■ AT A special Knesset gathering last week to mark National Road Safety Awareness Day, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz presented Zaka Rescue and Recovery chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav with a Civilian Award for his role in promoting road safety awareness among Israel’s general public.

This year’s awareness day focused on the problem of distracted driving, with an emphasis on the dangers of talking on mobile phones or sending text messages while driving – a factor which, according to a recent report by a former Traffic Court judge, causes 80 percent of all traffic accidents and, according to National Road Safety Authority studies, quadruples the chances of being involved in an accident.

“Zaka is a firsthand witness, day in day out, to the senseless carnage on the roads, which is why we are involved in road safety awareness campaigns throughout the year,” Meshi-Zahav explained.

Zaka’s 1,500 volunteers respond to more than 21,000 incidents a year, most of which are related to road accidents.

■ THE ATTACHMENT that philanthropists and community activists Libby and Moshe Werthan have for Pardes, the orchard of Jewish learning and discussion, is no secret. Pardes is one of their favorite places. They not only go there to study, but for the past 18 years they have also been heavily involved in the development of Pardes and have contributed to and raised funds for it.

Last week Pardes held a gala event in their honor, which was attended by close to 400 of their relatives, friends and acquaintances, including their four children who left their own families behind in the US and came to join their parents in Jerusalem.

■ THE STATE of health of the guest of honor precludes him from attending, but that has not deterred his family and the Lehi Veterans Association from celebrating the 95th birthday of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir. The festivities will take place at the Begin Heritage Center on Monday with the participation of BHC chairman Herzl Makov; chairman of the Lehi Veterans’ Association Yair Stern; Vice Premier Lt.-Gen (res.) Moshe Ya’alon; Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein; former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit; and Shamir’s son Yair Shamir, who is chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries.

■ NO CONCRETE suggestions emerged from a panel discussion on the prevention of desecration and vandalism of graves on the Mount of Olives held Saturday night at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. Calls for increased security and police action were actually cries in the wilderness to a police force that is alarmingly understaffed and whose priorities may not necessarily include the Mount of Olives, despite its importance in Jewish history and tradition.

What did emerge was a new star on the panel discussion or lecture circuit in the person of rabbi, lawyer and businessman David Martin, who is an engaging and informative speaker with a wealth of knowledge, a gift for rationale and a sense of modesty.

■ STAND-UP COMEDY star Adi Ashkenazi has been seen in Jerusalem with increasing frequency over the past half year – and it’s not because she gets so many gigs in the capital. It’s because of her romance with Jerusalem businessman Eitan Ben-Zaken, who is the father of her unborn child. Ashkenazi, 35 and a divorcee, is in the fourth month of pregnancy. Whether she will move permanently to Jerusalem after the baby is born remains to be seen.

■ SOME 100 members of the Israel Harley-Davidson club will descend on the northern Dead Sea today in preparation for a Love-the-Dead-Sea Bike Weekend that will take place in June. The bikers will call on the public to vote for the Dead Sea in the finals of the New Seven Wonders of Nature campaign.

“This is a warm-up ride taking place one year before the final announcement of the seven winners,” declared General (res.) Udi Adam, one of the Harley-Davidson bikers and one of the initiators of the ride. “We hope to have more than 1,000 bikers from bike clubs all over the country riding in the Love-the-Dead-Sea Bike Weekend in June so that the noise of our exhausts will be heard throughout the Dead Sea,” he said.

The Dead Sea is one of 28 finalists competing for the last seven places in the New Seven Wonders of Nature campaign whose contest initially included 420 natural sites around the world.


Other finalists are the Amazon River, the Galapagos Islands, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Maldives. About one billion votes are expected to be cast before the campaign ends on 11.11.11, and it is estimated that the winning seven finalists will need to secure about 300-400 million votes. The Israeli campaign slogan is “No floating voters! Vote for the Dead Sea as one of the new seven wonders of nature.”

■ AMONG THE diplomats whose moral integrity led them to help and save Jews during World War II was Feng-Shan Ho, the Chinese consul-general in Vienna, who was known as the Chinese Schindler.

Defying the instructions of Chen Jie, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, Ho issued thousands of visas to Austrian Jews who had lived under a reign of terror following Austria’s annexation to Nazi Germany in March 1938 and who were later subjected to even more fear and panic following the traumas of Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938.

The visas issued by Ho enabled many Jews, who would otherwise have been unable to leave Austria, to find a haven in Shanghai and elsewhere. Despite stern reprimands for his “misconduct,” Ho continued in the Foreign Service and, after a long diplomatic career, retired in 1973. He died in 1997 at the age of 96.

Ten years ago he was posthumously recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations. Last week, his daughter Manli Ho was back in Israel to open a memorial exhibition of photographs in Petah Tikva in honor of her father.

■ ALTHOUGH THIS is the last year in which long-time municipal comptroller Shlomit Rubin is presenting a report, it was nowhere near as free of criticism as Mayor Nir Barkat would have liked. On the contrary, it indicated that corruption and dishonesty are still alive and well at city hall, where all sorts of people who are on the regular payroll have received perks to which they were not entitled. Residents of the capital who are wondering where their rates and taxes are going would do well to read her report.

Rubin will retire at the end of this year. It will be interesting to see if her successor discovers and exposes as many flaws as she did.

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