Flexibility has become the hallmark of “national day” celebrations, with many
embassies this year rescheduling festivities either for the sake of convenience
or because their national days clashed with the Sabbath or with Jewish holidays.
This was especially the case with regard to national days that fell during
Succot. Among the countries affected were the People’s Republic of China, Cyprus
and Nigeria, whose national day is October 1, Germany and Korea, whose national
day is October 3 and Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China ,which
has two national days, one on October 10 commemorating the Wuchang Uprising of
1911, and the other January 1, the date on which the Republic of China was
established in 1912.
For the second consecutive year, German Ambassador
Andreas Michaelis hosted the Day of German Unity at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in
Tel Aviv instead of at his residence in Herzliya Pituah. Last year he had an
excuse because the residence was being renovated, but he may have discovered
that it was a lot more convenient for his guests to come to Tel Aviv. He moved
his function both geographically and chronologically, holding it on October
Korean Ambassador Ilsoo Kim last night combined his country’s
national day reception at his residence in Rishpon with the celebration of the
50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and the
State of Israel. Nigerian Ambassador David Oladipo Obasa combined his country’s
national day with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the resumption of
diplomatic relations between his country and Israel at a festive gathering last
Sunday at his residence in Kfar Shmaryahu, and Dimitris Hatziargyrou, the
ambassador of Cyprus, is hosting his national day reception this evening. But
the celebrations creating the most interest are those of the People’s Republic
of China and the Republic of China. Whether by accident or by design, PRC
Ambassador Gao Yanping and ROC Ambassador Liang-Jen Chang who are politically at
odds with each other, both opted to celebrate tomorrow – October
Curiously enough, they chose Tel Aviv hotels that are next door to
each other, to some extent accommodating those of their guests who are invited
to both events by having them an hour apart. Some people might interpret this as
a reconciliatory gesture.
Others might regard it as mere
The PRC event will include a concert by The Forbidden City
Chamber Orchestra. The ROC event will include a jazz performance.
ROC’s representative in Israel operates out of The Taipei Economic and Cultural
Office in Tel Aviv because, although Taiwan is crawling with Israeli hi-tech
people, Israel does not have formal diplomatic ties with the ROC – as is the
case with most countries that have formal diplomatic relations with the PRC.
Therefore, although the ROC representative has the title of ambassador, the
office he heads is not an embassy. The essential difference is that the Foreign
Ministry will be represented at the PRC reception but not at the ROC
■ PRESENTATION OF diplomatic credentials does not rouse much
media interest unless the diplomat in question is a new American ambassador, a
new Russian ambassador, a new Egyptian ambassador or a new Jordanian ambassador.
The latter two, Atef Mohamed Salem Saed Alahl and Walid Khalid Abdullah Obeidat
will be the last of five new envoys who are scheduled to present their
credentials to President Shimon Peres this morning. The others are Jean Baptiste
Gomis, the ambassador of the Ivory Coast, Francesco Maria Talo, the ambassador
of Italy, and Simon Pullicino, the ambassador of Malta.
DIFFERENCES may exist between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President
Barak Obama, one thing they have in common – aside from the fact that both are
standing for reelection – is that both are left-handed. So was former US
President Bill Clinton and so is British Prime Minister David
There are quite a few other countries with left-handed leaders,
but not necessarily with left-wing inclinations. In fact in some cases, as with
Netanyahu, it’s the exact opposite.
Perhaps it’s meant to indicate
■ IT’S NOT exactly correct to say that Deputy Foreign Minister
Danny Ayalon was killing two birds with one stone when he visited the Poriya
Medical Center in Tiberias toward the end of last week to take part in the
dedication ceremony of the new Leah Kabakoff Maternity and Neonatal Center, to
which his political party, Yisrael Beytenu, had contributed NIS 25 million.
Following the ceremony, Ayalon went to visit fellow MK and party member Orly
Levy-Abekasis, who two days earlier had given birth to her fourth child. It
would be interesting to do an exit poll at Poriya on election day to estimate
how many staff members and new mothers would vote Yisrael Beytenu. After all,
NIS 25 million is not to be sneezed at.
■ HOW THINGS can change in 520
years! Remember the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, when they expelled or executed
Jews or forced them to convert to Christianity? On the 500th anniversary of the
Inquisition there was a much-hyped reconciliation between Spain and the Jewish
people, or more accurately those of the Jewish people who returned to their
spiritual and ancestral homeland, Israel. After President Chaim Herzog went to
Madrid in 1992 for an historic meeting of reconciliation with King Juan Carlos,
Spain temporarily became enamored with Israel, but surveys taken in 2010 by the
Observatory of Anti-Semitism in Spain and the Federation of Jewish Communities
in Spain showed it to be the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.
Ambassador Fernando Carderera would have us believe otherwise.
opening this week of the international conference on the Struggle for Identity
of the Secret Jews of the Balearic Islands of Spain, he spoke warmly of the
excellent relations that exist between Spain and Israel and Spain and the Jewish
people. While acknowledging that the secret Jews suffered discrimination up to
the 1960s, he said that today they are well-integrated and accepted in Spanish
The conference was attended by numerous people from around the
world who can trace their ancestry to the Jews expelled from Spain or to those
who practiced their faith in secret. Also present was David Hatchwell, president
of the Jewish community of Madrid. Among religious leaders in attendance was
Rabbi Shalom Bahbout, the spiritual mentor of the Jewish community of Naples,
■ ANY KIND of controversy involving public figures or former
public figures sparks a series of associations related to the person in
Thus the request submitted to President Shimon Peres by Gila
Katsav for a pardon for her husband, former president Moshe Katsav, who was
convicted of sexual offences, immediately brings to mind the case of Margalit
Har-Shefi, who was convicted for not preventing Yigal Amir from going ahead with
his plan to assassinate prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Katsav, it appears
from his request, is having a hard time in prison because fellow convicts who
had appealed to him for reduction of sentence and whose requests had been denied
are now making his life miserable.
Convicted murderer Ami Popper was,
until his transfer, the main cause of concern. Popper, who in 1990 was given a
life sentence for killing seven people after he opened fire on a group of
Palestinian workers waiting at a bus stop, had appealed to Katsav for a pardon
which was not forthcoming. Over the years Popper’s influence among other
prisoners has grown, and so when Katsav underwent a severe change of status,
Popper decided to get even.
But Katsav has also suffered for a pardon
that he did issue. Although he had initially decided not to commute Har-Shefi’s
sentence on the grounds that he would not be lenient with anyone connected with
the assassination, he eventually cut short her sentence from nine to six months
after relentless pressure from right-wing groups and individuals. As a result he
was castigated by left-wing groups and individuals who were afraid that the
commuting of her sentence would eventually lead to Amir’s release. At the time,
Katsav noted that Har- Shefi had said that if she could have prevented the
murder, she would have. But it was not until 2007 that Ami Ayalon, then an MK
and before that the head of the Shabak, Israel’s Security Agency, revealed to a
group of Labor Party supporters in Ashkelon that Har-Shefi had been unaware of
Amir’s intentions. Last year there was a failed attempt to have her conviction
struck off the record.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould is experiencing
larger chunks of Israeli life than do most Israeli citizens. Only a few weeks
after leading a British Embassy team in the 59th Sea of Galilee Swim, he
moonlighted on an ambucycle through Tel Aviv with a United Hatzalah first
responder team headed by United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer so that he could learn
first-hand how organization responds to emergencies. The ambucycles travel
faster than an ambulance and can also maneuver narrow streets and hilly areas
with much greater ease than an ambulance.
United Hatzalah works in close
cooperation with Magen David Adom, and its paramedics have frequently tended to
emergency situations together with those of MDA. But the ambucycles on which
they travel would not be available without the goodwill of United Hatzalah
supporters in Israel and abroad. A case in point was the donation of additions
to the fleet during the intermediate days of Succot.
Jay and Jeanie
Schottenstein and Bob and Amy Book, members of International Board of United
Hatzalah, were vacationing at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and hosted a
dinner for some 100 guests, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, in the
hotel’s beautifully decorated succa. An impressive lineup of new ambucycles was
on display. Beer, who had gone to the dinner expecting to enjoy a good meal and
to listen to some speeches lauding his organization, did not expect any more
than the ambucycles that had already been pledged. After several speeches
endorsing United Hatzalah and evaluating the organization’s achievements over
the last year, Dr. David Goldfarb from Tel Aviv took the microphone and said,
“Dear Guests: Enough heard. Now it is our turn to act. I am donating three
ambucycles to United Hatzalah.”
Goldfarb’s initiative and challenge did
not fall on deaf ears. An additional 13 ambucycles were donated, raising the
total to 25 new vehicles during one evening. Somehow an ambucycle has a lot of
appeal for potential donors – perhaps because they can actually see and touch
the finished product before they contribute and because they are aware of the
importance of an ambucycle in enabling the fastest response to an emergency
■ IT IS impossible to estimate how many tens of
thousands of lives have been saved in the hundred year history of Hadassah, the
Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which has raised and provided funds for
Hadassah medical centers and educational facilities in Israel. As part of its
centenary celebrations, Hadassah is holding its national convention in Israel,
during which it is officially inaugurating the impressive Sarah Wetsman Davidson
Tower, which is the most modern medical facility in Israel.
together of so many Hadassah members has provided an opportunity for other
Hadassah dedications, such as The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Hadassah Heritage
Center at Hadassah University Medical Center, Ein Kerem, which was inaugurated
on Saturday night by Hadassah’s national president Marcie Natan and past
presidents Bonnie Lipton, Marlene Post and Nancy Falchuk who collectively cut
The 120-square-meter Heritage Center is an interactive museum
which brings to life the history of Hadassah.
Attending the ceremony were
31 of the 34 regional and big chapter presidents whose regions comprise the
330,000 members of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and
representatives from the Herzsteins’ hometown of Houston. Lipton, who chairs the
Heritage Center, said that working in the building was beyond
She anticipated that it would grow to reflect Hadassah’s
changing history. Audrey Shimron, executive director of Hadassah’s Offices in
Israel, who had presented the idea to Hadassah’s national board a year and a
half earlier, was thrilled with what Jerusalem architect David Shapira had done
together with a group of dedicated, educated volunteers in Israel and the US who
had undertaken the task of collecting stories, photographs, videos, newspaper
clippings and artifacts.
Among the many exhibits is the personal diary of
Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold.
There is also a movie of Hadassah’s
history and accomplishments. Aside from paying tribute to an organization that
has done so much for Israel, the Heritage Center provides yet another
interesting tourist attraction for the capital and an opportunity for relatives
of patients to focus on something positive while loved ones are undergoing
surgery or resting. The Heritage Center has not yet been completed, but will
open up to the public over the next year.
■ FOLLOWING ON the success of
Afimall City, the largest shopping mall project in Moscow, Afi Development,
which is a subsidiary of Africa Israel, whose chairman is international business
tycoon Lev Leviev, received a permit from the Moscow Municipality to build an
even bigger and more impressive complex, the Tverskaya Plaza, a development
project that will combine commercial, residential, office, entertainment and
hotel facilities. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, who is most appreciative of what
Leviev is doing to enhance his city, came with senior members of his staff to
take a look at how the project is developing and was given the grand tour by
Leviev, his daughter Tzvia Leviev-Elizarov, marketing and asset management
director of AFI Development, and AFI Development CEO Mark Groisman. Afimall has
its own metro station and Tverskaya Plaza will have even greater access via
three metro stations currently under construction.
■ LED BY their
President, Ziona Primor, some 30 members of the International Women’s Club
visited Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People on the campus of Tel
Aviv University. The group was particularly interested in the exhibition
“Operation Finale,” documenting the capture of Adolf Eichmann, which will remain
on view until the end of the month. They were briefed by curators Avner A., a
member of the Mossad, and Irena Gordon. Ziona Primor is the wife of Avi Primor,
the president of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and director of the
Trilateral Center For European Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya,
who is a veteran of Israel’s diplomatic corps and whose last and extremely
successful post was as Israel’s ambassador to Germany. Before their marriage,
Ziona Primor was a Gottex house model.
Among the visiting IWC members was
Janice Gillerman, the wife of Dan Gillerman, a former Israel ambassador to the
United Nations, who was also seen in Jerusalem this week with her husband at the
conferment ceremony in which Maestro Zubin Mehta received the Presidential Medal
of Distinction from President Shimon Peres.
■ ESRA, THE English-Speaking
Residents Association, which was founded by Zimbabwe- born and educated Merle
Guttmann, who is this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of her aliya, and is
currently chaired by British-born Brenda Katten, who has been living in Israel
since 1998, has a remarkable history of volunteerism. This is not surprising, as
both Guttmann and Katten have been engaged in volunteerism of one kind or
another for most of their lives In 1992, ESRA and Guttmann, in recognition of
their contribution to immigrant absorption, received the President’s Award for
Volunteering from then-president Chaim Herzog.
Of the immigrants that
ESRA has helped, the organization’s greatest and most constant effort has been
directed toward immigrants from Ethiopia. ESRA supports numerous projects
involving the Ethiopian community.
Much of this support is hands-on and
also extends to youngsters born in Israel to Ethiopian immigrant parents. Some
of these youngsters – girls ages nine to 12 who are members of a dance group –
will be performing for President Shimon Peres at the end of this month. They
come from Netanya, which is home to some 15,000 Ethiopians, and where ESRA
sponsors various projects for children, youth and adults.
project led by professional dancer Almaz Getahun, who is a local success story
and a great role model, giving tremendous confidence to the young dancers
according to Katten.
One of ESRA’s most exciting projects in these
specific neighborhoods, she adds, is “Students Build a Neighborhood,” whereby
students who are seeking financial support for their studies at university are
provided with accommodation in as well as a stipend in exchange for mentoring
and tutoring schoolchildren in mathematics, languages and general studies some
three times a week In this way, ESRA is making a double contribution to
education by funding the university students and making sure that Ethiopian
schoolchildren get whatever tutoring they may need.
Katten is bothered by
the fact that while ESRA operates very successfully on the coastal plain and
beyond, it somehow never hit off in Jerusalem, despite the fact that Jerusalem
has a very large population of native English-speakers. She is in the process of
making yet another attempt to launch an ESRA branch in Jerusalem. For the
record, ESRA is not a women’s organization and part of its success can be
attributed to the fact that husbands and wives work together on projects. ESRA
also has numerous social and cultural outlets.
■ HE WHO saves a single
soul is as one who saved a whole world, goes the old Talmudic saying. Indeed,
every human being is not only a world unto himself or herself, but also an
extension of the worlds of their families, friends and acquaintances. Each and
every human being represents the very essence of not judging a book by its
Some of the most ordinary-looking or seemingly uneducated people
often have the most fascinating tales to tell about their lives.
members of Israel’s Ethiopian population who walked across the Sudan to reach
the Promised Land have the most riveting and sometimes spine-chilling tales to
Prisoners of Zion of the former Soviet Union can fill volumes with
the stories of their escapades. Descendants of the families of the first, second
and third aliyot have countless stories about clearing swamps, fighting off Arab
marauders, battling disease, building kibbutzim and moshavim, opening the first
university, etc. Every person has a story, even if he doesn’t know how to tell
That’s where Jerusalem’s Ben-Zvi Institute comes into the picture.
Dr. Nirit Shalev Khalifa of the Jerusalem-based Ben-Zvi Institute is
coordinating a nationwide project called “Israel Revealed.” The project,
initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office, is designed to pay tribute to the
pioneers of various Israeli towns and cities – particularly development towns.
Parts of the project are already underway, and an exhibition that was mounted in
Kiryat Shmona paved the way for future exhibitions to be held in Tel Aviv-Jaffa,
Rosh Ha’ayin, Sderot, Jerusalem and Rehovot, among other places.
project is designed to forge stronger ties between all sectors of Israeli
society, including minorities. Organizers of the project say that everyone
living in Israel has directly or indirectly contributed to the nation’s
development and that in every family there are photo albums, documents and
souvenirs which add to history’s mosaic of community and family life. It is
important for the generations that have grown up in relatively well-developed
areas to know how all this grew from almost nothing, as well as something about
the people whose dreams, courage, willpower and stamina brought about the
country that we live in today. For details of how to participate in the project,
check out its website at www.israelalbum.org.il