An extraordinarily controversial figure in his lifetime, composer, conductor and
essayist Richard Wagner remains a controversial subject well over a century
after his death.
He is officially persona non grata in Israel, not only
because of the blatant anti- Semitism in is writings but also because his
concepts of nationalism were taken up and expanded on by the National Socialist
party and he became an icon of Nazi ideology. At various times, Wagner retracted
some of his anti-Semitic statements and had many Jewish friends and admirers,
not the least of whom was Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl who, though incensed
by Wagner’s anti-Semitic declarations, was entranced by his music and never
missed a performance of Tannhauser if he happened to be in the same city at the
same time. Wagner was also the favorite composer of Arturo Toscanini, the first
conductor of the Palestine Orchestra, which was the forerunner of the Israel
Despite the ban on Wagner, many Israelis have
recordings of his compositions, played by some of the world’s finest orchestras.
There is even an Israel Wagner Society, which on June 18 will host a symposium
headlined “An Academic Musical Encounter: Herzl- Toscanini-Wagner,” with
conductor Asher Fisch, musicologist Dr.
Meir Stern and Israeli art and
music expert Prof.
Yehoash Hirshberg, who will discuss how Wagner
inspired both Herzl and Toscanini. The trio will also explore various aspects of
Wagner’s work. But what may really set the fireworks going will be a Wagner
concert recital by 100 musicians who have been brought together to form an
interim orchestra for the occasion.
The concert will take place in the
Smolaarz Auditorium on the Tel Aviv University campus.
The performance is
privately funded and each of the musicians was hired in a private
■ GERMANY’S LEADERS will not allow themselves to forget the
special relationship that the country has with Israel as an ongoing act of
atonement for the horrors of the Holocaust.
German President Joachim
Gauck, who was born during World War II, did not learn about the Nazi atrocities
until he was 17 years old. It still weighs heavily on him that the German people
could be so inhuman, he revealed at the state dinner hosted for him by President
Shimon Peres in the garden of his residence.
Gauck, who had been to
Israel several times prior to becoming president in March of this year, devoted
the bulk of his address to how moving it had been for him to sit in the
Bundestag in January 2010 and listen to Peres talk about his grandfather Rabbi
Zvi Meltzer, who had taught him Torah in Vishniev, the town in which Peres was
born. When the Nazis had come to Vishniev, Peres related that they ordered all
the members of the community to congregate in the synagogue. Rabbi Meltzer had
marched in front, together with his family, wrapped in the same tallith (prayer
shawl) in which he had enveloped Peres as a young child, huddled in his
grandfather’s embrace. The doors of the synagogue were locked and the wooden
structure was torched with all of the community’s Jews inside.
so touched by this account that he remembered it in detail and repeated it in
Jerusalem two years later.
He also recalled the last sentence in Peres’s
address: “Permit us, allow yourselves, to dream and realize the
The reference was, of course, to peace and security, something
to which Gauck is committed.
Germany’s reparations to Israel have been
not only financial but also moral.
Among those moral deeds is one yet to
be enacted. When Gauck met earlier in the day with members of the Israeli
Olympic team who had survived the Munich massacre, he pledged to ask the Olympic
Committee to call for one minute’s silence at the forthcoming London Olympics in
memory of the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by members of the Palestine
Liberation Organization at the 1972 Munich Olympics. So far all appeals,
including those of the Israel government, have fallen on deaf ears. But because
Germany is such a powerful force in Europe, Gauck may succeed where others have
In welcoming Gauck at the State dinner, Peres could not refrain
from invoking the Holocaust, but did so primarily to illustrate the difference
between the Germany of then and the Germany of now. He said: “The Holocaust
remains a bleeding wound in our hearts, and the memory of the heinous deeds of
that era have not faded, nor will they ever fade... Today’s Germany instills the
horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons it has taught in its sons and
daughters, and fights with all its might against any budding signs of
■ THE CHANGING face of the Middle East is both an exciting
challenge and a pain in the neck for political analysts and commentators. Dennis
Ross and David Makovsky had to put out an updated edition of their book Myths,
Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East,
which was published as recently as 2009, because so much has changed since then.
Ross served as the director of policy planning in the State Department under
president George H. W. Bush, as special Middle East coordinator under Bill
Clinton and as a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia,
including Iran, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Makovsky is a
former editor- in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, where he previously worked as a
He is now director of the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy Project on the Peace Process as well as an adjunct lecturer
in the Middle Eastern studies program at John Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze
School of Advanced International Studies.
■ THE NETANYA Association for
Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) held its annual general meeting on
Wednesday night, during which it was announced that Hilton Share would take over
as the new chairman from Arthur Opolion, who served in the position for four
years. Share said he hoped to attract more young people to the Netanya AACI
during his tenure.
David London, the executive director of the National
AACI, traveled from Jerusalem for the special event. Longtime director Rachel
Rubin Hirsh oversaw a raffle draw (first prize was a trip to Europe for two). At
the end of the evening, the audience was treated to a guest lecture by Jerusalem
Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde on “Issues of the day,” followed by a lively
question- and-answer session.
Despite claims from readers unhappy with
several left-wing columnists, Linde stressed that the Post is a politically
■ THERE’S A lot of talk about integrating Arab
university graduates into hi-tech and other areas in which they can become part
of the mainstream work force and earn enough to improve the quality of their
lives. Some people are not only talking about opening the gates of opportunity
but are actually doing something about it. A business conference sponsored by
the Arabic business and economics publication Malakom together with Tsofen,
which trains Arabs for work in Israeli hi- tech companies, was held at the
Golden Tulip Hotel in Nazareth this week, with nearly all the addresses geared
toward Arab integration. The conference, an annual event, was initiated in
Among the participants were founder and publisher of Malakom
founder and publisher Basel Ghattas, who has a doctorate in environmental
engineering from the Technion, Tsofen CEO Smadar Nehab, Tel Aviv Stock Exchange
CEO Esther Levanon, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Hapoalim Yair
Saroussi, chairman of Israel Association of Electronics and Software Industries
Elisha Yanai, CEO of Motorola Israel Shimon Dik, founder and director of JVP
Venture Capital Fund Erel Margalit, CEO of IDC Israel Gideon Lopez, chairman of
Palestinian Information Technology Association and co-manager of Dimensions
Multimedia in Ramallah Hassan Qasem, scientist and founder of Plorol Biotech
Fuad Fares, CEO of Jasper Design Automation’s Israel Development
Center Ziad Hana, senior associate in IBM R&D Group Shadi Qupti, hitech
entrepreneur in interactive media for education purposes Elia Abu Shamis, CEO of
E Paper Sign Bilal Lahwani, governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority Dr.
Jihad Al Wazir, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and various Jewish and Arab
entrepreneurs and financiers. Ghattas, who initiated the conference, noted the
wealth of talent in the Arab sector that has been held back by many obstacles
and that must be overcome not only by potential Arab employees but also Arab
There has been progress since the first conference, he
acknowledged, but there could be a lot more. If given the chance, talented Arab
hi-tech people could make a significant contribution to the Israel economy, he
■ ALL JOURNALISTS work in a vacuum, not knowing how many people
out there are reading what they write but aware that there are readers just
waiting to pounce on any mistake. Many journalists, when corrected by readers,
are often surprised to discover who actually reads their material.
writer of this column was mistaken, according to former long-time Israel
director of the Rothschild Foundation Moshe Berlin, when writing earlier in the
week that the representative of the Rothschild Foundation at the launch of
Educational Television in March 1966, had been Lord Jacob
According to Berlin it was Lord Jacob’s father, Lord Victor
Rothschild, who represented the Rothschild Foundation.
There have been so
many generous members of the Rothschild family who have contributed so much to
Israel that it is easy to get confused.
The family’s gifts to Israel
include more than 500,000 dunams of land for settlements and agriculture in the
pre-state period, educational facilities, scholarships, dance, music, science,
the Knesset and Supreme Court buildings, magnificent museum collections and much
more. The Rothschilds continue to contribute through the Rothschild Caesarea
Foundation as well as in other capacities.