With black South Africans representing their country at every level at home and
abroad, it becomes increasingly difficult – especially for a generation that was
born after South Africa relinquished apartheid and adopted democracy – to
believe the status quo has been in force for less than 15 years. It was only
with the death of Nelson Mandela that the world was reminded of how things used
to be in South Africa, when people were judged not by their talents, skills and
the quality of their character, but by the color of their skin.
parts of the world, it’s still that way. We have been prompted to remember via
countless videos that Mandela was the first black South African lawyer to
operate his own office and to own a car. It is less common knowledge that with
the exception of Lazer Sidelsky, a Jew, no lawyer in South Africa would allow
Mandela to clerk for him. Even after he was installed as president, Mandela
referred to him as “my boss.”
Indeed, in May 2011, Sidelsky’s sons, Dov
(Barry) and Colin, published Mandela’s Boss, which documents the relationship
between Mandela and their father. The book, a blend of anecdotes, newspaper
articles and memoirs, includes a note that Mandela wrote to Lazer Sidelsky: “To
former boss Laz: Compliments and best wishes to a man who trained me to serve
our country. I will ever remain indebted to you and [your wife]
Dov Sidelsky, a rabbi who lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of
Har Nof, visited The Jerusalem Post offices on Tuesday, and his story of his
father’s friendship with Mandela will appear in Friday’s paper.
THE embarrassing hullabaloo as to who would represent Israel at the funeral of
Mandela, it is entirely appropriate both legally and morally that in the final
analysis, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will lead the Israel
According to law, the Knesset speaker becomes acting
president when the state’s president is unable to fulfill his duties due to
absence from the country or illness. In addition, Edelstein’s first overseas
trip abroad as a minister in the previous Binyamin Netanyahu-led government in
1996 was to South Africa, where he met Mandela and even shared a table with
Mandela had not realized initially that Edelstein, too, had been
imprisoned in his own quest for freedom for his people. Once Mandela did learn
of this, the two had a lot to talk about; Edelstein later went to Robben Island
to check out the difference between his cell and that of Mandela.
CHANNEL ONE’s foreign news editor Oren Nahari, after verifying the previously
undisclosed story with Reuma Weizman and getting her permission to broadcast it,
told of president Ezer Weizman’s visit to South Africa for Mandela’s
inauguration. During a private meeting between the two, Mandela asked Weizman if
he minded if another person joined them.
Weizman was hardly in a position
to refuse. A minute later, PLO leader Yasser Arafat entered the room in full
military regalia. Mandela told the two men to make peace.
Arafat said he
was willing, at which point Weizman – who charming as he was, had never quite
mastered the art of diplomacy – asked Arafat why he wore a gun if he was
committed to peace. Needless to say, the situation erupted, and many moons later
peace continues to remain evasive.
■ AT THE state dinner that President
Shimon Peres hosted in honor of Guatemalan President Otto Fernando Perez Molina,
Peres quipped that he did not know until Monday afternoon whether he would be at
the dinner, or en route to South Africa.
He had a struggle with his
doctors, he said. They gave him bad news and good news: the bad news was that he
couldn’t fly, but the good news was that he could spend the evening with
Molinas, his delegation and other guests.
Peres was particularly pleased
to welcome Stella Riger-Wiss de Garcia Granados, who in the late 1980s and early
1990s served as Guatamala’s ambassador to Israel, and who currently serves as an
adviser to Guatemala’s foreign affairs minister. Garcia Granados is the
daughter-in-law of Guatemalan Ambassador to the UN Jorge Garcia Granados, who in
1947, as his country’s representative on the 11-member UN Special Committee on
Palestine, worked so diligently to assure the passage of the UN resolution on
It was not the first time that Peres had met her during his
In November 2007, when Israel was celebrating the 60th
anniversary of the resolution that paved the way for the creation of the state,
Peres hosted three generations of progeny of the UNSCOP team, including Garcia
Granados, who had specially come to Israel for the occasion.
meeting, Peres, referring to the resolution, said that it gave legitimacy to
Jewish aspirations for a sovereign state, and at the same time brought hope to
Among the other guests at the dinner were several
ambassadors from Latin American countries, as well as Israelis who had served in
Latin American countries – the most prominent of whom was Israel’s fifth
president Yitzhak Navon, who had served as No. 2 in the Israel Embassy in
Argentina during the Peron regime.
Among the ambassadors was Bernardo
Griever, who had served in previous posts with some of the members of the
Guatemalan president’s delegation, and was delighted to meet up with them again.
Mexican Ambassador Federico Salas Lotfe, who had been with Peres two weeks
earlier during the president’s state visit to Mexico, was also at the
Oher guests included Science, Technology and Space Minister
Yaakov Perry and leading real estate agent Werner Loval, who in his younger
years was No. 2 at the then-newly opened Israel Embassy in Guatemala – where the
first ambassador to Guatemala, Joshua Shai, was also accredited to El Salvador,
Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. This meant a lot of traveling for
both him and Loval, who after leaving the Foreign Service, was appointed an
honorary consul of Guatemala in Jerusalem – a position that he holds to this
■ DUE TO uncertain weather conditions, and contrary to usual
practice, the welcome reception for President Molinas was held indoors, where
regulars in the reception line seemed discombobulated, and didn’t know quite
where to stand.
Nitza Raz-Silbiger, director of the Foreign Ministry’s
Protocol Department, kept moving them around until the line was just right in
terms of pecking order.
Raz-Silbiger is a little annoyed with the new
crop of ambassadors- designate, some of whom defy the rules. Every
ambassador-designate meets with Foreign Ministry personnel for guidelines that
will help the ambassador adjust and learn what he or she may or may not do
during the interim period in which credentials have not yet been presented and
The bottom line is that an ambassador- designate cannot
function as a full ambassador. They should not give interviews to the media, and
should not appear at functions for the diplomatic community – other than those
for Independence Day and in advance of Rosh Hashana.
dispensation is given for other events, and there are ambassadors-designate who
constantly consult with the ministry as to what is permissible. But there are
others who just go ahead and do their own thing.
The breaches in protocol
are not sufficiently serious to warrant expulsion or a request to the home
country of the ambassador-designate that they be recalled, but the Foreign
Ministry is aware of the recalcitrants – who should know that if the ministry is
not always as cooperative as they would like, they have only themselves to blame
for breaking the rules.
Most of the ambassadors-designate currently in
Israel will be able to drop the word “designate” from their titles as of next
Wednesday, when there will be another series of ceremonies for the presentation
■ THERE’S AN old Yiddish saying that you don’t put a
healthy head into a sick bed. With all the anti-Israel feeling in the world, one
might well ask why an internationally celebrated Moscow-born pianist, who
happens to be Jewish, would want to acquire Israeli citizenship.
reception held last Saturday night at the Touro Restaurant, which is affiliated
with the Jerusalem Press Club, Evgeny Kissin explained that he didn’t want to
give Israel’s enemies the opportunity to accuse him of dual loyalties.
has been defending the Jewish state on many fronts for quite some time, and felt
that he would be more in harmony with himself if he continued to do so as an
Some two years ago, he discussed this with his good friend, Lady
Annabelle Weidenfeld, who encouraged him to go ahead, and used some of her own
impressive connections to start the ball rolling.
She didn’t realize at
the time just how much bureaucratic red tape had to be cut in the
About a year ago, Kissin approached Jewish Agency chairman Natan
Sharansky to ask for his help, and sent him a letter stating: “I am a Jew,
Israel is a Jewish state and since long ago, I have felt that Israel, although I
do not live there, is the only state in the world with which I can fully
identify myself – whose case, problems, tragedies and very destiny I perceive to
“If I, as a human being and artist, represent anything in the
world, it is my Jewish people, and therefore Israel is the only state on our
planet which I want to represent with my art and all my public activities, no
matter where I live.
“When Israel’s enemies try to disrupt concerts of
the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Jerusalem Quartet, I want them to come
and make troubles at my concerts, too – because Israel’s case is my case,
Israel’s enemies are my enemies, and I do not want to be spared of the troubles
which Israeli musicians encounter when they represent the Jewish state beyond
“I have always deeply despised chauvinism and have never
regarded my people to be superior to other peoples. I feel truly blessed that my
profession is probably the most international one in the world, that I play
music created by great composers of different countries, that I travel all over
the world and share my beloved music with people of different countries and
But I want all the people who appreciate my art to know
that I am a Jew, that I belong to the People of Israel.
“That’s why now I
feel a natural desire to travel around the world with an Israeli
Sharansky raised the matter with past and present government
ministers Dan Meridor, Eli Yishai, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Gideon Sa’ar and Sofa
Landver, as well as with high-ranking people in the Interior Ministry. Kissin’s
request was so unusual that everyone Sharansky turned to was more than willing
On Saturday night, just before Landver presented Kissin with his
Israeli passport and ID card, Sharansky read Kissin’s letter to the assembled
guests, who included among others: Lady Weidenfeld; Profs. Ruth Gavison and
Shlomo Avineri; conductor and pianist Anita Kamien and her husband, Roger, who
is also a well-known pianist; and Sharansky’s longtime adviser Vera Golovensky
and her husband, Joel, who practices law in Israel and the US, and is the
founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies. Golovensky, who has
read Kissin’s letter several times, said that each time she reads it, it gives
her goose bumps. When she heard Sharansky read it out loud, she literally had
tears in her eyes.
What Sharansky, Landver and Kissin have in common is
that they were all born in the Soviet Union.
Noting that Kissin is 25
years his junior, Sharansky observed that the situation hadn’t changed much as
far as Jewish youngsters were concerned.
It was that way because of
anti-Semitism and discrimination, with every Jewish youngster being told by his
mother to try harder so that he could be No. 1. This scenario took on new
gravity when Sharansky met Kissin’s charming and genteel mother, Emilla, who
told him that Kissin started listening to music and understanding it when he was
only 11 months old, and began playing the piano when he was still a toddler. He
was a child prodigy who very quickly became a seasoned performer.
Russia’s outstanding pianists have found their way to international concert
stages through the International Tchaikovsky Competition.
asked Kissin how many Tchaikovsky competitions he had won, Kissin replied that
he had never entered any piano contest in his life. As a child prodigy who
achieved fame early, there had been no need.
When approval finally came
through for Kissin’s Israeli citizenship, he was due to receive his passport and
ID card during the Hanukka season, when most government offices are not working
at full steam.
The Interior Ministry would have liked him to be in Israel
on the Monday of Hanukka, but he was giving a concert recital in Rome that
night, so the bureaucrats relented and said they wanted to see him by noon on
Tuesday. But there was no Alitalia flight to Israel that would get him to
Jerusalem in time. Fortunately, there was an El Al flight leaving 40 minutes
earlier than the time he would have preferred to leave Rome.
But that was
not the end of the story, according to Lady Weidenfeld.
When they arrived
at the Interior Ministry, they discovered that with all the goodwill and
string-pulling in the world, everyone had overlooked the need for passport
photos. Fortunately that error of omission was amended very quickly, thus
enabling Landver to present Kissin with his passport and ID card on Saturday
Sharansky delivered his address in English; Landver declared in
Hebrew how excited they all were that one of the world’s greatest pianists wants
everyone to know that he’s Israeli. Kissin spoke in English, Russian and Hebrew,
quoting Shakespeare who wrote, “To thine own self be true,” and Russian poet
Nikolay Sokolovsky, who wrote that the greatest betrayal is the betrayal of
oneself. Kissin’s mother, who attended the ceremony, has no immediate plans for
becoming an Israeli citizen herself, but did not rule out the
Aside from his musical talent, Kissin is also something of a
linguist, and speaks a beautiful Lithuanian Yiddish, some of which he picked up
from his grandparents and aunt, but mostly taught himself. It was in Yiddish
that he told the writer of this column that he will be giving a recital of
Jewish music and poetry at the Kennedy Center in Washington on February
The performance, in which Kissin will recite Yiddish poetry in
addition to playing works by Milner, Bloch, Krein and Veprik, is a co-production
of the Kennedy Center and Pro Musica Hebraica, which is dedicated to bringing
neglected Jewish music to the concert hall. Musica Hebraica was co-founded by
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer and his wife, Robyn, a
well-known painter and sculptor.
At the reception prior to the ceremony,
violinist Reuven Ben-Hanan kept guests entertained with classical, folk and
popular music. It was important to have music at such an event, explained
Golovensky, and although a piano would have been preferable, it was too much
trouble to bring one down to that level of Mishkenot Sha’ananim.
after the ceremony, Sharansky headed for the airport to fly to Washington – not
to join fellow Israelis at the Saban Forum, but for a gathering of Jewish Agency
emissaries assigned to positions in the US. Kissin remained briefly in
Jerusalem, where he gave a benefit concert on Monday night for the Tel Hai
International Piano Master Classes, before going on to his next concert
■ FRESH FROM attending the Saban Forum in Washington, where
he also signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding with Jordan and the
Palestinian Authority for water sharing and exchanges, Energy and Water Minister
Silvan Shalom will this evening meet and mingle with English-speaking immigrants
in Tel Aviv, and discuss energy and water issues with them. The event, a joint
venture of Gvahim and Mazeh 9 – the center for young residents of the Tel
Aviv-Yafo Municipality, is part of the “Kitzur Derech (Shortcut)” series
specially designed to familiarize young men and women who recently immigrated to
Israel with various aspects of the national agenda.
Albeit co-hosted by
Mazeh 9, the event will be held at another address – Hesseg House at 46
Rothschild Boulevard. Space is limited, so latecomers may face difficulty in
getting in. However, it’s worth trying, not only for the chance to have a
face-to-face discussion with a senior government minister, but also for the
■ FORMER AMBASSADOR to the US Michael Oren, who
recently returned from his tour of duty, is in a better position than some of
his predecessors to talk about US-Israel relations – not only because he is also
an academic, but in that he happens to be an American who grew up and studied in
Raised in New Jersey, where he was an activist in Zionist youth
movements and a gold-medal winning athlete in the Maccabiah Games, Oren settled
in Israel in the 1970s. He served as an officer in the IDF, a paratrooper in the
First Lebanon War, a liaison with the US Sixth Fleet during the Gulf War, and an
IDF spokesman during the Second Lebanon War and the Gaza operation in January
He also acted as an Israeli emissary to Jewish refuseniks in the
Soviet Union, as an adviser to Israel’s delegation to the UN, and as the
government’s director of interreligious affairs. In addition, he has testified
before Congress and briefed the White House on Middle Eastern affairs.
graduate of Princeton and Columbia Universities, Oren has received fellowships
from the US Departments of State and Defense, and from the British and Canadian
governments. Formerly, he was the Lady Davis Fellow at the Hebrew University, a
Moshe Dayan Fellow at Tel Aviv University and a distinguished fellow at the
Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He has also been a visiting professor at Harvard,
Yale and Georgetown in the US. He is currently a lecturer and researcher at the
Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary
Oren has written extensively for The Wall Street
Journal, The New York Times and The New Republic, where he was a contributing
editor. His two most recent books — Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of
the Modern Middle East and Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East,
1776 to the Present — were both New York Times bestsellers, also winning The Los
Angeles Times History Book of the Year prize and a National Council of the
Humanities Award, as well as the National Jewish Book Award. Moreover, The
Forward named him one of the five most influential American Jews, and our own
Post listed him as one of the world’s 10 most influential Jews.
kind of background, Oren automatically attracts a large audience at any public
forum in which he participates, so a huge attendance is anticipated this coming
Monday, December 16, when he addresses the Tel Aviv International Salon on
Hopefully, it isn’t going to rain on his parade,
given that the venue is Shamayim, on the roof of 41 Melchet Street in Tel Aviv.
Attendance is strictly limited to young professionals; anyone who doesn’t fit
that description will be turned away.
■ NEXT WEDNESDAY, December 18,
Jewish and Arab women will get together in the Knesset to discuss “The Role of
Feminism in Society, Religion and Tradition.” There will be several male MKs
among the participants, as well as former male MK and government minister Rabbi
Michael Melchior. Melchior is the president of the Jaffa Convention, the
Citizens Accord Forum between Jews and Arabs in Israel, which promotes public
discussion on issues of equality between Jews, Arabs and other minorities in
Israel, with a view to correcting disparities and bringing about social
Among those taking part in the discussion next week will be: MK
Afou Agbaria (Hadash); MKs Aliza Lavie, Yifat Kariv and Adi Kol (Yesh Atid); MK
Orly Levy-Abekasis (Likud Beytenu); MK Merav Michaeli (Labor); MK Tamar Sandberg
Hannah Kahat and Ayelet Vider Cohen (Kolech); Nijmeh Ali
and Rina Korach-Sagir (Citizens’ Accord Forum); Rose Amer and Manal Shalabi
(women’s rights activists and politicians); Vered Bachar and Adina Bar-Shalom
(Haredi College); Dr.
Orit Kamir (Israeli Center for Human Dignity);
Samah Salaime Egbariya (Arab Women in the Center); Vered Swid (National
Authority for the Advancement of Women); MK David Tzur (Tzipi Livni Party); and
Ibrahim Abu-Shindi and Udi Cohen (Citizens’ Accord
firstname.lastname@example.org GRAPEVINE • By GREER FAY CASHMAN NELSON MANDELA
and president Ezer Weizman. (GPO) DOV SIDELSKY, whose father, Lazer, was
‘Mandela’s Boss.’ (Steve Linde) PIANIST EVGENY KISSIN receives documents
attesting to his new Israeli citizenship from Jewish Agency chairman Natan
Sharansky and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. (Courtesy Jewish