(JTA) — A selfie taken on a flight to Tel Aviv has gone viral this week, serving as a symbol of unity in an increasingly divided Israel
The photo was taken by Noa Kirel, the pop star who came in third in this year’s Eurovision competition over the weekend, and was headed home from the competition, which took place in Liverpool, England. Next to her in the frame, and on the plane, was Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, the head rabbi of Gush Etzion, a bloc of West Bank settlements south of Jerusalem.
Rimon was initially puzzled when a message on the plane’s TV screens read, “Well done, Noa. We’re proud of you,” he shared in a message initially sent to a family WhatsApp group. After he asked Kirel why congratulations were in order, and to whom, he said she explained her Eurovision appearance, surprised he didn’t recognize her. Rimon added that she said she had prayed at the contest and abstained from using her phone on Shabbat. Rimon offered himself as a rabbinic resource and Kirel took his information, sending him their picture as a first communication.
That picture exited the family chat after a friend of one of Rimon’s daughters saw it, photographed it and shared it, Rimon later wrote in another WhatsApp message that has gone viral.
The story has been shared widely in Hebrew-language WhatsApp groups as a heartwarming example of how people from different sectors of Israeli society can connect across divides. Religious and secular Israelis tend to live separately and vote differently — a split that for many has become more pronounced amid the right-wing government’s efforts to weaken Israel’s judiciary. Protests for the legislation in Jerusalem attract a largely Orthodox crowd. Attendees at the anti-government protests in Tel Aviv are mostly secular.
“Basically, you have a leading rabbi and celebrity who don’t know each other sitting next to each other on the plane, bridging segments of Israel and appreciating the greatness of the other,” wrote Rabbi Judah Kerbel of the Queens Jewish Center in New York City on Facebook. “It’s a nice story.”
Shmuel Reichman, an Orthodox rabbi and motivational speaker, also attempted in a Facebook post to answer the question “Why does this story resonate so much with everyone?”
Reichman wrote that the encounter showed that Rimon’s devotion to Torah has not led to “tunnel vision,” and that Kirel’s behavior suggested that it may be possible to encourage more secular Jews to increase their religious engagement.
“It shows that when we are amongst [sages], we want to be spiritually great, regardless of our normal aspirations,” he wrote. “Does anything happen from this encounter? Maybe yes, maybe no. But for Rav Rimon to have placed the pathway ahead for future interactions is more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Kirel, judging from her social media accounts, has yet to comment publicly on the meeting as of Wednesday morning. For his part, Rimon is surprised at how quickly the story has gone viral.
“It’s amazing to see how, within a second, the whole State of Israel knows,” he said in a brief stand-up interview with the Israeli right-leaning news site Arutz 7, explaining that he had previously declined more than 20 interview requests. “But I think we have a task to love the Jewish people and see good things… Suddenly you see that you’re connecting and good things emerge.”
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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