Although we would like to think otherwise, racism has crept into the Israeli
psyche. It manifests itself most among soccer fans, especially when an all-Arab
team or a team that includes Arab players is playing a team whose supporters are
on the far right of the political map. Racist slurs emanating from the crowd are
shouted by juveniles.
Some years ago, the Peres Center for Peace
introduced soccer seminars in which mixed teams of Israelis and Palestinians
learned to play together in Israel then went abroad to play other teams. The
players learned to live together and respect one other, and in many instances
formed friendships because they related to each other as human beings without
political, ethnic or religious trappings.
Minister for Public Diplomacy
Yuli Edelstein has decided to tackle the racism issue closer to home. Together
with former international soccer star Haim Revivo, Edelstein this week launched
a project designed to nip racism in the bud – or more accurately, to kick it in
the butt. The idea is to set up mixed Arab-Jewish youth teams around the
country. The teams will be mentored by well-known sporting personalities,
including past and present coaches and players, both Jewish and Arab.
project, which was launched at the Jewish-Arab Center in Jaffa, will initially
take off in Jaffa, Acre and Lod, where there are large mixed populations, and
will then be extended to other cities and towns.
The kickoff for the
launch was a showcase game between Jaffa and Lod, with each fielding mixed
Regardless of the fame and honors accumulated in the course of a
lifetime, there’s always one in the twilight of someone’s career which is more
meaningful than all the rest.
Case in point is the Medal of Distinction
which President Shimon Peres conferred last month on former US secretary of
state Henry Kissinger. At the time, Kissinger, in an emotional address, noted
how much this particular honor would have meant to his parents and what it meant
to him in relation to all previous honors that he had received. He followed up
with a letter of thanks to Peres which adds emphasis to what he said in
Jerusalem. “No honor that has come my way has moved me more,” he
Similarly, Peres, who over the years has been the recipient of
many honors from many countries, cannot free himself of the pride he feels in
having received America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack
Obama a few days prior to conferring the Medal of Distinction on
The Medal of Freedom means so much to Peres that he manages to
inject a reference to it into his remarks at almost every public
When hosting a reception for Israel’s Olympic team a couple of
weeks ago, he urged the members to come home with medals, stating: “It’s very
pleasant to receive a medal. I say this from experience – though not in the
field of sport.”
This week, Peres was saved from having to allude to his
medal. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did it for him when she said in the
presence of the media, “We were so honored to have you in the White House last
month and, as President Obama said when he awarded Shimon the Presidential Medal
of Freedom, no individual has done so much over so many years to build the
alliance between our two countries to bring not just our governments but our
people closer together.”
As for the Olympic Games, everyone is trying
to get in on the act.
Samsonite Israel marketing manager Yarden Wachs, at
a reception held at Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv, presented everyone in the Israeli
Olympic team, including officials, with a Samsonite trolley case in the same
shade of blue as the team’s blazers.
IPass has provided wireless Internet
services for smart phones, tablets and laptops for the members of the team, in
addition to which Samsung has distributed Samsung Galaxy S III phones to the
team with special apps that will enable fans to communicate with athletes
directly and give them that extra dose of encouragement on their Facebook
Shufersal has encouraged customers to record good wishes to the
team and to take home a CD featuring the theme song of the Israeli Olympic team.
And that’s just the short list.
Because of the time difference between
Beijing and Tel Aviv, the Chinese ambassador was able to host a mammoth
reception in the Port of Tel Aviv four years ago for the opening of the Beijing
Olympics, without infringing on the Sabbath. Unfortunately, British Ambassador
Matthew Gould does not have the same luxury, because the games open on Friday
Hungarian president Janos Ader was in Israel for the Knesset
commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, who,
while serving as first secretary of the Swedish Legion in Hungary, was, with the
help of colleagues from other diplomatic missions, able to save thousands of
Hungarian Jews from deportation to the gas chambers.
It was not an easy
visit for Ader because, in discussions with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and President Peres, with whom he had an intimate
working dinner at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, there was an addition to
the usual topics of Iran, regional turmoil and the upheavals of the European
economy: Ader also had to contend with Israeli criticism of the resurgence of
anti- Semitism in his country and the identification with anti-Semitic
organizations by several prominent Hungarians. Ader invited both Peres and
Netanyahu to visit Hungary. His conversation with Peres included advancing
scientific cooperation between Israel and Hungary.
Members of the North
African and Sephardi communities who are first, second and third-generation
Holocaust survivors are often embittered by the fact that their suffering was
not recognized, or if they did eventually receive reparations from Germany, it
was more than 30 years after the Germans started paying reparations to Jews from
Eastern and Central Europe. Although his family’s history is not linked to the
Holocaust, Haifa lawyer and history buff Yehuda Even-Haim, who is of Moroccan
background, wants the world to know what happened to the Jews of Tunis and Libya
and other countries in the region under the Nazi boot.
Even-Haim, who also writes children’s stories about the Holocaust, came to
Jerusalem to talk about the concentration and death camps in Libya and Tunis and
showed clips from documentary films that proved that the Jews of Libya and Tunis
had fared just as badly as their brethren in Europe.
his lecture at the Uri Zvi Greenberg Center by reciting the names of some of the
concentration camps in the Sahara Desert.
Hardly anyone in the room had
heard of any of them. No one had heard of all of them.
intelligent people,” said Even-Haim. “If you haven’t heard of them, what do you
think high school students know about the Holocaust in North Africa and how
Libya almost became part of the final solution?” The situation with North
African survivors is even worse in terms of preserving memory than it is with
Europeans, he said. In most cases, North Africans who survived simply didn’t
talk about it. Their children don’t know and if their children don’t know, their
grandchildren cannot be expected to know.
The question remains as to why
they didn’t talk. One man offered an explanation: maybe after hearing what
happened in Auschwitz, they thought that their own suffering could not compare,
and they had no numbers on their arms as proof of where they had been. Even when
persuaded to give testimony, they found it difficult to express
In one of the films shown by Even-Haim, a husband and wife
who were both survivors wept, not really wanting to remember and finding it
painful to say anything. These attitudes have made Even-Haim even more
determined in his research with the aim of righting an historical
Former president of the Hebrew University Prof. Hanoch
Guttfreund caused some frustration at the awards ceremony in which well-known
journalist Bambi Sheleg, who already has several prizes to her credit, was
awarded the Sam and Ethel Flegg Memorial Prize for exceptional contributions
between different streams in contemporary Judaism. This is Sheleg’s specialty,
as evidenced in Eretz Aheret, the magazine that she founded specifically to
provide a platform for the expression of Jewish thought through adherents to the
various streams of Judaism.
Guttfreund announced that Sheleg would give
her address, after which there would be reactions from respondents followed by
questions and comments from the floor. Well, the introduction took a while,
Sheleg’s speech took somewhat longer and the three respondents each ran over the
time allotted, with the result that there was no time for questions asked or
comments, which was extremely frustrating to members of the audience, given the
wide range of food for thought with which they had been presented.
When speaking of surrogate mothers, the popular definition is a woman who carries the
fertilized ova of another woman who cannot for whatever reason carry a
But there are other kinds of surrogate mothers who perform no
less noble an act.
Facilitating a birth is a wonderful gift to a
childless couple yearning for parenthood, but what about abandoned infants who
need the security of a mother’s love, who need to be carried close to a mother’s
heart and to feel the embrace of her arms? There are surrogate mothers who do
this too. Among them is Dana Yaniv, from Caesarea, who has four children of her
own. As busy as she is taking care of their needs, she is not too busy to pay a
daily visit to the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center to cuddle a baby boy, sing songs
to him and give him the feeling of a warm and loving mother who cares. She has
been doing this for more than a month.
The infant was born with a number
of complications and requires longterm treatment. The hospital staff provides
him with all the medical care that he needs but simply do not have the resources
to give him emotional support as well. The infant is an adorable child and
everyone who sees him falls in love with him at first sight. His biological
mother is a drug addict whose habit impacted the baby while he was still in the
Yaniv is part of the First Hug project, with which Hillel Yaffe has
been associated for the past two years. The organization was formed in 2004 by
mothers whose hearts and arms reached out to abandoned babies. Up until two
years ago, says Anat Naveh, the social work in the hospital’s neo-natal and
premature births department, there was no need for anyone from First Hug because
there were no abandoned babies in the ward.
The first case, two years
ago, was born to a young mother who said she could not raise her baby and simply
left her. The infant was born prematurely and spent a lot of time in the ward.
Realizing that the tiny girl needed affection, the hospital got in touch with
First Hug and has maintained contact ever since.
Yaniv and others like
her spend four hours a day with their “surrogate” babies until they go into
foster care or are adopted.
According to Hillel Yaffe, there are some 300
newborns abandoned by their parents each year for any number of reasons. First
Hug tries to make their lives as normal as possible.
Portugal's ambassador to Israel, Miguel Almeida e Soussa, this week appointed Yoni Isakov
the proprietor and director-general of Coral Maritime Services, as honorary
Portuguese consul. Isakov, who was born in South Africa, has lived in Israel
since he was 12 years old. On completion of his army service he enrolled at the
University of Haifa and has a BA in economics and political science.
25 years ago, he started working in the operations division of CMS on the Haifa
Port and worked his way through the ranks.
Isakov is also the owner of
Marine Pollution Services, which is dedicated to making the sea as pollution-
free as possible.
Very soon after arriving in Israel, the ambassador
hosted a national day reception at his residence in Kfar Shmaryahu and almost
immediately afterwards was busy preparing the visit of his country’s minister of
Now he’s organizing the visit of the minister of science as
well as that of a large business delegation, and is getting ready for several
other high-level visits in the months ahead. These visits will now be organized
with Isakov’s assistance and are designed to enhance relations between Portugal
It's been a very busy time for Japanese Ambassador Hideo
Sato, with the volume and variety of events in different parts of the country as
part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of Japan’s relations with
This week he attended the opening in Jerusalem of the “Crossplay:
Male Actors, Female Roles in Kabuki Theater” exhibition at the Israel Museum,
and on Sunday he will be in Haifa for the opening at the Tikotin Museum of
“Double Vision,” an exhibition of Japanese contemporary art. He may be back at
the Israel Museum in August for a Kabuki lecture and demonstration, and there
several other Japanese events planned elsewhere in the country.
Museum director James Snyder described the Kabuki exhibition as “a jewel of an
Sato said that Kabuki theater has been entertaining Japanese
audiences for more than 400 years and continues to do so. Sato’s public speaking
is usually in Hebrew, in which he is entirely fluent, but out of deference to
Snyder he spoke in English, though Snyder’s Hebrew is quite good.
opening of the Japanese exhibition was also an opportunity for people who had
not yet seen it to look at the wonderful exhibition of hassidic life which is
being displayed in multi media under the title “A World Apart Next
According to Snyder, this exhibition has drawn unprecedented
crowds, including large numbers of haredim who might not otherwise visit a
museum. The exhibition has been put together in the most dignified manner and
deals with a variety of hassidic firstname.lastname@example.org