■ Haifa's famed Reali School is kicking off its centennial celebrations tonight with a Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony, which President Shimon Peres is scheduled to attend. The school’s alumni include many nationally known figures, among them Israel’s seventh president and former commander- in-chief of the Israel Air Force Ezer Weizmann; former chiefs of staff of the IDF Haim Laskov and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak; former deputy chief of staff and current Ambassador to China Matan Vilnai; former mayor of Haifa and former Labor Party chairman Amram Mitzna; who is now running for election with Tzipi Livni’s new party; popular writer of children's books Galila Ron- Feder; song writer Ehud Manor; journalist, broadcaster and documentary film director David Witzthum; senior physician-turnedpolitician Rachel Adato, retired diplomat Uri Lubrani and current school principal Ron Kitrey, who first filled the post in 1996, was called to be IDF spokesman in 2000 and then resumed his position at his alma mater two years later.

■ WHILE PERES is at the Reali School in Haifa, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to attend the finals in Jerusalem of the International Bible Quiz for adults, which has been revived after a 32 year hiatus.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar will also be present.

■EARLIER IN the day, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will be among the speakers at The Jerusalem Post’s Diplomats Conference.

Other speakers include former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and former Israel Air Force commander- in-chief Ido Nehushtan.

■ ON MONDAY, Netanyahu, under the auspices of the Ministry for Public Diplomacy and the Government Press Office, held his traditional New Year meeting with members of the foreign press, several local scribes and press attaches of various embassies; on Tuesday it was anticipated that he would be on hand for the Menachem Begin Prize ceremony at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

Recipients of the prize this year were the Council for Task Oriented Groups and Communities, which helps both religious and secular groups of families and young people to establish their homes in order to create social networks and to build community connections in disadvantaged areas, as well as empowering them from within.

Special awards were given to Noam Gershony, the former Apache helicopter pilot who was severely injured in the Second Lebanon War but showed his mettle by winning a gold medal for Israel in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and Dr. Yehuda David, the Israeli doctor who successfully combated the libel in which Israeli soldiers were accused of killing a Palestinian boy, Muhammed Al-Dura. Scholarships will also be awarded from the Aliza and Menachem Begin Nobel Peace Prize Fund, which the late prime minister established with the money he received in tandem with the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Gershony was in great demand throughout Hanukka and showed up at a number of candle- lighting ceremonies.

■ AT THE event, Netanyahu, in the course of a wide-ranging address, expressed appreciation to the United States and President Barack Obama for supporting Israel’s security – especially with regard to the Iron Dome missile defense system – and also for the stand taken by the US in relation to the upgrading by the United Nations of Palestinian status. During question time, Foreign Press Association chairman and BBC Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar asked Netanyahu whether he had any regrets with respect to his relationship with Obama.

Netanyahu all but ducked the question replying that everyone has regrets. “Don't you have regrets?” he asked.

“But I'm not the prime minister; that’s why I'm asking you,” responded Danahar.

To which Netanyahu shot back, “You can work on it.”

Later, just before the lighting of the Hanukka candles, Netanyahu removed a black kippa from his pocket and, placing it on his head, quipped: “Iron Dome.”

■ THE GPO, under its current and relatively new director, Nitzan Chen, is pulling out all the stops with to cut the bureaucratic red tape to which journalists – especially foreign correspondents – are subjected. Both he and Minister for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora AffairsYuli Edelstein spoke of turning the GPO offices in Malha into a press club. The press has never had it so good, what with being feted by the GPO and the new press club at Mishkenot Sha’ananim whose director Uri Dromi also wants to provide them with every comfort and contact – and of course their old watering hole, the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, which for more than forty years has been neutral territory for Israelis and Palestinians. The competition can be nothing but good for those reporting on developments in the region.

■ TIMING IS not quite everything, but it is certainly important. I have no idea whether Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the prime minister, was desperately in need of a new cart.

But there are sufficient vehicles at the disposal of the Prime Minister’s Office to enable a waiting period even if her car was falling apart. According to a report last week by Yediot Aharonot’s Itamar Eichner, Sara Netanyahu recently received not one new car, but two.

Up until a few months ago she was driven around in a Volvo from the fleet assigned to the prime minister. Officially, it was one of the PM’s cars, but in reality, it was the car reserved for his wife. After the Volvo had served its purpose and was exiled from service, it was replaced by a Chevrolet Malibu, which apparently was not a comfortable enough car. After a brief period it, too, was replaced, this time by a Peugeot 508, which cost taxpayers something in excess of NIS 170,000. The Chevrolet cost a little less, but both were new cars. The Chevrolet was initially designated for use by someone else and was transferred to the prime ministerial fleet on a temporary basis.

It would be interesting to work out exactly how many vehicles assigned to government and other officials are purchased at the taxpayers’ expense and why the vehicles selected are not in a more modest price range. Regardless of the cost factor, surely someone in the PM’s office or among the Likud strategists should have realized that it is not in the PM’s political interest for his wife to be driven around in a new car during an election campaign period, even if she herself did not request a new car.

■ RECENT DECLARATIONS by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass would indicate that a meeting between them is unlikely to take place any time in the foreseeable future. But there’s a difference between political relations and relations in civil society. Israelis and Palestinians mingle all the time in universities, on public transport, in shopping malls, in hospitals, on construction sites, in coffee shops, in peace and human rights movements, around conference tables at which there are no government representatives and even in social circles in which friendships between the two societies have been able to develop on personal levels devoid of political and religious barriers. If the politicians stayed out of the picture, many of the problems could have been resolved a long time ago.

Anyone who wants to hear more about the challenges facing Israeli and Palestinian Civil Society can attend a discussion on the subject on Thursday, December 13, at 2 p.m at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, 1 Har Sinai Street, Tel Aviv, which is right behind the Great Synagogue on Allenby Street. The discussion has become more crucial following the UN General Assembly vote in which Palestine was accepted as a non-member state and the scenarios that can evolve from the results of the January 22 Knesset elections. The key discussants will be Saman Khoury and Ron Pundak, the co-chairs of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum with Ziad Abu-Zayyad and Hillel Schenker, the co-editors of the Palestine-Israel Journal acting as moderators.

The discussion will be held in English..

■ IT WAS a fortunate coincidence that eminent Finnish pianist Folke Grasbeck happened to be in Israel to give a Sibelius concert in Tel Aviv around the same time as Finland’s Ambassador to Israel Leena Kaisa Mikkola was planning her National Day reception.

Contrary to usual practice, Mikkola told the Foreign Ministry that while she would be delighted to welcome a representative of the government, there would be no speeches. In a sense that was a shame, because this was one of the last hurrahs for Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, who celebrated his 60th birthday two days earlier.

Dichter, who defected from Kadima to Likud, was given his appointment by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu because of his background as a former director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and as a former minister for Internal Security. Dichter failed to gain a realistic slot on the Knesset list in the Likud-Yisrael Beyteinu primary, which means that he will not be a member of the 19th Knesset. If Netanyahu wins the election, he may decide to once more give him a ministerial post, but Netanyahu will have a problem because he also wants Benny Begin and Dan Meridor at his side, neither of whom ranked high enough on the list to be assured a place in the Knesset. There would be a lot of frothing at the mouth if Netanyahu decided to leapfrog over MKs whose names are among the first 10 on the list.

Mikkola made the briefest of welcome speeches. Dichter said nothing, but was very happy to sing the national anthem when Grasbeck sat down at the grand piano to play the anthems of both countries. The Finnish anthem is very beautiful and was made more so by the glorious voice of Grasbeck’s wife, Suvi, who in her own and other Nordic countries is a famous opera singer. She also knows “Hatikva” by heart and sang it with great depth of feeling – so much so that following Grasbeck’s piano recital, Dichter could not stop himself from going over to Suvi to tell her what a wonderful voice she has and how much he enjoyed hearing her sing. In her brief speech, Mikkola commented that people have had enough of politics already and she just wanted her guests to enjoy themselves.

■ WITH THE launching of Operation Pillar of Defense, all bomb shelters in the country that had been used for other purposes had to be emptied as quickly as possible in case there was need for people to take shelter.

Artist Sali Ariel, who was permitted to use one of the public shelters in Tel Aviv as a studio, was given 24 hours to clear out her possessions. She had anyway planned to have an exhibition at Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus Center during Hanukka, and having to suddenly find a home for so many of her works resulted in her having a much larger exhibition than she had initially intended. Fortunately, there is a lot of wall space in the gallery section of the Bauhaus Center, and Micha Gross, co-founder of the center, was happy to put the gallery at Ariel’s disposal because the overwhelming majority of her paintings in recent years have been of Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv against backdrops of vivid color.

Ariel, who has lived for more than twothirds of her life in Israel, hails from the United States, and her close friends have always included members of the US Embassy. So when she wanted someone to open her exhibition, she asked Deputy Chief of Mission Tom Goldberger and his wife, Eden, who both promptly agreed. Ariel is a former president of the International Women’s Club and Eden Goldberger is president of the Diplomatic Spouses’ Club, which cannot help but interact with the IWC, to which she and most other DSC members belong.

Eden Goldberger ended up coming without her husband, who was at home presiding over a dinner in honor of an energy ambassador from the US. Ordinarily, the guest would have been hosted by Ambassador Dan Shapiro, but he was out of the country, so Goldberger, as the No. 2 at the embassy, was next in line as host. His wife fretted momentarily that things might not go as they should at the dinner, but then she remembered that both her husband and the household staff had plenty of practice at this kind of thing and therefore there was no reason for concern. Eden Goldberger lit the Hanukka candles and sang the blessings with only some of those present joining in, because the non-Jews, who were mainly ambassadors and their spouses, might have learned the melodies by now, but not the words.

Ariel, who gives painting classes to several of the diplomatic wives, was very pleased that some of her images of Tel Aviv will find their way to other parts of the world, as several of the diplomats bought paintings.

■ ALTHOUGH SEPHARDI Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar came to Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall to light the first Hanukka candle last Saturday night, it was an eight-year-old boy who stole the show. When the Portnoy Brothers began playing Hanukka songs, the main singer was world acclaimed cantor Naftali Herstik, who generously stepped back to allow the eight-year-old to take over the microphone. Herstik, who also trains young cantors, listened to him with more than the customary affection and admiration that a veteran polished performer gives to a child prodigy.

“This is Shlomo Zalman Temeris and he’s got a great future ahead of him,” Herstik declared when the youngster finished singing. Then, hugging the little boy, he added proudly, “He’s my grandson.”

The nightly candle-lighting has been organized by Rabbi Eliahu Canterman and his wife, Chani. She did all the work and raised the money for the project, he said.

The Cantermans, who run the Chabad of Talbiye, working with the management of the Mamilla Mall, raised funds for the construction of a giant outdoor hanukkia which was designed by Rabbi Herschel Pekkar, a renowned American silversmith, working according to the specifications set down by Maimonides and completed this year by the Lerer Brothers, Avi and Yossi, the proprietors of Steel Sagdor metal works and design in copper, bronze and brass. The brass hannukia is 3.6 meters high and weighs 300 kilograms.

On hand was Pekkar’s son-in-law, Rabbi Mendel Shagalov, who said that Pekkar had been working as a Judaica craftsman for 55 years and had fashioned the first Rambamstyle hanukkia for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, which has a place of honor at Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in New York. Shagalov was wearing a vest with a traditional hanukkia design and press-button lights that turned him into a would-be Maccabean Superman.

Amar, who intoned the three blessings recited on the first night of Hanukka, asked the Divine Creator who had brought miracles to the ancestors of the Jewish people to do so again for this generation in Israel and all the lands of Jewish dispersion. The Portnoy Brothers continued playing long after the candle-lighting ceremony, and the huge crowd broke into separate circles of males and females who danced the night away as if there were no tomorrow. Rabbi Canterman had an additional reason to rejoice. Only two weeks earlier, he had passed the examination to be accepted as a judge in the Rabbinical Court.

■ IN 1970 and for several years afterwards, anyone remotely involved in the struggle for Soviet Jewry knew the name Sylva Zalmanson.

Like many Russian Jews, Zalmanson became enamored with Zionism and the desire to live in Israel in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, which opened the floodgates of Jewish identity for tens of thousands of Jews throughout the Soviet Union.

Although the Soviet authorities cracked down on religious practice in general, some synagogues and churches were permitted to operate, but they were riddled with spies and many people who might have sought spiritual comfort or the desire to be with co-religionists were afraid that they would be targeted by KGB agents.

Zalmanson was born into a traditional Jewish family in Riga, Latvia, where she studied engineering at the Polytechnic. Her application to legally leave the Soviet Union was denied. Driven by desperation, Zalmanson and her then-husband, Eduard Kuznetsov, and two brothers were among a group of 12 other people, including former military pilot Mark Dymshits, who attempted a daring escape from the USSR by planning to hijack a small empty plane. Unfortunately, the KGB got wind of the plan and the group was arrested on the tarmac of Leningrad’s Smol’nyi Airport before they even managed to board the plane. The intention had been to fly to Sweden and from there to tell the free world of the plight of Soviet Jews. Instead they became the defendants in the notorious Leningrad trial of December 1970. Despite their impassioned pleas, all were convicted and sentenced to 10 to 15 years of imprisonment.

Two members of the group were given death sentences.

When Zalmanson was on the stand, she completed her testimony with the age-old Jewish pledge, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning.” She was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and spent four years in hard labor before her release in 1974 as part of a prisoner exchange. She immediately came to Israel and began working as a mechanical engineer.

A talented artist, she began to paint and to exhibit in group and solo exhibitions and in 1997 was accepted as a member of the Israeli Painters and Sculptors Association.

Her daughter, Anat, who is a film director, intends to make her mother’s story into a documentary, Next Year in Jerusalem. Her problem is that she needs seed money, which she has been trying to raise via kickstarter.

com. If Anat does not reach her NIS 100,000 goal by January 5, she will have to return all the donations already received.

This is one of the conditions stipulated by Kickstarter to ensure that everything is bona fide.

Sylva Zalmanson and her daughter are hoping that people who had once been directly or indirectly associated with efforts to get Jews out of the Soviet Union will help to bring t he documentary to fruition. A lot of people investing very small sums can make it happen. All investors will receive a DVD or digital screening of the film. To see the trailer or to find out more about kickstarter, prospective investors can link up to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anatzk/ next-year-in-jerusalem-documentary-film.

The attempted hijacking and its aftermath were very important to contemporary Jewish history, and who better to record it than the daughter of one of the people who was there every step of the way?

■ SPANISH AMBASSADOR Fernando Carderera Soler hosted a reception at his residence in honor of Prof. Tamar Alexander of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on whom he conferred the Order of Civil Merit on behalf of King Juan Carlos.

The Order of Civil Merit was created in 1926 and is bestowed upon Spanish and foreign nationals in recognition of contributions they have made to Spain. Alexander was awarded the Order of Civil Merit in appreciation of her efforts to promote bilateral relations between Israel and Spain and for her contribution to research on Sephardic Jewry and the legacy of Medieval Spain. Following the conferment ceremony, at which guests included Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon, who heads the National Authority for Ladino Culture, Alexander spoke of her work, her own Sephardic roots and the relationship between Spain and Israel. She delivered her remarks in Ladino to the warm enthusiasm of the audience.

Alexander is the founding director of the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Culture, which was initiated by singer and actor Yehoram Gaon and his late brother, Benny, in memory of their father, who was a wellknown educator in Jerusalem. The Gaons, at least until the present senior generation, are what is known in the vernacular as Samech Tetitm, meaning that they are pure Sephardim. The Moshe David Gaon Center focuses on promoting the Sephardic heritage in five tracks: research; teaching; art and culture; community; and public relations. The center publishes an academic journal called El Prezente and a bulletin called El Kontakto, both edited by Alexander.

The incumbent of the Estelle S. Frankfurter Chair in Sephardic Studies, Alexander researches – among other things – Sephardic folklore and has published 10 books and 100 articles.

■ THERE SEEMS to be some unofficial competition for activity and publicity between US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and Ambassador of the Netherlands Caspar Veldkamp, who are each vigorously involved in a myriad of activities beyond the premises of their respective embassies.

Last week, Veldkamp was one of the cohosts at the opening event of the combined exhibition of World Press Photo and Local Testimony at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. Believed to be the largest and most important exhibition of its kind, WPP< comprises a selection of the WPP competition and the best of local photojournalism (Local Testimony).

The WPP exhibition, curated by the Dutch World Press Photo Foundation, is considered the world’s most prestigious exhibition of international current affairs photography. Numerous photographers from Israel and abroad are participating in both exhibits, presenting the best press and documentary photography from the past year on topics related to war and peace, politics and society, culture and art, nature and the environment, sports and portraits ■ “FASHION IN the Sky” was the way in which Wizz Air, reputedly the largest lowfare airline in Central and Eastern Europe, chose to enhance its inaugural flight from Budapest to Tel Aviv last week, with 175 passengers on board and 165 on the return flight from Tel Aviv to Budapest. Six of Israel’s celebrity models, wearing creations by Helena Blaustein, who produces under the Frau Blau label, paraded through the aisles, giving passengers a sense of the trendy yet decidedly unique Blaustein fashion signature. Fares from Tel Aviv to Hungary via Wizz Air start at 52.99 euros and can be booked at wizzair.com.

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