THREE GENERATIONS of family of the late Richard Tucker, one of the world’s most
gifted operatic tenors as well as a noted cantor, came to Israel last week with
a bunch of their music-loving friends under the auspices of The Richard Tucker
Music Foundation for two memorial events. The first, at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center on Thursday night, featured the great American
soprano Renee Fleming and Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja singing with the Israel
Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, within the framework of the
Jerusalem Season of Culture sponsored by the Shusterman Foundation. The second,
a cantorial concert/ Shabbat service at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, featured
Cantor Chaim Adler and his famous nephew Yitzchak Meir Helfgot.
cantor’s three sons – Barry Tucker, a lawyer, David Tucker, a stockbroker, and
Henry Tucker, an ophthalmologist – came to Israel to memorialize their father,
as did Barry’s son Robert, who is the assistant district attorney of New York,
and also has major business interests in Israel.
Believe it or not, none
of them sing.
About three years ago, Robert Tucker became interested in
investing in Israel, and on the advice of his friend, Arik Arad, an Israeli
living in New York, who also came with the group, he got into the country’s
security business. His company T&M Israel provides guarding and protection
services, monitoring and electronic security, and cleaning and
He is immensely proud of the fact that he can provide a
livelihood for 5,000 people in Israel. “It’s a real mitzva to be able to give
them employment opportunities,” he said.
One of the important facilities
cleaned and guarded by T&M personnel is Yad Vashem. Robert Tucker was
particularly pleased last Wednesday, when Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev held
a special ceremony to honor the T&M people – several them Arabs from east
Jerusalem – who spontaneously risked their lives to fight the blaze that broke
out in the Jerusalem Forest early last month and threatened to engulf one of the
world’s most comprehensive Holocaust history archives. Shalev was profuse in his
praise of the workers’ devotion to duty – and their boss was there to hear
On the day prior to the concert at the JICC, Barry Tucker hosted a
cocktail reception at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, which inter alia was
attended by his wife Joan, his brothers and son, Fleming, her fiancé Tim Jessel,
her daughters Amelia and Sage, Calleja, Lynn Shusterman, Helfgot and his wife,
Zvi Raviv – a committee member of the World Zionist Organization and the
director of Bakol Communications, which markets telecommunications products –
and of course Barry Tucker’s young granddaughter Zoe.
The Great Synagogue
was fairly full on Friday night, but on Saturday, it was almost full to
capacity. Adler did most of the morning service, with Helfgot taking over
sporadically. However when it came to Musaf, Helfgot was the undisputed
At the end of the five-hour service, the congregants applauded him.
No-one was more satisfied than Barry Tucker, who said that the tunes sung by the
two cantors and the impressive synagogue choir conducted by Elie Jaffe were
similar to those sung at services by his father.
■ THOUGH WELL-known in
Sderot, where she lives and where until last month she was an assistant
kindergarten teacher, Hagit Yassu, who recently became the surprise winner of A
Star is Born, had no time to get used to being famous before being courted by
President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
Peres was prime
minister during Operation Moses and authorized the heroic, clandestine mass
airlift of Ethiopian Jews. He was eager to know about the aliya of Yassu’s
Her father, Yehoshua Yassu, who had been a shepherd in Ethiopia,
told the president that he had dreamed of coming to Israel, even as a child. He
often sang songs about Israel to his flock, and hoped that one day one of his
children would be a professional Israeli singer. He came here before Operation
Livni, during her tenure as immigrant absorption minister, had
intense dealings with the Ethiopian community, which mounted frequent protests
against the government for failing to bring the religious leaders of the
community to Israel.
Yassu was brought to Beit Hanassi by Sderot Mayor
David Buskila, and to Livni’s office at the Knesset by Ethiopian MK Shlomo
Molla. At that meeting, they recalled the 20th anniversary of Operation Solomon.
Both Peres and Livni noted that Yassu had paved the way for other young
Ethiopians of her generation.
“You captured everyone’s heart and gave
fresh hope to your own people,” said Peres.
■ SEEKING TO encourage young,
innovative people to make science fiction films that are both educational and
entertaining, Irit and Ori Yardeni, who have created planetariums, oceanariums,
time elevators and other interesting educational concepts in Israel and in many
parts of the world, are sponsoring a contest for short films of this nature for
the second consecutive year.
The contest, for which the first prize is
NIS 7,500 and the second prize NIS 2,500, is in memory of their son Lior, who
inspired much of their enterprise and who died last year of a mysterious illness
at age 29. As a child, Lior was imaginative and inquisitive, and in perpetuating
his memory through the short science fiction film contest, the Yardenis hope to
open doors for young Israeli geniuses who are just waiting to be
The closing date for entries is September 6. The winning
entries will be screened at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
■ WHILE IT is true
that in recent months Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman
has become a celebrity due to his frequent appearances in the news, the phalanx
of photographers and television camera crews present when he came to Beit
Hanassi Sunday at Peres’s invitation was of the size generally reserved for a
head of state or an international entertainment star. On Monday, there were even
more photographers and television crews when a delegation representing social
justice came in response to the president’s invitation.
It will be
interesting to see if there are as many Wednesday, when US Ambassador Dan
Shapiro presents his credentials to Peres. He will be the third of four new
envoys presenting credentials. The others are Slovakia’s Radovan Javorcik,
Germany’s Andreas Michaelis, and Nauru’s Marilyn Moses, who is her country’s
first envoy to Israel, albeit non-resident.
Shapiro is the third member
of the tribe to be appointed US ambassador to Israel. The other two were Martin
Indyk – twice – and Dan Kurtzer.
■ THE ROLE of every ambassador is to
enhance relations between the country he represents and the country to which he
has been assigned. In this respect, Korean Ambassador Young-Sam Ma has
undoubtedly gone the extra mile.
While all ambassadors participate to
various extents in Israel’s national events, few if any can beat Ma’s record. He
became so involved with Israel that he established an annual ceremony to
recognize and give thanks to Jewish Korean War veterans living in Israel. A
table tennis expert, he also became a judge in the table tennis tournaments at
the Maccabiah Games, and was one of the prime movers behind the Korean Airlines
decision to include Israel among its destinations.
But perhaps his
greatest achievement was the purchase of a 4-dunam plot of land in the Herzliya
Pituah industrial zone for the construction of a permanent embassy. At the
unveiling this week of the billboard announcing what was to be built on the
site, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said this was a special moment not
only for the Korean Embassy staff, but also for Korea and Israel. He was happy
to see Herzliya Mayor Yael German – who had been helpful to Ma in cutting
bureaucratic red tape – as well as Israel’s Ambassador to Korea Tuvia Israeli
and Yitzhak Eldan, the former Foreign Ministry chief of protocol who had helped
Ma and continued to do so in his present capacity as founding president of the
Ambassadors’ Club of Israel.
Addressing himself specifically to Ma,
Ayalon said: “It’s very clear to us that you’re planting roots in Israel. You’re
not renting, you’re owning.”
Very few embassies in Israel are
owner-occupied. Most rent not only their offices, but also their residences.
German told Ma: “We are very proud that you chose our city to be your
Others present included Lee Kang-Gun, chairman of the Korean
community in Israel, and Korean Honorary Consuls Amihai Orkaby and Eitan Haber.
Orkaby, a lawyer, was actively involved in clearing all the legal hurdles. As
far as he was aware, he said, Korea was the first Asian country to buy a block
of land in Israel.
Ma and his wife Park Eunkyung stood grinning like
Cheshire cats. Ma had purchased the land in 2009, when the world was in the most
severe throes of an economic crisis.
Nonetheless, he said, his government
had decided to go ahead with the project as a sign of its commitment to its
relationship with Israel. The actual construction work is due to begin early
next year, with completion scheduled for the beginning of 2014. The building
will be designed by a Korean architect who will work closely with an Israeli
Asked by The Jerusalem Post what would happen in the event
of a peace accord between Israel and The Palestinian Authority, after which all
embassies are expected to move to Jerusalem, Ma was unperturbed. “We’ll sell
it,” he announced. “And because there will be a beautiful building on the land,
we’ll sell it for a profit.”
■ THIS WAS Ma’s second major triumph in a
two-and-a-halfweek period. On July 14, he was one of the three winners of the
second annual Open Diplomatic Table Tennis Tournament, which attracted not only
diplomats, but government ministers, MKs, prominent members of the business
world, and a group of disabled players from Beit Halohem.
participants were Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein,
Likud MK Danny Danon, and Cameroon Ambassador Henri Etoundi Essomba, who is Dean
of the diplomatic corps. The event was sponsored by Givatayim Mayor Reuven
Ben-Shahar and The Israeli Table Tennis Association, headed by former Israeli
champion Dror Pollack, in cooperation with The Ambassadors Club of Israel and
the Diplomatic Corps.
■ AT THE 70th-anniversary reunion of the Palmah at
Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium on Monday night, there was a significant number of
caregivers from various foreign countries – and as it says in the Palmah anthem,
the Palmahniks, now in their late 80s and early 90s, came all the way from
Metulla to the Negev and from the sea to the desert, ready as ever to follow
The date was not the exact anniversary; the Palmah – an acronym
for Striking Force – was actually founded in May 1941, exactly seven years
before David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence. An outgrowth of the
Hagana, the Palmah was largely composed of kibbutzniks and moshavniks and
students of the famed Kadoorie Agricultural School, such as Yitzhak Rabin. In
its ranks were Yigal Allon, Haim Guri, Haim Hefer, Rafi Eitan, Shaike Gavish,
Stef Wertheimer and many others who have left a permanent imprint on the
nation’s military, cultural, literary, industrial and political
As Peres said in his address: If anyone asked what the
Palmah did, they built the State of Israel. Peres, who had met earlier in the
day with activists from the struggle for social justice – their tents on
Rothschild Boulevard only a few meters away from the Mann Auditorium – could not
help but compare the two groups. “You made history, and they are building a
future,” he said.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz,
declaring the Palmah to be the DNA of the army, said, “I salute you.” Members of
the IDF entertainment troupes sang the songs made famous during the Palmah era,
including the Palmah anthem, which has become part of the country’s musical
Last week, during a 70th-anniversary broadcast in tribute to the
Palmah, Yitzhak Noy, who anchored a wide-ranging program on Reshet Bet, remarked
that one of the sayings in the early days of the Palmah had been that there are
two kinds of guns – a British gun and a Jewish gun; the British gun was a Tommy
gun, and the Jewish gun was a Balagan.
■ MANY PEOPLE are aware of the
Kindertransports, which brought some 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Germany,
Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to England on the eve and during the first
year and a half of World War II, saving them from the dire fate that befell many
of their parents and other family members. Less familiar to the Jewish world is
the story of some 100 orphaned Slovakian Jewish children, traumatized by the
Shoah, who were allowed into Eire for a 15-month rehabilitation period at Clonyn
Castle, near the town of Delvin.
No More Blooms, a wonderful docudrama on
the then-controversial Irish response to Jewish refugees before, during and
immediately after WWII, was made by renowned Irish Jewish producer/director
Louis Lentin. For the past year, Malcolm Gafson, chairman of the Israel Ireland
Friendship League, has been trying to organize a screening of this film in the
presence of some of these children, who are now well into the third age. The
opportunity presented itself several months ago, when Gafson was contacted by
author Barbara Barnett, who was writing a book, The Hide and Seek Children, that
focused on the Slovakian orphans – several of whom found their way to Israel and
rebuilt their lives here.
The problem was tracking them down. Gafson
applied himself to the task, and found a few of them, most notably Capt. Yehuda
Reich, retired from the Israel Merchant Navy, who last Thursday came from Eilat
to Yad LeBanim in Ra’anana to share his story with fellow Castle children and
Irish expats who had come to see the film. Even though their stay in Ireland was
relatively brief, all the Castle children were appreciative of the opportunity
to come from concentration camps to the peaceful surroundings of Ireland’s
countryside, where they were able to play freely and where they were given ample
The event was also attended by Irish Ambassador Breifne
O’Reilly who noted that Ireland’s policies had changed somewhat in the
intervening years and that today Ireland fully supports Holocaust education
projects and activities, with Irish educators attending Holocaust education
seminars at Yad Vashem each year ■ APROPOS YAD Vashem, its Visual Center last
week launched its Online Film Database of more than 6,500 Holocaust-related film
titles. They were uploaded through the generosity of Avraham Harshalom-Fridberg
in memory of his parents Moshe and Cyra Fridberg and brother Sioma Fridberg, who
were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau early in 1943. The database, believed to be
the world’s largest catalogue of Holocaust-related films, is a work in progress,
and film titles from around the globe are added on a regular basis.
database currently consists of 6,682 titles, among them some 4,000
documentaries, 1,000 full-length feature films, 400 television series, 250
personal commemoration and home videos, and other visual media such as video
art, video dance, news items, war diaries, and short films. The online catalogue
contains detailed information about the films, including commercial, artistic,
historical and geographical data.
Harshalom-Fridberg was born Adam
Fridberg in 1925 in the village of Pruzhany, Poland (now Belarus). In January
1943, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. In June 1944, he escaped,
but was recaptured after several days, returned to the camp and marked as a
criminal. Later that year, along with 10,000 other prisoners, he was evacuated
from Auschwitz and sent to several other camps over the following
He managed to escape from a transport to one of the camps and
made his way to Prague, where he was rescued by Irina Sobotkova, later
recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations. In April 1945, he
joined the fighting in Prague against the retreating Germans, and was later
honored by the Czechoslovakian government.
With the outbreak of the War
of Independence, he was recruited by the Hagana to participate in a pilots’
course in Czechoslovakia, and then served in the IAF. In 1951,
Harshalaom-Fridberg established a company called Ariel, which developed into a
successful group of companies active both in Israel and