Grapevine: The sanctity of sovereignty
February 1 is the 10th anniversary of the disintegration of the ill fated Space Shuttle Columbia. On board was Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon.
ASTRONAUT ILAN RAMON IN NASA PORTRAIT Photo: REUTERS/NASA NASA
TODAY IS a special day for Australian and Indian expatriates and temporary
residents living in Israel. For Indians, January 26 is Republic Day and for
Australians it is Australia Day. While for Indians Republic Day symbolizes the
long march to freedom from British rule, for Australians Australia Day
commemorates the unfurling of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Sir Arthur
Phillip in 1788 and the establishment of the first settlement which was located
at Port Jackson which is now part of Sydney.
Though now independent of
British rule, India, Australia and New Zealand are among the 54 independent
sovereign states – most of them former British colonies – which are members of
the Commonwealth of Nations which was originally known as the British
■ NON-RESIDENT New Zealand Ambassador Taha McPherson will
be in Israel next week for a New Zealand Business Seminar co-hosted by the
Federation of Israel Chambers of Commerce in collaboration with the Israel New
Zealand Chamber of Commerce and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. New Zealand
seems to be taking a greater interest in Israel of late. This week, a group of
Kiwi school teachers who are attending a Holocaust Studies seminar at Yad
Vashem, were hosted at Mike’s Bar Jerusalem, by a group of New Zealand expats
living in Israel.
■ INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST Remembrance Day will be
marked by Channel One beyond the actual date. On Monday, January 28, it will
screen a documentary Clara’s Last Dance , which is dedicated to legendary
Jerusalem ballet teacher Clara Bondi, who grew up in an assimilated environment
in Yugoslavia. As a young and promising dancer, Bondi dreamed of opening her own
ballet studio. She had never given much thought to the fact that she was Jewish,
and only became painfully aware of this side of her identity, when the Nazis
uprooted her from her home and sent her to Auschwitz.
managed to survive, but by the end of the war, when Auschwitz was liberated by
the Russians, she barely weighed 38 kilogram.
She returned to her village
only to learn that her parents had been murdered.
With nothing left for
her in Yugoslavia she decided to make her home in Israel. She tried to blanket
out the memory of the atrocities that she had suffered by realizing her dream
and opened a ballet school in the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood, regardless of
that fact that in those days Israelis were more inclined to dance the hora and
other folk dances.
She had spoken of her dream on board the ship which
brought her to Jaffa, and even then she had been told that Israel was the last
place in the world for a ballet school. But she persevered. Soon after her
arrival in Jerusalem she married, and together with her husband established a
ballet school which proved to be successful beyond her anticipations. It was one
of the first three ballet schools in Jerusalem.
The documentary which was
filmed over a ten year period illustrates the dualism in the lives of many
Holocaust survivors, who on the one hand appear to be normal, doing the various
things that are done by members of mainstream society, while at the same time
suffering the tortuous memories of the past, regardless of their attempts to
blot them out. For Clara, her creativity became her triumph over her past. The
film was directed by Nili Kessler and produced by Yehuda Biton.
COINCIDENCE, International Holocaust Remembrance Day which was designated by the
United Nations General Assembly and the birthday of the Knesset, which is on Tu
Bishvat , this year fall within a day of each other. Were it not for the United
Nations which sought to internationalize Jerusalem, the Knesset might have been
established in Tel Aviv, just as Tel Aviv was the venue for the Proclamation of
Ben-Gurion’s reaction to the UN proposal was to bring
Israel’s legislative body to Israel’s capital.
Prior to the opening
session of the 19th Knesset on February 5, at which Knesset members will declare
their allegiance in the presence of President Shimon Peres, there will be a full
day seminar for new Knesset members on February 3. The 19th Knesset will have
the largest ever female representation with three parties headed by women and a
total of 26 women serving as MKs compared to 23 in the 18th Knesset.
the first Knesset assembled on February 14, 1949, which in that year coincided
with Tu Bishvat, it was still officially known as the Constituent
Two days later, on February 16, the Constituent Assembly
ratified the Transition Law, changed its name to the First Knesset and elected
Chaim Weizmann as the nation’s first president. He was inaugurated on February
The first government was not formed till March 3. Initial Knesset
sessions were held in the Jewish Agency Building, then from March 8, 1949 to
December 14, 1949,in the Kessem Cinema in Tel Aviv, which today is the site of
the Opera Tower. For the following three months, the Knesset returned to the
Jewish Agency building and after that moved down the street apiece to the
Froumine building which later became the Ministry of Tourism and which is
currently occupied by the rabbinate. In 1955, the government approved a plan to
build the Knesset in its permanent location. Construction was financed by James
The cornerstone was laid in October 1958 and the building
was dedicated on August 31, 1966. New wings were added in later years along with
many modern facilities that were not available in the early years of the
■ ALTHOUGH WOMEN are not yet represented in the Knesset in
relation to their ratio in the population, and certainly not in the yet to be
formed government, women are certainly moving to the forefront in other
The television anchors on all three channels for the announcement
of the exit polls in the Knesset elections were women: Ayala Hasson and Geula
Even on Channel 1, Yonit Levy on Channel 2 and Tamar Ish-Shalom on Channel
In the business world, Stella Handler is tipped to succeed Avi Gabbay
as CEO of Bezeq, and Ravit Barniv, the former chair of Shikun U’Binui, has been
tipped to head Tnuva. Let’s not forget that Bank Leumi is headed by Rakefet
Russak- Aminoach and the CEO of the First International Bank is Smadar Barber
There are numerous other examples to illustrate the extent to
which the glass ceiling continues to be broken.
■ FEBRUARY 1 will mark
the 10th anniversary of the disintegration of the ill fated Space Shuttle
Columbia as it was reentering at the conclusion of its 28th mission. On board
was Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who together with the rest of the crew
was killed. His widow, Rona Ramon, continued her close connection with NASA, and
has been responsible for the presence of current and former astronauts at
international space conferences in Israel.
This year, because of the
significance of the anniversary of the tragedy, the heads of 14 space agencies
from around the world will come to Israel for the annual Ilan Ramon
International Space Conference which is traditionally held at the Fisher
Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies at the Israel Air Force
Center in Herzliya.
This gathering, which this year will take place from
January 29-31, in conjunction with the Israel Space Agency and the Ministry of
Science and Technology, is an ongoing living tribute to Ramon., providing an
open forum for the national and international space community to exchange
information about new technologies, programs and strategies.
conference is invariably accompanied by an exhibition of aerospace companies,
and culminates with the publication of a widely distributed and extensively used
conference book. Permanent participants in the conference include NASA, the US
Space Command, Cisco, Boeing, and the Canadian Space Agency among
There are always top-ranking officials from around the world.
including the commander of the Israel Air Force and leading government figures.
The importance of the conference can be seen by the constantly increasing
attendance. It has grown from 300 participants in 2006 to 2,000 in
For both Rona Ramon and Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, the chairman of
the Israel Space Agency, it is a major triumph to have the heads of 14
international space agencies in Israel at this time.
■ THE GREATEST
repository for newspapers and magazines published in Israel is the National
Library, located on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Publications dating to long before the establishment of the State can be found
in its archives. Prior to the advent of social media, journalism had a different
ethic a different responsibility and a different impact.
Now that anyone
with access to a computer or a mobile phone can and does enter the media world,
traditional news media has found itself in recession, with a domino effect of
downsizing and closures. To mark its recent acquisition of the archive of Israel
Prize laureate Shalom Rosenfeld, who was one of the founders of Ma’ariv and
served as its editor from 1974 to 1980, the National Library on Monday evening
January 28 will host a wide ranging discussion on Israeli journalism at the
crossroads with the participation of journalists academics and members of think
tanks currently or formerly involved with journalism.