Grapevine October 4, 2023: Politics and semantics

Grapevine October 4, 2023: Politics and semantics

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG is greeted on arrival at the Theatron Jerusalem Hotel by entrepreneur Sharon Hasid, whose Hasid Brothers company conceived and built the hotel. Standing alongside Hasid is the hotel’s general manager, Sheldon Ritz, and behind the president are UEFA president Aleksander Ceferi (photo credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM)
PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG is greeted on arrival at the Theatron Jerusalem Hotel by entrepreneur Sharon Hasid, whose Hasid Brothers company conceived and built the hotel. Standing alongside Hasid is the hotel’s general manager, Sheldon Ritz, and behind the president are UEFA president Aleksander Ceferi
(photo credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM)

Semantics are extremely important in what they convey and how they are interpreted. For instance, one of the statements made over and over again in slightly differing variations by coalition ministers and members of Knesset is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected by the majority of the electorate. That is simply not true.

The people who voted for the parties that are part of the government coalition voted in the hope that the leader of whichever party for which they had voted would become prime minister. Naftali Bennett had demonstrated that one can be prime minister even when leading a party that did not score well in the elections.Yes, it is true that the Likud, the party led by Netanyahu, received the most votes, but there was no guarantee that Netanyahu could reach agreement with other right-wing parties or with the religious parties.

Remember what happened to Tzipi Livni in 2008. Following the resignation of prime minister Ehud Olmert, Livni was tasked by president Shimon Peres to form a government. She failed and called for elections. Netanyahu could have just as easily failed, if his coalition partners had refused whatever he was offering.

Let’s not forget that Israel does not have direct elections for a prime minister. It did legislate for direct elections some 30 years ago, and there were direct elections in the general elections of 1996, 1999, and in 2001, when Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak. But the experiment proved to be unpopular, and the elections reverted to a modified version of what they had been previously.

■ UP UNTIL very recently, one of the key concerns of the State of Israel and of the world Jewish leadership was how to keep Holocaust memory alive and prevent it from becoming a mere chapter in Jewish history. But now, following the publication of the results of surveys on attitudes by Jews to religion, there is concern that secular animosity toward ultra-Orthodox Jews and to religion per se will become increasingly pervasive. The abhorrent display of intolerance at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur was reminiscent of Kristallnacht, with the difference this time that it was Jews attacking Jews.

Some months before this, Yoel Weiss, international director of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and Gilad Alfasi, a yeshiva alumnus and film producer, decided to make a movie to tell the story of the Yom Kippur War through the eyes of the young yeshiva students – both the Israeli students who went into battle, and the American students who became volunteers on the home front. It was thought that their experiences during and after the war could help today’s young people to understand the impact of the war on Israeli society.

The 35-minute movie, called The Yom Kippur War: Yeshivat Har Etzion on the Front Lines, will be publicly screened for the first time on Thursday evening, October 5, at Hechal Shlomo, in Jerusalem, as part of the Hoshana Raba event, organized by Herzog College and Yeshivat Har Etzion.

Reuniting families

■ IT WAS a happy reunion last week when the Shapiro and Lipski families of Melbourne, Australia, met up with their former rabbi in Jerusalem.

The occasion was the bar mitzvah of Nadav Shapiro, the son of Ahron Shapiro and Ilana Lipski, and the grandson of Sam and Aura Lipski.

Three members of the family have connections with The Jerusalem Post. Sam Lipski, an esteemed and influential Australian print and electronic media journalist, was many years ago the Washington correspondent for the Post; and before they were married Ahron Shapiro and Ilana Lipski each worked in the editorial office of the Post.

The rabbi in question is Jerusalem-born Rabbi Ehud Bandel.

Bandel, a former paratrooper, has the distinction of being the first Sabra to be ordained as a Conservative rabbi, and was also the first rabbi to serve Kehilat Nitzan, the only Conservative congregation in Melbourne, which, until his arrival in 2006, depended on a lay leadership. Bandel and his family stayed in Melbourne for five years, making a deep impression and attracting many new congregants from Orthodox and Reform congregations who found new spiritual meaning in Conservative Judaism.

As it happened, Bandel officiated at the circumcision ceremony when Nadav Shapiro was born.

Prior to his stint in Australia, Bandel served as the president and CEO of the Masorti Movement (Conservative Judaism in Israel), from 1997 to 2005.

Active in interfaith and human rights work, Bandel was the founding director of Rabbis for Human Rights. He also sits on the executive boards of several global Jewish organizations.

The bar mitzvah service was conducted in the egalitarian prayer section of the Western Wall at Robinson’s Arch. After welcoming all those who attended, Bandel gave a brief history of Robinson’s Arch, before commencing the service, saying with a twinkle in his eye that Robinson’s Arch was no less a part of the Western Wall than the much larger site with its plaza, which is more familiar. He also pointed out that at the egalitarian service, families can sit together without gender separation, and that mothers do not have to stand on plastic chairs to look over the mechitza (partition) when their sons are called to the Torah.

Girls are also called to the Torah in the egalitarian section, he said, as he distributed a bar and bat mitzvah service prayer book that he had prepared, which included a transliteration of the total service to ensure that everyone present could join in even if they could not read Hebrew.

Sam Lipski had an additional reason for being in Israel, after a four-year absence. A room in Israel’s new National Library has been dedicated in his name, and he was naturally curious to see it and to tour the magnificent building, which will be officially opened later this month.

Lipski is no stranger to the National Library. A former president of the State Library of Victoria, Lipski, in March 2021, moderated a conversation between Dr. Marie Louise Ayres, the director-general of the National Library of Australia, and Oren Weinberg, the director-general of the National Library of Israel. Introductory remarks were made by Paul Griffiths, who was then the Australian ambassador to Israel.

Lipski has long been involved in Australian connections to Israel. As the former executive director of the Pratt Foundation, established by the late Richard Pratt and his wife, Jeanne, Lipski oversaw the creation in Beersheba of the Park of the Australian Soldier, which was funded by the Pratt Foundation in memory of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who, in October 1917, fought in and won the Battle of Beersheba, which led to the issuing of what has become known as the Balfour Declaration, paving the way for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.

■ NATIONAL LIBRARIES are home to a myriad of subjects. Among those housed in the National Library of Israel are the pre-state battle hymns of partisans and paramilitary organizations. In a special Sukkot broadcast on KAN Reshet Bet, hosted by Akiva Novick under the title “Anonymous Partisans,” Dr. Hezi Amior, the chief curator at the NLI, described the hymns and battle songs of pre-state anonymous partisans and paramilitary groups from the Right and the Left, whose goals were similar, but whose approaches were different. Listeners got to hear parts of the stirring anthems of the Stern Group, Irgun, Hagana, Palmah, and the Partisans of the Vilna Ghetto under the leadership of Abba Kovner, who survived and came to Israel.

Amior told the story behind each of the hymns, all of which survived to the present day, but none more so than “Zog nisht keyn mol az du geist dem lest veg,” the Yiddish song of defiance of the partisans of the Vilna Ghetto. After its fall, the song was penned by Hirsh Glick. In 1943 it was taken up by all the partisan camps in Eastern Europe and later the rest of the Jewish world, with particularly profound meaning for Holocaust survivors and their families.

Another song that has survived and that has become something in the nature of a hymn is “Eli, Eli,” the poem written by Hungarian immigrant Hanna Szenes, who was a volunteer paratrooper who migrated from Hungary to Palestine in 1939 and during the war was parachuted behind enemy lines. She was captured, taken to Budapest, and killed by the Nazis on November 7, 1944.

A dramatic production of the story of her life will be staged at Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv on October 28 and at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem on October 29.

Her courage, and her dedication to the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland remain an inspiration for Hungarian Jewry and for Hungarians per se, and for world Jewry.

Hitting the jackpot

■ THE GENERAL manager of a hotel knows that he’s hit the jackpot when guests include heads of state and government, foreign ministers, and internationally known dignitaries. The Theatron Jerusalem Hotel, an initiative of Hasid Brothers, has not been operating long enough for general manager Sheldon Ritz to host the whole caboodle, but he’s definitely hosted diplomats – the foreign minister of Ireland and, most recently, President Isaac Herzog, who came for lunch in honor of Union of European Football Associations president Aleksander Ceferin. Herzog also met separately with Ceferin at the President’s Residence, where the UEFA president was accompanied by Shino Zuares, chairman of the Israel Football Association.

As for the luncheon – which was also attended by senior IFA officials – Herzog and his wife, Michal, did not have to go very far to get there. They could either walk around the corner, or use the rear exit from the President’s Residence and simply cross the road.

Ceferin also visited the Prime Minister’s Office together with Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar, Zuares, and IFA CEO Niv Goldstein. Netanyahu thanked Ceferin for the selection of Israel as host of the U19 European Championship in 2027. The discussion included the possibility that Jerusalem will host the 2026/27 Conference League Final.

This week, the large, elegant sukkah at the Theatron was filled with people staying at the hotel and those who simply came for a meal. There were family groups, couples, and groups of friends that included young children and senior citizens. There was a different theme every night, and among the guests on the Greek night was former US senator Joe Lieberman. Several of the guests got up to dance to the music.

■ CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to Ilan Evyatar, a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Report, and Yonah Jeremy Bob, currently the military reporter at The Jerusalem Post, and for several years before that the law reporter, on the publication of their new book, Target Tehran: How Israel Is Using Sabotage, Cyberwarfare, Assassination – and Secret Diplomacy – to Stop a Nuclear Iran and Create a New Middle East. They were notified by Simon & Schuster that the book has been published and will be released this week. Review copies of books are generally distributed several weeks and even months ahead of final publication. So far, the book has received favorable reviews in The Wall Street Journal, The Dispatch, the Report, the Post, Israel Hayom and other newspapers and magazines.

Really good for the ego was the review from the WSJ, an extract of which states: “If only Washington and our presidential candidates would get the point about Iran and back Israel more vigorously, we would be far closer to real Middle East peace and security. The candidates could start by writing their own reviews of Target Tehran.”

The two writers will be holding a book launch in Jerusalem on October 15. Space is limited. Anyone who cares to attend should email

■ A MASSIVE trimming of the guest list did not visibly reduce the number of invitees to the wedding of Graziela Drahi and Roye Rahav, which was held last Thursday at the Gabriel Banquet complex in Ness Ziona, where 1,200 people witnessed the bridal ceremony which was conducted by former chief rabbi of Israel and of Tel Aviv Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and afterward enjoyed a sit-down dinner.

The bride is the daughter of Lina and Patrick Drahi, and the groom is the son of Hila and Rani Rahav.

In his many years as a rabbi who has officiated at countless weddings and bar mitzvahs and officiated at the circumcision and bar mitzvah ceremonies of the groom, it is doubtful that Lau has ever been in the company of so many millionaires and billionaires at one time. The little boy who was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp has certainly come a long way in his own achievements and the people he meets. The tycoons from overseas arrived from 60 countries in no less than 100 private planes.

Flowers are part of every wedding – sometimes just a modest bouquet carried by the bride, and sometimes a whole Garden of Eden. In this case, it was the latter, with literally thousands of flowers contributing to the decor. The dress code was formal, with men attired in well-tailored business suits or tuxedos, and women in elegant evening gowns, though the mothers of both the bride and the groom were fashion-wise a hard act to follow.

Some two-thirds of the guests were from the Drahi side of the guest list, and one third from the Rahavs. The latter included past and present political figures, industrialists, diplomats, and people from the world of entertainment, along with relatives and close friends. Among them were Orna Barbivay, who took time out from her Tel Aviv mayoral campaign, Olmert, Livni, Ayelet Shaked, Liora and Michael Federmann, Danny Gillerman, Shari Arison, Yona Elian and Sassi Keshet, Lia Koenig, Rita, Rami Kleinstein, Sandra Sadeh, Miriam Zohar and Evgenia Dodina.

■ A SOMEWHAT more modest affair was the marriage of Yoni Cotler to Inbar Eldar. The bride is the daughter of Carmela and Alon Eldar, and the groom is the son of international human rights activist and former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler and his Israeli wife, Ariela, who hosted a kiddush at the Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue in Jerusalem, close to where they have an apartment. The Cotlers are on a frequent commute between Israel and Canada.

■ OTHER THAN the issue of gender segregation in the public space, the big question confronting the residents of Tel Aviv is whether the upcoming municipal elections will be Ron Huldai’s last hurrah.

It will be remembered that when Huldai announced his intention to run for Knesset, he received so little support that the plan was buried within weeks of its announcement. Many people, especially those who remember the humiliating defeat in Jerusalem of Teddy Kollek at the hands of Olmert, have advised Huldai to bow out of the mayoral race. Admittedly, Huldai, at 79, with 25 years as mayor to his credit, is a little younger than Kollek was, who ran his final race at age 82, after having been elected six times, but there are many people who believe that despite his many achievements, Huldai should realize, after quarter of a century at the helm, that Tel Aviv needs new blood and fresh ideas.

One of the people who admires Huldai, but is rooting for Barbivay, is former Herzliya mayor Yael German, who had served three terms when invited by Yair Lapid to join Yesh Atid. Weighing the pros and cons, she reached the conclusion that Herzliya needed new leadership, and accepted Lapid’s invitation.

She went on to become health minister and Israel’s ambassador to France, resigning the latter post when the present government came into power. German notes Barbivay’s proven leadership qualities as the highest-ranking woman in the IDF, as a legislator, and as economy minister. In just over three weeks, we will know who will be running the show in Tel Aviv for the coming five years. At the time of writing, Huldai is still determined to run.

■ AT THE start of Global Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this past Sunday, institutions and organizations around the world emphasized the importance of regular examinations and early detection of breast cancer in the quest to save lives from the dreaded disease. In some countries, including Israel, it generates so much fear that people are reluctant to call it by its name, and simply refer to it as the illness.

The good news in Israel is that due to early detection, there have been fewer fatalities from breast cancer in recent years than in the previous decade.

It has been a long-standing tradition on the part of the Israel Cancer Association to open its annual campaign at the President’s Residence, which for the whole of this week is bathed in a pink light inside and outside to signify its identification with the cause.

During the tenure of current President Isaac Herzog, there is also a family involvement. His mother’s sister Suzy Eban was the founding president of the association, serving in that role from 1959 to 1998. Prior to her presidency, it had been a small organization of volunteers, which she joined in 1952. But after she was elected to helm the organization, Eban launched a fund-raising campaign among her wealthy and influential friends and began building the ICA into one of Israel’s largest volunteer organizations.

At the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation on Sunday, there was the inauguration of the “GamAni Prize,” a prestigious award recognizing six exceptional individuals who have made, or are making, profound contributions to the fight against breast cancer in Israel. The prize is an initiative of “GamAni – the Israeli Association for Women’s Cancers,” which promotes awareness about breast cancer, early detection, and the significance of physical activity in the journey of women battling and recovering from breast cancer.

Unlike #MeToo, which is a movement of women who have been sexually abused, GamAni, which translates as “Me, Too,” is an organization of women who have triumphed over cancer and help others to do the same.

While early detection is widely acknowledged as enhancing the chances of recovery, the transformative impact of physical activity, specifically running, remains less recognized. It has been proven that physical activity can significantly alleviate side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy, improve recovery prospects, and substantially diminish the risk of recurrence.

GamAni’s Running Club is a national community-driven effort that unites women engaged in the battle against breast cancer or other female cancers, fostering their physical and mental well-being with dedicated running groups led by highly qualified volunteer coaches and renowned fitness professionals. Currently encompassing 50 groups, 100 coaches, and more than 1,000 women from Nahariya to Eilat, GamAni’s Running Club is literally growing from strength to strength, and its members are in the pink in more ways than one.

Throughout October, GamAni Running Clubs groups nationwide will spearhead an expansive awareness campaign named “Running Around the World.” Participants will include healthy running enthusiasts as well as those recovering from cancer. There will also be professional sports teams, Olympic athletes, workplace groups, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and diplomats worldwide. The goal of the collective effort of the October run is the completion of 40,075 kilometers – symbolizing the Earth’s circumference.

The GamAni prize committee, headed by Lihi Lapid, includes Prof. Ido Wolf, director of the oncology division at Sourasky Medical Center and Olympic medalist Oren Smadja.

■ SEPHARDI CHIEF Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef raised the ire of a number of people in Israel and abroad with a remark made during a lesson that he gave last weekend, in which he said “A person who eats nonkosher becomes dull-witted, and this makes it difficult for that person to understand. But when they keep kosher, you can continue to influence them positively.”

Veteran broadcaster Aryeh Golan, whose early morning current affairs program on Reshet Bet includes a mix of interviews, reports, and various newspaper items that he reads out to listeners, managed to contain his indignation and, after reading of Yosef’s comments in more than one paper, said in a calm, respectful voice said that there are also dull-witted people who eat kosher all their lives.

It’s doubtful that Yosef was so outspoken when President Herzog visited him in his sukkah on Sunday.

■ IT’S AMAZING what some people will do to accommodate a government minister. The inauguration of the Napoleon Promenade, the Port of Acre and the Marina, had been scheduled for October 10, but Tourism Minister Haim Katz has other important business on that date, so the event has been brought forward to October 8.

Just imagine how many people had set aside October 10, and had organized other things for October 8, and now have to decide whether to cancel their attendance at the inauguration ceremonies, or the other appointments they had arranged for October 8. When the president, prime minister and foreign minister can’t attend events, they send a video with a congratulatory message. There is no logical reason why the tourism minister can’t do likewise.

On the other hand, it may be important for Katz to bid farewell to Acre Mayor Shimon Lancri, who this week presided over the opening of an Acre branch of the Rimon School of Music, and after four terms in office will not be standing for reelection.


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