Grapevine: No blarney here

Collecting for the Irish Jewish Museum, a changing of the guard at the ‘Post,’ and a chestnut tree for Anne Frank.

By
May 10, 2011 21:34
Anne Frank

Anne frank 1. (photo credit: KKL)

■ DUBLIN HAS a shrinking Jewish community, unless one counts the many Israelis who have moved there – among them hi-tech expert Moti Neuman, currently chairman of the Irish Jewish Museum, which is in the process of undergoing a $13 million extension and renovation process. Neuman was in Israel not so much to raise money as to create awareness and to ask Irish expatriates to look among their odds and ends to see if they owned anything that could be displayed as a museum artifact. A museum today is not just an exhibition center, he said, but also a learning center – and anything can trigger discussion on a certain subject.

Addressing a group of Irish expats from the Israel-Ireland Friendship League at Beth Hatefutsoth, Neuman related that someone in England had contacted the museum and said he had a silver teaspoon that had been on a passenger ship, the name of which was engraved on the back. The ship was the St. Louis, which became notorious when no country would allow its refugee passengers, who were fleeing from the Nazis, to land, and sent them back to where they came from, resulting in most of them being murdered.

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Neuman was also hoping to do some cooperative work with Beth Hatefutsoth. On hand for moral support were Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly and former Israeli ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony. Each has been to the Irish Jewish Museum, and they were both enthusiastic about what they had seen and about the expansion plans. The Irish government, by the way, is pitching in for some of the cost.

■ ALTHOUGH THE documentary film Paper Clips, which tells the story of how the students at Whitwell Middle School in southeast Tennessee collected millions of paper clips to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust, has been around for some years and has been screened many times in Israel, it is amazing how many people have not heard of the film or the wonderful project that caught the imaginations of people around the world. Eden Goldberger, wife of American charge d’affaires Thomas Goldberger, saw the film a couple of months back at a function hosted by the English Speaking Friends of Tel Aviv University, and was so impressed that she decided that she would have a screening at her spacious home in Herzliya Pituah for her friends in the International Women’s Club.

Some 70 people, including half a dozen spouses, showed up and were absolutely amazed and inspired by the fact that students in a community of 1,600 people who had never before seen a Jew or a German could become so committed to a Holocaust memorial project that grew beyond their wildest dreams. To see the students and other members of the Whitwell community embrace the Holocaust survivors who came to speak to them about what they had endured and to see the joy on the faces of those survivors after receiving so loving a welcome, was one of the most emotional experiences. Goldberger’s guests could not stop talking about the film and stayed around for a long time afterward to share their impressions.

■ PRESUMABLY PRIMED that Polish Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak- Miszewska would deliver part of her Constitution Day address in Hebrew, Government Services Minister Michael Eitan decided he would utter a few sentences in Polish. Those for whom neither language is a mother tongue but who have some degree of fluency in both would agree that Polish is the more difficult of the two to pronounce. Nonetheless, he acquitted himself quite well, to the applause of an appreciative of crowd that was largely of Polish background.

“I passed?” said Eitan in relief. Actually his Polish came across better than his English, a fact he owes to Mordechai Palzur, Israel’s first ambassador to Poland, after the resumption of diplomatic ties following a long hiatus. Eitan and Palzur were traveling to the reception at the ambassador’s home in Kfar Shmaryahu in separate cars, but were on the phone all the way, as Palzur coached Eitan in pronunciation and continued on a faceto- face basis once they arrived at the residence.

Magdziak-Miszewska noted that Poland was the first country in Europe and the second in the world after the United States to have a modern, codified national constitution. This constitution granted equal democratic rights to Jews, in response to which a merchant by the name of Berek Joselewicz joined the Kosciuszko uprising and formed the first Jewish regiment. Unfortunately, not long afterward, Poland disappeared from the European map for 100 years, said Magdziak- Miszewska, adding that it was a great pleasure to stand in the free State of Israel and represent the free democratic Republic of Poland. Both she and Eitan spoke of the high-level relationship between Israel and Poland, with presidents, prime ministers and other senior officials from both countries visiting each other, and a government-to-government meeting in Jerusalem.

Eitan gave examples of how closely allied Poland was with Israel in terms of its attitude toward the Goldstone Report, its boycott of Iran and its upgrading of Israel in its relations with the EU, of which Poland will soon hold the rotating presidency. Polish Constitution Day is usually celebrated with Polish Armed Forces Day.

The celebrations often include the awarding of medals, and this time was no exception. Honorees were Jack Fliderbaum, Yossef Dakar, and Yaakov Kotlicki for contributions to Polish-Israel and Polish-Jewish relations. In addition, Stanislaw Aronson was promoted from retired major to retired lieutenant-colonel.

■ THERE’S A changing of the guard in the Magazine section of The Jerusalem Post. Amanda Borschel-Dan, who has been Magazine editor for the past eight years, is stepping back to allow for new blood. Her successor is Israel Kasnett, who previously worked as deputy news editor. At her farewell party, the even-tempered Borschel- Dan, who always likes to lighten any situation with a joke, asked what the difference was between a farewell party and a funeral. The answer: At a farewell party, at least one person believes all the complimentary things that are being said.

Actually, in her case, the complimentary remarks were genuine. Writers said they liked working with her even when she knocked back or altered their stories. After getting over their initial shock or resentment, they unfailingly conceded that she was right. Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz commended her constant drive for change in the Magazine and her ability to calmly keep everything under control.

In reflecting on her decade at the Post, Borschel-Dan said she had come fresh out of ulpan as a 25-year-old single. In the interim, she went through a series of quick promotions, got married and is now a mother of five – including a set of twins.

■ THE FORMER chief Near East, South Asia and Africa researcher at the US Information Agency, pollster Dr. David Pollock, is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. Pollock and members of his team conducted a poll on Arab opinion in Jerusalem and the Middle East. The findings are interesting, but Pollock is spreading himself thin in disseminating the information. At a presentation he made to the World Jewish Congress Research Institute, he mentioned some of the other organizations and institutions to which he’d spoken in recent days, and said that he still had to make a presentation at the US Embassy before returning to America. But he’ll be back in June to knock on more doors.

In the last few months, public opinion has become more important and is having a greater political effect than ever, which is why it’s important to listen to public opinion in Arab societies, he said. Of course, public opinion does not necessarily carry weight. There is no evidence, said Pollock, that the Palestinian Authority is listening to the views of people in east Jerusalem, who are relatively more moderate than Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza.

■ THE FAMOUS chestnut tree that was a source of comfort to Anne Frank when she gazed out from her hiding place has been symbolically revived in the Martyrs’ Forest near Jerusalem, where there is an Anne Frank memorial. The original chestnut tree collapsed and died last year during a series of storms, but thanks to a fundraising campaign that was launched in Holland, a memorial, including a chestnut tree, has been established in her name at the site. The memorial was inaugurated last week in the presence of Dutch friends of the Jewish National Fund, who noted that for Frank, the chestnut tree had been a symbol of hope.

“No Holocaust denier can erase what Anne Frank wrote in her diary,” said JNF chairman Efi Stenzler. Among those present were Ambassador of The Netherlands Michiel den Hond, manager of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam Ronald Leopold and board member of the Anne Frank Foundation Christoph Knoch.

■ VETERAN BROADCASTER Yair Stern, who spent much of his career at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, where inter alia he served as Channel 1 director-general, and who is currently chairman of the board of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, was the guest-cum-host of Israel Radio’s “My Week.” During the program, he devoted more time to national heritage than to current affairs, but linked the two in noting that former US president Jimmy Carter had come out in favor of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

Stern recalled that when he was the IBA correspondent in Washington, he had received a phone call from Israel with the news that former prime minister Menachem Begin had been hospitalized. He had subsequently tried to get an interview with Carter in the hope of having him speak about Begin, with whom he had an historic relationship. But Carter refused, and said through his spokesman that Begin would outlive everyone around him.

Begin recovered, but took ill again some time later and was again hospitalized, this time in a much more serious condition. Stern got in touch with Alon Liel, who was then Israel’s consul- general in Atlanta, Georgia, and asked him to put him in touch with a close associate of Carter’s so he could persuade the former president to grant an interview. Liel found the right person, who told Stern to come to the Carter estate in White Plains. Carter would grant the interview after returning from church, where he had gone to pray for Begin’s recovery. Stern got his interview, in which Carter painted a most flattering picture of Begin.

As fate would have it, Begin died a few hours later in March 1992.

All the major American TV stations immediately sought to interview Carter, as did representatives of foreign media outlets, but Carter’s people referred them all to Stern. It was one of those rare occasions in which Israel Television had the upper hand in world media.

■ IT PAYS to be a friend of mega-hotel owner David Fattal, who is known to invite his friends to glittering parties and on-the-house accommodation in Eilat. Fattal went one better two weeks ago when he took some 300 of his friends from Tel Aviv to Munich for the gala opening of his newest hotel, the Leonardo Royal, which was built at a cost of 70 million euros. This is Fattal’s 25th hotel in Germany.

All together, under the Fattal and Leonardo brands, he owns more than 60 hotels, approximately half of them in Israel and the rest in Western Europe – primarily Germany, but also Switzerland and Belgium.

The Haifa-born Fattal is an amazing success story. He entered the hospitality industry as a waiter, rose quickly in the ranks and became managing director of Africa Hotels in Israel. In 1988, he was appointed general manager of the King Solomon Palace Hotel in Eilat, and in 1997, he established a hotel management enterprise. In almost no time, he began acquiring hotels in addition to managing them, and now is the preeminent hotelier in Israel, with at least two more hotels in both final and early developmental stages. Fattal also manages the Herod Palace Hotel, and hinted to his guests that Herod’s Tel Aviv is due to open shortly, while Herod’s Jerusalem will soon get under way.

Fattal likes to pamper his friends, and on the plane en route to Munich, they were served champagne, chocolates and strawberries. Buses were waiting on the tarmac in Munich to take them on an orientation tour of the city. During their three-day stay, a BMW fleet chauffeured them to museums, art galleries, the old city and high-class restaurants. For those with a particularly Israeli palate, Fattal flew in a chef from Israel, Eitan Mizrahi. He also flew in Israeli entertainers Danny Sanderson, Ya’acov Cohen and Eli Yatzpan.

Among the guests were Jacob and Osnat Perry, business competitors Michael and Ami Federman, who have the controlling interest in the Dan chain of hotels, IDC President Uriel Reichman and his wife Nira, lawyer Sasi Gez, and public relations and advertising gurus Irena and Rami Shalmor. Also in the large group were Moshe and Penina Edery and Leon Edery, who own the Cinema City chain; Galia Albin and Israel Makov, who have been conducting a romance for several months now; architect Yehuda Feigin, who designed the hotel; fellow architect Moshe Kastiel, who has designed another of Fattal’s hotels; and many other leading lights of Israel’s business community. The piece de resistance at the hotel was a table that seats 120 people. It was laden with food and flowers.

But it wasn’t all fun. Fattal also arranged for the group to visit the Dachau death camp, the first Nazi concentration camp. Guiding the group at Dachau was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and chairman of the Yad Vashem Council.

■ CURIOUSLY THE concept of the March of the Living gains fresh impetus from one year to the next. This year’s marchers included a 50- member delegation of lawyers from the Israel Bar Association.

The group, led by Shosh Shacham, departed from Tel Aviv to Krakow to tour first the many places of Jewish interest and to meet up with representatives of the Krakow Bar Association. On the following day, the group had a more sobering experience in the Auschwitz Museum prior to joining the March of the Living. From there, the group continued on to the Warsaw Ghetto and, while in the Polish capital, met with representatives of the Polish Bar Association. Yori Geiron, the president of the Israel Bar Association, welcomed the initiative of those lawyers who decided to represent the association in the March of the Living, and stated that this was a significant step, in addition to the bar association’s other community- related activities, such as pro bono representation for people with limited means. A delegation from Bank Leumi also joined the March of the Living.

■ AS TELEVISION viewers around the world could see, the recent royal wedding not only brought out the best in Britain in terms of goodwill and joy, but also the greatest collection of nuptial-inspired kitsch, some of which truly defied the imagination. The kitsch was contagious and spread to Israel – including to Kibbutz Yavne, home to Adi Watches, which produced a limited edition of wall clocks featuring the royal bride and groom. Adi Watches CEO Yitzhak Lang asked MK Anastasia Michaeli to present one of the clocks to British Ambassador Matthew Gould for transfer to London, where hopefully it will grace a wall in the abode of Prince William and Princess Kate.

■ AFTER FORMER Mossad Chief Meir Dagan captured headlines by airing his views on the stupidity of attacking Iran, it’s former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin’s turn. On Wednesday night, he will address the Business/ Academic Club of Tel Aviv University.

■ FORMER ISRAEL ambassador to France Daniel Shek, a second-generation diplomat, will be awarded the Legion of Honor at a reception to be hosted on Thursday by French Ambassador Christophe Bigot at his residence in Jaffa.

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