Between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, much is said about Jewish sacrifice and heroism, and of people risking their lives to save others. But there are various ways to save lives, and one is through organ and bone marrow transplants.
The IDF has joined the National Bone Marrow Bank so that soldiers not only defend the country, but contribute in additional ways to saving lives. Wednesday evening, at Ronit Farm near Shefayim en route to Netanya, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a gala event organized by Ezer Mizion that operates the bone marrow bank and registry. The evening is in celebration of the 500th IDF bone marrow donation. Ezer Mizion and the top brass of the IDF are to salute the 500 male and female soldiers that donated to people who would otherwise have died. Each of the soldiers is to receive a medal of recognition.
This is the first time that such medals are being awarded. Dr. Bracha Zisser, director of Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry and the organization’s founder and chairman Rabbi Chananya Chollak are presiding over the event.
■ CONTRARY TO the practice of several of his predecessors whose National Day receptions were reserved for Dutch nationals, Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp, last year invited members of the diplomatic community and Israelis from many walks of life to his King’s Day reception following closely behind the coronation of King Willem- Alexander. Many people thought that the exception to the rule had been made only because of the significance of the coronation.
But no. Veldkamp and his wife, Anne, hosted another festive affair last week in celebration of King’s Day, which is Holland’s national holiday. Orange is Holland’s national color, and any guest who may have been unaware of this, could not help but quickly realize its significance. At the entrance to the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituah were buckets filled with orange tulips, the national flower of Holland. Inside the house, there were exquisite flower arrangements of orange tulips as well as orange streamers and in the swimming pool outside, there were floats of orange tulips, in addition to which all the tables were covered with orange table cloths. Veldkamp sported a striped tie with a bright orange background and male members of the embassy all wore orange ties. The dress code in general was from ultraformal to ultracasual, and several of the guests wore orange T-shirts, though some of the female guests chose orange dresses or accessories. There was also a bright orange leaflet with the lyrics of the Dutch national anthem on one side and “Hatikva” on the other.
Veldkamp said he was happy to see so many Dutch people present, as well as so many diplomats. He read out a congratulatory message that he had sent to the king in which he had written: “The first year of your reign has made a deep impression. That you invited and welcomed the President of the State of Israel, His Excellency Shimon Peres as your first official foreign guest to the Netherlands has been received here as a symbol of the special bond between our two countries. During his visit you reiterated Dutch support for the security of Israel in a turbulent region and expressed the hope that new steps would be made towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians...”
At the end of the evening each guest was presented with two orange tulips.
■ THE MERRY sound of a Hungarian czardas could be heard all over Galei Tchelet Street in Herzliya Pituah last Thursday night. This was rather strange considering that the Hungarian ambassador does not live on that street, which is home to the residences of the American and Indian ambassadors.
In fact the music was coming from the residence of American Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Shapiro, and his wife, Julie Fisher, was hosting a farewell party for Hilary Olsin-Windecker, the embassy’s counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs who has been transferred to Kabul in Afghanistan where she will not be able to wear many of the garments she wore in Israel.
The guest of honor happens to be fond of klezmer music, and the klezmer band that was engaged for the occasion has the czardas in its lively repertoire. Though aware of the dangers of singling out any particular guest, Shapiro made one exception and welcomed Rabbanit Adina Bar-Shalom, who is to receive the Israel Prize in recognition of her contribution to education next week. She is also to be one of the torchlighters on Independence Day. Bar-Shalom, who is a frequent guest in the US ambassador’s home, came with her husband Rabbi Ezra Bar-Shalom. She is the older sister of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and the daughter of the late Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Shapiro praised Olsin-Windecker for strengthening the US-Israel people to people relationship by reaching out to all sectors of Israeli society through cultural, business and social programs. During her four years in Israel said Shapiro, “she brought energy, determination and passion to these areas.”
He cited a long list of activities and values in which Olsin-Windecker had been involved including civil rights, equality of women and environmental issues, and of course the promotion of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and the Palestinians and Jews and Arabs in Israel by hosting interfaith meals and sharing the American experience.
The department that she headed was one of the busiest press and media sections of any US Embassy in the world, said Shapiro, adding that each high level visitor – and there were many – posed unique challenges and opportunities.
Olsin-Windecker said that she appreciated this second chance to be in Israel. She had come the first time in 1972, when she was 21-years-old, mainly because she had an Israeli boyfriend. Although she is multilingual, the languages she spoke and those spoken by his family were not the same, and this led to an instant culture clash, aside from which she did not really want to get married at that time. But then, four years ago, another opportunity presented itself for her to come to Israel and to connect with relatives in Jerusalem in addition to what she was doing professionally.
She promised her family to return for weddings. Vered Swid, who heads the Authority for the Advancement of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Olsin-Windecker was being bidden farewell in a year in which Israel was honoring women for their achievements and their confrontation of challenges. She thanked Olsin-Windecker for what she had done to advance the status of women throughout Israel, including those that belong to minority communities.
■ UNLESS THERE is an Australian prime minister or foreign minister in Israel on January 26, Australian ambassadors tend not to host an Australia Day reception. But what a series of Australian ambassadors have been hosting each year is an Anzac Day commemoration in April and in recent years at the end of October, in conjunction with the Australian-headquartered Pratt Foundation and the Beersheba Municipality, the 1917 Battle of Beersheba commemoration to honor the memories of members of the Australian Light Horse Brigade. Its courage and victory over the Turks paved the way less than two months later for Gen. Sir Edmund Allenby’s triumphant march on Jerusalem. Both events include generous refreshments.
This year’s Anzac Day commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem drew one of the best ever attendances with Jewish and non-Jewish Australians who are resident in Israel as well as those who were visiting the country; plus diplomats and military attaches from several embassies, representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the IDF, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Multinational Force Observers and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization as well as several civilian organizations. Every Australian Zionist youth organization was represented.
Master of Ceremonies Ben Rhee, who is third secretary at the Australian Embassy said that Anzac Day had been designated for honoring Australians and New Zealanders who served their two nations and fell on battlefields far from their loved ones.
Participating clergy were Pastor Evan Thomas, formerly from New Zealand and currently pastor of the Messianic Congregation Beit Asaph near Netanya; and Rabbi Raymond Apple, rabbi emeritus of the Sydney Great Synagogue and former senior Jewish chaplain of the Australian Defense Forces.
For Australian ambassador Dave Sharma, this was his first Anzac Day in Israel, and he came with his wife, Rachel Lord, and their three daughters, Diana, Estella and Daphne. Anzac Day also happens to be Daphne’s birthday. Not only did she turn one year old, but took her first step. Sharma surmised that for most of her life she would be attending an Anzac Day ceremony on her birthday.
Of Anzac Day itself, he said that 99 years earlier in the predawn hours, some 1,200 km. from the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem, members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the western shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula. At roughly the same time, British forces landed on the southern tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula and French forces at Kum Kale on the Turkish mainland. The campaign was later joined by Canadian troops. The Allied objective was to capture the heights of the Gallipoli Peninsula and to force open the Dardanelles Straits for British and French navies and then to seize Constantinople.
If the operation had succeeded, said Sharma, it may well have brought World War I to an early conclusion vastly altering the world we live in today. But it was not to be and the Gallipoli landings were ultimately a military failure. Turkish resistance proved fiercer and more effective than anticipated. By the time the Allied forces withdrew in December of that year more than 21,000 British, 10,000 French, 8,000 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders, 1,300 Indians and 50 Canadians had been killed. The Turks also lost at least 87,000 soldiers.
Despite the failed campaign and heavy losses Australia’s national character was forged and identity constructed at Gallipoli, said Sharma.
World War I was the first major military action by Australia as a newly federated and independent nation, and Gallipoli was the first battlefield that Australian troops encountered in World War I. Nine Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia’s highest military honor for actions at Gallipoli.
One was Lance Corporal Leonard Keysor, a Jewish Australian who enlisted to fight only three months after arriving as an immigrant to Australian shores. The First World War still casts a long shadow over Australia, said Sharma. Of the overall 102,000 Australian war dead, 60,000 fell in the First World War.
One in five who served overseas was killed in action, including many of the 2,300 Jewish Australians who volunteered to fight. More wreaths were laid towards the conclusion of the ceremony than have ever been laid before and “The Last Post” was played by Fijian bugler Lagani Tokalauvere from the Multinational Force Observers contingent.
At the conclusion of the official ceremony, Apple led a service at that section of the cemetery in which Jewish soldiers lie buried and said that this was probably the only occasion in the year when these soldiers are remembered and kaddish is said for them. Regulars who attend each year, said they could not remember a larger prayer quorum in the Jewish section than that which congregated last Friday.
POLISH CONSTITUTION Day, which is a national holiday, officially falls on May 3, but according to a media release by Bar-Ilan University, the Polish authorities brought the celebration forward to enable a Sabbath-observant Jew from Israel to participate in the festivities. Thus the Polish Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, in respect of the religious practice of Prof. Moshe Rosman, an expert on Polish Jewry and consultant to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews from BIU's Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, moved the celebration to May 1.
“This is an incredibly considerate gesture considering that it is their holiday,” said Rosman, who has been invited to deliver the keynote address on this festive day, which also features speeches by public figures, parades, exhibitions, and concerts.
Rosman, who is fluent in Polish is scheduled to speak on the Jews and the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791. In a letter to Rosman, Prof. Andrzej Rzeplinski, president of the Constitutional Tribunal, wrote: “I am very glad that you will honor our annual gathering on the occasion of the Polish National Holiday with your contribution as professor of Jewish history at Bar- Ilan University, researcher on Eastern Europe history and specialist in integration of multicultural sources.”
Rosman, who immigrated to Israel from the United States more than 35 years ago, is a sought-after lecturer and consultant in Eastern Europe.
Recently, he spent a week in Moscow, where he delivered the keynote lecture and participated in the 21st annual conference of the Russian Association for Jewish Studies. The first session of the conference marked the launch of the Russian edition of his book How Jewish is Jewish History. Originally published in English, the book has been translated into Hebrew and Polish.
While in Russia, Rosman made consultation visits to Moscow’s Museum of the Jews in Russia and the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. At the latter, he delivered a lecture entitled “How to Tell the Jewish Story: Jewish Museums, Jewish History and Jewish Metahistory,” which provided an analysis of the messages of six Jewish museums, including the two in Moscow.
Rosman spent two weeks in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a guest of Vilnius University.
While in Lithuania, he conducted research in the Lithuanian State Archive for his current project, “The History of Jewish Women in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.”
He also lectured and gave seminars to doctoral students.
In Israel, Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz has gone in the opposite direction with regard to Constitution Day and plans to host a celebration at his residence on May 7, after Remembrance Day and Independence Day.
■ ON THE subject of Poland, the Poles are learning to appreciate Israeli style humous thanks to Perez and Daphne Mossinson who have opened their Humous Bar on the site of a building in what was once the Warsaw Ghetto. The sign on the window says “Israeli Kitchen.” Mossinson is the great nephew of celebrated Israeli writer Yigal Mossinson who wrote the popular series of children’s adventure novels Hasamba. Perez Mossinson is a former career officer in the army who has always had a humous fad, and after leaving the army 13-years-ago, became a company manager working in a senior capacity for a number of leading Israeli companies. But he always had a fad and a fantasy about humous, and decided to realize his dream to open a humous bar in a place where humous was not particularly well known but where the local population was hungry for new palate pleasers. Poland has proved to be an ideal choice. Aside from that he can always depend on Israelis who want a taste of home.
■ FOR THE first time in its 57-year history, the Foreign Press Association has elected a Palestinian chairman.
Samer Shalabi of CBC TV was elected chairman at the FPA’s annual meeting this week, succeeding Reuters bureau chief Crispian Balmer.
■ THERE WAS a certain irony in the fact that noted attorney Yigal Arnon died on the day that former prime minister Ehud Olmert was facing one of his worst days in court. Arnon had been Olmert’s lawyer several years earlier and had succeeded in getting him off the hook in a particularly sticky case. At a subsequent Hebrew University of Jerusalem event honoring Arnon, where one speaker after another had lauded his brilliance as a lawyer, Olmert said that he could personally testify to what a great lawyer Arnon was.
■ IT’S NOT a good time for the media in Israel or world wide for that matter. Newspapers and magazines are ceasing publication or being downsized and television and radio stations are being silenced. In Israel, Haaretz has been downsized, Makor Rishon is in danger of disappearing unless Sheldon Adelson is permitted to buy it, and Ma’ariv that almost folded is likely to be rescued by Eli Azur who heads The Jerusalem Post Group, still awaits approval by the Antitrust Regulator. The Ma’ariv liquidator has informed the court that there are insufficient funds to keep the paper operational. A discussion on the future of Ma’ariv is to be heard in the Jerusalem District Court Thursday. Makor Rishon employees aided by civic leaders and legislators as well as former legislators on both the Right and the Left of the political spectrum have urged the Antitrust Authority to allow the Israel Hayom Group headed by Adelson to go ahead with the acquisition. The problem is that Israel Hayom is itself in danger of being put out of business by proposed legislation banning free daily newspapers. Internationally acclaimed legal expert Alan Dershowitz says that it would be a mistake to close down Israel Hayom.
Channel 10 is constantly confronted with major deficits and its investors may decide not to continue with a project that keeps draining their resources. The Israel Broadcasting Authority and Educational Television are under threat of closure by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who now that he has bowed out of homeland security, will probably devote more attention to the dismantling of the IBA. If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had not decided on reconciliation with Hamas, the IBA would have had a better chance of weathering the storm because the government might have fallen and Erdan would be out of office. There have been attempts in the past to do away with Army Radio, and presumably some minister will make another attempt in the future.
Less likely to be noticed or mourned than any of the above is Lebens- Frage (Life Questions) the organ of the Israel Bund that has been appearing in Yiddish for 63 years and is in the process of publishing its final issue. It isn’t that there aren’t Yiddish writers. There are, and some of them actually learned Yiddish in Israel and are relatively young. But the publication that championed social justice and workers’ rights before these concepts took hold in mainstream Israel, has very limited financial resources and has never enjoyed government support. The editor Yitzhak Luden, though a very youthful 90 plus, has been unable to find a successor – not for lack of suitable candidates, but because there is no money to pay their salaries. And so like other ideological publications such as Davar and Al Hamishmar, Lebens-Frage will fade into the dust of history, and the very few Bundists who are still around will gather at the Workmen’s Circle in Tel Aviv and perhaps exchange old copies of the publication to revive memories of better times.
■ EDUCATION MINISTER Shai Piron, who advocates including Holocaust studies in the curriculum of very young children, publicized his decision after having all but ridiculed the Holocaust. The matter was raised by Yehoram Gaon in his radio program last Friday in which he said that while he has the highest respect for Piron, he cannot help but criticize his behavior earlier in the week when appearing on Educational Television’s children’s program Tiru Oti (Look at Me) in which he spoke of his own use of Ritalin, which is used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
The program hosted by Avri Gilad is designed to show its junior viewers that problems can be overcome on the path to progress, and that even the most successful adults have often coped with a variety of problems that they had in childhood and which in some cases have remained with them in adulthood. Piron was a case in point, which is why he still uses Ritalin and told viewers that he was not ashamed of the fact. As an example, he said that together with Gilad he had recently attended an important memorial ceremony on the site of the Sobibor death camp. He had known in advance that the whole ceremony would be in Polish and that it would last for around three hours. So he dosed himself with Ritalin before he went. The ceremony was very boring, Gilad interjected, “very, very boring.”
Piron echoed Gilad’s description, something that profoundly annoyed Gaon, who on his own program protested that boring was hardly a word to be used in connection with Sobibor where so many people, mostly Jews, had been murdered.