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Grapevine April 3, 2024: Israeli dramas – Israel News

Ongoing dramas in Israel provide ample fodder for budding novelists and playwrights: the Saturday night and other demonstrations which bring so many people of varied backgrounds together; the difference in treatment of families of hostages by the American and Israeli governments; the number of families whose loved ones were murdered on October 7, who in interviews have said that not a single government minister visited them or contacted them in any way to offer condolences; and how Education Minister Yoav Kisch has been forced to backtrack on several erroneous decisions, the most recent being the Israel Prize.

Last week, the Education Ministry published the full list of this year’s Israel Prize laureates, who at the closing of Independence Day events will receive their awards not in Jerusalem but in Sderot, much to the annoyance of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

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The list includes technology entrepreneur and Benjamin Netanyahu nemesis Eyal Waldman, whom Kisch reportedly wanted to exclude by making certain changes to this year’s Israel Prize ceremony. But when Attorney-General Gali Baharav Miara declined to defend his decision in court, Kisch had no choice other than to retract.

But the controversy is not yet behind him. Both he and Netanyahu sit on a panel with President Isaac Herzog and other dignitaries as each laureate comes to the stage to receive his or her prize, and then walks along the row shaking hands and is congratulated by each of the dignitaries. Will Netanyahu and Kisch exchange a few pleasantries with Waldman and shake his hand, and perhaps offer a few words of sympathy over the loss of his daughter on October 7? Or will they find convenient excuses to absent themselves from the ceremony?

Incidentally, in addition to Waldman, another controversial figure among the laureates will be Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who has spoken out against the haredi draft. Yosef will receive the prize for Torah literature and Jewish law.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, on Israel’s Independence Day, on April 26, 2023. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/POOL)

Three Hebrew University faculty among Israel Prize honorees

■ APROPOS THE Israel Prize, at the Hebrew University, of Jerusalem they’re kvelling, because three of the honorees are among their past and present faculty members.

Prof. Gershon Ben-Shakhar has been recognized for his work in psychology research; Prof. Ya’acov Ritov for his contribution to statistics research, and Prof. Hagai Bergman for life sciences research.

In congratulating them, HU president Prof. Asher Cohen said: “This is no less than an amazing achievement, showcasing the high academic caliber of the Hebrew University, which boasts researchers with exceptional abilities across all disciplines.”

Czech Republic moving embassy soon?

■ WHEN THE Czech Republic opened an embassy branch office in Jerusalem in March, 2021, it was understood that it was merely a matter of time before the whole embassy would move to Israel’s capital, with or without the approval of the European Union. The Czechs have a long history of being among Israel’s best allies in Europe. There’s a reason that Herzog chose to give Israel’s Presidential Medal of Honor to then-Czech president Milos Zeman in July 2022. There’s also a reason that several places in Israel bear the name Masaryk.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said after the Hamas attack on Israel that transferring the embassy to Jerusalem would be “a desirable step.” From recent media reports, it would seem that he is moving in that direction. If so, the Czech Republic will be the first member of the EU to open an embassy in Jerusalem, and the second NATO member state after the US to do so.

Trump stays himself

■ LAST WEEK, former and possibly future US president Donald Trump gave an exclusive interview to Israel Hayom reporters Omer Lachmanovitch and Ariel Kahana, who thought it important that Israel hear what Trump had to say.

Trump, being Trump, claimed that he had done more for Israel than any other US president. It cannot be denied that he did a tremendous amount, but whether he did more than present incumbent Joe Biden is a matter for debate, although Trump will undoubtedly go down in history as the president who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

But there’s nothing surprising in the fact that he gave his exclusive interview to Israel Hayom, which advertised it for days on end on electronic media. The late Sheldon Adelson, who launched Israel Hayom in 2007, was one of the most generous of Republican campaign donors. Trump showed his appreciation in November 2018 by conferring the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Adelson’s wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, who is now one of the wealthiest women in the US and the publisher of Israel Hayom.

Golden Age of American Jews? 

■ SUBJECTS OCCUPYING attention of journalists working for Jewish publications, or Jewish journalists working for general media around the globe, are antisemitism, the Israeli hostage situation, Israel’s war against Hamas, and how far points of disagreement between Israel and the US and Israel and the EU will be permitted to go.

A worrisome April cover story by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic is headlined “The Golden Age of American Jews is Ending.” It has been picked up in whole or in part by various publications outside America, including Yediot Aharonot, which translated it into Hebrew, published it in its financial supplement, Calcalist, and included in the title page of a very long article 24 portraits of prominent American Jews. There are additional illustrations throughout.

There are slightly fewer portraits on the cover of The Atlantic and mostly of people different from those featured in Calcalist. The cover of The Atlantic also contains several lines in Yiddish which do not appear in the Hebrew translation. Printed in Yiddish on the left ear of the page is the statement: “What doesn’t suit America, likewise does not suit me. What’s not good for Jews is also not good for America.” Then, in a line across the page, above the row of portraits: “What happened to our golden land?”

The article was sufficiently provocative to prompt an online discussion with Foer sponsored by Harvard Hillel and introduced by Harvard Hillel Rabbi Dani Passow.

Nineteenth-century Jews considered America to be “Die goldene medina,” and for some it certainly was – almost from day one. But for many Jews it was a tough ride through several periods of antisemitism.

But according to Foer there was a discernible difference between Jews taking on the European way of life and Jews becoming Americans. “Jews didn’t have to accept the devil’s bargain (where) the cost of citizenship was assimilation. In the United States, you could be your Jewish self.”

Even so, with only a few exceptions, most notably in Hollywood, Jews didn’t rise to high positions till the 1960s. In 1950, according to Foer, there was not a single Jewish professor at Yale. By the end of the 1960s, 17% of the professors at elite American universities were Jewish. That’s an incredibly dramatic leap in such a short space of time, and what followed was a golden age for American Jewry in almost every white-collar profession.

Foer began researching antisemitism in America long before October 7. His brother, a religiously observant Jew who lives in Brooklyn, called him to tell him of an antisemitic incident that he had experienced. That call led Foer to research antisemitism in America and to reach the conclusion that, for the foreseeable future, the golden era for Jews in America is nearing its conclusion.

Ethiopian aliyah remains delayed

■ THE PEOPLE least surprised by the government’s failure in a six-month period to bring home the hostages from Gaza are members of Israel’s Ethiopian community, who have been waiting for long years to be reunited with relatives who were left behind with empty promises that their turn to set foot in the Holy Land would soon come. As horrific a situation as the hostages are in, let us not forget that Avera Mengistu has been captive in Gaza since September 2014.

The issue of the Ethiopian Jews still waiting to make aliyah came up in the Knesset last month, when the delay was questioned and criticized by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, who chairs the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs, and Yesh Atid MK and former Knesset speaker Mickey Levy, who chairs the State Control Committee.

At a joint meeting of the two committees, Forer and Levy queried why thousands of people are still stuck in transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar, and why Government Resolution 713 to bring to Israel 3,000 of the 14,000 waiting people had not been implemented. The debate will continue after the summer recess of the Knesset.

Meanwhile, UJA-Federation of New York has weighed in on this injustice. Gabriel Sod, the organization’s Israel-based director of government relations and media, has called on the government to stop its foot-dragging and to bring to Israel 1,226 Ethiopian Jews who have been found eligible. Hundreds of Ethiopian Jewish families have been separated through Israel’s bureaucratic ineptitude.

One example is Svinor Tarkein, who came to Israel from Ethiopia in 2007 and spent six years serving in the IDF. His grandmother remained in Ethiopia, and an uncle of his who lived in Israel was murdered on October 7. Tarkein cannot understand why Ethiopian Jews with proven blood ties to Ethiopians already resident or even born in Israel are prevented from joining them.

New brain imaging center at Reichman University

■ RECENTLY LAUNCHED at Reichman University by the Rosental-Belachovsky family was the Ruth and Meir Rosental Brain Imaging Center, which facilitates interdisciplinary research and integrates the cognitive sciences with medical sciences as well as fields not typically associated with MRI research, such as law, marketing, human-machine interaction, diplomacy, strategy, and management.

The center also provides guidance to researchers who are not experienced in integrating imaging into their research endeavors, assisting them from the conceptualization phase to implementation. The scope of research possibilities is endless.

The center’s MRI device is a Siemens MAGNETOM Prisma 3 Tesla, a state-of-the-art research system designed for human scanning, with the capability to produce exceptionally high-quality images. It enables high-grade anatomical, functional, and metabolic scans of various body organs.

Established in 2021 as part of the university’s Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, the center was converted into an independent university entity in late 2023.

Founded with the aim of helping researchers working with MRI/fMRI technology, the center plays a pivotal role in providing tailored services and an objective window into the brain before, after, or during an activity, which significantly enhances research reliability. The center also offers scanning for interdisciplinary and neurocognitive studies conducted by researchers from Reichman University, other academic institutions, and external companies and start-ups.

At present, researchers at the center are engaged in dealing with post-trauma, resilience, and the impact of innovative treatment methods, alongside basic scientific research.

RU founding president and chairman of the board Prof. Uriel Reichman stressed the importance of the donation of the MRI in contributing to the advancement of the university.

“We are marching towards a substantial expansion of our scope – from interdisciplinarity in the social sciences to interdisciplinarity in technology and life sciences,” he said. “This significant milestone will already be reflected next year, with the opening of additional laboratories, endeavors in the life sciences, and the establishment of the medical school. I have no doubt that the interdisciplinary nature of our institution and the investments made in psychology and neuroscience will yield groundbreaking research.”

Expanding on this theme, Dikla Ender-Fox, director of the center, emphasized that “this contribution by the Rosental-Belachovsky family will pave the way for significant and pioneering research and advancements, particularly at a university that also prioritizes applied research.”

Moral compass

■ SEVERAL HEBREW media outlets last week carried a headline stating that Netanyahu had lost the north. The headline follows the statement by US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that Netanyahu has lost his way, and the suggestion that Israel should go to elections. This did not sit well with Israelis – including those who agree with Schumer – because it was interpreted as American interference in Israeli politics.

But for students of linguistics, there is interesting food for thought. To find one’s way (at least in the traditional manner), one needs a compass. In Hebrew, the word for “compass” is “matzpen.” The word for “north” is “tzafon,” and the word for “conscience” is “matzpun.” The p and the f sounds are interchangeable, and because Hebrew is generally written without vowels, when one looks only at the consonants of the three words, there is an undeniable similarity. This is obvious not only in the spelling but in the meaning. North is the highest point on the compass, and a person’s conscience guides his or her decisions on issues of morality.

Women’s accomplishments

■ REGULAR READERS of The Jerusalem Post will have noticed the extent to which the paper’s management took Women’s History Month to heart and has boosted women leaders in numerous fields, last month bringing them together at a Women Leaders Summit.

Women have reached top ranks in more industries than is generally realized.

At the summit a women’s entrepreneurship competition hosted by Post and the Luzzatto Group was won by Alisa Givertz, founder and CEO of Liquid360, who received the 2024 Next-Gen Women’s Entrepreneurship Award.

Liquid360 offers technological solutions to make companies’ sites more secure and ready for any situation.

The competition for young start-up entrepreneurs took place during the summit at the Google for Start-ups Campus in Tel Aviv. Givertz was selected by a panel of judges that included Dr. Esther Luzzatto, CEO of The Luzzatto Group; Tamar Luzzatto, head of business development, marketing and innovation at The Luzzatto Group; and Dr. Gili Bittan-Banin, head of innovation at the Bazan Group.

Exploring antisemitism at the Begin Heritage Center via Zoom

■ OVER THE past couple of years, the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem has gained a vast following by holding events that are both Zoom and in-person.

Aside from anything else, it enables Zoom audiences abroad to feel as if they are part of the Israel experience.

The next upcoming event in English will be on Sunday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Like the United States and some other Western countries, the UK has experienced a tidal wave of anti-Israel protests and a huge rise in antisemitism since October 7. Weekly demonstrations take place in London, and British members of Parliament fear for their safety if they’re perceived as pro-Israel.

Dr. David Hirsh, the CEO of the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, is currently in Israel and will speak on “Responses to October 7: the British experience.”

Hirsh has been at the forefront of the fight against antisemitism in the UK for more than 20 years, especially antisemitism and anti-Zionism in academia and on campus. He is the author of Contemporary Left Antisemitism and editor of The Rebirth of Antisemitism in the 21st Century. He has coedited a compilation of essays responding to October 7, to be published in May of this year.

Zoom audiences should be aware that the lecture will begin at 12:30 p.m. EDT. Access the link below to join the webinar:


Webinar ID: 823 9633 1946

Uri Dromi retires as head of the Jerusalem Press Club

■ AFTER A decade as founder and director-general of the Jerusalem Press Club, Uri Dromi is retiring, though he won’t be giving up his own journalistic activities as a contributor to publications in Israel and abroad.

From 1992, to 1996, Dromi, a retired air force colonel, served as spokesman for the Rabin and Peres-led governments. He’s also an author and political analyst.

On April 9, JPC will give him a fond farewell reception while simultaneously celebrating its first decade of operations as a professional and social home for foreign and local journalists.

That honor belonged for several years to Beit Agron, which is still home to the Jerusalem Association of Journalists, but which for some years now has ceased to be the central meeting point for journalists working out of the capital.

There was a time when the offices of many foreign news agencies were in or around Beit Agron. But after the Government Press Office moved out and went to its current location in the Malha technological park, things began to disintegrate. Several international television companies rented offices in what was then Jerusalem Capital Studios, and used the various services provided by JCS. Some are still there, but JCS is not. The building was sold to the head of the Jerusalem Post Group, Eli Azur. Several of the electronic media outlets take advantage of the services offered by the GPO.

Dromi was looking for a more central and easily accessible venue and, with the help of the Jerusalem Foundation, found the ideal spot in Yemin Moshe, where facilities for all media have been installed.

During major media events the JPC and the GPO have worked in close cooperation.

American businessman comes to help Israeli business owners affected by war

■ AMERICAN BUSINESS executive, conference speaker, author, and mentor Jay Abraham, who is known for developing successful market industry strategies, was in Israel last week and accepted the invitation of Nir Yeshaya, the CEO of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, to speak to members of the de Rothschild team and leading Israeli businesspeople in Tel Aviv.

Abraham came directly from the US to help owners of businesses that have been harmed as a result of Israel’s war with Hamas.

Abraham, who has been rated by Forbes as one of the top five management coaches and business gurus in the world, accepted Yeshaya’s invitation to meet exclusively with Israel’s leading capitalists to discuss strategies, management hazards, and business crises during emergency situations.

This is one of many initiatives worldwide by the Edmond de Rothschild Group, headed by Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, who is the first woman and the first person without direct Rothschild lineage to head any of the Rothschild institutions.

Billions of dollars have been donated from abroad

■ IF ALL the money raised for a variety of causes in Israel through and by individuals and groups in Israel and abroad was added up, the total would come to many billions of dollars. It’s amazing how Jews can get their act together during a time of crisis – but the money did not come from Jews alone.

For instance, since the October 7 massacre by Hamas and the ensuing war, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Yael Eckstein, has presented the Association for Israel’s Soldiers with $4 million to be used for soldiers’ needs. The association and the IFCJ have partnered in various initiatives since 2005.

The association recently arranged for senior members of the board of the IFCJ to visit a battalion of IDF reservists on a day of R & R, which was made possible through a gift of the IFCJ.

The visitors, who included Eckstein; former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, chairman of the US board Bishop Paul Lanier, IFCJ Canada chairman of the board of directors Mark Climie-Elliott, and HaKeren L’Yedidut director-general Ayelet Shiloh Tamir, were able to speak with the reservists training on the base and hear about their service throughout the war, while the soldiers enjoyed a catered meal, recreational games and musical entertainment.

Vegans and Vegetarians flock to Balfour Street

■ VEGANS AND vegetarians will be flocking to 8 Balfour Street, Jerusalem, on Tuesday evening, April 9, to celebrate the 90th birthday of leading vegetarian advocate Prof. Richard Schwartz, who, together with speakers Rabbi David Rosen, Prof. Yael Shemesh, and Rabbi Adam Frank, will expound on Judaism and vegetarianism, and how abstaining from nonvegetarian and non-vegan products fits in with the Jewish concept of tikkun olam – fixing the world. A prolific writer, Schwartz has written extensively on the topic.

Rosen, the longtime international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, has taken leave from this position to serve as the special adviser to the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi.

Shemesh, in addition to being an eminent Bible scholar, is a long-distance runner. She is a faculty member of the Bible department of Bar-Ilan University, and her various areas of interest include compassion toward animals.

Frank, who is the former spiritual leader of the Moreshet Israel Conservative Congregation in Jerusalem, is an activist in the spheres of religious pluralism and animal welfare, and cochairman of the Jerusalem Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Needless to say, the refreshments to be served will be vegan.

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