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Meir Shalev and Yehonatan Geffen were Israeli cultural royalty. Their deaths leave a hole on the left.



(JTA) — Over the last few months, since the far-right government announced its plans for an overarching constitutional overhaul, Israel’s embattled liberal camp has experienced a renaissance. Unprecedented mobilization on the part of protesting masses, business leaders and the IDF vanguard has left the government in disarray and, in the wake of a seemingly endless string of electoral defeats, invigorated the left to an extent that it had not seen since the 1990s. The left may be dead, but it is not quite buried yet.

But amid this process of rejuvenation and weeks before Israel celebrated its 75th anniversary, the Israeli left experienced two symbolic blows in ironic proximity when two cultural titans died within days of each other.

Meir Shalev, an eminent novelist, and Yehonatan Geffen, an incredibly prolific journalist, author and songwriter, were also prominent public intellectuals. Both had spent decades dabbling in current affairs as columnists for the mass-circulation dailies Yedioth Aharonoth and Maariv, respectively. 

Shalev was 74 when he died on April 11. Geffen, who died on April 19, was 76.

The symbolism did not stop at their premature and almost simultaneous passing. It was, rather, the final chapter of two lives that also began in great proximity: Shalev and Geffen were born a little over a year apart in the agricultural community of Nahalal, the Camelot of the Labor Zionism movement. Both were descendants of Zionist aristocracy: Shalev’s father was the Jerusalemite author and educator Yithzak Shalev, and Geffen’s maternal uncle the legendary general-turned-politician Moshe Dayan. Like many of their cohort, they were groomed for the driving seat of the newborn State of Israel.

Their formidable life’s work, thus, was largely an ongoing attempt to deal with the burden bestowed upon them by their pedigrees. And this is where they differ, despite the eerie similarities in their biographies.

Many of Shalev’s novels, especially the earlier ones, were loving tributes to his lineage. They included “A Pigeon and A Boy,” which is set during the War of Independence and won the National Jewish Book Award in 2006, and “The Blue Mountain,” set on a moshav (an agricultural cooperative) shortly before the founding of Israel. Though never overly sentimental and always strewn with a heavy dose of irony, Shalev’s writings were adoring accounts of a bygone generation, complete with their shtick and quirks and foibles. His protagonists were shrouded in a certain mythology, which Shalev did not labor to deconstruct entirely; he was just attempting to humanize and bring them down to earth.

But while Shalev looked up to his parents’ generation, Geffen blew a raspberry in their faces. He was part of a tight cohort of musicians and artists who grew up in Israel post-independence — a tribe that included David Broza, Arik Einstein, Gidi Gov, Shalom Hanoch and Yehudit Ravitz, all household names in Israel. Geffen’s song “Could It Be Over?”, featured on Arik Einstein’s 1973 album sporting the deliberately ironic title “Good Old Israel,” exemplifies the challenging relationship. From the opening line (“They say it was fun before I was born, and everything was just splendid until I arrived”), the song is a mischievous and self-deprecating take on Israel’s founding myths. Enumerating them one by one — the draining of the swamps, the heroic battles for Jewish sovereignty, the nascent Hebrew culture in the pre-state Yishuv — Geffen sarcastically concludes: “They had a reason to get up in the morning.”

More broadly, Geffen was bent on smashing every aspect of the Zionist ethos. In defiance of the image of the Hebrew warrior, of which his uncle Moshe was the poster boy, Geffen was an adamant pacifist as well as, famously, a very bad soldier himself. Having been called for reserve service during the first Lebanon War, in 1982, he was performing for soldiers ahead of the IDF offensive on Beirut when he was dragged off stage by the commanding officer for calling on the troops to refuse. His song “The Little Prince of Company B” (sung by Shem-Tov Levy), about a timid and frail fallen soldier praised as a hero against his will, was one of the first and best-remembered anti-war songs in the Hebrew canon.

Geffen’s counterculture instincts were informed by his great American heroes — notably the Jewish iconoclasts Bob Dylan and Lenny Bruce — and this admiration was in itself a jab at his upbringing, characterized by vain parochialism masquerading as self-sufficiency. Geffen felt more at home in New York (where he spent several years) and Tel Aviv than in the fields of the Jezreel Valley; his tools were not a sickle and a plow, but rather a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of whisky.

Shalev, in his political writing, also advocated for left-of-center politics that is sometimes derisively described as “Ashkenazi”: moderate, civil, Western in its orientation, calling to rally around a common good — a type of political discourse that, as recent events show, speaks to fewer and fewer Israelis. “The Israeli public is moving more and more to the right. The war in 1967 may have destroyed Israel,” he told an interviewer in 2017. “We took a big bite that is now suffocating us. All Israel has done since 1967 is deal with aspects of the occupation. Israel has not been dealing with the things I feel it should deal with. With my political views, I am a minority in Israel.”

Shalev was a pastor of sorts; Geffen was sometimes a Jeremiah and sometimes a court jester, and often both. 

They were representatives of two distinct streams within the traditionally fragmented Israeli left; the very same left that, despite the current resurgence, seems too often to have more streams than members.

The post Meir Shalev and Yehonatan Geffen were Israeli cultural royalty. Their deaths leave a hole on the left. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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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.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

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.)

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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.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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