Grapevine: Launching ‘Dateline Jerusalem’ from UK to Israel

Late journalist Eric Silver's wife has launched "Dateline Jerusalem" in honor of her husband.

By
December 6, 2011 21:35
Eric Silver in his office

Eric Silver 521. (photo credit: Courtesy/Bridget Silver)

EVERY CLOUD, as we’re told, has a silver lining. When veteran and widely respected journalist Eric Silver died almost three-and- a-half years ago, his wife, Bridget, sought to do something to honor and perpetuate his memory.

The most obvious tribute was to compile an anthology of some of his writings. She did not realize at the time how onerous a task this would be. What she thought would take three months took two years.

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Although she had often helped her husband and was familiar with his work, going through reams of material and deciding what should be included was time consuming, sometimes painful and an adventure into hi-tech for a woman whose computer skills were barely basic.

But finally, Dateline Jerusalem, Eric Silver’s last book, was published.

When Bridget Silver flew to London last month for the British launch of the book, she had no idea how many people would show up.

Even though they hadn’t lived in England for years and many of the relatives and friends were away, some 70 people attended. The same pre-launch tensions accompanied her before the Jerusalem launch last Friday but she need not have worried.

The hall at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem was packed to capacity with people coming from as far afield as England but also from Herzliya Pituah, Tel Aviv, Modi’in and Mevaseret Zion. Not only did they come, but they bought so many copies of the book that the supply ran out and former long-time Government Press Office coordinator Linda Rifkind, who organized the launch, had to take orders from people eager to include the book in their private libraries.

Most of those present were either journalists or British expats or both.

But there were also plenty of people who did not fit either category.

Among those who attended were prime minister’s spokesman Mark Regev, former Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, long-time Time Magazine photographer David Rubinger, Dorothy Harman, Edward Cohen, Danny Gavron, Hirsh Goodman and his wife, Isabel Kershner, cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen and his wife, artist Sali Ariel, former GPO director Danny Seaman, former MK and former diplomat Colette Avital who now chairs the executive committee of the Schechter Institute, Larry Derfner, Glenys Sugarman, Richard Osterman, retired ambassadors Moshe Arad and Yehuda Avner, whose writings have frequently appeared in the Post, Idel Ross and Clinton Bailey.

Former GPO director Uri Dromi, who now heads Mishkenot Sha’ananim, said about the book, “The more you read the more you cherish his insights.’ Dromi quoted extensively from the book and marveled at Silver’s extraordinary ability to say a lot in very few words, as for instance in his description of Yitzhak Rabin – “the least predictable of peace makers.”

Another example was Silver's analysis of Moshe Dayan: “the Minister who is always traveling and seldom arrives.”

“Journalism is supposed to be an ephemeral activity, but what’s interesting is how fresh these pieces are,” said Don MacIntyre of The Independent ,who wrote to the introduction to the book. Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian, who did not know Silver personally, concurred with Mac- Intyre and said that some of the pieces could have been written today with minor changes.

CHANGING BORDERS between Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia often to led to confusion about place of origin. A popular joke used to be that a person was born in one of these countries, lived in another and died in a third without ever changing his address. Thus it is not certain that a number of famous people named by President Shimon Peres at the State Dinner that he hosted last week for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych all had Ukraine listed on their birth certificates, but Peres was keen to emphasize the scientific and cultural bonds between Ukraine and the Jewish people and so began his address by listing Nobel Prize laureates Ilya Meznikov (medicine, 1908), Roald Hoffman (chemistry, 1981), Selman A. Waksman (medicine, 1952), Simon Kuznets (economics, 1971) and Georges Charpak (physics 1982).

Not only are they all they all Ukrainian, they are also Jews, said Peres, and a source of pride for Ukraine and for the Jewish people.

He omitted the fact that all of them were living in either France or the United States when awarded their prizes, and that their biographies do not list Ukraine as the place of their births.

Another Ukrainian laureate is closer to his heart, Peres said naming S.Y. Agnon who in 1966 received the Nobel Prize for literature and was Israel’s first Nobel laureate.

Agnon was born in Buczacz, Eastern Galicia, which at the time of his birth was in Poland, but is now part of Ukraine. Agnon’s granddaughter Yael Blau was at the dinner as was the grandson (of the same name) of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the elder of whom Peres later listed among great scientific and cultural icons of the Jewish people who came from Ukraine.

Also included in the list were Israel’s fourth president Ephraim Katzir, Shalom Aleichem and Chaim Nachman Bialik. Because of changing borders, Peres has been claimed at various times by the ambassadors of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus as one of their own – and he hasn’t bothered to correct any of them.

Also at the dinner was one of the largest-ever representations of the haredi community – from both Ukraine and Israel. Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who was seated close to the head table between Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (who used to teach Peres Russian) and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, rose to speak to Yanukovych. Being shorter than average, it was a little difficult for Sharansky to make eye contact with the towering Yanukovych who is more than two meters tall and who stood up throughout their conversation.

THERE IS an old saying in Israel: If people meet twice in a row they tell each other, “Pa’am shelishit glida” (third time ice cream).

Ice cream was not on the menu when Romanian Ambassador Edward Iosiper and his wife Tatania hosted the Romanian National Day reception at their residence in Herzliya Pituah. The national Romanian dish mamaliga was the highlight of the buffet. Romanian expats who attended said it was the best mamaliga they had ever eaten.

Representing the government was Minister for Improvement of Government Services Michael Eitan, who had also been there the previous year when Romania’s National Day coincided with Hanukka.

Iosiper, who is Jewish, reminded Eitan of that, and said he was happy to welcome him to the 93rd anniversary celebration of the reunification of Romania that had taken place on December 1, 1918. Romania was the only Soviet Bloc country that did not break off relations with Israel in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War and has had continuous diplomatic ties with Israel since 1948. Iosiper said that relationship was intensified in July when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went to Bucharest and was the first Israeli prime minister to do so in more than 20 years. He also mentioned the recent inter-governmental meeting whereby Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc came to Israel with nine members of the cabinet to reaffirm the commitment of both countries to each other’s security.

A second such meeting is due to be held in Bucharest next year. The two countries are at the highest point of diplomatic dialogue in 63 years of uninterrupted ties, Iosiper said.

One of the topics of discussion during Boc’s visit was Holocaust education and the training of Romanian teachers at Yad Vashem.

On the business front, Iosiper was happy to report that 5,000 Israeli companies are operating in Romania.

A recent Romanian investment seminar in Tel Aviv generated a lot of interest, cultural ties have improved and Iosiper suggested that anyone who has not yet seen the exhibition of Romanian Avant- Garde artists at the Israel Museum should do so. Eitan mentioned the remarkably large Romanian population in Israel which acts as a living bridge between the two countries.

MOST DIPLOMATS and former diplomats are multi-lingual, which adds to their popularity as public speakers. Former Israel ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel, widely regarded as Israel's leading expert on political developments in Egypt, is in high demand as a lecturer, commentator and writer both in Hebrew and English.

Among the other languages that he speaks fluently is French, and thus together with former ambassador to France Yehuda Lancry, research director of the Jewish People Policy Institute Dov Maimon and sociologue Claude Sitbon, Mazel was invited by the French Institute, which is an organ of the French Embassy, to participate in this week’s panel discussion in French on the Arab Spring. Mazel is also a former ambassador to Romania and was at the Romanian National Day reception, having just returned from two days of lecturing on the Arab Spring – this time in English. Yosef Govrin, another former ambassador to Romania, and Meir Rosenne, who served as ambassador to the US and France but who happens to be of Romanian birth, were also at the Romanian reception.

SELDOM SEEN on the diplomatic circuit due to sensitivities related to China, Taiwan's Economic and Cultural representative Liang-Jen Chang was among the guests at the reception in honor of the 84th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Thailand’s National Day hosted by Ambassador Nattavudh Photisaro and his wife, Waraluck, at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. Although he is an ambassador in his own right, Liang-Jen Chang seldom uses his title in Israel because Israel and Taiwan do not have full diplomatic relations. Photisaro as it happens, is fluent in Mandarin and that is the language in which the two diplomats converse.

Thai events are always very decorative and this one was no exception.

There were masses of flowers on the staircase leading to the reception room and on the dais a huge portrait of the king was surrounded by floral arrangements. All the Thai women at the event were exquisitely gowned. Photisaro noted that the king, who celebrated his 60th anniversary on the throne is 2006, is the world's longest-reigning monarch. His Majesty, who has been in ill health for some time, has undergone treatment and his health is much improved, Photisaro was pleased to report.. But even when he was sick, said the ambassador, the king, who is greatly loved by his people, continued to work toward improving their quality of life, especially in rural regions.

His Majesty is also a great friend and admirer of Israel, said Photisaro, noting that in 1977 the king sent two Thai princesses to Kibbutz Kfar Blum to spend time there, and since then there has been a bond. In fact, when Princess Chulabhorn was in Israel last May on her sixth visit to the country, she told President Peres that she felt half-Israeli and that the Hebrew name that had been given her at Kfar Blum was Shira.

Photisaro thanked Israel for being among the first to come to Thailand and provide assistance after his country suffered the worst flood damage in its history. As far as tourism goes, he noted, Thailand continues to be one of the most popular destinations for Israelis and over the past year 200,000 Israelis visited there thanks to Israeli tourist agents and tourist writers. Trade relations between Israel and Thailand are excellent, he reported, but may become even better with the anticipated signing of a trade agreement between the two countries.

There are currently more than 23,000 Thai workers helping Israeli farmers in kibbutzim and moshavim, he said. Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, who was there representing the government, said that ten years ago he had been among the many Israeli tourists who had flocked to Thailand and that in addition to its wonderful landscapes he had been charmed by the warmth and hospitality of the Thai people. Hershkowitz said the Israelis who had gone to help the Thais had been impressed by the remarkable way in which they worked to overcome their crisis. In addition he spoke of Israel’s admiration for the king and for what he has done for his land and his nation.

JAPANESE AMBASSADOR designate Hideo Sato has not yet presented his credentials, but won't have to work nearly as hard as other heads of mission to get out a few words of Hebrew at events he may be hosting.

He speaks Hebrew fluently and almost without an accent. How come? This is actually his fourth stint in Israel. He first came in 1977 as a student, then after a few years began working for Japan’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which sent him here as a second secretary. He rose in the ranks and his last position in Israel was as counselor. Now that he’s in the top job, Sato is familiar with the region. He has also served as Japan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and most recently as ambassador to Bahrain.

ASIDE FROM the Nobel Prize, which will be officially awarded this month to Prof. Dan Schechtman, countries other than those in Scandinavia are honoring Israelis in recognition of their achievements.

Last week at a ceremony at his residence in Jaffa, French Ambassador Christophe Bigot honored poet, author and journalist Haim Guri and filmmaker and television producer Mush Danon, who is chairman of the Israel Association of Film Producers, with the title Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. Guri studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and several of his books have been translated into French.

Bigot noted that Guri, who is 88, has lived through the entire modern history of Israel from Mandate times through the creation of the State and all its wars and that he had been a member of the Palmach and was also engaged in bringing Holocaust survivors from Europe prior to the creation of the state. Guri is known for having written the lyrics for Shir Hareuth (the song of camaraderie), which was known as Yitzhak Rabin's favorite song. Toward the end of the evening, guests who were gathered at the Ambassador’s residence sang it in honor of Guri.

THIS WEEK Polish born Holocaust survivor Dr. Yaacov Cohen, 81, became the first Israeli scholar to receive the Korean President’s Order of Civil Merit (Mogryeon Medal: Order of Magnolia), which is the most prestigious award that the Republic of Korea confers on academics and people of culture.

Cohen, whose parents were murdered by the Nazis, came as a 17- year-old to fight in the War of Independence.

He subsequently studied at the IDF Officers’ School, completed his high school studies at night, gained a BA degree from the Hebrew University and joined the Foreign Ministry where his commitment to his work and his diplomatic talents earned him many overseas assignments.

Among the positions he held were deputy head of the Israeli Mission to the European Community in Brussels, head of the Israeli Legation in Ankara and ambassador to Venezuela, Japan, South Korea and Spain. He submitted his credentials to King Juan Carlos of Spain in March, 1992, exactly 500 years to the month after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. He retired from the Foreign Ministry after 34 years of devoted service and was invited by the Hebrew University, which frequently calls on diplomats to share their knowledge and experience, to lecture on Korea to the university’s Department of East Asian Studies. Since then he has spent 22 years researching and teaching generations of students about the culture and politics of the Republic of Korea. He is such a beloved and dedicated teacher that despite his age, the university will not let him go.

At the conferment ceremony at the Maiersdorf Faculty Club on Mount Scopus, his colleagues noted that although the honor bestowed on him by Korean President Lee Myung-Bak was his alone, it nonetheless reflected on the university.

Moreover, Prof. Yuri Pines who also teaches in the Department of East Asian Studies recalled that when Cohen first came to the department, it was at a time when some people were questioning the validity of Chinese and Japanese studies. But Cohen doggedly negotiated with the Korean Foundation and established the program, which is becoming increasingly important.

He continues to teach, said Pines, and students are excited to attend his classes. The award, said Pines, was confirmation of Cohen's dedication.

Similar comments about Cohen's dedication and commitment were made by HU rector Prof. Sarah Stroumsa, dean of the Faculty of Humanities Prof. Reuven Amitai, who has twice been to Korea and spoke of the importance of intensifying academic ties, Dr. Lihi Yariv- Laor, head of the Department of East Asian Studies, who noted that Cohen’s distinction is not only academic but national, and Ruth Kahanoff , Foreign Ministry deputy-director general for Asia and the Pacific, who is herself a graduate of HU’s Department of East Asian studies and expressed regret that the Korean program had not been available during her period as a student. However, as a young diplomat she had worked with Cohen in the Foreign Ministry and recalled that when then Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir had been looking for suitable candidates to send to Korea and Japan, he had chosen Cohen because he said at the time that he needed a bulldozer and Cohen fitted the bill.

President Peres sent a letter of congratulations in which he expressed Israel’s appreciation for all that Cohen has done to promote Israel-Korea relations.

Ambassador Il Soo Kim, speaking of Cohen not only as an academic but also a diplomat, said “he is a role model to emulate.” He praised Cohen for what he has done toward enabling understanding of Korea and the Koreans in Israel.

Among those attending the ceremony were several of Cohen’s former colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, some of his students, members of the Korean community in Israel, including two groups of musicians who performed Korean songs and music and a representative group of the Israel Border Guard headed by Maj.-Gen. Yossi Pooni. Some people might have wondered what they were doing there but Cohen explained that the Jerusalem branch of the Border Guard had adopted Holocaust survivors, accompanying them in their day-to-day activities and inviting them to their events.

Pooni also made a presentation to Cohen, who said that generally when one speaks of Holocaust survivors in Israel it is of the needy and the fact that they are not receiving what is due to them. But there are also Holocaust survivors like Cohen, he said, who lived according to the motto: Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. Their contribution to Israel's development is frequently overlooked.

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