Former deputy general manager of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem Sheldon Ritz,
who is currently stationed in Tel Aviv in his capacity as the Dan Hotels’
director of sales for embassies and government ministries, has been temporarily
summoned back to Jerusalem and asked to assist with arrangements for the visit
of Russian President Vladimir Putin, due to arrive in Israel for a lightning
stay on June 25.
Ritz has developed a remarkable rapport with the
diplomatic community and with key personnel in government offices, as a result
of which his presence was especially requested for the Putin
Blessed with an incredible sense of calm and an ability to
instantly solve problems in crisis situations, South African-born Ritz is a good
man to have around to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Putin will be in Israel for barely 24 hours, the Russians have booked the King
David Hotel from June 24-27, and that’s not the only hotel in the Dan chain in
which Russian will be the most frequently heard language. The Russians, together
with embassy staff, security personnel and representatives from Israel’s
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, are completely taking over the King David for the
three day period, as well as part of the Dan Panorama around the
During that time the King David will be closed to other guests.
An advance delegation will be arriving on June 18 to prepare for the visit and
will stay at the Dan Jerusalem on Mount Scopus, where a large number of rooms
have been booked. Media representatives accompanying Putin will stay at the Dan
Panorama. Altogether, some 270 rooms in Dan hotels in Jerusalem will be utilized
for the visit.
During his brief sojourn in the Middle East, Putin will
also travel to Jordan.
■ MEANWHILE, RUSSIAN Ambassador Sergey Yakovlev
and his wife, Nina, on Tuesday hosted the Russian National Day reception at the
Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Every ambassador has his or her own distinct style,
but one thing doesn’t change as far as Russian ambassadors are concerned: they
definitely know how to throw a party and they never skimp on the food – not in
quantity, not in quality and not in variety.
While all ambassadors who
celebrate the national days of their respective countries invite compatriots now
living in Israel, there are arguably more people with Russian roots living in
Israel than from anywhere else. At the national day celebrations of other
countries, the common language is English, though the minister representing the
government sometimes delivers his address in Hebrew. Not so at the Russian
With the possible exception of most of the diplomatic corps
and a few Israelis, everyone, including the musicians, bartenders, waiters and
waitresses, understands Russian. So although Yakovlev speaks English quite well,
he spoke in his native tongue, as did Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is
an immensely popular figure in Russian circles and was instantly surrounded by
people who wanted to be photographed with him, including Russian- speaking IDF
soldiers. Both Yakovlev and Liberman were in extremely high spirits, having
previously traded jokes in a roped off area with set tables that were occupied
by priests and nuns from various Eastern Orthodox Churches – though primarily
from Russia; veterans of the Red Army with jackets weighed down by medals and
ribbons; current Russian military personnel; Israeli government ministers
including Pini Avivi, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy-director general for Eastern
and Central Europe, the Baltic Countries and Russia. Liberman and Minister for
Tourism Stas Meseznikov are regulars at Russian events and Defense Minister Ehud
Barak almost always attends the Russian Federation’s national day reception, as
he did this week. Nearly all the MKs who were born in the former Soviet Union
also put in an appearance, as did some who have no Russian roots. Members of the
Ashdod Symphony Orchestra, who are mostly of Russian background, provided the
musical entertainment, which was enhanced by internationally- acclaimed piano
virtuoso Leonid Ptashka. No one was really interested in hearing about politics,
diplomacy, bilateral trade or tourism, said Liberman.
What was really on
their minds was the soccer match between Russia and Poland which was taking
place that night – “and we all want Russia to win,” he added as he noted the
presence of the Polish ambassador in the banquet hall.
■ “WHAT WILL the
Chinese say if they find out you were here?” a member of the audience attending
the spectacular performance by the Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan at the
Israel Opera House in Tel Aviv asked Ruth Kahanoff, the Foreign Ministry’s
deputy-director general for Asia and the Pacific. Foreign Ministry personnel are
seldom seen at Taiwanese events because Israel and Taiwan do not have full
diplomatic relations. Liang-jen Chang, who is referred to as “ambassador” by
members of his staff, is officially in Israel as the representative of the
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, which is a pseudonym for the Taiwan Embassy
in many parts of the world where, for political reasons prompted by the Peoples
Republic of China, the Republic of China does not enjoy diplomatic ties, but has
to make do with economic and cultural ties.
Kahanoff seemed ready for the
question. “It’s not politics, it’s culture,” she said.
"Culture has no
borders. Culture is universal.” Among others in the audience were Agriculture
Minister Orit Noked, MK Nahman Shai, former candidate for Jerusalem mayor Dan
Biran, former Tel Aviv City Council member Sheli Hoshen, first lady of the
Israeli stage Gila Almagor and her husband, theater director Yaakov Agmon, Tel
Aviv Cinematheque director Yair Garbuz, former Education Ministry
director-general Shimshon Shoshani and Suzanne Dallal Center director Yair Vardi.
Special guest of honor was Mei Ching-Chow, the first lady of Taiwan, who Cloud
Gate director and choreographer Lin Hwai Min lauded as one of the company’s most
loyal and enthusiastic supporters and who came to Israel with the company as a
demonstration of her support. Lin Hwai Min said that the company thought based
on media reports that it was coming to a war zone, but after experiencing the
smiling faces and relaxed atmosphere of Tel Aviv, its members were under the
impression that perhaps they had come to California.
dancers have an extraordinary grace in which they merge delicacy with passion
and contemporary dance with martial arts movements. Cries of “Bravo!” emanated
from the audience at the end of the performance and as people exited the hall,
they chatted excitedly about how unique a performance this was, particularly
because it was almost devoid of music and yet the dancers were able to maintain
amazing discipline and synchronization. For those who were not there, it is
still possible to attend a performance today at 1 p.m. or tomorrow at 9
■ FOLLOWING ALL the media hype about the presentation of the
Presidential Medal of Freedom to President Shimon Peres and the special dinner
that US President Barack Obama hosted in his honor on Wednesday, Obama was back
on the campaign trail on Thursday, attending a dinner in New York hosted by
Vogue editor Anna Wintour at the home of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica
Obama’s Israel connection of Wednesday night, will be renewed on
a somewhat different scale on June 25 at the Boston Symphony Hall when Israeli
hip-hop and Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari will
Ben-Ari. who is an Obama supporter, played at the White House 15
months ago at a women’s mentoring event hosted by Michelle Obama, who had
invited 22 remarkable women from different walks of life to mentor and inspire
young students. Tickets to the Boston fund-raiser are $250,000 per person for a
balcony seat, $10,000 to be listed as an event co-host, $2,500 for a premium
seat and $1,000 for preferred seating.
Proceeds are ear-marked for the
Obama Victory Fund 2012.
Tel Aviv-born Ben-Ari, who moved to New York in
1993 after serving in the IDF and quickly became a star, has won awards awards
not only for her music but also for her work in Holocaust education.
is a co-founder of Gedenk (Yiddish for “remember”), a non-profit organization
dedicated to promoting Holocaust awareness among the younger generations of
■ MANY VISITORS to Israel say that they leave a piece of their
heart behind when they return home. But some people leave something more
substantial. Last week, a group of leading business and communal leaders on a
mission to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) dedicated an
ambucycle to United Hatzalah in Jerusalem in memory of Benzion Netanyahu and in
honor of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and family. Phil Rosen, a long-time
supporter of United Hatzalah and the leading corporate attorney with Weil,
Gotshal & Manges LLP, board member of the RJC and chairman of the board of
American Friends of the Likud, donated the ambucycle.
Rabbi Yona Metzger, who attended the dedication ceremony, praised the members of
the RJC, who he described as staunch advocates for Israel, generous supporters
of great causes and proud Zionists. Metzger also spoke of the special love that
Benzion Netanyahu had for the Jewish people and how pleased he would have been
to know that a lifesaving ambucycle will be saving lives in his
United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer thanked Rosen and the RJC for
their generosity. Several participants in the mission expressed appreciation for
the opportunity to learn about United Hatzalah’s work and pledged their
■ WHEN THE name Zuroff appears anywhere in Israel, it is
immediately associated with Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff. But there’s another
Zuroff who is fondly remembered by former students of the Yeshiva University
High School, AKA Brooklyn Talmudical Academy. Rabbi Abraham Zuroff, who is
celebrating his 90th birthday, Efraim Zuroff’s father, was the principal of YUHS
for more than 30 years and afterwards became the supervisor of all Yeshiva
University high schools.
YUHS alumni living in Israel plan to combine his
birthday with a reunion to be held on Friday, June 22 at 10:30 a.m at the
Yeshiva University Gruss Center in Jerusalem.
Organizers estimate that
there are between 200 and 300 graduates of the school living in Israel, and that
most of them will attend. Among the more famous graduates is Prof.
Dershowitz, who, though a frequent visitor to Israel, will not be able to attend
in person, but will deliver greetings via video. Other well-known alumni include
the late Rabbi Meir Kahane; Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin; Judge Gerald
Neugeboren of the Israeli National Labor Court; Rabbi Dr. Stuart Zweiter, head
of the Lookstein Center for Education at Bar-Ilan University; Rabbi Dr. Aryeh
Frimer, the Ethel and David Resnick professor of chemistry at the Weizmann
Institute; Advocate Dov Frimer, well-known Jerusalem lawyer and lecturer at the
Hebrew University; Advocate David Martin, an international lawyer based in Tel
Aviv and lecturer at the IDC in Herzliya and the Cardozo Law School in New York;
Dr. Zev Gerstl of the Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences at the
Vulcani Center in Bet Dagan; Dr. Morton Leibowitz, former director of the
Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Meir Hospital; internationally-known
psychologist Dr. Irwin Mansdorf, who has written important works on the
psychologization of Palestinians; Judge Martin Ritholz of the NY State Supreme
Court; Rabbi Elyakim Krumbein of Yeshivat Gush Etzion; Rabbi Dr. Yitz Irving
Greenberg; and Prof. Arthur Eidelman, among many
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