Streetwise

Street signs are telling lessons in Israel’s history, revealing friend from foe

By David E. Kaplan

There is good reason why there are streets in Israel named after the 33rd president of the United States, President Truman – even a moshav ‘Kfar Truman’ three kilometres east of Ben Gurion International Airport –  and not his predecessor the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).

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True Supporter. Initially called Bnei Harel (Sons of Harel), in 1950, this moshav in central Israel was changed to Kfar Truman, in honor of U.S. president Harry S. Truman who had supported the establishment of the State of Israel.

It is no careless omission but one of deliberate intent!

No less a statesman than Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said of Harry Truman, “as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our state so quickly and his steadfast support since then has given him an immortal place in Jewish history.”

No such words could ever have been said about his predecessor.

FDR’s antipathy towards Jews both in word and deed is well documented. However, most revealing is Rafael Medoff April 5 article in The Jerusalem PostThe Saudis, the Jews and FDR’s dog” where one is left in little doubt that FDR – unlike his successor – would not only have NOT supported the creation of the Jewish state of Israel – he would have opposed it!

And this is with full knowledge of the enormity of the Holocaust!

Medoff’s article reports on FDR’s grandson, Hall Delano Roosevelt,  working for an Iowa-based public relations firm – the LS Group – on a Saudi-financed public relations campaign to celebrate his late grandfather’s pro-Saudi policies. The campaign anchors on the 75th anniversary of FDR’s meeting with King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud that took place on February 14, 1945 on the deck of the USS Quincy.

It was not the optics of the meeting between the US president and the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia who ruled from 23 September 1932 to 9 November 1953 that was alarming; but the substance of the conversation between the two leaders as it pertained to Jews.

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Forging Friendships. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake north of the city of Suez, Egypt on Feb. 14, 1945 discussing Saudi-US relations and obstructing the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. (AP file photo)

Taking notes at that fateful meeting was William Eddy, the US ambassador to Riyadh. He wrote down the remarks of the two leaders in the form of a “Memorandum of Conversation”, which both the President and the King signed. One of the major topics of discussion was:

Whether or not the Arab world could accept the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine

Roosevelt asked the Saudi King for his view of “the problem of Jewish refugees driven from their homes in Europe.”

Ibn Saud responded that he opposed “continued Jewish immigration and the purchase of land [in Palestine] by the Jews.” In supporting his position, the King noted that “the Arabs and the Jews could never cooperate, neither in Palestine, nor in any other country.”

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Reenacting The Relationship. Celebrating in February 2020 the 75th anniversary of the meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz on board the USS Quincy in 1945, Hall Delano Roosevelt, grandson of FDR (right), participates in the meeting’s reenactment on the USS Farragut. (photo by Huda Bashatah)

The US President  seemed to share this assessment as he “replied that he wished to assure his majesty that he would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no move hostile to the Arab people.”

Hardly nuanced, this meant  – no future Jewish state in Palestine.

The King suggested that the Jews should be “given living space in the Axis countries which oppressed them,” rather than Palestine.

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The Notetaker. US Marine Corps Col. William A. Eddy seen here kneeling left of King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in Great Bitter Lake, Egypt. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

Horrifying by its insensitivity was FDR’s response to Ibn Saud:

Willian Eddy writes:

The President remarked that Poland might be considered a case in point. The Germans appear to have killed three million Polish Jews, by which count there should be space in Poland for the resettlement of many homeless Jews.”

Roosevelt colludes with the Saudi monarch of  “resettling” Jews on the burial site of murdered European Jewry!

Several weeks after the meeting, on March 10, Ibn Saud wrote to Roosevelt, requesting the President oppose any support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

FDR replied on the 4th April by recalling “the memorable conversation which we had not so long ago” and reaffirmed that “no decision [will] be taken with respect to the basic situation in that country without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews” but further asserting that he “would take no action, in my capacity as Chief of the Executive Branch of this Government, which might prove hostile to the Arab people.”

In other words – no support for a sovereign Jewish homeland.

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Retired US Marine Corps Col. William A. Eddy. (Getty Images)

Roosevelt, who was quick to recognize the “INFAMY” of Japan when it attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941 killing 2,403 Americans, failed to see the “INFAMY” of the Nazis and their European collaborators in the murder of six million Jews when he addressed a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945 and said:

I learned more about the whole problem, the Muslim problem, the Jewish problem, by talking with Ibn Saud for five minutes than I could have learned in the exchange of two or three dozen letters.”

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The Jewish Problem. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (at desk) addresses a joint session of Congress on March 1, 1945 when he astonishingly said: “I learned more about the whole problem, the Muslim problem, the Jewish problem, by talking with Ibn Saud for five minutes than I could have learned in the exchange of two or three dozen letters.”

Even members of his own party were astounded on his reliance of a sworn enemy of the Jews as his expert advisor. Colorado Democrat Sen. Edwin Johnson sardonically commented:

 “I imagine that even Fala would be more of an expert.”

‘Fala’ was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dog!

The following month, FDR suddenly died in office and President Truman was sworn in as the 33rd president of the USA. Three years later, on May 14, 1948, just after 6.pm, Charlie Ross, President Truman’s press secretary read aloud the following:

 “Statement by the President. This government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine….The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto author­ity of the new State of Israel.”

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Seeing The Light. President Harry Truman receiving on 5 May 1951 in the Oval Office, a Menorah as a gift from the Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (center) during his visit to the US with Israel’s Ambassador  to the US Abba Eban looking on.

This is why as Israel pursues its journey on the ‘road’ ahead, there will always be streets in the Jewish state called Truman and never one named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

 

The Arab Voice – May 2020

Arab writers from around the world opine on the consequences of Corona  to Erdogan turning Turkey  into a “Republic of Terror”

 

Who Exactly Is Going To Buy Oil?

By Muhammad Khalil

Al-Watan, Egypt, April 22

There is a lot of buzz surrounding the plunging prices of oil, which crashed in the past week and entered into negative territory. Those most worried about this trend are obviously oil-producing countries, which have enjoyed disproportionate political power to date and are now at risk of bankruptcy.

The inevitable truth is that countries that have based their economies on oil or gas revenues will suffer greatly in the coming months. They will quickly witness their geopolitical power diminish, together with each decline in the dollar value of a barrel. Therefore, many spokespersons representing these nations were quick to appear in television studios worldwide, where they attempted to reassure viewers that the current crisis is just temporary.

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Heading South. Price of oil spiraling downwards.

Those who believe this claim should consider two basic things. First, the origin of the thunderous collapse in oil prices is in future contracts. The collapse in the prices of future contracts provides an unequivocal indication of how policymakers, industry officials and buyers anticipate the coronavirus crisis to unfold in the coming months. It is clear to all parties involved that the virus is here to stay for an extended period of time. Some countries already responded to falling prices by purchasing and stockpiling oil reserves.

China, for example, began in early April to purchase additional quantities of oil – taking advantage of its price collapse – to store it in its warehouses. I suspect other countries, like the United States, took similar measures. Warehouses around the world are full to the brim with oil reserves. This means that the collapse in oil prices is likely to continue for many months to come and that the matter is not temporary as some people may claim.

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Countries Pounce On Low Prices To Build Stockpiles. Crude oil storage tanks are seen in an aerial photograph at the Cushing oil hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, US, on April 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Drone Base/File Photo)

Second, one must keep in mind that irrespective of the COVID-19 crisis, the world has already begun moving toward renewable energy resources and substitutes for oil. Technological breakthroughs now allow shale oil to be extracted almost at the same cost of tar sand oil. In addition, petroleum derivatives are on the rise.

The world around us is rapidly changing. The countries that were rich yesterday may very well find themselves struggling for cash tomorrow. Oil empires that had once experienced crowds of buyers lining up at their doorstep might now find themselves begging nations to buy oil from them. They will encounter budget deficits, economic slowdown, and political instability. The outbreak of coronavirus is changing the way our world is operating in so many ways. One of them is the harsh future awaiting oil-producing countries, which once wielded influence over markets around the world.

 

Who Is Responsible For Coronavirus?

By Muhammad Al-Sheikh

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, April 20

There appears to be a diplomatic battle looming between the United States, Europe and China over Beijing’s responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus, which has struck all countries of the world and led to unprecedented economic losses exceeding several trillion dollars. The Americans still aren’t claiming that China is responsible for premeditatively spreading the virus but rather posit that the virus accidentally leaked out of one of China’s biological research laboratories, from which it made its way to the city of Wuhan and from there to the rest of China and the world.

This allegation is still being investigated by US authorities. It appears to be complicated to prove, mainly because US authorities lack irrefutable evidence about the spread of the virus. Unlike Iran or North Korea, China is far from a pariah nation. It is a member of the UN Security Council and wields enormous influence over almost every country around the world. Therefore, the US must be careful in provoking it.

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Blame Game. A close up of US President Trumps notes shows where Corona was crossed out and replaced with Chinese Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic during a briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

I am skeptical that the Americans or Europeans will cross the red line and wage a diplomatic war against Beijing, but what I am sure of is that Western countries will try their best to pressure China into making political concessions related to its economic expansion, including the Belt & Road Initiative. It is true that the Western world, represented by the United States and the European Union, is no longer what it was before the outbreak of corona. The European Union is falling apart, while the United States’ economy lost trillions of dollars.

Yet all of this does not mean that this camp is entirely weak. Aware of this dynamic, the US is looking at this pandemic as a way to weaken China and undermine its foreign policy. The corona epidemic will end sooner or later but the greater geopolitical consequences of this virus will be the focal point of the conflict between China and the Western world for years to come.
Muhammad Al-Sheikh

 

Erdogan Turned Turkey Into A Republic Of Terror

By Habib Al-Aswad

Al-Arab, London, April 21

Last week, Turkish authorities blocked the website of British newspaper The Independent. This incident came just days after the public prosecutor in Turkey demanded one to two years in prison for journalist Hazal Ocak, who exposed a bribery scandal involving the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After accusing Ocak of treason, the prosecutor later amended the charges into the insulting of a public official, claiming that the journalist dishonored the dignity of Erdogan and his family in publishing the story.

Unfortunately, such developments are no longer considered newsworthy in the Republic of Terror established by Erdogan, as the country has turned into a large prison since Erdogan took the reins of absolute rule. According to Reporters Without Borders’s 2019 report, Turkey ranks 157th of 180nations in the Freedom of the Press Ranking and is thus one of the most established dictatorships. Furthermore, behind these numbers and figures lay massive violations of fundamental rights of ordinary Turkish citizens, alongside the detention of dozens of journalists speaking out against the regime.

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Press On. Demonstration in Turkey in defense of freedom of the press.

International organizations often cite China as the world’s most abusive country to journalists. However, a look at the data shows that in 2019, China, a country of 1.4 billion people, sentenced 48 journalists to prison, while Turkey, whose population is 82 million, imprisoned 47 journalists. In comparison to Turkey, China appears to be a safe haven for journalists and a beacon of free speech. Erdogan is keeping tight control over media outlets in his country to ensure that they refrain from criticizing his regime or revealing unnecessary information about its doing.

He also ordered them to launch an orchestrated campaign against Arab countries that reject political Islam. This includes the spreading of fabricated news and even the broadcasting of fatwas encouraging terrorism against these states. Most shockingly, Arab governments, parties, movements, associations, and media organizations associated with political Islam seem totally unconcerned with these violations of freedom of the press and expression. In their view, Erdogan is an infallible sultan who is being chased by conspirators.

This is the ultimate proof that political Islamists care about freedom only when it promotes their own political goals. When it serves to protect or empower others, it is simply too dangerous.

Habib Al-Aswad

 

*Translated from Arabic into English by Asaf Zilberfarb

The Knockout

From Lithuania to South Africa –  a ringside vista from Tel Aviv down memory lane

By Dr. Gail Lustig

If anyone should be telling this story it should be my late father, Donny Loon, who passed away on the 16th January 2011 in Israel. It is the kind of story he liked hearing,  reading, telling and retelling!

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Donny Loon z’l (1924-2011)

My first taste of his storytelling was when I was in my teens and he was hospitalized in a nursing home for a collapsed vertebral disc. It had been caused by Brucellosis contracted by drinking unpasteurized milk while doing a house call at a patient`s farm. He wrote a riveting short story which he read to me during a visit, telling me it had been written “by the priest next to him in the room!”

This story has taken decades to tell and was written in the days of lockdown in Tel Aviv , while going through some photo albums and discovering two old black and white photographs that aroused my curiosity more than usual.

Their story begins in Ponevezh, Lithuania where my grandfather, David Loon, and most of his five brothers, Arthur, George, Lazar, Issy and Maurice  and one sister, Hetty, were born. David was born with clubfeet; proving a serious handicap in his motor development. The congenital problem for which he was teased endlessly might have spurred him on to take up boxing which was popular amongst the Jewish youth of Lithuania. He excelled at the sport and before long he was given the nick-name of “Siki” after a French-Senegalese light heavyweight boxer and world champion in the early part of the last century.

The Loon brothers were close; they enjoyed life, were social creatures, and supported one another in many ways.  The family connection was always particularly important to them and their children developed close ties. David took time to teach his son Donny the punches and rules of boxing and although he never formally took up the sport, he certainly had a good knowledge of it.

In the early 1950s, Donny left the family and settled in Cape Town with Rita his young wife  – my mother – who had grown up in the southern most city in Africa.  He set up a general practice and soon became one of the popular young doctors in Bellville; where he treated people from every background and walk of life.

Donny hankered after his childhood environment with its warm atmosphere and exciting prospects, and a spirit that filled him with hope. He hadn`t taken to Cape Town, the city of his wife`s family. He was irritated by the soft, white sea sand that got in between his toes.  He did not like biting on chicken pieces coated with sand on Muizenberg beach where he sat on a beach-chair with a towel over his legs while his family dived into the warm waves of the Indian Ocean.

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Lapping It Up. The writer, Dr. Gail Lustig (née Loon) at nine months on the lap of future word champion Jimmy Carruthers from Sidney, Australia in Magaliesburg.

It was perfectly natural, that as soon as circumstances permitted, he would pack his Chevrolet and head northwards on the National Road with his young family to visit his parents and cousins in Johannesburg. And so in August, after a brief stopover in Beaufort West, Donny forged ahead, hour after hour along the lonely road until they reached Magaliesburg, near Johannesburg. The family had been booked in at the Moon Hotel, a modest holiday venue.

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On The Way To World Champion. Jimmy Carruthers working his jab in training.

How thrilling it must have been to discover that the Moon Hotel had been chosen as the training base for the young Australian boxing champion, Jimmy Carruthers, an Australian bantamweight champion who was in his early twenties and had come to fight the South African World Champion, Vic Toweel in November 1952. This would be the first time since 1908 that an Australian would be fighting for a world title. Toweel, of Lebanese roots, was the first South African to hold a world title.

Within a few hours of settling into the hotel, it was completely natural  that  Donny and Jimmy meet, and an instant rapport developed between them. He learnt that Jimmy was one of eight children born to an English wharf worker in Sydney who had developed boxing skills at an early age. Jimmy was friendly, a little lonely, with an open personality and although devoted to a tight and demanding schedule for training, enjoyed Donny`s lighthearted and warm interest in him, his stories and jokes and knowledge of boxing.

He and his trainer shared some pleasant hours talking to Donny and Rita who loved a laugh and the fact that her baby had taken to the boxer who clearly had a way with children.

Before long, Donny found himself drawn into the pending fight between Toweel and Jimmy. It was clear to him that Jimmy had a great chance of beating the favourite but he didn`t seem to have a clear plan of how to go about it. Toweel was defending the title for the fourth time.  He had won 200 bouts before turning professional, and now, on home territory, it seemed that everything was in his favour. What was apparent was that Vic was slow to get started in the ring whereas Jimmy was quick and agile with a machine -gun like hand speed.

Within no time, Donny realized that the way to go about beating Toweel, was to move like lightning, straight after the bell, pull as many punches as possible, thus surprising his opponent and hoping for a knockout.

He proposed his plan to Carruthers` trainer, teaching him how to use the stopwatch he had with him (a useful instrument in a doctor`s medical bag), in the training programme, timing Jimmy`s responses and reaction time.  And so it happened that every morning for the next week, just as the sun rose, Donny would get up early, secretly meet Jimmy in the training ring, before Toweel`s team appeared. Over and over he would demonstrate to Jimmy how to improve his performance straight after the bell, until he literally reacted within a split second.

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World’s Bantamweight Champion Jimmy Carruthers following his fight in South Africa in 1952. On the left hand corner of the photo (below) is written : “To Don, Rita and Gail, Wishing you every happiness from Jimmy Carruthers 17.8.1952

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A ‘Fist’ful Of Pounds

Of course the Loon uncles and cousins were in on the story and immediately understood that if luck were on their side, it might be the perfect opportunity to back the underdog and score a personal small betting victory.

Before the match, we returned to Cape Town. Donny continued with his routine and but for the photos, Jimmy Carruthers faded from his mind.

Before long it was the 15th of November. Everyone in South Africa who enjoyed competitive sport, crowded around the radios to listen to the match. The Loon brothers and Donny, by now, loyal supporters of Jimmy, were in on the excitement on opposite sides of South Africa.

And of course you`ve guessed it!

The bell was sounded; Carruthers pounced on Toweel, and in just on 2 minutes 19 seconds and 110 accurate punches, knocked Vic Toweel out to become the new light bantam weight champion of the world!!

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Victory Over Vic. Jimmy’s left hand was a potent weapon against Toweel.

The tactic of moving like lightning after the bell sounded, had worked like a charm.

And today, while tidying my photos, I came across these two, which in their naiveté, reveal so much!

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The Rematch In Joburg. In March 21, 1953 Carruthers defended his title against the man he took it from, Vic Toweel. Carruthers knocked Toweel out in their first meeting and did it again in this fight in the 10th round. Offered here is a rare, original, official program for this event.

Jimmy Carruthers gave up competitive boxing in 1954 at a young age, having made enough money to settle down, marry and run his pub in Sydney, Australia.  In one article I read on him, he was described as a unionist and a proponent of world peace!

And that`s when I really understood what had bought the two men, Donny and Jimmy together – hardly the ability to knock out, but rather to change the world in a very different way. Each dreamt of world peace; it would unite them forever and more important be passed down in the image of a chubby baby secure and fearless on the knees of a champion boxer – me!

 

 

About the writer:

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Gail Loon-Lustig, born in Cape Town, lived in Bellville. After completing Medical School, Gail made Aliya in 1976 and runs a Home Care Unit  in greater Tel Aviv area. Inspired to “give back to society”, she counsels young doctors and health workers and has guided the teaching of ‘home care’ at her alma mater UCT. Gail has volunteered at Telfed and the South African retirement home Beth Protea where for many years she focusses on medical issues of the residents.  Interested in many different aspects of life, especially those that involve her family.

The Israel Brief- 04-07 May 2020

 

The Israel Brief – 04 May 2020 – Israel Covid stats look positive. Hearings on Unity gov in Supreme Court. Intel to buy Moovit for $1billion?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 05 May 2020 – Israel eases Covid restrictions. Update from the Supreme Court. Breakthrough with a vaccine?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 06 May 2020 – Covid stats continue to decline. IAF strike targets in Gaza in response to rockets. A rise in domestic violence.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 07 May 2020 – Covid Update. Unity gov approved. Oh Joe Biden!

‘Marathon Man’

From running marathons to running Israel’s medical system, Ichilov Hospital’s Prof. Ronni Gamzu is now overseeing Israel’s senior living facilities

By David E. Kaplan

While Corona grounded Israel’s traditional Independence Day flyover, it did not stop four training planes taking off and flying over the hospitals throughout the State of Israel in salute to the medical teams who  – like our soldiers in uniform – are risking their lives daily.

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Aerial Appreciation. The Israeli air force devoted its annual fly-by to health workers, with four planes crisscrossing the nation and performing aerial acrobatics over hospitals and medical centers.

From my balcony in Kfar Saba, our family watched the planes fly over nearby Meir Hospital and then two of them perform a spectacular vertical maneuver leaving a huge while trail in the sky in the shape of a giant heart.

Residents from balconies draped in the blue and white Israeli flags, clapped and cheered. Everyone knew someone affected by Corona whose lives were dependent on the men and woman to whom the pilots in these planes were paying tribute.

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Independence Day. Looking as if he had just crossed the finishing line in a marathon, CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Ronni Gamzu, cheers with his team members the Israeli Air Force acrobatic team flying over Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv on Israel’s 72nd Independence Day. April 29, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

One of the most vulnerable sectors of the population are our seniors and so my thoughts went out to Prof. Ronni Gamzu who I had interviewed back in 2016 for Hilton Israel Magazine and had been pleased to learn had in early April 2020 been placed in charge of the Ministry of Health’s efforts to combat the virus in homes for the elderly. In other words – to oversee senior living facilities throughout Israel.

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Tomorrow’s Man Today. Professor Ronni Gamzu in front of the Morris Kahn Research in Personalized Medicine Research Center at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Sponsored by the Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist, former South African Morris Kahn, the Centre hosts state-of-the-art research laboratories, where scientists, researchers, and doctors from diverse disciplines conduct research destined to define the future of medicine.

His appointment followed a number of coronavirus-related deaths in homes for the elderly followed by a public outcry and a High Court petition to which the state was required to respond. The Health Ministry responded – most notably by appointing Prof. Gamzu, the director general of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center aka Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, to coordinate between government departments and formulate a national plan of action.

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Exporting Expertise. With Israel frequently hosting overseas delegations keen to learn more about Israel’s unique system of Public Health, seen here is Prof. Ronni Gamzu (left) then Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Health hosting a delegation from France, led by its Minister of Health, Marisol Touraine (right).

Within a few days, residents at senior living facilities were being tested around the country.  My thoughts went back to that interview looking at the huge heart in the sky.

On the late afternoon of our interview in 2016, this gynaecologist and obstetrician who had brought “over 1000 babies into the world,” had his own to look after – his young baby daughter, Anouk – “our first”. So instead of meeting at Ichilov Hospital, we met in a garden in Ramat Gan, within “easy running distance” to the hospital and his home – whichever emergency might summon him at any moment. The interview proceeded uninterrupted with neither a ‘cry’ from Anouk nor patients.

It was well known that back in 2016 Prof. Gamzu participated in major marathons around the world which invited my first question. His answer proved revealing – a metaphor on his approach to medicine.

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On Track. Prof. Ronni Gamzu (left) with overseas participant at  the  Tel Aviv 2016 Marathon. 

Running in the London, Paris, New York and Tel Aviv marathons, explained Gamsu “is very different than running in the Jerusalem marathon which is hilly.” The point the professor was making is that conditions and topography vary, and one must correctly read the landscape and understand its complexity to successfully negotiate “the road ahead”.

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Dream Team. Prof. Ronni Gamzu CEO of Ichilov hospital (9th from right) with hospital staff at the 2016 Tel Aviv Marathon.

Prof. Gamzu has always been focused on “the road ahead”. This would explain how he perceived early in his career, the need to be equipped with a broad and varied education that spread well beyond the discipline of medicine.

Following degrees in medicine at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and a PhD in fertility research from Tel Aviv University (TAU), I asked why he felt the need to add to his academic armory an MBA and a degree in law.

“Well, ‘armory’ is the right word,” he replied because “these degrees literally helped me to surmount loads of legalese and achieve goals that I may not have without them.”

During his earlier tenure as the Director General of the Health Ministry (2010-2014), he explained, “we made major progress in expanding the general services covered by our national health insurance. My predecessors in the Health Ministry tried for years without success – always coming up against a bureaucratic wall; not seeing a way forward. With my legal background, I found a way around it.”

“What do you mean by “a way around”?” I asked.

“The standard approach was to look to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) to either pass or amend legislation. This is understandable but problematic because of political coalitions and so many competing interests that, to reach consensus about extending provision for any public service, is never easy. Military matters are always easier because they are considered a national existential issue. This is not the case with social services. This is unfortunate as the issues from education to public medicine are no less existential to the wellbeing of a nation.”

So, with his legal training, “I buried myself in reading all legislation pertaining to national medical coverage and realised that we did not need to proceed through the Knesset – we could bypass it, as there were pre-existing regulations that permitted us to proceed forward. In this way, we made major breakthroughs that have dramatically changed the lives of Israeli citizens.”

Can you cite examples?

“Yes, we expanded our general health services to include mental health issues that had been limited, and dental care that had been mostly private, and prohibitively expensive. Under the new plan, family doctors started referring patients with emotional and mental problems – such as depression, phobias or panic attacks – to psychiatrists, psychologists and other therapists for treatment, without themselves writing prescriptions for psychiatric drugs, as they did before.”

With regard to extending dental services, he explained:

“Dental hygiene is no less important than other areas of personal health. Periodontal or gum disease that ranges from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth, affects too many Israelis of all ages. It is important to treat at a young age so that teeth are not lost in early adulthood. Whether gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well people care for their teeth; this requires regular diagnosis by professionals and this is where we came in, making it affordable to those who had previously neglected their teethnot because they felt it was less important – but because they felt they could not afford going to private dentists and hygienists.”

Under the new system, Gamzu explained, “they still pay but considerably less with the result that dental health has now become affordable – not the luxury of the wealthy, but a right to all. The new system of dental cover is now more in line with the fundamental egalitarian philosophy of Israel’s founding fathers.”

Asking what specifically he meant by this, Gamzu replied, “Well Israel can be truly proud of not only its superlative cutting edge medical services but of how we provide this quality service to all our citizens at affordable costs to the recipient.

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Health Services To New Nation. Residents of a Ma’abara (transitional settlement for new immigrants) near Tel Aviv waiting in line outside a “Kupat Cholim” clinic in 1949, one year after the establishment of the State of Israel.

For this, Gamzu said “we are indebted to the founding fathers of the modern State of Israel.” Combining the traditional Jewish concern for all people with an emphasis on societal needs, “the Zionist Movement in pre-state Israel, regarded public health as a top social, political and economic priority. By the time Israel declared its independence in 1948, we already had a national health infrastructure in place.”

Gamzu cited as examples “Tipat Halav (Mother-and-child care centers) administering vaccinations to new-born babies and counseling parents on proper care for their infants, and Kupot Cholim (Health insurance funds) offering day-to-day consultations with doctors and specialists, and insured members for hospitalization.”

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Health For All. Long before the state of Israel was established in 1948, Tipat Halav (“Drop of Milk”) family health stations were established for everyone regardless of race and religion (Courtesy of Hadassah Women’s Organization).

With medical cover a challenge in any society, “and we see how it dominates debate in US elections,” I asked how will Israel sustain its special features of affordable cover to all?

“You are right; it is a challenge of our public health system and it’s a challenge that I am committed to,” answered Gamzu. “However, we have seen that even with Israel’s transformation from a socialist to a capitalist economy, some of our most cherished values remained intact because it’s part of our ethos and ingrained in our culture. As future needs arise as was the case in extending services for mental and dental health, so we need to be on guard and adhere to our founding principles.”

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Flowering Achievement. Beth Protea in Herzliya, one of the many retirement facilities across Israel where residents and staff were all tested for Coronavirus. One of its first residents was the late Rona Baram (née Moss-Morris from Durban, South Africa) when as a pioneer on kibbutz Kfar Blum, opened the first Tipat Halav (family health clinic) in Kiryat Shmona in the north of Israel in the 1940s.

“Do you think Israel can teach the world about its concept of Public Health?” I enquired.

“Sure, and we do. Israel has been a pioneer in the practice of Public Health, and we host many visitors – particularly from the developing world –  keen to learn of how Israel developed its system of Public Health. Just so we understand, while medicine treats the health needs of an individual, Public Health (also known as public or social medicine) deals with the health requirements of society as a whole and despite absorbing wave after wave of immigrations, bringing with it a host of medical challenges, Israel has one of the world’s healthiest populations with one of the highest average life expectancies in the world.”

I reflected on that 2016 interview as I gazed from my balcony on this Corona Yom Ha’atzmaut upon the giant heart in the sky over Meir Hospital and thought that despite our enormous challenges, we can be thankful for  Israel’s unique health system.

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Reunited. With Restrictions eased, 82-Year-old Malka Gamzu rubs elbows with her son Ronni.

There is a reason why Jews, when toasting, prefer to say “Le’Chaim” instead of “Cheers”.

After all, what can be more important to cheer about than “to Life”?

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Heroes In Green. Acknowledging the salute of appreciation, hospital staff wave national flags as the Israeli Air Force (IAF) fly over during Israel’s Independence day celebrations. (PIC: AFP)

Flags Of Hope!

By Gina Jacobson

This past week Israel celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, our 72 Independence Day!

Usually this day is celebrated with fireworks, concerts, ceremonies, and parties. People gather on the beaches, in the forests and in the parks.

Not so this year.  Covid-19 put the kibosh on all of that. Israelis were relegated to celebrating indoors, in their own homes, under strict lockdown conditions.

What still did happen though; and what happens every year; is that the municipality starts putting up Israeli flags along the streets, on street poles and lamps. They hang blue and white bunting across intersections. This takes place across cities and towns country wide and is very festive!

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Families also decorate their balconies, gardens, and cars with flags. The whole country is proudly blue and white!

A week or so before Yom Ha’atzmaut, I came across a post on Facebook written by someone who was upset that the municipality was, in his opinion, ‘wasting’ money that could have been used towards medical care, equipment and such, because they were putting up these flags.

That comment bugged me. Even now, a week after Yom Ha’atzmaut has come and gone, it’s still bugging me.

I totally understand that our medical needs are huge, that our medical front liners need PPE equipment and that we need more ventilators and that saving lives is the most important thing we can do.

But…I also feel that celebrating our independence, our homeland and our freedom is just as important. Perhaps this is even more so in these troubled and uncertain times.

Seeing those flags made me smile. Seeing those flags made my heart feel lighter. It made me feel connected to people, my fellow citizens, when I had spent almost an entire month in my home with no personal contact with anyone outside of my immediate family.

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(Photo credit: Paul Jacobson.)

Those flags gave me hope.

It was an affirmation. We are Israel!  We are Israelis –  and we can overcome anything that is thrown our way.

So, random Facebook man, I vehemently disagree!

Those flags are not a waste of money. Not at all. They are – Joy, Love and Hope. And they are a promise.

We WILL make it through this.

We WILL survive.

It’s what we do.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gina Jacobson is a mom, a wife, a dreamer. She loves coffee and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.

Soaring Stuff

Susan’s House in Jerusalem inspires youth through art

By Stephen Schulman

Most of the buildings in the industrial zone of Jerusalem do not greatly differ from those in many other parts of the country. In their functionality, they tend to be rather uniformly drab and dreary. One building in particular with its wide external corridors lined with doors of many workshops is no different from the rest. Nevertheless, what makes it so special is that opening one of the doors leads you into a very special workplace – Susan’s House.

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I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that visited, toured, saw this magnificent project in action and learned of its history.

Started in 2002, Susan’s House is a living memorial to Susan Kaplansky, a gifted artist who had prematurely passed away at the age of 38 leaving her husband Eyal and four young children behind her. Susan, a gifted artist, fervently believing in the healing powers of art, had used her talents to work with disadvantaged children. After her death, Eyal started this workshop and artists’ studio to continue her work and perpetuate her memory.

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Inspirational Couple. Eyal and the late Susan Kaplansky in 1991.

The workshop produces and sells a wide range of arts and crafts ranging from special glassware, jewelry and ceramics to unique stationery and greeting cards made from recycled paper. All of these products have two things in common: they are carefully crafted, and they are made by a dedicated group of thirty youngsters whose ages range from fifteen to eighteen. Each of these young people comes from a difficult background both Jew and Arab. Most are school dropouts and currently unemployed, socially marginalized and at risk – a sad reminder of problems that exist in both communities.

 

At the beginning of the tour, we listened to an introductory talk by Avital Goel, the workshop supervisor who explained that Susan’s House gives them employment and a wage. He went on to explain that under the guidance of a team of social workers and volunteer artists, the teenagers are given vocational rehabilitation, guidance and real life work experience that enables them to become contributing members of society.

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Creative Hands. Learning skills that will empower these teens towards rewarding futures.

They gain self-esteem and the ability to respect others. They not only learn a trade but become part of a working community that is also a home where they learn social skills and in so doing, gain self empowerment. “They work together as a team learning how to manufacture and sell. They also learn the value of money, how to spend it correctly and be a wise consumer. All the youngsters not only eat a wholesome lunch together every day but are also, in turn, given the responsibility to buy the provisions and help prepare the meal.”

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Noble Art. Made from recycled material, exquisite arts and crafts for sale made by youngsters at risk.

The real highlight was a talk by two seventeen year olds – Aviva from a poor Jewish neighborhood and Ahmed, a Muslim Arab from East Jerusalem. Both of them, with complete self-assurance, spoke about themselves, their lives, backgrounds and their work at Susan’s House. Their honesty, openness and sincerity was palpable, their enthusiasm for their workplace was genuine and infectious and there was not one of us sitting and listening to them who was not moved!

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Youngsters Fine Art. for sale from jewelry, glassware and ceramics to greeting cards made from recycled paper. Fine Art. Youngsters at risk are discovering their talents and creating fine artworks

During our stay, production continued, and it was business as usual. We walked around, watched work in progress and then visited the aesthetically arranged shop, which was staffed entirely by the youngsters, to purchase items to take home both as presents and as memoirs of a most illuminating and rewarding visit.

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Young Craftsman. Finding their path through creative expression

Susan’s House is proud of the fact that its five hundred or more graduates have acquired life skills and gone on to become functioning and positive members of society with more than sixty percent serving in the army or doing national service. As a result of its success, another branch has opened in Eilat.

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Creating Fine Futures. The workshop supervisor Avital Goel (centre) with staff and talented teens in the workshop.

Coincidentally, Susan’s House is located on 31 Wings of Eagles Street (31 Canfei Nesharim –  31 כנפי נשרים). A most appropriate address for a noble institution that has been giving so many young people the means to soar!

 

*For more information: Phone: 02-6725069 or email: susanshouse.j@gmail.com

 

 

 

About the writer:

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a master’s degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief- 27-30 April 2020

 

The Israel Brief – 27 April 2020 – Israel eases Covid 19. Preparing to mark Yom Hazikaron.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 28 April 2020 – Terror attack Kfar Saba. Yom Hazikaron. Covid updates.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 29 April 2020 – Special Yom Haatzmaut Edition

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 30 April 2020 – Covid updates. Germany bans Hizbollah. Mayor de Blasio offends.