was born. The older Souza’s works are displayed in leading British museums and galleries, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and the Tate Modern Gallery.
The Stamford Bridge project is being funded by Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea Football Club.
■ TEN YEARS ago, after he began investigating the links between Ashkelon and South Africa, London-born David Zwebner, who now lives in Jerusalem, but grew up in Johannesburg, approached Telfed, the Israeli branch of the South African Zionist Federation, with the idea that Ashkelon should be promoted as an aliyah destination for South African immigrants. There was minimal interest on Telfed’s part and equal lack of enthusiasm from the Ashkelon Municipality, even though Ashkelon boasts a neighborhood known as Afridar.
At his own initiative, Zwebner went to two South African aliyah fairs. He was supported by neither Telfed nor the Ashkelon Municipality. But Zwebner, who is a man with several careers at his fingertips, including that of a registered tour guide, does not give up easily. As a tour guide, he obviously learned something of the history of Ashkelon and its deep-rooted South African connection. He pushed this point to prospective immigrants in South Africa, and kept on urging Telfed and the Ashkelon Municipality to take action in this regard.
A couple of years back, Zwebner, whose education had been interrupted when he came to Israel in 1966, decided to complete his BA at Ashkelon College. While doing so in 2018, he wrote a thesis on the South African contribution to Ashkelon, which he subsequently turned into a book called The Founding of Modern Ashkelon.
In the interim, both Telfed and the municipality began to come around to Zwebner’s way of thinking and joined in celebrating the 70th anniversary of South African Jewish involvement in the development of Ashkelon.
The book is a tribute to the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, which were solidly behind the development of modern Ashkelon, initially for the purpose of housing Holocaust survivors but soon after as a destination of domicile for South African immigrants. The book contains the names of many of the South Africans who were among the first to make their homes in Ashkelon, including some still living, such as Selwyn Lurie, who took over the running of the project in 1956, and Jack Schneider, who was the first city engineer.
The first elected mayor in 1955 was the late Dr. Henry Sonnabend, a Polish-born Jew who migrated to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and later to South Africa, where he was chosen by the South African Jewish Fund to lead the Ashkelon project.
The book also contains copies of numerous press clippings about Ashkelon, from which a byline familiar to very veteran readers of the Post springs out – the late colorful and controversial Philip Gillon, who inter alia wrote a column under the heading of Ashkelon Diary.
■ WOMEN, WHO were so long sidelined when it came to teaching Torah, have really come into their own over the past 70 years – not only in the Reform and Conservative movements, where they have also been ordained as rabbis, but in Orthodox movements where they are permitted to act as pleaders in rabbinical courts. Orthodox religious educational institutes for women produce graduates whose depth of knowledge can not only compete with, but sometimes surpass that of yeshiva alumni. Thus, it comes as no surprise that women also author books on religious subjects.
One such woman is Sharona Margolin Halickman, originally from Riverdale, New York, who has a BA in Jewish studies and an MS in Jewish education from Yeshiva University’s Stern College and Azrieli Graduate School, respectively. She was also a graduate of Matan’s Eshkolot Fellowship and is currently a Matan Hilkhata fellow. Margolin Halickman is also the founding director of Torat Reva Yerushalayim, which provides Torah study groups for elderly residents of southern Jerusalem in nursing homes, senior centers and assisted living communities, in addition to classes for students of all ages and backgrounds, including those with special need, in group homes, synagogues and private residences.
Her book Parsha Points: More Torah from the Land of Israel will be relaunched on Thursday, December 19, at Holzer Books , 91 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem. The author will also give a lecture on Joseph and his brothers, focusing on why the Torah goes into so much detail to describe Joseph’s clothing.
■ THE LAST batch of new ambassadors for 2019 will present their credentials on Wednesday to Rivlin. They include Evgeny Semyonovich Vorobyev of Belarus; Satybaldy Burshakov of Kazakhstan; Osvaldo dos Santos Varela of Angola; Dr. Hannah Liko of Austria and Khoun Phon Rattanak of Cambodia.
■ FORMER US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie, were deeply moved last week to receive the Union for Reform Judaism’s Alexander M. Schindler Award for Service to World Jewry, presented to them by their close friend URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs. Shapiro posted on his Facebook account that they were “honored and humbled to be recognized by a movement that shaped us and means so much to us. And wonderful to do so in the presence of our families and so many dear friends. “
His parents, Elizabeth and Michael Shapiro, were thrilled. His mother posted on social media: “We could not be prouder. We love you both.”
The prize was presented to them at the URJ Biennial Conference in Chicago. In introducing the couple, it was stated: “For the past eight years, Julie Fisher has taken a personal interest in the conversation about the safety, care and education of the children of African asylum-seekers in south Tel Aviv and has worked with NGOs and other partners to improve conditions in schools and childcare facilities through fund-raisers and hands-on repair projects. In 2018, she created the Consortium for Israel and the Asylum-Seekers in order to bring attention to the issue of supporting the African asylum-seeking community in Israel.”
“Daniel B. Shapiro was named distinguished visiting fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute of National Security Studies in March 2017, following a diverse career of over 20 years in senior foreign policy and national security positions in the United States government.”