It’s P-Day in Washington. P stands for Peres; P stands for Pollard; and P stands
for the promise that Shimon Peres made to Esther Pollard to do everything is his
power to persuade US President Barack Obama to grant convicted spy Jonathan
Pollard his freedom on the same day that Obama confers the Presidential Medal of
Freedom on Peres.
Today is that day, and everyone connected with efforts
geared toward Justice for Jonathan Pollard is waiting with bated breath to see
whether Peres will be successful in this endeavor.
Will he succeed where
others have failed? Will Obama have the courage and compassion that was lacking
in his predecessors? High-ranking veterans of Israel’s defense establishment say
that no previous American administration has been as generous to Israel as that
of Obama. The Iron Dome is but one example of that generosity – possibly because
one of the places that Obama visited in Israel when he was campaigning the first
time around was Sderot. He saw the stockpile of rockets that had been fired into
Israel and imagined the damage they could have done to human life had they found
Pollard is a different issue, but perhaps Obama will find
it in his heart to say enough is enough and it’s time for Pollard to go
Among the invitees to the dinner that Obama is hosting for Peres in
the State Dining Room are former US Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill
Clinton and George W.
Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,
who was himself a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, Vice President Joe Biden,
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Israel’s
fifth president Yitzhak Navon, Ben- Gurion University president Rivka Carmi,
singer and actress Barbra Streisand, filmmaker Stephen Spielberg and Facebook
founder Mark Zuckerberg.
■ PERES, KISSINGER and Navon will meet again
next week in Jerusalem, and not just because they will all be attending the
presidential “Facing Tomorrow” conference, which opens on June 19. They’ll be
getting together before that for another awards ceremony in which Peres will be
doing the conferring. While Israel does not have the equivalent of a medal of
freedom, it does have the President’s Award of Distinction, which was
inaugurated by Peres last year and which will be awarded for the first time next
week to Kissinger; Canadian human rights activist Judy Feld Carr, who was
instrumental 30 years ago in getting young Jews out of Syria; social activist
Ori Slonim, the Rashi Foundation, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and conductor Zubin
Slonim, a lawyer, has for 27 years voluntarily been at the
disposal of governments of Israel in negotiations to free Israeli soldiers taken
prisoner by enemy forces and by terrorist groups. A descendant of the famous
Slonim family of Hebron, he is also president of Variety Israel and a past
president of Variety International. The Rashi Foundation, established in 1984 by
Gustave Leven, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in underprivileged
sectors of Israeli society by reducing educational gaps, providing cultural
facilities and initiating programs that encourage leadership and
Steinsaltz is a teacher, philosopher, social critic, and
spiritual mentor who has devoted his life to making the Talmud accessible to all
Mehta, one of the world’s greatest orchestral and operatic
conductors, has worked with many of the world’s major orchestras, but is
particularly associated with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra ,which was formed
in the year he was born and which he conducted for the first time in May
He has been the orchestra’s musical director, a lifetime
appointment, since 1981. Prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations
between Israel and India 20 years ago, Bombay-born Mehta was India’s unofficial
representative in Israel.
The reason that Navon will be at the awards
ceremony, aside from the fact that he attends many of the events hosted by
Peres, with whom he has had a close friendship for more than 60 years, is that
he was a member of the committee headed by former Supreme Court president Meir
Shamgar, which reviewed the nominations and selected the honorees.
MEMBERS OF the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University who arrived in
advance of the board’s 75th meeting, which has been taking place in Jerusalem
this week, went to Massada last Thursday to enjoy the Israel Opera company’s
performance of Carmen and to participate in a gala dinner with President Peres
and Israel Opera Director Hanna Munitz.
Peres had also been scheduled to
attend the official opening on Sunday of the Jordan River Village, which is
chaired by beloved actor Chaim Topol and is based on the Hole in the Wall Gang,
founded by actor Paul Newman in 1988 and now known as SeriousFun Children’s
Network. The Jordan River Village is part of that international network. It was
founded in 2000 by Marilyn and Murray Grant, who shared their dream of a utopian
environment for children with life-threatening illnesses.
above the Sea of Galilee, it is a place of enrichment and empowerment for
children from all over the region regardless of religion, race or nationality.
The village will enable children to spend a week free of charge in an
environment filled with a multitude of experiences which will help them to cope
better while having loads of fun as they simultaneously test their stamina and
their abilities through specially designed extreme sports that also cater to
children in wheelchairs. Peres had hoped to attend the inauguration ceremony,
which was top-heavy with philanthropists, entertainers and social activists, but
was unable to juggle it with his commitments in America. It’s fairly certain
that he will make a point of visiting the village before the summer is
■ “A THING of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it
will never pass into nothingness.” Thus wrote British poet John Keats some two
centuries ago, and he might well have been writing about “Pure Gold,” the
breathtaking exhibition that marks the 20th anniversary of the Bible Lands
Museum. Approximately 600 visitors crowded into the museum for the opening last
Wednesday. At first glance, it’s like walking into a jewelry store, where each
piece – some of which are 2,500 years old – stands majestically isolated in its
Exquisite gold adornments and artifacts, whose design has
stood the test of time, look as modern as they did when created centuries ago.
Invitees who came the following evening to the museum’s gala 20th anniversary
dinner were considerably fewer in number, and were thus able to take their time
viewing the marvelous display before exiting from the exhibition hall to the
garden for a candle-lit dinner.
Among the guests were Yitzhak Navon, who
has been a faithful friend of the museum since its inception; Amos Mar Haim, who
served as senior deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek from 1989 to 1994
and who is a member of the museum’s governing board; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
, MK Isaac Herzog, sculptress Debra Silver, whose late parents Nathan and Lilly
Silver were among the early and constant supporters of the museum and whose
names continue to be linked with it in perpetuity through the Nathan and Lilly
Silver Foundation; iconic photographer David Rubinger; former National Labor
Court president Steve Adler; art gallery proprietor Raphael Marrache; and Sir
John Boardman of Oxford University, who edited the well-researched catalogue and
provided the exhibition’s scholarly input.
Batya Borowski, who together
with her late husband Elie Borowski, brought the museum from a dream to an
expanding reality, was proud of the fact that it would remain a legacy
bequeathed by her husband to Jerusalem, but she was equally proud of the fact
that what she and her husband had started was being continued by her daughters
Amanda Weiss, who is the director of the museum, and Jessica Waller, who is
responsible for the design of the exhibition. The third generation, in the
person of Aaron Novak (Weiss’s son), is also involved with the museum as its
general manager. Master of ceremonies, television and radio broadcaster Yigal
Ravid offered his services gratis, which was commendable, but which did not
excuse his brash queue-jumping to the buffet.
■ RESERVISTS IN the IDF do
not always get the recognition they deserve, which is why the ones who received
promotions in rank last week were thrilled that both Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.
Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attended the ceremony. Among
the reserve officers promoted was genial PR man Amiram Fleisher who serves in
the IDF Spokesman’s Office. It’s rare for a soldier to get an army job in his
own field, but Fleisher’s work in the IDF is virtually tailor-made for him. PR
people have often been there, done that and seen it all. But they are not immune
to emotion, and the pinning ceremony for Fleisher, in which his wife, Ifat, and
Gantz pinned the colonel’s insignia onto his uniform to denote his new rank, was
a moment of pure elation, especially because his father and his children as well
as senior army officers were present. Afterwards, Netanyahu told Fleisher he was
pleased that the IDF demonstrates its appreciation to loyal officers who
continue to serve the state year after year.
■ HUNGARIAN HOLOCAUST
survivors who owe their lives to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg would have
been delighted to be invited to the Swedish National Day reception hosted by
Ambassador Elinor Hammarskjöld in her recently renovated Herzliya Pituah
residence. Hammarskjöld made particular mention of the fact that this year is
the centenary year of Wallenberg’s birth. There are Raoul Wallenberg societies
in many parts of the world which pay tribute to this man who not only risked his
life but may well have lost his life as a result of his humanitarian efforts to
save Jews. Arrested by the Russians toward the end of the war on suspicions of
espionage, Wallenberg disappeared and no one knows exactly what happened to him.
The Wallenberg centenary will be commemorated with a number of events around the
For Sweden, 2012 has a particular focus, said Hammarskjöld as she
spoke of Wallenberg. “We remember what this young Swedish diplomat, who has been
recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, did to save thousands
of Jews in Hungary from the scourge of the Holocaust.
“Here in Israel and
around the world, this is a year of events to honor Wallenberg and those who
worked with him.Not only to remember, but also to learn and reflect on what
Wallenberg’s legacy means for the future.
It is an occasion to reaffirm
our commitment to fight anti-Semitism and other intolerance today.”
the commemorative events in Israel will be an academic symposium at Yad Vashem
on June 26, where Sweden will be represented by Minister for Integration Erik
In July, the speaker of the Swedish riksdag will be in Israel
at the invitation of the speaker of the Knesset to participate in the Knesset’s
own ceremony for Wallenberg. From the end of August, the embassy will be hosting
an international exhibition on Wallenberg at Beit Bialik in Tel
Commemorating Wallenberg is not only about ceremonies – it is about
people, said Hammarskjöld. “It is about Raoul Wallenberg as an individual – the
courageous choices he made at the young age of 32. It is about those who
survived the Holocaust because of what Wallenberg and his team did. It is also
about their thousands and thousands of descendants, like the young Israeli
student who approached me to say that she felt a special tie to Sweden because
her savta was saved by Wallenberg so many years ago. And it is about the choices
we all face which require courage, determination and the ability to challenge
ourselves beyond what we may think is possible.”
Minister for Energy and
Water Resources Uzi Landau, who represented the government, referred to
Wallenberg as “the Righteous Gentile who saved tens of thousands of Jews in
Hungary” and noted that many of the Hungarian Jews who had been saved by
Wallenberg had found their way to Israel.
Among the guests attending the
reception were members of Israel’s vibrant Swedish community, diplomats, people
who do business with Sweden and Israel’s ambassador designate to Sweden, Isaac
■ IT IS not always easy for the Protocol Department of the
Foreign Ministry to find a minister who is willing to represent the government
at a national day reception hosted by the head of a foreign diplomatic
While there is supposed to be a roster, certain ministers find
all sorts of excuses for evasion when it is their turn.
Not so Deputy
Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who actually volunteered to represent the government
at the national day reception hosted at his residence by Portugal’s Ambassador
to Israel Miguel de Almeida e Soussa, who only last month presented his
credentials to President Peres.
It was Mofaz’s maiden appearance as a
representative of the government at such an event since Kadima joined the
coalition. To make the minister’s task easier, the Foreign Ministry prepares a
speech that is largely based on the bilateral relations between Israel and the
country whose national day is being celebrated. When he was a government
minister, MK Isaac Herzog, who prefers to be spontaneous, eschewed the prepared
text and spoke in direct reference to anything the ambassador had said before
him, or if he had visited the country in question, of his experiences there.
Apparently this is something that he and Mofaz have in common. Ignoring the
document handed to him by Shmuel Morgan from the Foreign Ministry’s Protocol
Department, Mofaz, seizing on remarks that Soussa had made about Portugal’s
willingness to assist Israel in its peace endeavors, waxed – with far greater
passion than he displays when speaking Hebrew – into an enthusiastic assertion
(in surprisingly good English) of Israel’s desire for peace and his personal
belief that the Palestinians are partners for peace.
confidence that Soussa will enhance the existing good bilateral relations
between Israel and Portugal, “in all fields” Mofaz noted that Portugal has
peacekeeping soldiers stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border. “We in Israel
believe in, hope for and pray for peace,” he said. “The most important issue to
work for is peace.”
Earlier, Soussa had assured Mofaz and the other
guests that no Portuguese citizen is indifferent to what is happening in this
part of the globe.
Commenting that no leadership or country in the region
is immune to the changes taking place and the permanently moving scenarios,
Soussa said that Israel can count on Portugal’s solidarity and support in the
quest for peace.
■ HONORS ARE in the air for singer, actor, radio and
television host and current affairs commentator Yehoram Gaon, who, after
receiving an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University, was this week
officially recognized as the Honorary Consul of Honduras at a ceremony at the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. This is not the first time that Gaon
has been the central figure in such a ceremony. He was previously the Honorary
Consul for Chile.
■ ALREADY FOLLOWING in the footsteps of internationally
esteemed Israeli statesman Abba Eban in his capacity of Israel’s permanent
representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ron Prosor is emulating Eban
yet again in his latest capacity as vice president of the UN General Assembly.
Prosor is only the third Israeli to hold this position. An extraordinarily
popular diplomat in London before he went to New York, Prosor was elected
unanimously. He will take up his new role in September, with the opening of the
next assembly. Prosor saw his election not only as a personal victory but also
as another achievement for Israel at the UN and an expression of appreciation by
the international community of Israel’s contribution.
“We are working
hard to put Israel on the map of the United Nations as a leading and influential
country,” he said, adding that the selection of an Israeli candidate for this
senior position could serve as the basis for advancing additional Israeli
candidates for other key positions at the UN.
■ ALMOST EVERYONE who gets
married wants their wedding to be something special and memorable, but the
marital drama put on by Robbi Glodan and Isolda Abraham will be a hard act to
follow. Each of them has thespian aspirations, and with this in mind they
decided to write and put on a play about their courtship, with the wedding as a
grand finale. According to a report in Yediot Aharonot, the couple wanted to do
something really different. They also wanted to be honest and to include the
crises in their relationship as well as the upbeat chapters.
went according to plan but for one snag: It was really tough finding a venue.
They approached the managers of theater halls and community centers all over the
country, but no one was prepared to rent out their premises for a wedding, even
if the first part was legitimate drama. Eventually they struck gold at the
Nesher Cultural Center, which has a beautiful theater. The play was a 90-minute
drama that included their first meeting, their life together as couple and
finally the culmination of their relationship with a wedding. The wedding
invitation was designed like a playbill.
■ A SOMEWHAT more ostentatious
wedding ceremony performed by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and his predecessor, Rabbi
Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, took place at the Beit Yaacov Synagogue in Sao Paulo,
Brazil last Wednesday when Tammy Kattan became Mrs. David Safra. The groom is
the son of Joseph and Vicky Safra who are from one of the most prominent
Sephardi families in the world and are also among the richest families in the
world. Joseph Safra is the second-richest man in Brazil and ranks 52nd on the
Forbes list of the world’s richest people. His younger brother, Moise Safra, is
Brazil’s eight-richest person. Some 1,500 guests filled a specially built
jungle-like structure adjacent to the Jockey Club and dined from a kosher
gourmet buffet. Among the entertainers at the event were Shakira and Israel’s
own Yishai Lapidot, the lead singer from Oif Simchas.
■ SEEKING TO
confuse the paparazzi who were not among the invited guests, supermodel Esti
Ginzberg and property developer Adi Keizman sent out wedding invitations that
listed the venue as a villa in Zichron Yaacov.
Only on the night before
the wedding did guests receive notice of the correct address, which was in the
courtyard of the home of fashion photographer Ron Kedmi, who lives in the Ein
Hod Artists’ Village. It was Ginzberg’s first wedding and Keizman’s third. At
the time that he and Ginzberg started keeping company around two years ago, he
was still married to Ofra Strauss, who chairs the Straus Group.
was previously married for 18 years to Dan Lahat, son of former Tel Aviv mayor
Shlomo Lahat. Her name has since been romantically linked with that of Middle
East envoy Tony Blair, with whom she enjoys a close friendship. Both Strauss and
Blair have denied that their relationship is more than platonic, but neither the
Hebrew nor the British media have accepted the denials. Keisman, who is more
than a decade younger than Strauss, is 16 years older than his 22 year old
■ SLIGHTLY MORE veteran supermodel Bar Refaeli celebrated her 27th
birthday with a big bash at her parents’ home in Hod Hasharon.
several times to be getting married to Hollywood actor Leonardo diCaprio before
they finally broke off their long and much-publicized onagain off-again romance,
Refaeli, as far as is generally known, does not have a Mr. Right in her lifeat
■ TAKING A break from their busy tour schedule, Los Angeles
comedians Avi Liberman, Kivi Rogers and Ron Pearson who were in Israel for the
biannual fund-raising comedy tour for the Koby Mandel Foundation, strayed
somewhat from the regular tourist trail to go rappelling near the Old City as
part of FunInJerusalem.com’s Extreme Adventures.
■ THE STORY changes from
time to when Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Dan Schechtman explains how a professor
of materials science at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and Iowa
State University became a jeweler in his spare time. In a previous version it
was because he had so much time to spare at night while his wife was studying
for her doctorate when both were in the US. The more recent version is that he’s
a frustrated car mechanic. Hundreds of people came to see an exhibition of his
jewelry pieces, which went on view at the Technion this week in tandem with the
meeting of the Technion’s Board of Governors.