THE INVITATIONS to last week’s official State Dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres for US President Barack Obama asked that guests come in formal attire. Among the few who complied with the request was Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who came in a long black evening gown. Most of the men wore business suits, but in several cases their ties were askew and their top shirt buttons were undone. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who almost never wears a tie, again came tieless with the collar of his shirt open. Author David Grossman came in a striped sports shirt topped by a blazer.

He too was without a tie, and the top of his shirt was open. The two were not the only ones who defied social norms.

The Americans were all properly attired, including journalists and photographers, whereas most of the Israeli colleagues of the latter are schlumps both at home and abroad, apparently not caring about the impression they make unless they happen to be on camera.

Obama was presented at the dinner with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civilian honor, by Peres.

AMONG THE regulars at the annual Ein Gev Song Festival that will be held on March 27 and 28 is President Peres, who attends year after year, often accompanied by members of his family.

This year’s Ein Gev Festival will be special because it is being held for the 70th consecutive year, which gives it a certain brinkmanship over the sovereignty of the State of Israel, which is five years younger than the festival.

On the opening night, most of the songs will be about the Jordan Valley, because the Jordan Valley Regional Council does so much to promote the Ein Gev Festival, which is traditionally chaired by Yossi Vardi, who heads the Jordan valley Regional Council. Group and choir performances on both days of the festival will be hosted by Sarale Sharon. Other performers include: Izhar Cohen, Sassi Keshet, Rivka Zohar, The Gevatron Choir, Sivan Talmor, Nira Sapir, Jordan Valley Choirs Daphna Armoni, Boys from Afikim, Amotz Brontman, Ilanit, Miri Aloni, Dafna Dekel, Dorit Reuveni, Yaakov Nave, Dorit Farkash, Adam, Naama Levi, Osnat Vishinski & Moti Giladi and Golan Shahaf. The master of ceremonies on the first night will be Avshalom Kor and on the second Yoav Ginai. Even though the festival is recorded on radio and television, it continues to attract thousands of people year after year, especially those who are fans of community singing. Organizers anticipate an even larger gathering this year because of its landmark significance.

■ COMPETING WITH the Ein Gev Festival is Holon’s Days of Song at which one of the performers will be David D’Or, who last week sang Amazing Grace to Presidents Obama and Peres. But the highlight of the Days of Song Festival on Wednesday, March 27, will be the presentation of a Life Achievement Award to composer and musical arranger Kobi Oshrat in recognition of his contribution to Israeli song.

■ FROM A humble text to a richly illuminated book with many explanations by noted scholars, the Haggada recited at the Seder table, has evolved from an article of purely religious ritual to an expensive collector’s item. More recent examples in the latter category can be seen at a spectacular Illuminated Haggada and Shir HaShirim Fair” at the Inbal Hotel, Jerusalem, that will feature artworks by Maty Grunberg, David Moss, Avner Moriah and many other prominent Israeli artists. Sponsored by the Kol HaOt organization, the event will be held, Thursday, March 28, from 5 to 10 p.m. Admission is free of charge. Several of the artists will be in attendance, and will share with members of the public the creative evolution they personally underwent to visually interpret the Haggada and Shir HaShirim texts.

“Visitors will enjoy a feast for the eyes, soul and intellect, as they view these dazzling works of fine art,” says Yair Medina, a cofounder of Kol HaOt, listing other artists represented at the fair, including Enya Eshet, Liliana Kleiner, Yaakov Daniel, Eliyahu Sidi, Matt Berkowitz, Ya’akov Boussidan, and Asher Kalderon.

Among the featured works at the fair will be Grunberg’s recently published Selected Works: The Bezalel Haggadah, which follows the artist’s journey, with visual documentation of his ardent search and transformations from his early sketches, which were never published, to the final woodcuts that were printed in his acclaimed Haggada.

Kol HaOt, a Jerusalem-based organization established in 2009, sponsors interactive programs that combine the magic of the visual and performing arts with Jewish texts and ideas, history and values.

LOVERS OF Klezmer music who may be in Jerusalem on Sunday, March 31, might care to join the annual Klezmer parade organized by Yung Yidish and led by Avraham Burstein and the Jerusalem Klezmer Association. It’s a fun thing for families and it’s free of charge. It starts at 1 p.m. at Montefiore’s Windmill in Yemin Moshe and after a hassidic jam session in which anyone who can play klezmer music and has brought an instrument can join in, there’s a musical march to David’s Tomb. The event closes the gap on the religious-secular divide, and attracts people of diverse backgrounds whose common denominator is their enthusiasm for klezmer tunes.

HI-TECH relations between Israel and China continue to intensify. Ed Mlavski, chairman of the MIT Enterprise Forum Israel and founding partner in Gemini Israel Ventures hosted a cocktail party at Gemini Israel Ventures offices in Herzliya, in honor of a political and economic delegation from Changzhou headed by Deputy Mayor Fang Guoqiang and attended by Chinese Ambassador Gao Yanping, former MK Ran Cohen, who is now the chairman of the Israel Asia Chamber of Commerce, CEO of the PTL Group Zvi Shalgo, who chairs the Israel Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, and who has been a driving force behind Israeli operations in many parts of China including Changzhou, Dr. Ike Sagie, CEO of Lexifone which is building a development center in Changzhou, Sigal Elbaum, Country General Manager for Lenovo Israel, as well as manager of Israeli companies entering the Chinese market, Erez Dotan, CEO of iScan Robotics, which has been active in China for more than a decade, Opher Assif, deputy CEO for Asia of OptiTex, and Nir Erez, CEO of Moovit, which operates in many global markets and is about to begin doing the same in China.

Several of the people attending the cocktail reception attended a Go China conference that was organized on Wednesday, March 20 by the MIT Forum and the PTL Group to enable better networking and a more businesslike relationship with the Changzhou delegation. Not everyone was glued to their television set to follow the Obama visit to Israel. Some were interested in what they could do in China, while in Tel Aviv, a major PR firm was organizing a hummus tasting for the media.

Ambassador Gao, who also attended the conference, said that she had “escaped” from her own nearby residence for an important delegation from Beijing in order to pay tribute to the Changzhou delegation which is investing so much time and energy in forging connections with Israel. She also addressed the Israeli participants and told them that they were very wise in opting to do business with Changzhou.

Fang told all those present that he had read Start-up Nation which so clearly tells the story of the miracle of Israel’s technological miracles and declared that the book should have an additional chapter devoted to the high-tech relationship between Israel and Changzhou which he said will one day be the Silicon Valley of Asia. According to Shalgo, Changzhou is the growth engine of China, a great technological partner for Israel and an important springboard from which Israel can enter the Chinese market.

FOLLOWING A presentation that he made last year at a ROI Community gathering in Jerusalem sponsored by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network (CLSPN) Jeremy Balkin, a ROI Community member from Sydney, Australia, has been selected to represent his country in The World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Class of 2013. Other honorees include Chelsea Clinton, Randi Zuckerberg, William James Adams (aka will.i.am) and Nate Silver.

Balkin’s “Give While You Live” initiative seeks to inspire wealthy people to give philanthropically during their lifetime. It began in 2005 as an educational tool for people with the means to give substantially and has since developed into a major fund-raising vehicle. While “Give While You Live” is primarily based in the growing Asia Pacific region, it has helped to raise millions of dollars for a variety of both Jewish and non-Jewish causes in Australia and internationally.

Examples include LIVESTRONG (US), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (AUS/UK), Jewish Communal Appeal (AUS), Jewish National Fund (ISR) and Indigenous Marathon Project (AUS).

“The Asia Pacific region is quickly becoming more economically and politically relevant,” said Balkin. “I hope to bring the Jewish values of tzedaka and spirit of generosity demonstrated by many American philanthropists to help the emerging wealth being generated in this region shape the kind of world we all want to live in and leave for the next generation.”

In his day job as the president of Karma Capital, Balkin often advises clients on philanthropic giving. When he attended the ROI Summit in Jerusalem last year, as the only participant from Sydney, Australia, he gave a presentation about the art of fund-raising and the “Give While You Live” project, teaching fellow ROI Community members about techniques social entrepreneurs can use to transform a project from the dream stage to reality through successful fund-raising techniques.

“Presenting ‘Give While You Live’ at the ROI Summit gave me a platform to showcase my project on the world stage,” said Balkin. “Being part of ROI and the broader Schusterman Philanthropic Network helped me develop the skills and connections I needed to earn global recognition of my work and to be selected as a Young Global Leader.”

The World Economic Forum honored 200 young leaders under the age of 40 from 70 countries for their professional accomplishments and commitment to society. The Young Global Leader Class of 2013 is a select group drawn from the worlds of business, arts and culture, civil society, academia, government, media and non-profit organizations.

Lynn Schusterman, co-chairwoman of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, congratulated Balkin on his award and expressed pride in the fact that he is a member of the ROI Community. “His work is inspiring and important, and we are thrilled Jeremy has been recognized as a role model to young people everywhere who want to help repair the world,” she said.

■ CREATIVITY WAS not only a talent, but a character trait of the late Lea Gottlieb, who through the Gottex, the company which she founded with her husband Armin, not only placed Israeli swim and beachwear on the world fashion map, but transcended political differences and hostilities. Gottex clients included the wives and daughters of heads of state and other dignitaries, including some whose countries did not have diplomatic relations with Israel, most notably the oil rich countries of the Middle East. The latter may not have worn their Gottex acquisitions in public, but like the fashion cognoscenti in the rest of the world they were inspired by the slogan, “Gotta Get a Gottex.”

The Gottliebs, who were Holocaust survivors arrived in Israel in 1949, thinking to emulate the modest raincoat factory that they had started after the war. When they realized how little rain there was in Tel Aviv, they remained water oriented and turned to swimwear.

Lea Gottlieb had a marvelous sense of color, and a great love for flowers, which had actually saved her life during the Holocaust. Armin Gottlieb had been imprisoned in a labor camp in Hungary, and when she visited him, she would carry a large bunch of flowers, which she held up to her face to hide her Jewish origins.

Flowers subsequently featured prominently in her designs.

By the mid-1980s Gottex was so well established with markets around the world, that its sales figures were in the range of $40 million, which was truly astounding considering that in order to raise money start the factory, Lea Gottlieb had sold her wedding ring.

Lea Gottlieb believed that beachwear should be beautiful as well as functional, and should be sufficiently glamorous to be worn from the beach to the ballroom.

She complemented her swimwear with pareos, caftans, jackets, skirts and pants, often in fine, floating fabrics that were equally perfect for evening wear.

Princess Diana, actress Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Sophia of Spain and Nancy Kissinger were among the Gottex clients who admired and valued her creations.

Armin Gottlieb managed the company, but after his death, it fell on hard times, and Lea Gottlieb was forced to sell out.

The new Gottex owner was Lev Leviev, who heads the Africa Israel Group. Lea Gottlieb and her daughter Judith, a designer in her own right, headed the Gottex design team for about a year under the new ownership, but psychologically, it was difficult for them and they left after signing a five year agreement that they would not open a rival company. Lea Gottlieb was 79 years old at the time, and it seemed unlikely that she would enter into any new venture.

She also had other worries. Judith was ill and eventually succumbed to cancer.

Nonetheless, even this could not curb Lea Gottlieb’s creative urge. At age 85, she reinvented herself under the Lea brand name. She still had contacts in Israel and abroad, and there were department stores and boutiques that were more than happy to stock her merchandise.

Prior to her death in November, last year at the age of 94, Gottex had been involved in a retrospective exhibition of her life’s work which was slated to be the opening event of Holon Design Week.

Sadly, she did not live to see the tribute to her creativity.

Fortunately, curators from the Holon Design Museum had met with her several times in her home and had sorted through thousands of items that resulted in “A Tribute to Lea Gottlieb” that was opened in mid-March and will continue until the end of May. The first section of the exhibition was curated by fashion historian Ayala Raz, who knew Lea Gottlieb personally and who attended many Gottex fashion shows. Raz has written extensively on Israeli fashion in book and blog form. Among those attending the opening were members of her family, veteran fashion writers, models, and people who still had original Gottex items in their closets. In her lifetime, Lea Gottlieb was officially acknowledged as Israel’s First Lady of Fashion, and it’s important that her contribution, her creativity and her pioneering spirit should not be forgotten.

■ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY of the late Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the former chief rabbi of the IDF and later chief rabbi of Israel, has just been published by Yediot Aharonot. Goren, who was considered to be a Torah genius, would probably not have approved of the fact that his book was being advertised on Israel Radio on the Sabbath. Actually, it’s being advertised with great frequency seven days a week. Goren, who joined the Hagana and later fought in the War of Independence, said that he could not sit and study Torah while others were risking their lives for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

One of his daughters joined the IDF and Goren himself successfully completed a paratrooper’s course in order to ensure that there would be kosher food in all IDF units.

How it came about was that he visited Ariel Sharon’s unit during meal time and saw that all the Paratroopers were eating non-kosher food. “How can you do this in the IDF?” he raged at Sharon.

To which Sharon replied: “But I don’t have a single religiously observant paratrooper?” “And if you did?” persisted Goren.

“Then I would make sure the food was kosher,” Sharon declared.

So Goren did the course, breaking his ankle in the process, and Sharon kept his word.

■ INVITATIONS SOMETIMES come from the strangest places, as for instance Iran.

The recipients were sculptor Igor Brown and his wife, artist Ludmilla Voloshenako, who made aliya from the Ukraine in 1990 and live in Yehud. The invitation came by email so it’s possible that the senders were unaware of the country of destination. Then again, it could simply have been the outcome of their participation in various arts symposia abroad, where over the years they have made many contacts. Either way, they were surprised to be invited to participate in an upcoming art festival of song, sculpture and painting to be held in Tehran. What was more interesting was the subject – “War in the United States and Israel.” While horrified that the organizers would consider such a subject appropriate for an arts festival, they were also amused by the fact that they had been invited to take part.

Ïgreerfc@gmail.com

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