Former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice is back in Israel, this time as the head of a consulting firm whose client list includes Motorola. Rice came to Israel with Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions Inc. The two will be feted on Saturday night by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie Fisher, who are hosting a reception in their honor at the American ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituah. Such receptions usually start some time between 7 and 8 p.m., but this one isn’t starting till well after the end of the Sabbath, a factor that will enable religiously observant invitees from other parts of the country to arrive more or less on time.

■ AMONG THE other visiting dignitaries this week was Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat, who was in Israel for the first time in response to an invitation by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who suggested that the visit would be a good way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between their two countries. The truth is that Filat found a more common language with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was born in Moldova. Filat also met with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, Federation of Chambers of Commerce President Uriel Lynn, Jewish National Fund World Chairman Efi Stenzler, leading figures from Yad Vashem, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked who he met at Agritech, various Israeli business people and, of course, Moldovan expatriates living in Israel. Liberman is the most prominent and best known of these, though Filat noted that Meir Dizengoff, the founding mayor Tel Aviv, was also born in Moldova.

Filat toured Yad Vashem, after which, together with Stenzler, he planted an olive tree in the Nations of the World Forest. Filat, whose entourage comprised some 50 leading Moldovan business people as well as several government ministers including Deputy Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Vasile Bumacov; Minister of Health Andrei Usatîi, Minister of Transport and Road Infrastructure Anatol Salaru, Environment Minister Gheorghe Saluru, Labor Minister Valentina Buliga and Minister of Informational Technologies and Communications Pavel Filip, attended the inauguration of the Moldova- Israel business forum. At his meeting with Meseznikov, he discussed the abolishment of visas for Moldovans visiting Israel, underscoring that a lot of time has passed since Moldova abolished entry visas for holders of Israeli passports and stating that it was time for Israel to show a little reciprocity. Other discussions centered on water resources and Israel’s highly reputed drip-irrigation systems, technologies used in agriculture, increased bilateral tourism and the upgrading of political relations. Regarding the latter, there will be an inter-governmental meeting in Tel Aviv in September, after which Netanyahu is due to visit Moldova.

■ YET ANOTHER visitor was Dr. Su Chi, senior adviser to Taiwanese President Ma Yingjeou.

Su was invited by Ambassador Moshe Arad, who is chairman of the Truman Institute, to provide some insights into Taiwan’s current political situation, its economy, foreign relations and cross Taiwan Strait relations. Since Ma’s inauguration in 2008, said Su, the United States continued to be Taiwan’s most important ally, relations with Japan developed significantly after the signing of an investment protection agreement and relations with India and Australia have thrived as well. As for relations with the Chinese mainland, Su stated that the situation is constantly and consistently improving. There are hundreds of weekly flights between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China and Taiwanese businessmen invested about $70 billion in China and created 30 million jobs for Chinese citizens. The total trade volume between China and Taiwan is about $150 billion.

■ PRISON AUTHORITIES in Israel are much more humane than those in the United States. At the beginning of this week, crime czar Ze’ev Rosenstein, who is serving a 17-year sentence for drug trafficking and involvement in a contract killing, was permitted to leave prison for three hours to attend the wedding of his son, Shlomi.

And this coming Sunday, Israel’s eighth president, Moshe Katsav, will be given a seven-hour leave to attend the wedding of his son Noam to Orly Abraham at the Nahala banquet hall on Moshav Beit Oved, near Ness Ziona. When former government minister Shlomo Ben-Izri, who briefly shared a cell with Katsav, was in jail, he was also granted leave to attend family celebrations. But in America, Jonathan Pollard was not permitted to attend the funerals of either of his parents or to visit his dying father to say a final farewell.

Israelis can be very tough, but when it comes to family affairs, there’s usually a softening of attitudes. Incidentally, Katsav is getting a better deal than Rosenstein not only in terms of the amount of time that he’s permitted to spend at the wedding but also with regard to the venue.

Although the gala celebration of the wedding of Shlomi and Kinneret Rosenstein was held at the Royal Garden Banquet Halls in Petah Tikva, the actual ceremony, at the insistence of prison authorities was held at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv in the presence of only 30 close relatives and friends. The father of the groom arrived under heavy security and the guests were invited at only a few hours notice. Prison authorities were concerned that Rosenstein with his extensive underworld contacts might attempt to escape custody. Such fears do not exist where Katsav is concerned, which is why security will not be as stringent.

■ HAD THE deal for a unity government not been reached last week, the Knesset would have considered a new bill aimed at raising the legal age of marriage in Israel from 17 to 18. The measure was recently put forth by Bar-Ilan University’s Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women. The bill is part of a major legislative advocacy initiative of the Rackman Center, which has brought additional precedent-setting legislation before the Knesset, including an amendment to the Spousal Property Relations Law allowing for the division of property prior to divorce. The ongoing efforts of the Rackman Center have captured the attention of many, including US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who sought a briefing regarding its most recent activities during his visit last week to the BIU campus.

Rackman Center director Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari said the status of women in Israel has remained much the same for the past decade, though in some respects it has also worsened. “While Israel considers itself a progressive democracy, this can’t be said for the sphere of family law,” she told Shapiro and BIU President Prof. Moshe Kaveh. Halperin-Kaddari is the only Israeli member of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In 2007 she received the Woman of Courage Award inaugurated by then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

The Rackman Center acts as both a hub of academic research and a grassroots organization seeking to affect change through legal aid clinics and advocacy.

Currently topping its agenda are the cancellation of the retroactive invalidation of a get, (Jewish bill of divorce), the creation of civil marriage ceremonies and the abolishment of attempts to exclude or downgrade women in any area of public life.

When asked by Kaveh what she foresees in 50 years, Halperin-Kaddari, aware that prophecy, according to Jewish tradition, is given only to children and fools, preferred to talk about what she would like to see.

The key to bringing about change will be to appoint women to the rabbinic courts, she said. “They’ve closed the doors to us, but we’ll get in through the windows,” added Rackman Center general manager Atara Kenigsberg.

“Bar-Ilan is the perfect university to lead this bridge-building effort,” said Shapiro, noting that as a father of three daughters, this is an issue of particular importance to him.

greerfc@gmail.com

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