Good News Friday

Another week has rolled round, the days are getting shorter (though no cooler unfortunately!) and Shabbat is coming in early every week. So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment before I miss the deadline!

My first item is a fascinating story of the granddaughter of a Nazi who is now living in Israel and serving in the IDF!

The granddaughter of a member of the Nazi party became a combatant in the IDF.
Johann, Gaya’s grandfather, was a sworn Nazi. “He worked with the party to strengthen the ideology of the Third Reich,” she says. On the other hand, her mother’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Today Gaya serves as a fighter in the “Bardales” (Cheetah) Battalion. She says, “My grandfather would turn over in his grave” if he knew about it.

Gaya Bertele in the IDF. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

Gaya Beretele, who was a commander in the Bardales battalion, has an unusual family story. Her grandfather on her father’s side was a member of the Nazi party and served as the mayor of a village in southern Germany. “My grandfather Johann never regretted his support for Nazism and race theory,” she says. “He fully supported all the positions of the party and did not change his mind at all after the war, but held it until the day he died.”

Gaya with her father and mother.

Gaya’s father, Hans Bertele, is now one of the best known confectioners in Israel and has a bakery named ‘Gaya Bertele’ named after his daughter. He was born in the last moments of World War II, to a Christian family of seven children. One of his brothers was recruited at the age of 16, and within a month he was already in British captivity. Another brother was a pilot in the Nazi army whose plane was shot down, and he was killed. Hans’s father, Johann, was a member of the Nazi party and served as the head of the village. He said that “it was known to everyone that Jews are pigs, greedy and deceitful, it was a common discourse.”

Gaya says that when he was a boy, her father Hans had to choose a profession in order to determine the course of his life. “He chose to be a pastry chef and signed an employment agreement with Hilton Worldwide, which had two hotels in Israel. Hans was brought to work in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv…

Over time, Hans fell in love with the Jews and the Israeli character. “The groups, the warmth, the Israeli character spoke to him more and more, he found himself increasingly connected to the Israelis on the street, and wanted to belong to them.” Said Gaya.

Hans began a complex process of conversion, at the end of which, at the age of 26, he enlisted in the IDF, “He even fought as a gunner in the Yom Kippur War.” Gaya said.

Read the rest of Gaya’s remarkable personal and family story. It is uplifting and heart-warming and inspirational. Kol hakavod seems to weak a compliment to pay to both Gaya and her father. May they both continue to enjoy success in their careers.

Since we’re on the theme of avenging those who wish us ill, the following tweet from Sussex Friends of Israel says it all:

This was in response to this:

The story is about El Al’s acquisition of 16 urgently needed new Dreamliner aircraft to upgrade its decaying fleet:

The first of the Dreamliner airplanes purchased by national carrier El Al landed in Israel on Wednesday in an eagerly awaited upgrade to its fleet.

The plane touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport after flying from the Boeing factory in Washington state on the West Coast of the United States.

A ceremony was held to celebrate the plane’s arrival, attended by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and hundreds of workers from El Al and the Transportation Ministry.

The plane is the first of 16 Dreamliners purchased by El Al, which are set to replace its current fleet of Boeing 747-400s and 767s.

Maybe this will put to rest the well-known acronym for El Al: Every Landing Always Late. Mazal tov to El Al on their new planes, may they fly ever higher (well, not too high!) and faster!

In more “Israel-is-not-isolated” news, for the first time the International Children’s Games will be held in Jerusalem in 2018:

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has signed an agreement to host the International Children’s Games in Israel’s capital with the President of the International Children’s Games Torsten Rasch, after the International Children’s Games (ICG) selected Jerusalem to host the games in 2018.

International Children’s Games President Torsten Rasch (l) passes the Olympic Torch to Mayor Nir Barkat (r)

At the signing, Rasch passed the Olympic torch to Mayor Barkat to hold until the opening of the games in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Municipality Sports and Culture Administration director Ariella Rejwan, Sports Department Director Itzik Kornfein, representatives of the Ministry of Culture and Sports including Avi Benbenisti, who serves as a member of the organization’s professional committee, and the secretary general and executives of the International Children’s Game were also present at the signing ceremony.

The 2018 International Children’s Games

President of the International Children’s Games Torsten Rasch said, “We are pleased that Jerusalem will host the International Children’s Games in 2018. We are honored to sign this agreement. Beyond the games, it is important for the host city to welcome the children and promote gamesmanship, tolerance, and values that are common to the children who are coming to the city from all over the world.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, “Jerusalem is on the map. We are pleased and excited that we have been selected to host the International Children’s Games in 2018. There is no question that this is a vote of confidence in our heavy investment in sports in recent years, which were intended to bring international endeavors to the capital of Israel and to develop the city’s economy. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase Israel and Jerusalem to the world in positive sporting contexts. I am sure that the young athletes will have a unique sporting experience and receive a warm Jerusalem welcome. The games will offer a sporting challenge and joy, as well as promoting the values of tolerance, mutual respect, and teamwork.”

From the Maccabiah Games to the International Children’s Games: a sports revolution in Jerusalem

Bringing the International Children’s Games to Jerusalem is part of the sports revolution that Mayor Barkat has been leading in the past few years, resulting in the turning of Jerusalem to the sports capital of Israel as a host for large international sports events: the 20th Maccabiah Games, the Jerusalem Winner Marathon, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Europe Under-20 Championship, and more.

This is indeed wonderful news. It puts Jerusalem front and center in the international arena as Israel’s capital and it is a huge vote of confidence in Israel and Jerusalem’s ability to provide hosting, security and suitable venues. Kol hakavod to the President of the International Children’s Games, Torsten Rasch, and to Mayor Nir Barkat on their cooperation to bring about this exciting event.

Since we’re talking about Jerusalem, it was recently announced that another exciting archeological find was discovered this summer: A 1,500 year old mosaic floor was discovered near Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate) during the most prosaic work of laying groundwork for telephone cables:

A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor, with a Greek inscription, was discovered this summer following groundwork for Partner communications cable infrastructures near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

David Gellman, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority said, “The fact that the inscription survived is an archaeological miracle. The excavation in a relatively small area, exposed ancient remains that were severely damaged by infrastructure groundwork over the last few decades. We were about to close the excavation, when all of a sudden, a corner of the mosaic inscription peeked out between the pipes and cables. Amazingly, it had not been damaged. Every archaeologist dreams of finding an inscription in their excavations, especially one so well-preserved and almost entirely intact.”

Greek inscription discovered in the summer of 2017 near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. / Photo credit: Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr. Leah Di Segni, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the expert on ancient Greek inscriptions, deciphered the inscription. The inscription reads, “In the time of our most pious emperor Flavius Justinian, also this entire building Constantine the most God-loving priest and abbot, established and raised, in the 14th indiction.” According to Di Segni, “This inscription commemorates the founding of the building by Constantine, the priest. The inscription names the emperor Flavius Justinian. It seems that the building was used as a hostel for pilgrims.” Di Segni added, “‘Indiction’ is an ancient method of counting years, for taxation purposes. Based on historical sources, the mosaic can be dated to the year 550/551 AD.”

According to Di Segni, the inscription found near the Damascus gate is fairly similar to an inscription found in the vaults of the Nea Church, currently exhibited in the Israel museum. The same two people are mentioned in the inscription, the emperor Justinian and the abbot Constantine. Di Segni adds, “This new inscription helps us understand Justinian’s building projects in Jerusalem, especially the Nea Church. The rare combination of archaeological finds and historical sources, woven together, is incredible to witness, and they throw important light on Jerusalem’s past.”

The new but ancient inscription was removed from its site by the conservation experts of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and is being treated in the IAA ‘s mosaic workshop in Jerusalem.

What a fascinating find, shedding yet more light on Jerusalem’s rich history. Kol hakavod to all the archeologists who revealed this important mosaic.

And one more uplifting story before Shabbat. It starts badly but has a happy ending. An Israeli policewoman who was very seriously injured and left handicapped in a terror attack has not been able to return home from hospital because she did not have the money to buy a handicapped-accessible home, even with help from the Defence Ministry. Then the Israeli public stepped in…:

Tzipi Yaakobiyan, who was left paralyzed after a terrorist stabbed her in the neck, needs the money to help buy an accessible home that meets her medical needs; ‘Every shekel that adds up is a shekel that will help us,’ she says.

A crowdfunding campaign raised over NIS 1 million for police officer Tzipi Yaakobiyan, who was paralyzed as a result of a terror attack at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem a year ago.

Yaakobiyan was working as a police officer at the Shalem police station in east Jerusalem. As she was making her way to work with a colleague one morning, terrorist Ayman al-Kurd attacked her and stabbed her in the neck.

Yaakobiyan spent several weeks in the hospital in serious condition in a medically induced coma. Upon recovering, she began the long and difficult rehabilitation process. She recently described the operations she had to undergo and the ramifications of the injury when testifying against her attacker. “I have no feeling in my legs, my back, and my chest. My hands are very weak,” she said.

Tzipi Yaakobiyan, injured in a terror attack in Jerusalem

She was supposed to be discharged from the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus two months ago, but she has been “stuck” there because the Defense Ministry has yet to find her an apartment that can meet her extensive needs.

Tzipi is wheelchair-bound and requires constant care and an accessible home with the proper facilities. Her home also has to be close to Hadassah Medical Center and the Jerusalem center for disabled veterans.

The few apartments that might be able to meet her needs cost about NIS 1 million more than the family can afford, even with the aid from the Defense Ministry.

When Uri Shechter, who heads the Shoreshim Department at the Tzohar organization, heard about Tzipi’s story, he launched a campaign to raise the needed money. The campaign surpassed the NIS 1 million goal on Tuesday.

“This morning, one of the employees at the hospital came to see me, all smiling and happy, and showed me that we surpassed NIS 1 million. It’s impossible to describe how I feel. We didn’t believe we’d get there,” Yaakobiyan said. “When we started the campaign, we knew our goal was high, we didn’t expect to reach it because it seemed impossible. I’m really excited to learn we reached it.”

She thanked all of those who “donated, promoted and supported (the campaign) along the way. Without knowing me and only hearing my story, they chose to give their support—this isn’t something I take for granted. Thank you.”

The campaign has a little over 24 hours left to go. “Every shekel that adds up is a shekel that will help us: in mortgage payments, in expenses—and there are a lot of expenses. We’ll be happy with any help we get,” she said.

מי כעמך ישראל! Who is like unto Your people Israel!

Kol hakavod to every single person who participated in the crowdfunding scheme to help Tzipi Yaakobiyan.  They have fulfilled a huge mitzva and also recognized Tzipi’s courageous job in guarding Jerusalem. May Tzipi continue on to a refuah shlema, and may she enjoy her new home in peace and nachat.

And on that uplifting note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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4 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. cba says:

    Another wonderful Good News Friday, Anne! Thank you for this lovely post to lead us into Shabbat.

  2. Pingback: Good News Friday – 24/6 Magazine

  3. Reality says:

    A really great post.I’m so happy for the policewoman,she deserves all the help she can get.Mazal Tov to El Al,maybe now they will be on time (who knows ,we live in the land of miracles!)
    I was fascinated by the archaeology find.It just goes to show,everywhere in Israel,especially Jerusalem,just dig down a small amount and you’ll discover a wealth of history.One family discovered it under their house when they pulled up their floors to renovate and discovered a mosaic floor and rooms with all sorts of jugs and urns!
    As for the nazi granddaughter soldier,and her fathers story…wow!Amazing.
    And again Jerusalem is on the map hosting a wonderful international project.Well done Nir Barkat.He’s done a huge amount to put Israel,especially Jerusalem on better inernational footing.Another way of beating BDS
    Thank You for this blog
    Shabbat Shalom

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