Grapevine: Beneath the helmet

The Jerusalem Post
By Greer Fay Cashman

Almost everyone who attended the Jerusalem premiere at Cinema City of Beneath the Helmet, the new documentary created on behalf of Jerusalem U, a nonprofit that utilizes film to promote Israel and Jewish education, came away enthusing over the production. The film follows five young Israeli soldiers of different backgrounds from high school to the home front, and illustrates how a small nation can make a difference.

Attending the event, held in conjunction with “Thank Israeli Soldiers,” were former Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, who in his younger days was a lone soldier from America; Mark Regev, chief spokesman for the prime minister; filmmakers Raphael and Rebecca Shore; and the soldiers featured in the film.

The Shores were given unprecedented approval by the IDF to follow the five soldiers from high school through army training, and were thus able to give viewers some perception of the human face of the Israeli army. Due to the nature of the film and its promoters, there were speeches in addition to the screening.

Oren said: “The IDF is the only army in the world that salutes the person rather than the rank. It imbues Jewish values in its soldiers and teaches them to apply these values in fields of immense moral, tactical and legal complexity.

“We are sitting in this movie theater eating popcorn, as if we aren’t just a four-hour drive from Damascus and a seven-hour drive from where they are fighting against Islamic State. The fact that we can sit here tonight is all because of these brave young men.”

Regev concurred: “This country wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for these young men and women’s service 60 years ago, and this is still true today. This movie shows the human face of Israeli soldiers; it shows who we really are. Its success worldwide is our success.”

Rebecca Shore, who scripted and co-produced the film, said she hoped it would inspire young Jews worldwide to stand up for Judaism and Israel in a way that would change the world. “Showing the soldiers out of uniform was equally important to us as showing them in uniform,” she said. “We wanted to show that beneath every helmet there is a personal human story, and to give a sense of who they are and where they come from.”

■ ONE PERSON’S priorities are another person’s nightmare. The inconvenience to many Jerusalemites caused by the Formula Road Show has already been written about at length, but Post reader Rena Riger is spiritually inconvenienced by the lack, for the second consecutive year, of a central second set of hakafot in Jerusalem on the night after Simhat Torah.

Up until the year before last, the central Jerusalem hakafot in the Liberty Bell Garden were sponsored by Eugene and Jean Gluck, who for many years came from New York to Israel for all of the Tishrei holidays. But health issues have caught up with them, and they did not come to Israel this year or last. The second hakafot attracted numerous dignitaries as well as a broad cross section of Israeli society, and also brought visitors from abroad into close contact with Israelis in general and Jerusalemites in particular – especially males, who joined in the dancing with the Torah.

Riger wonders why the municipality had enough money to throw the city into turmoil just before Succot, but couldn’t find a sponsor for the second hakafot. She is sure that if Mayor Nir Barkat had bothered to make a few phone calls, he could have found a sponsor or two for the event, which is really in the nature of a happening. Small neighborhood events do not replace a central municipal one, she says.

Even if he couldn’t raise the money, Barkat could have at least appealed to the many Chabad centers throughout Jerusalem and asked them to pool their resources, and hold a central hakafot in memory of the soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge and in recognition of the ongoing struggles of those wounded.

■ AMONG THE enduring entertainers who are octogenarians is Leonard Cohen, who celebrated his 80th birthday on September 21, and whose latest recording Almost Like the Blues is being frequently aired on radio.

Israel Radio’s Benny Dudkevich, who has had the good fortune to meet almost every famous rock and pop star who has come to Israel over the past four decades, recalls that the first time Cohen performed in Israel in 1972, he was a relative unknown. Dudkevich invited him to have coffee in a shop on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street. They were joined by the late Shosh Atari, an older sister to singer and Eurovision winner Gali Atari, who was a radio personality in her own right.

Other patrons of the coffee shop rushed forward to ask for autographs – not that of Cohen, who no one recognized, but of Atari, whom everyone recognized.

■ WELL-KNOWN Israeli author and journalist Meir Shalev was delighted to hear from French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave that each new book of Shalev’s that comes out in French is eagerly snapped up by readers. They enjoy his unique style of writing, which combines humor with lyricism and biblical references, and sheds light on the history of Israel – but does not carry any political message. The ambassador surmised that perhaps this could be attributed to Shalev’s journalistic professionalism, which aims for objectivity over ideology.

Maisonnave made these remarks at a reception at his residence, where he awarded Shalev – who has won many prizes for his writing – France’s Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. The same award was also given to Roselyn Dery, the literary attaché at the French Institute whom Maisonnave credited with having successfully promoted French literature and making French authors known to the Israeli public.

■ THERE ARE actually politicians who practice what they preach. An example is Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, who joined Leket Israel founder and chairman Joseph Gitler at Leket’s annual Succot event at which families come together to pick vegetables for distribution to the needy. This week, Leket Israel hosted two simultaneous events; in fields outside of Rehovot and on Moshav Nahalal, more than 1,000 volunteers including Lipman came out to pick almost 3,000 kg. of radishes for delivery to more than 1,000 economically deprived families.

Gitler was thrilled to see so many people from Israel and abroad working side by side for a common goal, to provide Israel’s needy with fresh, nutritious vegetables.

He added that Leket Israel feels particularly honored to be joined in its work by Lipman.

■ CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order for Jerusalem Post columnist Isi Leibler, who last week marked his 80th birthday.

Rather than have a big party as he did for his 70th birthday, Leibler and his wife, Naomi, celebrated at the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzliya Pituah with 40 members of their immediate family.

■ NEXT TUESDAY, October 21, is the birthday of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will celebrate his 65th year in a somewhat more staid fashion than he did when he was in his first-ever year as prime minister in 1996.

At that time, his wife Sara surprised him by bringing their two sons, Yair and Avner, who at that time were very cute little boys, to the Prime Minister’s Office. The youngsters – who were somewhat unruly, as children of that age often are – excited the attention of photographers when they scampered all over the office.

Both boys are now young men who have made media headlines for different reasons – Yair because of his romance with a non-Jewish girl from Norway, and Avner because of his proficiency in knowledge of the Bible. When he was still a schoolboy, Avner made headlines by successfully evading his bodyguard, which at the time caused a furor.

Also born in October, a year before Netanyahu, MK and former government minister Meir Sheetrit celebrated his 66th birthday last Friday. Former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik will celebrate her 62nd birthday on October 20, a day before the prime minister celebrates his 65th.

October 21 is significant for a reason other than the prime minister’s birthday.

It is also the date for the elections of the Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis of Jerusalem. The capital has been without a chief rabbi for more than a decade, which begs the question why the city now needs two chief rabbis whose salaries, offices and staff will cost the taxpayer a pretty penny.

What Jerusalem really needs right now is a hostel for the homeless. Anyone walking down Ben-Yehuda Street and King George Avenue at night, and sometimes in the day as well, will see homeless people asleep in the street. They can also be seen in Jaffa Road opposite the central bus station. Winter is coming and these people will be exposed to the cold, even when they take shelter in stairwells. Surely the money being spent on chief rabbis would be better utilized on behalf of the homeless and the needy. Yet another case of skewed priorities.

■ THE INTERNET is buzzing with the remarkable story of 19-year-old twins Yael and Noga Steinman, currently serving in the IDF, who were born in Uzbekistan as Fatima and Zukra Islambakov.

Born to a Muslim mother and a non-practicing Jewish father, the twins, who attended a Muslim school and were raised as Muslims, were unaware their father was Jewish until Jewish Agency representatives – who are apparently engaged in tracking down Jews in countries of the former Soviet Union – showed up at their home and tried to persuade them to migrate to Israel. On discovering their father’s Jewish background, the twins decided they would come to Israel, where they changed their names and joined the IDF.

Yael nee Fatima has completed her military conversion course and is now halachically Jewish, while Noga is in the final process of conversion. Incidentally, one of them served in a significant capacity in Operation Protective Edge.

Far from raising any objections, both their parents have been supportive.

■ IT WAS interesting last Saturday night to see a documentary on Channel 2 in which Erez Tal, 53 (who hosts Big Brother, which is featured on Channel 2), taking Moti Kirschenbaum, 75 (who broadcasts on Channel 10, used to be director- general of Channel 1 and before that was with Israel Television, as Channel 1 was originally called since its inception) on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Tal asked Kirschenbaum if he watches reality programs on commercial channels, and the reply was hardly ever. Sometimes he watches the first episode to see the lineup, but after that he’s not interested.

Tal took him to Neveh Ilan to see Big Brother being taped. Kirschenbaum, who has filmed jungle documentaries, compared the scene to watching apes. Tal also took him to Kfar Saba, where he was born, to the agricultural school where he was educated and some old friends were waiting to greet him; and to therapeutic riding school where Kirschenbaum’s late wife, Yona, had been an instructor.

In response to Kirschenbaum’s criticism of Big Brother, Tal said there were 30,000 applications this year from people to appear on the show. In a previous era, he commented, people valued their privacy. “Now they yell, ‘Look at me.

Look at me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’… It’s a whole new ballgame.”

At Channel 1, the heavyset Kirschenbaum was briefly reunited with a makeup artist who recalled the years he was thinner than the ever-youthful Tal, whose appearance totally belies his age.

Tal’s aim in making the documentary was to get the usually cynical Kirschenbaum to betray emotion. He did eventually succeed, even to the extent of getting Kirschenbaum to shed a tear or two – something the latter had really been determined not to do, because he said it would make him look pathetic.

■  GUESTS CAME  from many parts of the country, for the wedding of Nicky Honig and Alex Smirnoff at the elegant Baya’ar banquet complex is Hadera. The bride and groom who are living temporarily in Ireland, where both work in high-tech, came home for the wedding. The bride is the daughter of veteran Jerusalem Post columnist Sarah Honig and the groom is the son of Ella and Valery Smirnoff. In celebration of the marriage, the mother of the bride decided to combine the happy event with a mini Jerusalem Post reunion and brought together past and present members of the newspaper’s editorial staff, some of whom had not seen each other in years or who had not met before but were aware of each other through indirect contact between the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv offices of the paper. Among them were editor-in-chief Steve Linde, along with Liat Collins, Ruthie Blum, Helen Kaye, Joe Morgenstern, Yitzhak Oked and the three daughters of the late Martha Meisels, who for many years had been the highly respected consumer affairs reporter for the Post. Martha and her husband Andrew who was a foreign correspondent, author and broadcaster, were often home away from home for reporters who did not have family in Israel or who did not live in Tel Aviv, but who needed to be there to cover an event.

Sarah Honig and Martha Meisels were very close friends, and Honig maintained contact with Martha’s daughters following Martha’s death. Another guest at the wedding was publisher and author Murray Greenfield, who for years has been a familiar face at the offices of The Jerusalem Post. Greenfield left immediately after the ceremony that was conducted by American- born Rabbi Adi Sultanik of Modi’in because believe it or not, he had another wedding to attend in Netanya. Sultanik, whose spiritual guidance is couched in humor, said that it was the first and last time that he was in Hadera. He voiced the hope that they would soon return to Israel – “even to Hadera” – to set up their permanent home. The radiant bride with the fashion model face and figure, had purchased her wedding gown in Ireland, and had been unable to decide between two similar yet subtly different dresses.

When offered a significant discount if she bought both, she accepted the bargain and wore one for the ceremony and the other for the dinner and dancing that followed. The first gown was strapless, with delicate waist emphasis and a billowing skirt, which the bride topped with a form fitting, long sleeved, buttoned-up bolero for the ceremony. The groom had been led to the bridal canopy by his parents, and the bride was then led down the aisle by her mother whose girlish figure was encased in a stunning black, form fitting gown. The bride was left standing alone in the middle of the aisle, and the groom, accompanied by the rabbi, came to ensure that she was indeed his chosen one, after which he veiled her face and the two of them, blowing kisses at each other, together took their places under the canopy. Following the sanctification of the marriage, the handsome couple embraced in a manner that would have done justice to any vintage Hollywood movie.

 

The original article was published here.