Supporters of Effi Eitam accuse media of running hostile campaign

 
Effi Eitam, seen at the Jerusalem Supreme Court during a hearing on oil searching in the Golan Heights, on December 23, 2014. (photo credit: FLASH90)
Effi Eitam, seen at the Jerusalem Supreme Court during a hearing on oil searching in the Golan Heights, on December 23, 2014.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Most Israeli newspapers have published articles reflecting the opposition of Jewish community leaders in across the world as well as Holocaust survivors to Eitam’s appointment to chair Yad Vashem.

Supporters of the candidacy of Effi Eitam for the chairmanship of Yad Vashem to succeed Avner Shalev, who is stepping down at the end of this month, have accused the Israeli media of running a concerted campaign against him, without paying sufficient attention to his background.
While it is true that most Israeli newspapers have published articles reflecting the opposition of Jewish community leaders in various parts of the world as well as Holocaust survivors to Eitam’s appointment, some of those who advocate on his behalf are missing the point and extol his military heroism and his willingness to lay his life on the line for Israel. No one disputes his heroism. What people are concerned about are his allegedly racist remarks and attitude.
It is also unfortunate that some of Eitam’s defenders characterize those who oppose him as “dirty leftists.” At least one journalist has tried to achieve some degree of balance, although she, too, mentions leftists – but only in passing. Quoting from the writings of the late Tommy Lapid, who served as chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Hagit Rosenbaum, writing in the National-Religious weekly Besheva, while acknowledging that Lapid was a Holocaust survivor, stated that when he was appointed in 2006, he brought with him a trove of allegedly racist remarks that were directed not only against Palestinians but also against any ethnic group or demographic sector that did not find favor in his eyes – especially the ultra-Orthodox community, which he castigated in the most derogatory and deleterious of terms.
Eitam is a second-generation Holocaust survivor. Rosenbaum presents her readers with the story of Esther Fein (Eitam’s mother), who was a nurse in the Red Army and who for four-and-a-half years helped to fight the Nazis. Her parents and many of her relatives were murdered, as were most of the Jews from the Latvian town in which she was raised. She was married to a Latvian Jewish officer, and gave birth during the war. Her husband was killed in battle, and for three years after the war, Esther Fein, with her infant in her arms, wandered across Europe.
En route, she and her friends picked up some 100 homeless Jewish children who had been orphaned during the war, and established a warm home for them on an American army base in Germany. They also set up an improvised school, where they taught the children in the morning and acted as mentors to them in the afternoon
At the conclusion of the Mandate administration in 1948, Fein and her comrades, together with the children, came to Israel. She continued working as a nurse during the War of Independence, caring for the wounded at Kibbutz Ein Gev. She wrote extensively about her experiences, and her writings are included in Yad Vashem’s teaching curriculum.