Grapevine: Palestinians and the justice system – Opinion

Pascal N’zonzi, Motti Verses, Philippe de Chaueron and Ary Abittan reunite last week in Tel Aviv.


People may wonder how the justice system works with regard to Palestinians brought to trial in the West Bank. Readers can learn a lot from a book by The Jerusalem Post’s intelligence, terrorism and legal affairs analyst Yonah Jeremy Bob, Justice in the West Bank? The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Goes to Court. Bob will be launching the book this Sunday, September 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Beit Kehilat Yedidya, 12 Nahum Lifshitz Street, Jerusalem.

■ FOUR MEN, an African, a Chinese, an Algerian and a Jew married four French sisters from an affluent, well-educated Catholic family. This is not the beginning of a joke. It is the plot of a popular 2014 French Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu? which literally translates as What  did we do to God? but for some reason was advertised in English as Serial (Bad) Weddings and in Hebrew as Lama Ze Magia Li? (Why do I Deserve This?).

As if the madly patriotic parents did not suffer enough in welcoming such diverse sons-in-law into their family, they then discover that all four daughters and their spouses are leaving France for life in other countries.

The Jewish husband, played by a genuine Jew Ary Abittan, persuades his wife to immigrate to Israel and reside in Netanya. A well-known French actor, Abittan has family in Israel and speaks basic Hebrew, which makes the movie so relevant to Israel. He visited Israel many times when he was a child and remembers celebrating his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. In real life, Abittan is exactly the person seen on the screen – good-looking and energetic. He was extremely popular among guests at the Tel Aviv Hilton, where he and others associated with the production stayed during their visit for the Israeli premiere of the film at Cinema City Glilot. He is due to return in October for his stand-up comedy show. To anyone who may be husband-hunting, Abittan, who is divorced, is currently on the list of eligible bachelors, but warns whoever may capture his heart that he has no intention of settling in Israel. Unlike the character he plays in the film, Paris will always be home to him.

■ WHO SAYS American Jews are losing interest in Israel? Israel election watch parties organized by the American Zionist Movement were held in New York City, Washington, DC, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans and Los Angeles. Among other organizations sponsoring similar events were Arza, the Bnai Zion Foundation, the Baltimore Zionist District, Emet (Endowment of Middle East Truth), Emunah of America, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Herut North America, the Israel Forever Foundation, the Jewish National Fund, Na’amat USA, WIZO USA, and the World Sephardic Zionist Organization. The election watch was arranged in conjunction with i24 News.

Just a few days prior to the election, JNF-USA held its national conference in Washington with the participation of Israel Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and a delegation from the Arava headed by Central Arava Regional Council head Eyal Blum, Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni, and Ramat HaNegev Regional Council head Eran Doron.

Other Israelis in attendance included representatives of the Israel Defense Forces; Yeruham Mayor Tal Ohana; television news anchor, reporter, program host and actress Lucy Aharish; and award-winning author Matti Friedman, among others.

The conference was attended by some 1,200 people from across the United States. Among the American participants were 450 teenagers and young adults. One suspects that what they found most fascinating was the plenary session in which Aharish was interviewed by Israel Action vice president Charles S. Fax. When asked who she was, Aharish, who celebrated her 38th birthday on the day following the elections, replied: “Israeli, woman, Arab, Muslim. In that order.”

The Americans might also have been interested in listening to Lior Lev Sercarz, chef and director of the Galilee Culinary Institute which is one of the pet projects of JNF-USA CEO Russell Robinson, who is in and out of Israel like a yo-yo. Robinson referred to Israel as the world capital of innovation.

Next year’s national conference will, for the first time, be held in Israel. The big year for JNF however, will be 2021, when the organization that was founded in 1901 at the fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, will celebrate its 120th anniversary.

More than any other Zionist organization, the JNF gave Jews all over the world, including the poorest of the poor, the opportunity to participate in the redeeming of the Promised Land.

The ubiquitous blue box that was found in Jewish homes around the world, never questioned the size of a donation. A coin of the lowest denomination was still a contribution in line with the old British adage: Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.

■ ANYONE who bothered to look at the posters in voting booths that listed all the parties and their letter symbols, will have noticed that the explanations were in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian. Israel seems to be ignoring the fact that English is today the most widely used international language. However, in some religious circles in this country, it is the language of debate and instruction.

Torah Yerushalayim, an intensive English-language gathering of Torah teachers will convene at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem on Sunday, October 6. Speakers include more than 30 top-notch educators including rabbis David Aaron, Shlomo Katz, Zev Leff, Benji Levene, Yitzhak Dovid Grossman, along with rabbaniot Shani Taragin, Tziporah Heller, and many others. The event is under the umbrella of the Orthodox Union.

■ IN MANY parts of the world, Jews are being subjected to legislation which is at cross purposes with Jewish tradition. Kosher slaughter is being outlawed, and in some places, so is the wearing of religious talismans or head coverings. Muslims are also affected by legislation which forbids halal slaughter and the wearing of hijabs. On the other hand, in California, which is one of the more liberal states in America, the so-called “mezuzah law,” which protects the rights of Jewish residents to place a mezuzah on their doorposts, both at their homes and dormitory rooms, has been signed into practice by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The bill which was initiated by Legislative Jewish Caucus chair Sen. Ben Allen, and received amazing support in the Senate and the Assembly where it passed four readings. Each member of the caucus, comprising seven state senators and nine assembly members, signed on as co-authors of the bill.

According to the wording, property owners “shall not enforce or adopt a restrictive covenant or any other restriction that prohibits one or more religious items from being displayed or affixed on any entry door or entry door frame of a dwelling.”

A mezuzah – even a non-kosher one – is arguably the most common acknowledgment of Jewish identity. Many Jews who do not observe the dietary laws or Shabbat have a mezuzah on their door frames. Not all mezuzot have the requisite parchment that contains the hand-written text prepared by a qualified scribe, simply because many non-practicing Jews don’t know about it. The Book of Deuteronomy is the source of the mezuzah whereby the Children of Israel are instructed to constantly remind themselves of their faith. The text comprises the first two sections of the Shema, beginning, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. The mezuzah also serves as a permanent reminder of the Exodus from Egypt when the Jews smeared the blood of a lamb on their doorposts as a sign that the angel of death should pass over their homes.

At a time when there are increasing reports of antisemitic incidents and when anti-religious laws are being enacted in various countries, it is encouraging that there are still places where people are free to practice their faith in accordance with their traditions.

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