GREER FAY CASHMAN
Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1994 / (photo credit: SA’AR YA’ACOV/GPO)
The annual Ner Yitzhak memorial ceremony at the President’s Residence, which brings together relatives, friends and colleagues of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, will be on a much-reduced level this year, not only because the grim reaper has impacted on attendance, but also due to coronavirus limitations.
This is particularly jarring, given that this is the 25th anniversary year of the murder of a prime minister of Israel by an Israeli Jew. The lesson of what can result from mass hatred and incitement has obviously not been learned, given the violent incidents at some demonstrations throughout the country.
Ner Yitzhak, by way of the kindling of a giant-size memorial candle, marks the start this Thursday, October 29, of a series of memorial events, which this year will be relatively low-key and largely conducted on social media in Israel and abroad.
Because the overwhelming majority of live events have been canceled, the Yitzhak Rabin Center, in cooperation with the Education Ministry, will on Thursday screen a broadcast that will be transmitted to some 350,000 students on all digital education platforms, including YouTube and Facebook.
The opening addresses will be delivered by Education Minister Yoav Gallant and Dalia Rabin, the prime minister’s daughter, who heads the Rabin Center. Actor Daniel Litman will then take the students on a virtual tour of the history of Yitzhak Rabin’s life, within the context of how it was interwoven with the history of Israel from before the establishment of the state to the time of his death. The broadcast will begin at 11 a.m.
At the same time on Thursday (given that so many online events are prerecorded) Dalia Rabin will participate in the online memorial hosted by the Zionist Federation of Australia (www.zfa.com.au/rabin), where the keynote speaker will be former Labor MK Omer Bar Lev, who was part of the military team that negotiated the first agreement with the Palestinians after the Oslo Accords – the Gaza-Jericho Agreement – and was also a part of the military team that negotiated the military aspects of the peace agreement with Jordan.
Bar Lev says that although the details are important, the significant strategic decision by Rabin to reach an agreement was based on his military background and his period as IDF chief of staff. It meant giving up some of Israel’s long-held beliefs and putting them aside, as Rabin considered the peace and the security of Israel to be more important.
Following Rabin’s assassination, Bar Lev in 1997 initiated and founded the Aharai movement, an NGO that helps to empower Israeli youth living in the geographic and/or economic periphery. Aharai is the clarion cry of Israeli military commanders as they lead their soldiers into battle.
In addition, the ZFA will also launch a book, Remembering Rabin, with reflections on Rabin’s life and legacy by key Australians, including Australian expatriates living in Israel. The book, which is free and online, will be launched on November 1. Among the writers are Australia’s Jewish prose laureate Sam Lipski, and Jewish community leader Simone Szalmuk Singer, who wears many leadership hats. Plans are afoot to also publish the book in hardcover form. The two will appear in ZFA’s weekly lockdown learning on Sunday and can be seen on the ZFA Facebook page at 11 a.m. in Israel. The book is scheduled to be available online at www.zfa.com.au/RememberingRabin this coming Friday.
Rabin memorial events will be held in several other countries, including Romania, where The ‘Theodor Herzl’ Center for Israeli Studies at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA) will host an online meeting with Prof. Itamar Rabinovich as the main speaker.
Rabinovich was Israel’s ambassador to the United States during the Rabin administration and worked closely with Rabin. He is also a former rector and president of Tel Aviv University, and the founding president of the Israel Institute in Washington. In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate from SNSPA. He believes that the assassination had serious consequences for the political dynamics in Israel and in the Middle East.
Other speakers at this event will be Ambassador to Romania David Saranga and SNSPA rector Prof. Remus Pricopie. The link to the meeting, which will be held on November 5, is
Meeting number: 121 739 6547
Host key: 174198
Meanwhile, admirers of Rabin can look forward to a six-part miniseries about Israel’s soldier-turned diplomat-turned politician to be made by Los Angeles-based Israeli film maker Ariel Vromen, who as a boy was Rabin’s neighbor. The initiative for the series came from Rabin’s grandson Jonathan Benartzi. The Rabin family has made available footage previously unseen by the public, and the Rabin Center has given Vromen access to hundreds of hours of interviews, which will complement the script Vromen is writing based on The Rabin Memoirs, which the prime minister wrote in collaboration with journalist Dov Goldstein.
One last Rabin related item involves the outrage that Orly Levy-Abecassis brought upon herself. In an interview with Israel Hayom’s Mati Tuchfeld, Levy-Abecassis said that she had declined to speak at a memorial rally for Rabin after joining the Labor-Meretz alliance and had not even attended. When organizers asked about her absence, her reply had been: “He’s your Rabin, not mine.” The rally, as always, was designed to explain and continue Rabin’s legacy. In subsequent interviews, Levy-Abecassis said that she doesn’t even know what Rabin’s legacy is. She surmised that it might include many important items, but also ideas to which she is entirely opposed. She therefore had no regrets about her refusal to participate in what she considered to be a political campaign. “It’s not my legacy, and I have no intention of apologizing,” she said, adding that there is a tendency to say that if people don’t believe in Rabin’s legacy, they were in favor of him being killed. She sees this as bordering on incitement.
Controversy has been the hallmark of her political career. She entered the Knesset in 2009 on a Yisrael Beytenu ticket, left the party in 2017 and formed Gesher as an independent faction in the Knesset. She failed to win a seat in the April 2019 elections, and in September 2019 formed an alliance with Labor-Meretz. By March 2020, the romance was over, and in May Levy-Abecassis signed a deal with the Likud.
Her reward was the superfluous Communal Strengthening and Development Ministry specially created for her, thereby putting an additional strain on the public purse at a time when much of the general public is facing severe economic distress. Gesher means bridge. The only bridge Levy-Abecassis created was for herself to cross from one party to another. Her joining of the Labor-Meretz alliance deprived authentic members of those parties of the chance to be a legislator. There is no way of knowing how many more votes the Labor-Meretz alliance might have received without Levy-Abecassis being a spoke in the wheel.
Even before the Rabin event, the ZFA on Sunday held a tribute online event to the ANZACS who triumphed in the 1917 Battle of Beersheba by honoring some of their ancestors and showing a film made by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Ride Like an ANZAC.
The film combines archive footage with recent events such as the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, which was attended by the prime minister of Australia and the governor-general of New Zealand as well as many diplomats, including former Australian ambassador Dave Sharma, who prior to completing his tenure did a lot of work toward making the event a success, his successor Chris Cannan, the ambassador of New Zealand, and most of the heads of foreign missions in Israel.
Also attending were descendants of the ANZACs who fought in the battle. Dressed in Australian Army uniforms and mounted on horses, they reenacted the triumphant charge by their grandfathers.
While still serving in Israel, Sharma, an enthusiastic cyclist, had joined a group of bike riders led by Danny Hakim under the slogan of “Ride Like an Anzac,” which essentially meant annually tracing the ANZAC trail in the Negev on bikes instead of horses. Canaan is also a keen bike rider, and so is current Ambassador Paul Griffiths, who is looking forward to riding around Israel.
Hakim, and Elsie Amamoo and Ray Minniecon, who are both descendants of Battle of Beersheba ANZACs, were among the speakers in Sunday’s online event.
Although it was already an issue in the middle of the 19th century, Australian Aborigines were denied voting rights after federation in 1901, but when they wore the Australian Army uniform and went into battle in foreign lands, they were treated almost as equals. It was not until 1962 that the Commonwealth Electoral Act gave them the right to vote in federal elections.
Ride Like an ANZAC will be rescreened in Israel on Wednesday, October 28, at 1 p.m. The virtual event will also feature Griffiths, Australian military attaché Col. Brandon Wood and some of the cyclists who participated in the centenary ride in 2017.
The link to register is:
The event is a joint endeavor by the Australian Embassy, Budo for Peace, the Israel Life Saving Federation, Telfed and the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.
Positive developments with regard to Israel’s relations with other countries in the region keep popping up all the time. Many people in the Foreign Ministry who deserve a share in the credit are not getting it, which is grossly unfair, as a major part of their work lies in the promotion, creation and advancement of bilateral and multilateral relations.
The Americans, who certainly deserve a lot of credit, are getting it, and US Ambassador David Friedman is inundated with invitations to appear at Zoom and YouTube events to discuss the future of the region. One such event last week, in which Friedman spoke with Prof. Uzi Rabi, the director of Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies, was held under the auspices of the Friends of TAU.
Friedman, who pronounced himself to be “enormously optimistic” about the future, is confident that in his and Rabi’s lifetimes, the Arab-Israeli conflict will come to an end and that “all 22 Arab nations will get on board.” He could not say exactly how long it would take for this to happen, but his optimism gave rise to the hope that it would be sooner rather than later, and that peace-loving people on all sides would not have to wait another quarter of a century to see long-dreamed-of changes in the region.
Despite intensive global research into cures for cancer, it continues to be one of the leading causes of death among women in all parts of the world.
There is consensus that early detection and treatment can usually prevent or at least delay fatal results. In an effort to create greater awareness of the need to be tested and to amass more funds for research, October has become the universal Breast Cancer Awareness Month in which women and a few men engage in walking or running events to raise money. The month is always bathed in pink. Municipalities shine pink lights on their walls.
Participants in awareness campaigns wear pink, and many publications that target women have pink as the predominant color on their covers.
This year the importance of breast cancer awareness was usurped by COVID-19. Regular cancer awareness activities had to be curtailed, especially during lockdown. For all that, participants in Gam Ani Ratza (I’m running, too), a national volunteer initiative comprising women’s running teams whose members are in remission from breast cancer, have continued to run, especially as sporting activities per se have been permitted by the Health Ministry.
On Monday, prior to embarking on the final kilometer of their run and, with it, the end for this year of Running Around the World, the runners came to the President’s Residence to receive the blessing of President Reuven Rivlin, who fired the starter’s gun to set the group off from the gates of the residence.
Both Rivlin and his bodyguards wore pink masks as a form of identification with the cause, and Rivlin also wore a pink ribbon on the lapel of his suit jacket. Sadly, not all the runners wore masks.
Before sending them on their way, Rivlin told them: “I’m running, too – running with you in body, heart and thought. Every woman who deals with breast cancer, every woman who gets better, is a whole world – a world of dreams, desires, loves, fears – of life! And anyone who saves a single life, a single woman, like this – saves an entire world.”
He urged every woman to get checked as soon as possible, and asked husbands to convince their wives, and everyone to convince their mothers, daughters and friends. “Don’t let corona beat cancer,” he said. “It isn’t just a checkup, not just another doctor’s appointment, it’s a lifesaver!”
Last week, Rivlin encountered another initiative aimed at saving women’s lives. Against the backdrop of recent cases of women murdered by spouses, partners or close relatives, Rivlin, accompanied by Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Itzik Shmuli and Naamat chairwoman Hagit Pe’er, visited a Naamat shelter for battered women, where he met some of the residents and their children and heard their stories. Social worker Yael Levin spoke of the additional challenges the shelter faces during the coronavirus era.
“Violence is violence is violence,” Rivlin declared. “Economic violence is violence. Verbal violence is violence. They are a slippery slope to physical violence and its consequences, which we see daily. Every day, women pay with their lives and we do not save them. Tension is rising within homes. Women and children are living in houses where horrific things are happening on a daily basis, and no vaccine will stop this pandemic.”
There are 15 shelters for female victims of domestic violence and their children, each accommodating 12 women and 24 children. In 2019, these facilities provided shelter for 654 women and 1,043 children.
Although Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, outlawed Yiddish, which was arguably the most common language among immigrants in the early years of the state, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, while agreeing with Ben-Gurion that immigrants should do their utmost to become Israelis in every possible way, disagrees with his melting-pot policy. She believes that while integrating into Israeli society, immigrants should not abandon their cultural roots and should continue to preserve them.
Retired diplomat and founding president of the Diplomats’ Club of Israel, Yitzhak Eldan, celebrates his 77th birthday on October 30. Sometimes – actually every 19 years – the Hebrew calendar date and the Gregorian calendar date of one’s birthday coincide. Otherwise, they can be anything from a few days to a month apart. In Eldan’s case, the Torah portion for his bar mitzvah was Noah, which was read last Saturday.
A few weeks prior to his birthday, Eldan, like so many other Israelis in a variety of fields, reached out to make connections in the UAE, with the result that the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel and the Ambassadors’ Club of Dubai have already had an online meeting and hope to send exchange delegations to each other’s countries early in the new year.
As far as Eldan is concerned, his bar mitzvah portion was very symbolic, in that after having sent a raven out of the ark, Noah sent a dove, which returned with an olive leaf. Both the dove and the olive leaf, which are universal peace symbols, can be found in the logo of the Ambassadors’ Club.
In 2008, Eldan initiated Israel’s olive tree route, running from the Upper Galilee to the Negev, as part of the Mediterranean route celebrating peace, reconciliation, cultural dialogue and exchanges and sustainable development. As peace agreements and normalization in the region progress, so will the olive tree route.
Chances are high that former governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer will again take up residence in Israel following the birthday present he received last Thursday from Bank Hapoalim, which appointed him as a member if its board of directors. As BOI governor, Fischer waged a relentless battle to unseat then-Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner.
There is speculation that Fischer, who celebrated his 77th birthday on October 15, will in three years’ time make a bid for Hapoalim’s chairmanship, which previously eluded him. Meanwhile, he is focused on once again helping Israel to get out of an economic morass. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to him about this when they met in July of this year.
Twenty-six years have passed since the death of the Singing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, whose melodies are heard in synagogues around the world, and are sung by a generation that never knew him personally.
For years now, Carlebach’s friends and followers have organized an annual memorial concert, which they called a kumzitz, at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. It was always a popular, multigenerational event which never started on time, because people were coming from all over Israel and organizers held up proceedings till the last ones arrived. The auditorium was always packed to overflowing, and the audience ranged from former hippies who had been with Carlebach in the House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco to adolescents who easily could have been their grandchildren.
The regular kumzitz will not take place this year, but Yehudah Katz, Chaim David Saracik and The Solomon Brothers, who often sang with Carlebach, are livestreaming a kumzitz on Saturday night, October 31, at 8 p.m. Israel time, with a second broadcast on the East Coast of the US at 8:30 p.m., and a third broadcast on the West Coast at 8:30 p.m. Chizki Sofer, who has adopted the Carlebach repertoire, sounds remarkably like Carlebach and even emulates Carlebach by whistling part of the melody, will also perform on the program. Tickets for the link to the livestream are available from tickchak.co.il
It’s different strokes for different folks, even on their final journey. At the funeral of actor, producer and director Yehuda Barkan in Rehovot on Sunday, there was a large turnout from the entertainment industry, even though Barkan’s family had asked for people not to attend, in deference to Health Ministry regulations. But there were so many people who had been close to Barkan that they simply couldn’t stay away. In delivering a eulogy, Yankele Mendel, the chairman of the Israeli Union of Performing Artists, pointed to Barkan’s grave and asked all those present to applaud as a final expression of appreciation for his contribution to Israeli culture. Barkan received a long and loud standing ovation that could be heard all the way to heaven.
Polish ambassador Marek Magierowski on Tuesday hosted a Zoom conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the renewal of Polish-Israel diplomatic relations. For several days prior to the conference, there were online video promotions by the International Model United Nations Association, which was part of a joint effort by the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Young Diplomats Forum and the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv. Conference speakers, who included Polish and Israeli diplomats, academics, historians, educators and innovators, spoke on issues of diplomacy, history, culture, education, youth, innovation and future relations.
Relations between Israel and Poland are very complex, yet for all the difficulties regarding sensitive issues, neither side can ignore a thousand-year symbiotic relationship between Poles and Jews, nor the fact that many of Israel’s early leaders were born and raised in Poland, where they were imbued with certain values which they brought with them to the Land of Israel. For that matter, most Israeli ambassadors to Poland quickly feel at home because they were born there, and if they were not born there, in the majority of cases their parents were.