Initially, having the attorneys-general of Britain and Israel as the guest
speakers at the annual Balfour Dinner held by the Israel Britain and the
Commonwealth Association seemed like a splendid idea.
Over the years, the
organization has done its best to bring two sides of the same coin to the podium
and has been blessed with outstanding speakers on both counts. But there’s
always the exception to the rule, and such was the case at the Balfour Dinner
held at the Leonardo Hotel Ramat Gan on Monday in celebration of the 95th
anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
The food was good. The service was
excellent, Dominic Grieve, attorney-general for England and Wales, was both
riveting and entertaining... and then came our own attorney-general, Yehuda
Weinstein, whose English left much to be desired and whose pronunciation of the
written text was painful, to put it mildly, though most people refrained from
tittering when he mistakenly pronounced “prosecution” as
He could well have done with a few lessons from Professor
Henry Higgins, the famous fictional elocution teacher in George Bernard Shaw’s
Grieve’s speech focused on the rule of law and its
significance in a democracy. He prefaced his remarks by saying that “outsiders”
speak to Israel as experts though they are not fully conversant with the facts
on the ground. He felt the need to convey the message that it is difficult for
Israel’s friends to defend her when she is in breach of international law, as,
for instance, with the ongoing construction of settlements in the disputed
territories or the treatment of Palestinian minors who are often subjected to
human rights abuses.
But in other respects he commended Israel for being
a strong democracy with democratic principles that allow for open debate on any
subject. He also emphasized that despite extreme provocations, Israel has
remained a democracy and lives by the rule of law.
He made particular
reference to Israel’s “enviable record” in upholding the rule of law in fighting
Grieve made the point that “the rule of law can be more
powerful than violence in bringing about change.” At the close of his address,
Grieve, a practicing Anglican, disclosed that his great-grandfather had been of
Weinstein was recently in London to attend the trial
of two Russian oligarchs who had been represented by two barristers and a bevy
of Russian, Israeli and American lawyers.
Extremely taken with the
British court system, Weinstein shared his impressions with members of Israel’s
legal profession at their annual conference in Eilat. The main theme of the
Eilat conference was the reform of criminal law in Israel, but Weinstein, who
admitted to being “full of envy” for the British way of doing things and for
British understatement, told his colleagues that if they went back to basics and
emulated the British, this would be more efficient and effective than any
reforms they might introduce.
■ AWARD-WINNING, multi-lingual journalist
Enrique Cymerman, who is an expert on Middle East affairs and on global
economics, is about to receive yet another award. Cymerman, who was born in
Portugal to a Polish father and a North African mother and currently works for
Antena 3 Spanish Television, is about to receive one of Spain’s highest awards
from King Juan Carlos in recognition of his outstanding contribution to
For Cymerman, this particular award symbolizes
the closing of a circle. Before being expelled from Spain in 1492, his mother’s
family had lived there for 700 years. She and her husband moved to Spain in the
mid-1970s following the military coup in Portugal, and she only moved to Israel
when she was in her 80s.
Cymerman has the distinction of being one of the
last reporters to have interviewed Yitzhak Rabin on the day prior to his
assassination. He also interviewed Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and other
high-ranking Arab figures, such as King Hussein of Jordan, Yasser Arafat, former
Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei and Palestinian National Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas. Early in his career, Cymerman, who came to Israel in
his mid-teens, worked for Maariv, which sent him to Barcelona at a time when
Spain was reconciling with the Jews and was in its nascent period of
establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. While living in Barcelona,
Cymerman took on the additional role of information director of the city’s
Jewish Center. He also made some excellent contacts with the result that, after
returning to Israel some years later, he began to cover Israel and the Middle
East for Portuguese and Spanish television.
Cymerman has risked his life
travelling to Gaza to interview the Hamas leadership and has also travelled in
Spain and Portugal, where he has developed excellent contacts with high-ranking
politicians, some of whom he persuaded to visit Israel. He has received several
awards from Portugal and Spain and has also been the recipient of the
Anti-Defamation League’s Daniel Pearl Award.
■ ARGUABLY THE oldest
participant in the annual Journalists’ Conference in Eilat was veteran reporter
Diana Lerner, who, at age 90, is still running around and enjoying
Though eternally young in spirit, Lerner acknowledges that the
character lines in her face and the occasional twinge in her joints are not
exactly signs of youth – but these days she’s actually gaining a new following
by writing and lecturing about growing old. Because she does so with style and
humor, audiences in her generation learn to take a different attitude toward
their senior status. Lerner, who has always managed to kill at least two birds
with one stone, got in touch with Fay Morris, the former honorary British consul
in Eilat, who continues to maintain ties with the city’s English-speaking
residents, and said she would like to sell some of her books and to speak about
aging. Morris brought together some 50 people in her home, and Lerner was
gratified to note that some of them were older than she is.
all of them were active and doing things, including writing books of their
While Lerner may have taught them a thing or two, she came away with
a few things she had learned from them. Morris and her late husband, Dr.
Reginald Morris, maintained a breath of England in Israel’s southernmost resort
city and had a pet crocodile by the name of Clarence, which became a tourist
attraction. After Reggie’s death, the reptile was given a new home at the
Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.
■ IN ADDITION to serving as the president of the
Israel Council on Foreign Relations, retired diplomat Avi Primor, who is also
director of the Center for European Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center
Herzliya, expressed mock anger last week at a panel discussion on analyzing the
US elections that was hosted at IDC by both the council and the center. At the
opening of the event, Primor, who had just returned from Berlin where he
attended an American election night party at the US Embassy, said that the
subject matter of the panel discussion was a form of revenge against the two
main candidates in the US presidential elections.
In their campaign
speeches, said Primor, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney had once mentioned
Europe when speaking about foreign policy.
To Primor this was an
appalling oversight, especially as Obama is so popular among many Europeans,
particularly Germans. Every time his name was mentioned or he appeared on the
television screen, there was frantic applause as if the Germans were voting for
their own president, he said.
Primor is a frequent visitor to Germany,
where he served from 1993 to 1999 before leaving the foreign service and
entering academia, initially as vice president of Tel Aviv University and
subsequently transferring to IDC.
Both as an ambassador and since then,
Primor has been an ardent advocate for ongoing dialogue between Israel and
■ ISRAEL IS not as isolated as some might think. In Ashkelon
this week, some 70 diplomats who came to hear Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
were told that they were now in the same position as the residents of the South
who have only 30 seconds in which to find shelter when an alarm is sounded. It
is fairly safe to assume that most, if not all, of these diplomats were in
contact with their foreign ministries before going to Ashkelon and could have
easily used the excuse to absent themselves by saying that they had been
instructed not to enter a danger zone. The fact that so many of them showed up
and that some of them looked a little scared when they realized that they too
could be targets spoke volumes for their solidarity with Israel. With all the
criticism to which Israel is subjected, and despite the hostilities in the
region, in the final analysis Israel is not alone. Netanyahu was back in the
South on Tuesday, this time at Ben-Gurion University to present the Prime
Minister’s Prize for Initiatives and Innovation.
■ IT WAS the first time
since making aliya from London to Herzliya Pituah over two years ago that Zena
and David C l a y t o n s t e p p e d foot onto sovereign British
Last Friday at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Zena Clayton
joined British Ambassador Matthew Gould in unveiling a plaque dedicated to the
memory of British diplomats who helped rescue Jews before the outbreak of World
The plaque by British sculptor Philip Jackson is a precise
replica of a memorial unveiled four years ago in the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office by Zena’s brother-in-law, Sir Sigmund Sternberg, and then-foreign
secretary David Miliband. Sir Sigmund is the driving force and benefactor of
both memorials commemorating British diplomats – including Frank Foley and
Robert Smallbones – stationed in Germany, Austria and other European countries,
who, between 1933 and 1936, took it upon themselves to organize nearly 30,000
visas to Britain, as well as entry permits to Mandate Palestine.
who in earlier years had chained herself to the gates of the Foreign Ministry as
a founding member of the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry, told Gould that the
“plucky diplomats” being remembered are precisely those embodied by the Talmudic
saying, “He who saves one life is considered as if he has saved the entire
■ SOME MASONIC scholars believe that Freemasons can trace their
origins back to Solomon’s Temple, of which nothing remains, and therefore a
visit to the Western Wall, which was built by Herod and is all that remains of
the surrounds of the Second Temple, is of great significance to Freemasons from
all over the world.
Rabbi Raymond Apple, the chief rabbi emeritus of the
Sydney Great Synagogue, has been living in Jerusalem since his
Among his various other titles is that of past deputy grand
master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and the Australian Capital
Territory. He belongs to a Masonic lodge in Jerusalem. It is par for the course
that Apple is invited to address Australian Masonic delegations when they come
Last week, he addressed the second such delegation to visit
Israel. The first such group including wives came in 2010 and numbered more than
90 people. This time there were just over 50 participants, still a large number
considering the distance between Australia and Israel.
Both visits were
organized by Joseph Haffner, a leading Jewish Freemason from Sydney. While in
Jerusalem the group was headquartered at the Olive Tree Hotel, which straddles
what used to be no-man’s land between Israeli and Jordanian Jerusalem. The
group, comprising Jews and non-Jews from Australia, New Zealand and New
Caledonia, also visited Palestinian areas and drew the conclusion that the media
presents a warped picture of what goes on in this part of the
Apple shared his impressions of Jerusalem with his fellow
Freemasons and spoke of Jewish, Christian and Muslim influences on street names,
buildings and especially the area surrounding the Western Wall.
happens at that Wall depends on who you are,” he said.
To some there is
sheer holiness in the air; to some it is where you excitedly encounter tour
groups from all over the world; to others it is a bothersome gathering of
Among the dignitaries visiting the Wall, said Apple, there have
been popes and presidents, politicians, priests and poets; athletes, actors and
artists; people of all creeds, colors and cultures – who all leave their prayers
behind. His most important message was that Jewish, Christian and Muslim
Freemasons are all brothers.
■ VETERAN ASTROLOGER Miriam Binyamini says
that she knew that Obama would win the presidential election because he was born
under the sign of Leo and the date of election day was very favorable for him
but not for Mitt Romney, who was born under the sign of
Binyamini, who was interviewed last Friday by Yoav Ginai on
Reshet Bet, said with regard to the upcoming Israeli elections that Binyamin
Netanyahu would have a resounding victory, that there would be nothing
revolutionary in the Labor or Yesh Atid results and that neither Ehud Olmert nor
Tzipi Livni would be candidates in the January 22 election. She hasn’t looked
into the future of Shas candidates and couldn’t make any predictions about
Kadima chief Shaul Mofaz because he does not know the exact date of his
■ DESPITE ITS reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship,
Israel was never able to properly develop a perfume industry. It did develop a
cosmetics industry of sorts, with locally produced creams, deodorants and soaps,
many of which were derived from Dead Sea minerals, but the fragrance industry as
such, remained elusive.
Not that there were people who didn’t try. But
they couldn’t compete with France, the United States and England. One person who
did manage for several years to create a demand for her perfumes was Hungarian-
born Judith Muller, who after completing the army and working briefly as a soda
jerk in her father’s kiosk in Haifa in the mornings and as an assistant in a
beauty parlor in the afternoons, decided to go to Paris for training as a
Muller, who played coy about her age, died this month of
cancer, which she had been battling for quite some time.
training came from her grandmother, who had taught her to use a burnt match to
darken her eyebrows. In her youth, Muller had picked up a few more cosmetic
tricks with which she experimented on her comrades in the army. She was pert,
blonde, petite, and had that special Hungarian chic made famous in Hollywood by
Hungarian sisters Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor.
Muller was among those creative
and adventurous Hungarians who came to Israel and made an impact on journalism,
entertainment, fashion and sport. All of them Holocaust survivors, like Muller
herself, these include internationally acclaimed author, dramatist and
screenwriter Ephraim Kishon, Gottex founder Lea Gottlieb, who, concurrently with
Hungarian-born Beged Or founder Lesly Fulop put Israeli fashion on the world
map, cartoonist Kariel Gardosh (better known as Dosh), journalist and politician
Tommy Lapid and Olympic gymnast Agnes Keleti.
Muller was born into a
wealthy family that lost most of what it had under Nazism and later under
They came to Israel in the nascent years of the state and
found themselves barely scratching out a living. For all that, Judith Muller was
blessed with a kind of Hungarian pizzazz that made everything seem easy and it
seemed as if she was born to greatness. She was very young when she opened her
own cosmetics salon, and from there began experimenting with
Though she never quite lost her Hungarian accent or her Hungarian
appearance, but when she decided to try her hand at fragrances, she ignored her
Hungarian background and delved into her Jewish roots, avidly reading everything
the Bible had to say about aromatics. The name of her first fragrance, launched
in 1965, was Bat-Sheba, which was presented in an exquisite Roman glass bottle
and packaged in a suede pouch. The scent was seductive, evocative in itself of
another time in history. The product was used as a promotion for Israel and was
sold on El Al flights.
For the Israeli market, the perfume and eau de
toilette were sold in larger bottles and were more affordably priced than
imported fragrances, which at that time were also heavily taxed.
went on to create other perfumes, with names such as Sharon and Judith, but she
never became a Helena Rubinstein or an Estee Lauder, though she did make an
international reputation for herself and after a stretch of bad luck reinvented
herself in Budapest, where she organized tributes to these two outstanding
Jewish women and others who had made great strides in the cosmetics
In 1983 she decided to branch into fashion, taking the opposite
route of many well-known fashion designers, who first make their mark with
apparel and then put their names to fragrances, housewares and other consumer
products. Her first collection premiered at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa. She
believed strongly in classic styling that could be dressed up or dressed down
with accessories. Most of her creations were produced in one size, so that women
of all body types could the same outfit in the same size.
continued to be associated with fashion and cosmetics for many years, and
although she did not achieve the kind of fame she craved, her name did become a
household word, not only in Israel and her native Hungary but also in the United
States, where some of fragrances can still be bought on eBay.
GREAT loss to Israel is that of architect David Reznik, who has left what will
hopefully remain an indelible mark on Israel’s landscape. The Brazilian-born
Reznik, who, while still a student, joined the firm of Oscar Niemeyer,
recognized as one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, came to Israel
with his wife, Rachel, in 1949. At first they settled in Kibbutz Ein Hashofet
and later moved to Tel Aviv, where Reznik found work with leading architect
Ze’ev Rechter. After three years with Rechter, Reznik felt the pull of Jerusalem
and moved to the capital, briefly entering into partnership with Heinrich Heinz
Rau and then opening his own firm based on the principles that he learned during
his four years with Niemeyer. While still in partnership with Rau he designed
the Goldstein Synagogue, which stands out on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew
Three other outstanding examples of his creativity are the
Brigham Young University, the Kennedy Memorial and what was originally the Hyatt
Regency Hotel in Jerusalem and is now part of the Dan chain. Another of his
Jerusalem landmarks is the Van Leer Institute, and not far from Jerusalem is the
Moshe Castel Museum in Ma’ale Adumim. Reznik was also a town planner whose early
projects included Jerusalem’s Nayot neighborhood.
He also planned and
designed neighborhoods in in Kiryat Hasidim, Hatzor Haglilit, Modi’in and Beit
Shemesh and was responsible for several impressive projects abroad. He was an
Israel laureate and the recipient of many other prestigious prizes. His
institutional projects will in all probability endure for decades and perhaps
Hopefully, future real estate developers will also show
respect for the many private homes that were part of Reznik’s unique creative
and prolific output. But even an architect and town planner of Reznik’s great
influence and repute was unable to stop progress. Reznik was not in favor of the
high-rise buildings that began to surface on the Jerusalem skyline, believing
that they robbed the city of its mysticism.
Unfortunately, greed is often
stronger than aesthetics.
■ BELIEVE IT or not, Amsterdam has an annual
Yiddish Symposium with participants from many parts of the world.
year’s Amsterdam Yiddish Symposium will take place on Sunday, December 9 at the
The theme is “Yiddish Cities: Montreal, Melbourne, Tel
The history of Yiddish as a spoken language is not restricted to
the shtetl. Yiddish speakers and writers also lived in big cities throughout the
European continent. As far as is known, they began to live in Amsterdam from the
17th century onwards. Cities that were the main centers of Yiddish culture from
the middle of the 19th century onwards included Warsaw, Vilnius, New York and
Buenos Aires. In the post-WWII era, other Yiddish cities evolved.
symposium will deal with three of these. Speakers at the symposium will be Dr.
Rebecca Margolis (University of Ottawa), Dr. Helen Beer (University College
London) and Gali Drucker Bar-Am (Hebrew University of