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AJPA JRelease - The Kinneret Goes Russian

Wednesday, December 23, 2015   (0 Comments)
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The Kinneret Goes Russian

Israel - December 23, 2015 - The extent to which the Russian-speaking population in general has become part of the establishment Israeli consciousness is evident from the fact that the annual educational meet of Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) Israel this year attracted some stellar guests. They had come to discuss some of the burning issues of the day, which in itself is ample proof of the degree of importance to which politicians and others accord the Russian immigrants – and possibly the potential Russian vote.

One of the country’s leading journalists, Yoav Krakovsky, head of Israel Radio’s Second Channel, interviewed in quick succession, Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Israel Beitanu party; Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Knesset opposition and the Zionist Union party; Minister of Transport Israel Katz, the up-and coming Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova – herself of Russian origin; and Dani Atar, the recently elected head of the Jewish National Fund.

Herzog and Lieberman, unfortunately each of them separately and not in a head-to-head encounter, dealt with the current issue of a possible rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, whose diplomatic ties had reached breaking point with the infamous Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010, when Israeli commandos abseiled into the vessel of that name inside Israeli territorial waters. The vessel was nominally carrying humanitarian supplies but the main aim was to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. Herzog welcomed the possible renewal of diplomatic relations that had been abruptly terminated by Turkish president Recep Erdogan, although he maintained the conflict could and should have been resolved two or three years earlier. Lieberman, for his part, said that he was opposed to any reconciliation, “Erdogan is the leader of a radical Islamist regime. The deal with Turkey is not yet complete but the damage has been done. Political opportunism is not a substitute for prudent diplomacy.”

During the packed weekend, other prominent speakers included  Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, head of the Mifal Hapayis State Lottery and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF and head of the National Security Council; Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, former military spokesman; Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tsohar rabbinical group; Prof. David Bilchitz of the University of Johannesburg and current Chairman of Limmud International; a diplomatic couple, Gideon and Amira Meir, speaking about their personal experiences in representing Israel abroad; David Greenberg speaking about his father, the eminent poet and publicist, Uri Zvi Greenberg. No less important were appearances by popular media figures and entertainers such as Gil Hovav, the virtuoso jazz musician Leonid Ptashka, together with Irena Rosenfeld, a new immigrant and star of the Ukrainian edition of “A Star is Born”; a 90s-style disco; film showings; guided tours in Russian and Hebrew to the Golan Heights; and a tribute, “In the Footsteps of Naomi Shemer.”

A popular speaker was MK Michael Oren of the Kulanu party and past Israel ambassador to Washington, who gave two talks – one about Israel and the international media, and another on the Jonathan Pollard affair. Oren and Pollard knew each other from childhood and went to the same kindergarten. Oren pointed out that there were two very different and conflicting narratives of the Pollard affair – the “official” one that although Pollard was a spy, he was also a patriot who did what he did because he perceived that the US was withholding vital strategic information from its ally Israel, and an alternate narrative, that Pollard was a womanizer, was involved with drugs, was responsible for the death of American agents and did what he did for financial gain.

Dani Atar, who gave up his Knesset seat to run for office as head of the Jewish National Fund (KKL), in his first interview since his election, told interviewer Yoav Krakovsky that his aim was to restore the image of the venerable institution that was damaged by previous administrations, “so that it will be loved as it was during my childhood.” He told the packed audience that in the next few years, he hopes to create 300,000 new rental apartments throughout the country.

One of the major highlights of the festivities was performance in song and dance devoted to the late beloved Israeli songwriter, poetess and musician Naomi Shemer (1930-2004). The event was held appropriately at Kvutzat Kinneret, where Shemer, whose Russian-speaking parents had come from Vilna in the 1920s, was born (and is buried in the nearby Kinneret cemetery on the shore of the lake).

The musical tribute was given by second-year students of the Beit Zvi School of the Performing Arts in Ramat Gan, who delivered a rousing and professional medley of the songster’s top hits, which had audience members rocking in their seats and enthusiastically joining in – and finishing with the iconic “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Learn more about Limmud FSU by watching this video here.

PM Netanyahu with Limmud FSU Leadership

Limmud FSU Kineret 2015 Festival

Eli Mandelbaum
Limmud FSU Israel

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